Despite Persistent Inequality, Poverty, Other Challenges, World Leaders Voice Optimism for Future Prospects, as General Assembly Concludes Annual Debate
Vice-President, Deputy Secretary-General Welcome Statements of Commitment to 2030 Agenda, Solidarity with Refugees
Spotlighting examples of persistent inequality around the globe – from skewed banking practices to entrenched poverty to lingering systemic racism – world leaders participating in the final day of the General Assembly’s seventy-first annual debate nevertheless expressed optimism that efforts to promote equitable growth, peace and prosperity would prevail.
“The general debate of the United Nations General Assembly provides us with a portrait of the current state of our world, painted for us by Heads of State, Heads of Government and ministers of our members,” said Durga Prasad Bhattarai, (Nepal), Assembly Vice-President, in delivering closing remarks on behalf of President Peter Thomson (Fiji). Among other things, leaders had reaffirmed the spirit and principles of the United Nations Charter and expressed their commitment to implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Describing a number of other priorities outlined by Heads of State and Government as well as ministers and other high-level officials, he said many had focused on the plight of refugees, the promotion and protection of human rights and the urgent need for concerted efforts to resolve conflicts and eradicate terrorism. Still others had pointed to challenges relating to intolerance and xenophobia as well as the continuing need to tackle all forms of discrimination.
In a similar vein, Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson welcomed the many statements of solidarity with refugees and migrants during the course of the general debate as well as descriptions of efforts to mobilize against xenophobia. The New York Declaration on Refugees and Migrants, signed last week, had given a new structure to those efforts and would send a signal about the equal value of all people, he said.
Sushma Swaraj, India’s Minister for External Affairs, declared: “The true challenge of our time is to end the curse of harsh poverty that still lurks in so many corners of our world”. It was critical to ensure that the fruits of growing prosperity reached those who needed them most, she said, stressing that the international community would be defined not only by its actions, but equally by its inaction.
Throughout the general debate, a number of speakers raised concerns relating to imbalances in the global finance, trade and development systems, pointing to a world order that favoured the wealthiest and most powerful nations. Vivian Balakrishnan, Singapore’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, said that in today’s uncertain world, small States had to work much harder just to stay afloat. A rules-based multilateral system, international partnership and cooperation, as well as sustainable development were critical to their survival and prosperity. “We reject the notion that might is right,” he said, emphasizing that small States spoke louder in a collective voice and that collective action was a more effective catalyst for change. Among other support, developing countries needed international assistance to implement the 2030 Agenda, he added.
Dennis Moses, Minister for Foreign and CARICOM Affairs of Trinidad and Tobago, joined other speakers in warning that the recent decision by financial institutions to terminate or restrict corresponding banking relations in the CARICOM [Caribbean Community] region had destabilized its financial sector and disrupted its growth. More broadly, middle-income countries continued to grapple with a status that rendered them ineligible for international development assistance, he said, emphasizing the need for a multi-dimensional approach to aid that was better tailored to national priorities and specific needs.
Frederick A. Mitchell, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Immigration of the Bahamas, echoed many of those sentiments, expressing concern that developed-world banks were treating their Caribbean counterparts “as if they are hell on earth” by dint of new financial rules that used pejorative expressions like “tax haven” while imposing unfair rules and sanctions. Referring to recent shootings by police officers in the United States, he said that country must “do the right thing” in the context of the present International Decade of People of African Descent.
Still other speakers voiced frustration over the political power wielded by some large industrialized nations, expressing particular concern that all too often they resorted to unilateral coercive measures to impose their will upon weaker States. In that regard, Osman Saleh, Eritrea’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, said that sanctions imposed on his country were aimed at effecting regime change and bringing Eritrea to its knees. “We were routinely written off, our imminent collapse predicted with regularity,” he said, emphasizing that the pressures, coercion and hostility that the country had faced were by no means exceptional or distinctive. However, the world was still full of possibilities, he said, welcoming the voices of ordinary people as well as their actions in mobilizing and fighting the “domination of the few”.
Valentin Rybakov, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Belarus, said a minority of people had accumulated more wealth and others had suffered, while environmental challenges had been exacerbated because the market was concerned only with profit. In that regard, he called for a new, State-driven and inclusive world order based on international and regional cooperation. Such a system could not be imposed, but must be cultivated so that it was viewed as fair by politicians and ordinary people alike.
Also speaking today were Heads of State and Government, Ministers and other high-level officials representing Oman, Bahrain, Cabo Verde, Belize, Suriname, United Republic of Tanzania, Palau, Seychelles, Denmark and Togo. .
Speaking in exercise of the right of reply were representatives of the Solomon Islands, Pakistan, India, Guatemala, Iran and Indonesia.
The General Assembly will reconvene at a date and time to be announced.
YOUSUF BIN ALAWI BIN ABDALLAH, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Oman, said that recent positive development in the political, social, economic, scientific and technical fields had made the world more interdependent than ever before. While challenges remained, they could be solved through political will and concerted efforts. In that regard, Oman had adopted a policy of dialogue, negotiation and reconciliation in settling disputes by peaceful means on the basis of Chapter VI of the United Nations Charter. Emphasizing the centrality of the Palestinian question for the stability of the Middle East region, he said that, despite the efforts of the international community, attempts to reach a peaceful solution had yet to succeed. Renewing his call for intensified efforts, he noted that there had also been setbacks in addressing the crises in Syria, Yemen and Libya.
He went on to state that since the onset of those crises, Oman had worked with the parties concerned to reconcile their points of view, while encouraging them to reject differences and resume negotiations. Highlighting, in particular, the efforts of Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, Emir of Kuwait to bring the Yemeni parties together, he emphasized the need for joint international supporting action. It was incumbent upon all people to rid themselves of the negative aspects of the past and to concentrate on the positive elements of the future, he said, adding “our goal should be to develop relations, enhance cooperation, deepen interests between States and peoples, and settle differences through dialogue” on the basis of Charter principles as well as international laws and norms.
KHALID BIN AHMED BIN MOHAMED AL KHALIFA, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Bahrain, said that anti-terrorism measures would not be effective if pursued under laws that contravened the principles of the United Nations Charter. Steps taken by the United States Congress in passing the “Justice against the Sponsors of Terrorism Act” would jeopardize international relations based on the principles of equal sovereignty of States and sovereign immunity. “It constitutes a dangerous precedent in relations between nations,” he added, emphasizing that the law threatened the stability of the international system and adversely affected international efforts to combat terrorism.
All States with some leverage in relation to the Syrian crisis, notably the United States and the Russian Federation, must join efforts to reach a political solution and eradicate all terrorist organizations in the country, he said. In Iraq, it was important to persevere in efforts to restore State authority over the national territory. He went on to state that establishing peace in the Middle East remained contingent upon Israel’s “admission that its security and stability can only be obtained if the same is guaranteed to the Palestinian people”. He called upon the “coup d’état forces” in Yemen to refrain from action that hindered stability, saying his country stood directly with the Yemeni people. Efforts to build bridges with Iran had been met with “no serious response” from that country other than the fabrication of new problems and crises. “We still face Iran’s attempts to jeopardize our security and social peace through support provided to groups and militias,” he added.
SUSHMA SWARAJ, Minister for External Affairs of India, noted that much had changed in the world over the past year, and the international community must remember that it would be defined not just by its actions, but equally by its inaction. “The true challenge of our time is to end the curse of harsh poverty that still lurks in so many corners of our world,” she said. It was critical to ensure that the fruits of growing prosperity reached those who needed them most, in order to take forward the mission of gender equality and to ensure peace across borders. Noting that one sixth of humanity lived in India, she said the success of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development therefore depended on the success achieved in her country. To confront the challenges posed by climate change, the Prime Minister had championed the concept of “climate justice”, which recognized the principles of common but differentiated responsibility and respective capabilities. Developed nations must discharge their responsibility in ensuring the common good by providing financing and technology transfer, she said, adding that India would continue to play a leading role in combating climate change.
Recalling that the recent fifteenth anniversary of the 11 September 2001 terror attacks on the United States, she said that, despite the blood and tears of innocent victims, attacks had continued in Kabul, Dhaka, Istanbul, Mogadishu, Brussels, Bangkok, Paris, Pathankot and Uri in 2016 alone. Barbaric tragedies also continued daily in Syria and Iraq. Describing terrorism as the largest violation of human rights and a crime against humanity, she said “history proves that those who seed extremist ideologies reap a bitter harvest”. Humankind must unite across its differences, add steel to its resolve and inject urgency into its response, she emphasized. Any nation that refused to join that global strategy must be isolated. “In our midst, there are nations that still speak the language of terrorism,” she said, warning that countries must be held to account for sheltering terrorists. She recalled that on 21 September, the Prime Minister of Pakistan had levelled baseless allegations of human rights violations against her country and that India had put in place unacceptable preconditions for dialogue. Both accusations were untrue, she said, stressing that Jammu and Kashmir was an integral part of India and would always remain so.
VIVIAN BALAKRISHNAN, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Singapore, noted that South-east Asia had become a fertile recruiting ground for Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh), and that in such an uncertain world, small States had to work much harder just to stay afloat. A rules-based multilateral system, international partnership and cooperation and sustainable development were critical to their survival and prosperity. “We reject the notion that might is right,” he added, emphasizing that a collective voice for small States spoke louder and that collective action was a more effective catalyst for change. The Global Governance Group provided an effective platform for 30 small and medium-sized countries to exchange views on global governance and contribute to discussions of the Group of 20 (G-20), he said.
Success in achieving sustainable development would require the rule of law and international partnerships, he said, stressing that without good governance, transparency, strong institutions and a clear legal framework, development could be neither sustained nor beneficial for ordinary people. Another important issue that required cooperation was the sustainable management of forests and the prevention of land degradation, he said, adding that transboundary haze from forest and peatland fires in South-East Asia had impaired the health of millions of people, compromised the safety of aircraft and damaged the regional economy. Developing countries needed international support and assistance to implement the 2030 Agenda, he said, adding that Singapore was committed to helping other developing countries build capacity.
LUÍS FILIPE LOPES TAVARES, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Communities of Cabo Verde, noted with concern the resurgence of instability and the proliferation of armed conflicts, particularly in Africa and the Middle East. Emphasizing his country’s support for the African Union’s search for solutions to conflicts in Libya, South Sudan, Somalia and Mali, he also welcomed Morocco’s recent decision to re-join the regional bloc. Massive violations of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights hindered the full achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, he said. Fulfilling the Goals implied enhancing financing, technology transfer, capacity-building and participation in international trade.
Cabo Verde was concerned about the ongoing refugee crisis and welcomed the adoption of the New York Declaration during the High-Level Meeting on Migrants and Refugees on 19 September, he said, adding that his country’s Government also called for the correct application of international conventions relating to that issue. He highlighted the challenges facing small island developing States, including their lack of resources, their limited ability to attract foreign direct investment and their need to preserve the seas and oceans. “It will be important for the international community to pay attention to the unique and specific characteristics of this group of countries in their development process,” he emphasized.
FREDERICK A MITCHELL, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Immigration of the Bahamas, expressed concern that banks in the developed world, principally the United States, were refusing to cash cheques from some Caribbean banks, claiming that the risk of policing the latter on the issue of compliance was too high and the business that came their way too low. Developed-world banks were treating their Caribbean counterparts “as if they are hell on earth” by dint of new financial rules, which used pejorative expressions like “tax haven”, while imposing unfair rules and sanctions. “The recent attacks in the press about the Bahamas’ financial services sector are simply reprehensible and violations of internationals norms,” he emphasized.
Stressing also the critical importance of fighting illegal fishing and upholding the highest standards of maritime safety, he said gross domestic product (GDP) must not be the primary factor in determining who qualified for economic assistance and development financing. In relation to the advancement of women, he said that a more vexing problem was ensuring that young males would keep up. He expressed concern about incursions from Haiti and Cuba by people seeking a better life, and said more attention must be paid to the normalization of relations between Cuba and the United States. The shootings by police officers in the United States must not be allowed to damage that country’s image, he added, emphasizing that his country’s closest neighbour must “do the right thing” in the present International Decade of People of African Descent.
OSMAN SALEH, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Eritrea, said that sanctions imposed on his country were aimed at effecting regime change and bringing Eritrea to its knees. “We were routinely written off, our imminent collapse predicted with regularity,” he said, adding that Eritrea was “now on the up”, with most of the Millennium Development Goals achieved and the economy rebounding. However, the pressures, coercion and hostility that the country had faced were by no means exceptional or distinctive, he emphasized. Misguided policies pursued over a quarter of a century had fuelled conflict, instability and extremism in the Horn of Africa. Policies of greed and pillage as well as the reckless resort to unilateral pressure and force to secure advantage had pushed not just the region, but the world towards a dangerous path.
However, the world was still full of possibilities, he said, welcoming the voices of ordinary people as well as their actions in mobilizing and fighting the “domination of the few”. In the Horn of Africa, the past two decades had been “a period of missed opportunities, of zero-sum game”, of repeated conflicts and setbacks. Even today, the situation remained fraught with risk and danger, yet recent developments indicated the possibility of an opening to a new beginning, for relaunching the 1990s vision of a peaceful, progressive and economically dynamic Horn of Africa. Eritrea was keen to build on its achievements in order to transform its economy and society, and achieve sustainable development by relying on the energy and skills of its people, he said.
WILFRED P. ELRINGTON, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Belize, said that Guatemala’s 80-year-old claims on his country’s territory remained unresolved. He expressed regret over hostile incidents between civilians and military personnel of both countries at the Sarstoon River, their southern border, whereby the Guatemalan navy had impeded the movement of Belizeans along the river, wrongfully claiming it to belong to their country. He said that since the northern side was Belizean territory, the enjoyment and use of that side was the right of every citizen. Belize had engaged in dialogue with Guatemala under the good offices of the Secretary-General of the Organization of American States (OAS). Similarly, along the western border, illegal entries by armed trespassers from Guatemala persisted, resulting in forests being decimated, waters compromised and coral reefs choked to death. On occasion, in the course of attempting to apprehend armed trespassers, Belizean security personnel had used firearms as in the period September 2014 to March 2016, and in the tragic incident of April 2016, he recalled. Belize wished to live in peace and harmony with all its neighbours, including Guatemala, and there was an urgent need to end that country’s anachronistic and unfounded territorial claims.
Turning to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, he said Belize had begun to put fledgling industrial development in place from the early 1990s alongside a progressive environmental-protection legal regime. More than 36 per cent of Belizean territory was under some form of protected status and was now mainstreaming climate change adaption into development policies, plans and investment strategies in order to make its engines of growth renewable and sustainable. It was incrementally providing free public education, had established the Maya Land Rights Commission and was rolling out a national health insurance policy. However, setbacks in the global economy, as well as energy and food security crises and other challenges had affected Belize’s sustainable development trajectory, and it was rebuilding in the aftermath of Hurricane Earl, which had debited 5.5 per cent of GDP. Belize also remained concerned about the controversy between Guyana and Venezuela, and stood in solidarity with Venezuela in its efforts to resolve its domestic challenges, he said.
NIERMALA BADRISING, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Suriname, expressed concern about the multiple challenges and threats facing the world, including the global recession and economic slowdown, growing inequality and transnational organized crime and terrorism. The Sustainable Development Goals provided an opportunity to fight for a just world, but if they were to be achieved, the global social and economic order would have to be structurally reformed to create inclusive societies and equal opportunities for all. Calling for greater respect for international law, she emphasized the importance of respecting national sovereignty and the territorial integrity of States.
Climate change and the global economic recession posed serious challenges to her country, she said. Suriname was a carbon-negative country, but because of its small size and low-lying coastal zone, it was particularly vulnerable to global environmental challenges and external economic shocks. She called upon the international community to develop technical and financial support mechanisms to help developing countries implement essential adaptation policies and programmes, compensate them for loss and damage, provide technology and safeguard food production and security. Thanks to the steady recovery of commodity prices, as well as grants and loans from international funding institutions, Suriname would return to its previous development path within two years, she predicted.
DENNIS MOSES, Minister for Foreign and CARICOM Affairs of Trinidad and Tobago, said that today’s challenges – from the existential hazard posed by climate change to violent extremism and terrorism, to the crises of forced displacement and the spread of diseases such as Ebola and Zika – transcended the limits of both geography and demography. As grave as those threats were, the opportunity that they presented to chart a course of meaningful growth and prosperity was even more compelling. The pathway to global transformation lay in the creation of innovative partnerships towards full implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, he said, adding that the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development called for action to enhance the lives of all segments of society, including groups that had been systematically marginalized. As climate change was one of the defining challenges facing the world today, Trinidad and Tobago had instituted incentives to encourage investment and job creation in renewable and clean technologies, and had aggressively pursued a policy of economic diversification, he said.
Warning that the actions of financial institutions to terminate or restrict corresponding banking relations in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) region had destabilized its financial sectors and disrupted its growth, he joined other countries of the region in calling on international banks to engage collaboratively with affected Member States. Among other important initiatives, Trinidad and Tobago was embarking on plans to mitigate the socioeconomic conditions that gave rise to, and were the consequences of, the challenges posed by drug use and trafficking. Deeply concerned by the growing number of violent extremist actions around the world, he warned against overlooking the correlation between extremism and development, and emphasized the need to support the empowerment of young people. Trinidad and Tobago was committed to building an effective global framework for a strategic collective security architecture, which must be supported by a robust international legal system that allowed people to live freely and in dignity, without fear of persecution. Noting that middle-income countries such as Trinidad and Tobago continued to grapple with a status that rendered them ineligible for international development assistance, he stressed the need for a multi-dimensional approach to aid that was better tailored to national priorities and specific needs.
AUGUSTINE PHILLIP MAHIGA, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the United Republic of Tanzania, reiterated his country’s commitment to the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, saying it had integrated them into the National Development Plans and Strategies. The Second National Five-Year Development Plan and the new Poverty Reduction Strategy for Zanzibar were informed by the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the African Union’s Agenda 2063. He went on to highlight several areas that were crucial for the full implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, including gender equality, anti-corruption efforts, employment, education and youth. Climate change was a serious threat to development efforts and the United Republic of Tanzania had prepared the National Adaptation Programme of Action as well as National Adaptation Plans to address it. Expressing hope that the Green Climate Fund and others would support national adaptation efforts, he said estimates showed that approximately $500 million would be needed annually. Regarding the Paris Agreement, he said his country had been among the first to submit its Intended Nationally Determined Contributions, noting with concern that national contributions under the Agreement would not be sufficient.
He went on to express concern about the conflicts in Burundi and South Sudan, emphasizing that the East African Community was working hard to find a peaceful solution in Burundi. Condemning the ongoing conflict in South Sudan, he called upon all parties to honour the 2015 Peace Agreement. He also demanded greater attention in efforts to resolve the questions of Palestine and Western Sahara. Describing unilateral sanctions and embargoes as detrimental to development, he said they affected innocent civilians negatively, adding that lifting them would benefit bilateral relations and national development. In conclusion, he welcomed the transparent process leading up to the election of the next Secretary-General. He expressed hope that geographical rotation and gender balance would be considered and that the election would send a signal of the need to tackle long-overdue Security Council reform.
VALENTIN RYBAKOV, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Belarus, said that throughout the Organization’s history, many of its initiatives had remained confined to paper, and hopefully the same fate would not befall the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Conflict and war generated a sense of chaos and people around the world were living in conditions of contradictory realities. Some of those problems had arisen because the so-called winners of the cold war did not want to integrate the “losers” into the system, and as a result, the world was in political transition without knowing where it was going. In economic terms, healthy competition between the market and the State was important, but in recent decades that balance had been disturbed as the market gained the upper hand, he said. As a result, a minority of people had accumulated more wealth while others had suffered; environmental challenges had been exacerbated because the market was concerned only with profit. In the social sphere, there was a growing cultural gap, marked by the emergence of a counter-culture in the West, he said, questioning why such changes should affect the rest of the world, including those not subject to the same historical reasons for the shift.
Understanding the reasons for the unstable world order was a start, but in order to change it, a clear understanding of the desired new world order was needed, he continued. The new system should be State-driven because anarchy reigned where the State was weak. It should be inclusive, so that everyone would have a real voice. The new system could not be imposed, but cultivated, so that it would be viewed as fair by politicians and ordinary people alike. Also, regional blocs increasingly played an independent role that until recently had been the prerogative of States. Cooperation must therefore be established between regions as between States, he said, noting that Belarus was an active participant in a range of regional processes. The country was committed to the values of traditional families, while other countries recognized a variety of forms. Emphasizing that countries need not demonstrate the correctness of their approaches, he said they should instead understand why they held different positions. Belarus saw an opportunity in the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs – due to meet in March 2017 – in terms of the draft resolution on the role of the family in preventing the illicit drug trade, he said.
CALEB OTTO (Palau) condemned the nuclear tests conducted by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, saying that his country’s proximity to the launch site placed it under special threat. Climate change also posed existential dangers for Palau, and it was imperative that all efforts be made to ensure that the global temperature increase remain under 1.5° Celsius. In 2015, Palau had begun implementing its National Marine Sanctuary, which was based on the traditional conservation practice of “Bul” and entailed placing a moratorium on a diminishing resource in order that it may replenish itself. The Sanctuary would allow the ocean to regain its health, replenish its fish stocks and rejuvenate its biodiversity, he said. In addition to facilitating the achieving of sustainable Development Goals 13 and 14 on climate action and life below water, respectively, increased income from tourism would allow for the provision of basic services such as sanitation and food security as well as the eradication of extreme poverty. The project’s success would also depend on areas beyond national jurisdiction, he said, expressing gratitude for the new Implementing Agreement under consideration by the Preparatory Committee for Habitat, in accordance with General Assembly resolution 69/292.
MARIE-LOUISE POTTER (Seychelles) said humanity was on the cusp of achieving the immeasurable in terms of making a true difference to all the world’s peoples. The Seychelles was proud to have achieved most of the targets set out in the Millennium Development Goals, and was determined to maintain that momentum to implement the Sustainable Development Goals. Much progress had been made, but there was still much to be done, she said, adding that the world would need to stand together in ensuring that strong action was backed by adequate financial support. Incorporating a vulnerability index into development frameworks would allow a fairer measurement of economies than the traditionally emphasized GDP. Highlighting Sustainable Development Goal 14 on conservation and sustainable use of the oceans, seas and marine resources, she said it was pivotal to the survival of small-island economies. She noted that illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing undercut development efforts and jeopardized the livelihoods of millions around the world. While noting the “tremendous gains” made in the battle against piracy, she emphasized that continued efforts, through such initiatives as the Contact Group for Piracy off the Coast of Somalia, currently chaired by the Seychelles, would be necessary to ensure safer oceans. As an island nation heavily dependent on the environment for its survival, the Seychelles was vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change, and had been among the first 20 States to ratify the Paris Agreement, she said.
IB PETERSEN (Denmark) emphasized the need for collective responses to global challenges and presented his country’s vision for action on the basis of three core principles – dignity, development and dialogue. On dignity, he expressed concern that conflict and violent extremism were leading to violations of human rights. Denmark was doing its part for peace and stability by contributing to the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) and supporting local communities in Iraq and Syria, he said. Regarding development, he reminded the Assembly that his country was one of the largest humanitarian donors per capita, and had consistently committed 0.7 per cent of its gross national income to foreign aid since 1978. He urged other countries to do the same. Turning to climate change, he said the Paris Agreement, which the Danish Parliament would move to ratify on 5 October, was an important step forward. To bolster the accord, the Government had launched a Sustainable Development Goals investment fund, to which it had made an initial allocation of $15 million, he said, adding that Denmark aimed to reach a base of $750 million by raising capital from private investors. Denmark was committed to addressing global challenges through dialogue and partnership, he said, adding that it had demonstrated that commitment through support for numerous General Assembly resolutions and, most recently, through its collaboration with Chile, Ghana, Indonesia and Morocco in launching the Convention against Torture Initiative. If the United Nations was to remain a relevant and effective people’s organization, it must better embrace the spirit of dialogue by making its procedures more open and transparent, he stressed.
KOKOU KPAYEDO (Togo) said the international community had begun to implement the 2030 Agenda to transform the world, making it more prosperous and secure. As a pilot country for the Agenda, Togo had submitted to the advanced reporting exercise its policies and programmes of implementation. His State had shown progress in economic diversity, agriculture, infrastructure, reducing poverty, business ventures and promoting peace as well as democracy. With national financing and support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), it had launched an emergency community development programme to assist the most vulnerable. Prioritizing development in favour of that population was vital in the current context of pressing challenges, including disease, conflict and terrorism. On security, he stressed that an effective counter-terrorism strategy would require all States to work together and wealthy countries to contribute more.
JAN ELIASSON, Deputy Secretary-General, reviewed several of the key themes that had emerged over the week-long session. He welcomed the many statements of solidarity with refugees and migrants and was heartened by efforts to mobilize against xenophobia. He recalled the concerns of many Member States for the need to support countries of origin, transit and destination. The New York Declaration had given a new structure to work regarding refugees and migrants and he hoped the United Nations would send a signal of everyone’s equal value. The conflict in Syria was high on the agenda of many States, and it was clear that more needed be done to stop fighting and provide humanitarian assistance. The suffering in Syria had gone on far too long and the dangers to the region were enormous. Commending efforts by the General Assembly and Security Council to accept the notion of sustaining peace, he urged Member States to think more in terms of conflict prevention and post-conflict work.
Durga Prasad Bhattarai (Nepal), delivered a closing statement on behalf of General Assembly President Peter Thomson (Fiji), summarizing many of the priorities and concerns raised by Member States over the course of the general debate. “The general debate of the United Nations General Assembly provides us with a portrait of the current state of our world, painted for us by Heads of State, Heads of Government and ministers of our members,” he said. Among other things, the leaders had reaffirmed the spirit and principles of the United Nations Charter and expressed their commitment to implementation of the 2030 Agenda, with many speakers describing national plans and policies into which the 17 Sustainable Development Goals had already been embedded.
Emphasizing the importance of action on climate change, he said that ratifications covering only a further 7.5 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions were needed to see the Paris Agreement enter into force. Countries should ratify the accord promptly and scale up their ambitions to reduce emissions and limit the global temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. In addition, they should mobilize the climate financing required to support vulnerable countries such as small island developing States.
Another focus of the debate had been the plight of refugees, internally displaced persons and migrants, with the adoption of the New York Declaration marking an important step forward, he said. The current humanitarian and refugee crisis had its roots in a number of ongoing conflicts. In that regard, many Member States had called for a resumption of the Middle East peace process in order to find a lasting solution. They had stressed the need to solve other conflicts and to address the spread of violent extremism and terrorism. Numerous interventions had stressed the pressing need to reform the Security Council, while others had highlighted the critical importance of advancing disarmament.
Member States had also renewed their calls for the promotion and protection of human rights, as well as for dedicated efforts to empower women and girls, he continued. Speakers had emphasized the inter-relationship between human rights, peace and sustainable development, which had also been highlighted in the context of the High-Level Meeting commemorating the thirtieth anniversary of the Declaration on the Right to Development. Some speakers had also recalled challenges relating to intolerance and xenophobia as well as the continuing need to tackle all forms of discrimination.
Recalling that the participants in the general debate had also heard the final address by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, he said the selection and appointment of his successor had been addressed by almost every Member State. The Office of the President of the General Assembly planned to manage that matter with great care over the coming months, in accordance with the principles of transparency and accountability, and with a view to ensuring a smooth transition.
Describing the general debate as embodying the equality of nations, he said it provided Member States with an opportunity to advance their collective pursuit of solutions to global challenges through dialogue and cooperation. He nevertheless expressed concern that the standard of decorum during the debate appeared to be slipping, he said, noting, among other things, the disregard for allocated speaking time, low attendance by delegations as the debate progressed and the proliferation of other events taking place simultaneously with the debate. He encouraged the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Revitalization of the Work of the General Assembly to consider those issues during the upcoming session.
Right of Reply
The representative of the Solomon Islands, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, cited ongoing human rights violations that Indonesia had inflicted on Melanesian people. While acknowledging efforts by the Government of Indonesia to establish human rights mechanisms as well as its ratification of the Convention against Torture, he said it had never defined torture or attempted to eradicate it. The Solomon Islands had received reports from other Member States as well as civil society leaders regarding human rights violations in West Papua, he said, calling on Indonesia to allow United Nations rapporteurs to investigate those violations. How could members of the United Nations, as defenders of human rights, allow violations against more than 500,000 West Papuans over the last 50 years? The Organization must find a way to stop the loss of life and Member States must agree on certain rights and be accountable for them. The United Nations had a responsibility to protect all people from human rights violations and should also hold other Member States accountable, he added.
The representative of Pakistan said that the Minister from India had used a litany of falsehoods and a travesty of the facts in her remarks. The Government of Pakistan rejected all the baseless allegations in her statement that were intended to deflect global attention from the actions of Indian forces in killing, blinding or injuring innocent Kashmiri women and children. Demanding a full United Nations investigation into human rights violations in Kashmir, he said the Organization should be allowed unfettered access to the state – which never was and never could be part of India – for that purpose. Kashmir’s struggle for the right to self-determination was legitimate and it had a right to moral and political support from the international community, he said, adding that India had long been a sponsor and practitioner of State terrorism against all its neighbours, including Pakistan. It had also armed and supported individuals listed under United Nations sanctions.
The representative of India said that her counterpart from Pakistan had made fanciful and misleading statements, but no attempt to answer questions posed by the international community. She asked how that country could allow terrorist havens to continue flourishing, and whether its representative could confirm that her country did not use terrorist proxies as a matter of State policy. A State built upon atrocities against its own people could not talk about human rights, she emphasized. India rejected such sermons, and asked whether Pakistan could deny that its armed forces had committed genocide in 1971 or that it had repeatedly used artillery against its own people. It appeared that Pakistan’s representative had not heard the Indian Minister earlier, when she had said that Jammu and Kashmir was an integral part of India and always would be.
The representative of Guatemala responded to references made by Belize to a 150-year-old territorial dispute, reiterating his country’s peaceful commitment to a permanent resolution of the dispute that both countries had inherited and its aspiration to ongoing dialogue. Guatemala had never resorted to or threatened the use of force, he said, adding that, on the contrary, it had always sought to settle the dispute through peaceful means and to reach a mutually beneficial solution. Guatemala recognized the independence of the people of Belize, but it had historical rights to part of that country’s territory, which had been taken away through deceit. Today, a new kind of violence was taking place, he said, recalling that during the last decade, its victims had been defenceless Guatemalan farmers on Belizean territory. The violence against them was a moral aberration and their deaths had gone unpunished, he said, adding that the last victim had been a 14-year-old boy who had died at the hands of Belizean military personnel. Such irrational conduct was not legally justifiable and the legal report on the incident had not justified Belize’s behaviour. Guatemala would continue to seek a just solution and would submit the matter to the International Court of Justice in order to avoid further attacks that would be harmful to both nations, he said.
The representative of Iran said the United Arab Emirates had reported baseless fabrications – also levelled on other occasions – but had made no effort to substantiate them. It was absurd for a country whose jet fighters were bombing innocent civilians in Yemen to accuse Iran of interference in other countries’ affairs, and similarly absurd for a country exporting ideologies and arming terrorists in Iraq and Syria to accuse Iran of destabilizing the region. Iran had always rejected the Emirati representative’s falsehood about the three islands, which were and would always be part of Iran’s territory. Taking the statements by the United Arab Emirates and Israel together demonstrated that those two regimes were coming together, he said, adding that the Emirati view of partners in the Gulf was coalescing with the Israeli view, which was a betrayal of the Palestinian people. The United Arab Emirates and some of its partners had tried to impede the road to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action to no avail.
He went on to say that Bahrain’s representative had also made a false claim about Iran’s interference in domestic affairs, noting that the report of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry on Iran’s involvement in its internal matters had not established a discernible link. Referring to the disaster in Mina, Saudi Arabia, he said Iran had expected that country to adopt a responsible approach when almost 500 Iranians had been killed, but that had not happened. Any findings by local investigations of the tragedy, if any, were yet to be released. Noting that a few speakers had used false and incorrect terms to denote the Persian Gulf, he said that had been the traditional term and correct appellation for that body of water since 500 B.C. It was also the standardized geographic term recognized by the international community, including the United Nations, and should not be “tinkered with” according to the wishes of particular rulers, he emphasized.
The representative of Indonesia said that allegations by the Solomon Islands of human rights violations against Melanesians were intended to support the separatist movement. They went against the principles and purpose of the United Nations Charter by violating the internal affairs and sovereignty of other States. The allegations arose from ignorance of the facts on the ground and were “trash information” from separatist groups.
The representative of Pakistan said his Government rejected all claims and fabrications in India’s remarks. Regardless of how many times a lie was repeated, it could not become truth, he emphasized. Kashmir remained a disputed territory and any claims against it were contrary to the principles of international law. India’s attempts to decimate Kashmir’s population and its sabotage activities were well-documented facts.
The representative of India said his country would remain silent, adding that the Pakistan’s deception, deceit and denial were only to be expected.