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Seventieth Session,
16th, 17th & 18th Meetings (AM, PM & Night)

United Nations Still Essential but Needs Reform to Be ‘Fit for Purpose’ in Coming Decades, Speakers Say as General Assembly Debate Continues

The United Nations, notwithstanding its inadequacies and failures, was an indispensable “family of nations” that had nurtured countries in search of equality, peace and prosperity, the General Assembly heard today as it continued its annual debate.

Lauding the achievements of the Organization, which commemorates its seventieth anniversary in 2015, Heads of State and Government from across continents underscored the United Nations important and invaluable work in lifting nations out of poverty and conflict and in establishing democracies.  They also took a critical look at its next chapter, with many speakers calling for urgent reform to ensure the Organization was fit for purpose in coming decades.

Calling his country “a child of international solidarity, midwifed by the United Nations”, Hage G. Geingob, President of Namibia, said that following the end of South Africa’s mandate over his country, the Organization had assumed direct responsibility for it and helped it develop the building blocks for democracy.  Today, his country had the freest press in Africa.  It was rated the sixth best governed country by the Mo Ibrahim Index of African Governance and the seventh lowest in corruption.

Klaus Werner Iohannis, President of Romania, said that, in the aftermath of the cold war, the United Nations had also supported his country in its transition to democracy.  Now, after almost two decades as a recipient, Romania had become a provider of official development assistance (ODA) to neighbouring countries and beyond.  “The United Nations is nothing but ourselves, Member States, living on the trust and resources we invest in it,” he said.

Member States agreed that at the age of 70, the Organization had the wisdom and experience to recognize its mistakes and the strength to correct them.  In that regard, many speakers called attention to particular issues that still demanded the Organization’s urgent attention.  David Arthur Granger, President of Guyana, said the border conflict between his country and Venezuela had deprived Guyana of its territory and natural resources, despite the Secretary-General’s efforts for a resolution over the past 25 years.  Urging a permanent solution to maintain the security of small States, he said “the United Nations remains our best hope.”

Also claiming aggression from a neighbouring State, Petro Poroshenko, President of Ukraine, said the Russian Federation, a former strategic partner, had occupied Crimea in February.  An effective instrument that could bring an aggressor country to justice was needed, he urged, noting that the Russian Federation had used its veto twice during the Security Council’s consideration of his country.  The veto power should not become an act of grace and pardon for a crime.  He welcomed the French Government’s initiative to restrain veto use and supported an enlargement of the Council’s membership and improvement of its working methods.

“If you close your eyes to crimes, they do not disappear,” stressed President Dalia Grybauskaitė of Lithuania, also addressing the use of the veto power in the Council.  Indeed, the ideals and principles of the United Nations were being threatened around the world.  It was crucial that the Organization be adapted to today’s realities and that it step up its efforts to tackle the underlying causes — not just the symptoms — of the crisis.  It must also improve its work in prevention and mediation in order to save lives.  In the twenty-first century, the world would need a strong and reformed Organization.  “The United Nations will cease to exist if people stop believing in it,” she stressed.

Nicos Anastasiades, President of Cyprus, was among other leaders who expressed the need for reform of the United Nations.  While recognizing the value of the Organization, he said that new global threats had emerged, such as climate change and environmental degradation, and that the United Nations must be adapted to meet those challenges.  Seventy years after its founding, the United Nations needed the world’s leaders to demonstrate statesmanship and vision so as to rebuild newly broken societies and find a path to renewal.

A number of countries called, in particular, for Africa to be represented in the Council’s permanent and non-permanent membership, noting that much of the 15-member body’s work focused on the African continent.  Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete, President of the United Republic of Tanzania, said that, while some efforts had been made to reform the Council, those efforts must accelerate during the Assembly’s current session.  “For the United Nations Security Council to remain what it was 70 years ago is incomprehensible, and to say the least, unacceptable,” he stressed.

In that vein, Edgar Charwa Lungu, President of Zambia, said that, while the global community was today more united on some issues, it was equally if not more divided on who should make decisions on global peace and security.  There had been more conflicts in Africa over the past 70 years than on any other continent, yet there had been no move to end Africa’s “absolute exclusion” from decision-making on the Council.  Goal 10 of the 2030 Agenda, on reducing inequality within and among countries, would not be achieved without eradicating the inequality among countries in the 15-member body.

Several proposals for Council reform — and new ways to harness its power — emerged throughout the day’s debate.  On the issue of tackling terrorism, Miloš Zeman, President of the Czech Republic, stressed that words and declarations would never fully eradicate that scourge.  Instead he proposed coordinated action under the umbrella of the Council with the activation of the “sleeping structures” of the United Nations.  Under his proposal, the international community, led by the five permanent Council members, would mobilize small military units equipped with drones, helicopters and rangers, and join together to eliminate the leaders of terroristic groups — the nerve centre of those organizations.  As a historic optimist, it was his firm hope that one of the permanent members would propose such a resolution and see its value as a viable way forward.

Also speaking today were Heads of State and Government, as well as other high-ranking Government officials, from Rwanda, Tajikistan, Finland, Mongolia, Swaziland, Sierra Leone, Colombia, Uruguay, Malawi, Japan, Kuwait, Italy, Armenia, Venezuela, Liberia, Estonia, Dominican Republic, Seychelles, Yemen, Gambia, Thailand, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Tunisia, Tonga, Australia, United Kingdom, and Mauritania, as well as the European Union.


PAUL KAGAME, President of Rwanda, said the adoption of the global Goals marked a new era and recognized that a sustainable future was one that included all.  However, growth and progress also entailed new challenges.  Responding to them would put the United Nations at the centre of global affairs as never before.  Cooperation was the only way forward and yet the new consensus on sustainable development was incomplete because it lacked the political legitimacy required to sustain that international order.

He recalled that when world Powers created the United Nations 70 years ago, independence for Africa and Asia was not on the agenda.  People in those regions still needed to be looked after.  Those moral hierarchies and prejudices persisted and contributed to the mismanagement of political change; those also corroded the trust upon which multilateral cooperation depended.  Political legitimacy was not a legal abstraction, but a reality that could be measured, for example, in terms of progress towards the global Goals or could serve as an indicator of public opinion.  

In other cases, multilateral institutions were used to gain credibility for biased attacks against countries, he said.  When matters of principle became associated with domination and dissidence, then the basis for joint action in the multilateral system was compromised.  “We have nothing to fear from high standards,” he said, underscoring that no country or system had a claim to moral superiority.  “We have made good commitments; now we must make good on these commitments by building a community of shared purpose,” he added.  The world community was capable of doing so and should begin by recognizing the equality of all.

DAVID ARTHUR GRANGER, President of Guyana, said that the membership of the United Nations had quadrupled since it began in 1945 with 51 countries.  As undemocratic empires were dismantled, the majority of the new States were mini-, micro- and small States.  They asked the Organization how they would be protected from foreign aggression and how their independence would be sustained.  Small States risked being subjugated unless the international community demonstrated a commitment to deter dominance by larger, stronger States.  Guyana was a small State and a new one, a product of the post-Second World War promise of peace.  Indeed, his country was a child of the United Nations.

For 50 years, he went on, his country had been prevented from fully exploiting its rich natural resources.  Venezuela had threatened and deterred investors and frustrated Guyana’s economic development.  The country’s shared borders with Venezuela had been settled 116 years ago, and the whole world recognized them except Venezuela.  In 1897, a Treaty of Arbitration had been signed between the United Kingdom and Venezuela and, in 1899, an arbitral tribunal established by that Treaty had given Venezuela 13,000 square kilometres of Guyana’s territory.  Venezuela had respected that for the subsequent six decades, but at the onset of Guyana’s independence, it had resorted to various stratagems to deprive Guyana of its territory.  With its armed forces 40 times bigger than those of Guyana, Venezuela had pursued a path of intimidation and aggression.

Guyana, he continued, was committed to preserving the Caribbean as a zone of peace.  With total confidence in international law, his country sought a resolution to the controversy, consistent with the United Nations Charter.  Over the past 25 years, the Secretary-General had appointed various good officers to help resolve the issue, but that process had now been exhausted.  “We need a permanent solution in order to avoid the fate of perpetual peril,” he said, calling on the Organization to give real meaning to General Assembly resolution 49/31 (1994) by establishing a collective security system, not merely to monitor, but to maintain the security of small States.  “The United Nations remains our best hope,” he said.

HAGE G. GEINGOB, President of Namibia, said his country was “a child of international solidarity, midwifed by the United Nations”.  Following the termination of South Africa’s mandate over then South-West Africa, the Organization had assumed direct responsibility for Namibia, establishing a Nationhood Programme and an Institute for Namibia to develop the building blocks for democracy.  Citing an African proverb, which said that a “patient man will eat ripe fruit”, he announced that Namibia was now eating the ripe fruit of peace and democracy.   In gratitude to the international community, he noted the country’s contributions to United Nations peacekeeping operations since independence.

Celebrating United Nations successes over the last 70 years, he noted that conflicts of the magnitude of the two World Wars had been averted and that, most importantly, inroads had been made to lifting millions out of extreme poverty, empowering women, advancing human rights and spearheading the decolonization process, which was nearly complete except for the situation of the Saharans.  Africa had turned over a new leaf, ostracizing those who had assumed power unlawfully, and commended the many that had achieved electoral democracies.  Namibia’s own track record “spoke volumes”; it was rated sixth among best governed countries in Africa by the Mo Ibrahim index of African governance; the seventh lowest in corruption; and had the freest press in Africa.  The country also had a world-class banking system.   However, the challenges of social disparities, such as housing and other basic necessities, remained unmet.

The distribution of wealth was too important to be left solely to the international financial institutions, he went on.  Classifying countries by gross domestic product (GDP) alone ignored inequalities in wealth distribution, as well as opportunities.  Namibia was a casualty of that approach.  Classified as an upper-middle-income country, the legacy of apartheid, which left wealth in the hands of the white minority, had not been taken into account.  The country was denied access to grants and concessional loans to support its development agenda, leaving the poor trapped in perpetual cycles of poverty and despair.  He further stressed the importance of empowering women to combat poverty, as Namibia had done, increasing female representation in Parliament to 47 per cent and naming women ministers in a number of strategic ministries.

He reaffirmed support for the inalienable rights of the people of Palestine and Western Sahara to self-determination and national independence, and called on the Organization to implement all resolutions on Palestine without pre-conditions, as well as texts calling for a free and fair referendum in Western Sahara.  He commended the re-establishment of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States and looked to the lifting of the embargo.  Committed to comprehensive United Nations reforms, he supported the African Common Position.  Poverty would not be eliminated without tackling the issues of desertification, land degradation and drought.  As President of the eleventh Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, Namibia sought to strengthen its implementation and was pleased that the issues were included in the Sustainable Development Goals.  The only way to overcome global challenges was through a united front for the advancement of mankind.  “Let us leave a long lasting legacy, which will shape the future of our planet politically, economically and ecologically,” he concluded.

EMOMALI RAHMON, President of Tajikistan, said that over the past seven decades, the Organization had made a special contribution to sustaining the establishment of new independent States.  Tajikistan had experienced difficulties during its transition period and had received every kind of support from the Organization, enabling the country to embark on the road to democratic development.  Today, Tajikistan was contributing to the fight against terrorism and extremism, transnational organized crime, arms smuggling, and human trafficking.  The country’s police officers were participating in the joint peacekeeping operation of the United Nations and the African Union in Darfur.  The Drug Control Agency, which had been established with United Nations support, continued to play an important role in fighting illicit drug trafficking.

Combating international terrorism, he added, had become a priority issue and there was a need to develop mechanisms aimed at eliminating channels of financial and logistic support, recruiting, propaganda of violence, and the use of modern information and communication technologies for the purpose of terror.  Prevention of illicit drug trafficking should be an integral part of that struggle because the money earned from illicit drug trade was being channelled to finance the acts of terror.  On other matters of importance to his country, it stood for expanding good neighbourly relations with Afghanistan, and called on the international community to support that Government’s efforts.  His country also believed that the Joint Plan of Action on Iran’s nuclear programme would contribute to strengthening regional peace.

On climate change, he added that over the last 60 years, the average annual temperature in Tajikistan had increased by 1°C.  The abnormally high temperatures and severe precipitations in recent months had caused much economic damage and claimed human lives.  Noting that Tajikistan‘s per capita emission of greenhouse gases was 10 times less than the average world index, he said a broad use of renewable energy sources, especially hydropower, was crucial to the development of the country’s green economy.  Climate change affected the quality and quantity of freshwater resources, and thus, it was essential to review the existing practices of water resources management. Cooperation and “water diplomacy” were needed to mitigate the climate impacts and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals in a timely manner.

SAULI NIINISTO, President of Finland, noting that this year marked the sixtieth anniversary of his country’s membership in the United Nations, said that Finland had joined a family of countries, which shouldered their responsibility.  The crisis in Syria, Iraq and parts of North Africa posed an unprecedented humanitarian catastrophe that threatened the peace and stability in the Middle East, Africa and Europe.  Wars and conflicts such as those had given rise to a new era of migration evidenced by the approximately 60 million refugees — the largest since the Second World War.

He said his country was receiving proportionally a very high number of asylum seekers.  While not helping was not an option for Finland, more effective and sustainable ways to help those in need were critical.  The Security Council and countries in the region must work together to find a political solution to the Syrian situation.  He welcomed the steps taken towards the implementation of the Minsk agreement, underscoring that all illegal measures, like the annexation of Crimea by Russia, could not and must not be recognized.

Despite the United Nations’ peace operations, the scope and complexity of today’s violent conflicts had surpassed the world community’s ability to address them properly.  In that regard, he welcomed Ramos-Horta’s High-Level Panel report and said his country would continue to advance that body’s recommendations.  Finland had contributed 50,000 men and women to United Nations peacekeeping operations.  In per capita terms, that was the number two contributor in Europe and Finland would further strengthen its contribution.

“We cannot continue business as usual […] It is up to us to act.  We can choose — or lose — our future,” he said.  To implement the ambitious 2030 Agenda, it was necessary to “get everybody on board” to make the commitments a reality.  Similarly, the Climate Change Conference in Paris must be made a success for the sake of all children.  On other matters of interest to his country, he welcomed efforts to enhance the transparency and inclusiveness of the selection process of the Secretary-General; the country championed gender equality, and expected to see many excellent female candidates for the position.  “It was high time that the other half of humankind took up this challenge,” he said.

ELBEGDORJ TSAKHIA, President of Mongolia, said that “the past 70 years were the best 70 years ever”.  But despite achievements among the family of nations, “our home” was becoming a more turbulent and fragile place.  Many of the targets of the Millennium Development Goals had been achieved, but some had failed.  The international community had learned lessons about working together and with the 2030 Agenda, there was now a truly universal and ambitious action plan.  Robust, inclusive and open mechanisms would advance implementation, and monitoring and accountability would make that process reliable.  Mongolia appealed to every country to adopt national laws to implement the Sustainable Development Goals.

Over the last quarter-century, he said, his country had relentlessly striven to build an open and just society with a free market economy, participatory democracy and environmentally conscientious policies.  There had been notable progress in the areas of governance transparency and reduction of poverty.  The life expectancy of Mongolians had increased by 7 years, while GDP had increased more than 20-fold.  Within the span of a single generation, Mongolia had transformed from one of the most isolated and closed regimes to one of the most vibrant and open democracies.  It had among the most open and fair electoral systems in the region, with nationwide electronic voting and biometric voter registration.  “We no longer use the wooden or paper boxes of finger inks,” he said. 

All nations, he added, must bear the responsibility for protecting the planet and its ecosystem for the benefit of present and future generations. “We, Mongols, are eager to contribute,” he said.  The country had become one of the 20 largest peacekeeping contributors in the world.  For 23 years, it had pursued a nuclear-weapon-free status, and in Asia, Mongolia was an “honest broker” who promoted peace and security, with its status of “permanent neutrality”.  Noting that the country was running for membership in the United Nations Human Rights Council, he said that when he saw giant military exhibits, he wondered at the huge amounts of money, human ingenuity and time spent on war machines.  Just a fraction of the money and technology presently wasted on the “masculine war show”, could solve many of the world’s troubling issues.

KLAUS WERNER IOHANNIS, President of Romania, said that the United Nations was not a panacea for all humankind’s evils.  The increase in the number and depth of tasks entrusted to it had not been matched by needed resources; the common practice had been to ask the United Nations to do more with less.  While it might be convenient to point to the Organization’s failures, the significant work it had done in the area of prevention, while difficult to measure, must be underscored.  “The United Nations was nothing but ourselves, Member States, living on the trust and resources we invest in it,” he said.

Romania was among countries that had fully trusted and supported the Organization, he said, adding that the year 2015 was special for his country as it celebrated the sixtieth anniversary of its admission.  In the aftermath of the cold war, the United Nations had supported Romania in its transition to democracy.  Funds and programmes had assisted his country in addressing social problems, such as those relating to children, health, and the environment.  Grateful for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) 45-year presence in Romania, he expressed pride in his country’s contributions to the Organization’s goals, despite its limited economic power, in areas such as arms control and disarmament, science and technology in development, and promotion of democracy.  After almost two decades as a recipient, Romania had become a provider of official development assistance (ODA) to neighbouring countries and beyond.

Reiterating support for the non-use of the veto in the Security Council when dealing with mass atrocities, he said that inaction created the impression that unlawful territorial gains, such as in Ukraine, were tolerated.  Further, he praised the Iranian nuclear agreement, which had proved the virtues of diplomacy undertaken in good faith and with patience.  The world community should do more to combat terrorism with the “international tools of law”, including international criminal law.  Spain and his country had proposed an initiative to create an international court for the crime of terrorism.  Despite the difficulties of such an undertaking, the process of reflection in multilateral forums would likely generate fresh ideas and innovative legal tools.

MSWATI III, King of Swaziland, commending the United Nations for its work in Africa in reducing conflicts and curbing Ebola, stated that the Organization must continue to help the continent emerge from the cycle of poverty and disease.  Africa had great potential for investment, and the United Nations should enable the creation of an environment for economic growth.  The “Kingdom of e-Swatini” was one of the many nations to have reported significant progress in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals.  Though it did not have an abundance of natural resources, it had an innovative and educated work force.

With Africa opening up new trade markets and investment opportunities, he continued, his country had fast-tracked reforms to improve the ease of doing business.  Infrastructure development, such as the completion of the new international airport, had also increased access to global markets.  Africa was well-endowed with mineral resources, yet still faced the challenges of poverty and unemployment.  Access to the markets of the developed world remained critical.  The success of trade and investment also hinged heavily on a reliable and sustainable energy supply.

While the country had attained a significant milestone with 97 per cent enrolment in primary education, sustaining that required that quality education be further accessible at secondary, high and tertiary levels.  Calling on global partners to ensure that the country did not become a victim of its own success, he added that its people still largely relied on agriculture.  Swaziland was looking to international financial institutions to support the building of dams, but it was a matter of concern that such aid came with stringent conditions that left the recipient countries worse off. 

PETRO POROSHENKO, President of Ukraine, said his country had contributed actively in the shaping of the United Nations Charter at the San Francisco Conference of 1945 and was now suffering from a brutal violation of that document’s principles.  The aggressor was the Russian Federation, a neighbouring country and former strategic partner, and a member of Security Council, which had conducted an open aggression against Ukraine by occupying Crimea in February.  After the General Assembly resolution condemning that annexation, Moscow had started a new military gamble, this time in the Ukrainian Donbass region.  In the last few days, the Russian Federation had called for the establishment of an anti-terrorist coalition and warned of the danger of flirting with terrorists.  “How can you talk about an anti-terrorist coalition if you inspire terrorism right in front of your door?” the speaker asked.

The Organization, he said, lacked an effective instrument for bringing the aggressor country to justice.  Seventy years ago, when the creators of the Charter had envisaged Security Council sanctions as a restraining tool, they could not have imagined that it would be needed against a permanent member of the Council.  Since the beginning of the aggression, the Russian Federation had used its veto right twice, when the Council was considering questions relating to Ukraine.  Veto power should not become an act of grace and pardon for a crime.  Welcoming the initiative of the French President to restrain veto use in cases of mass atrocities, he said that primary attention should be given to modernizing the Council, by enlarging its membership and improving its working methods.

Strongly condemning terrorism in all its forms, he added that the International Court of Justice and International Criminal Court should be given a special role in combatting international terrorism.  Turning to the Sustainable Development Goals, he said that his country, as a member of the “Friends of Climate” Group, was looking forward to reaching consensus on the matter this year in Paris.  The Russian aggression had caused another challenge for Ukraine in the protection of Donbass’ environment.  Irresponsible and criminal flooding of mines by terrorists had poisoned the region’s drinking water, soil, flora and fauna.  Next year would mark the thirtieth anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear tragedy.  Ukraine requested that a special meeting of the General Assembly be dedicated to that in April 2016.

ERNEST BAI KOROMA, President of Sierra Leone, said that issues such as the refugee crisis, poverty, transnational organized crime, terrorism and violence against women, and efforts to expand access to health and education were all characterized by a struggle for inclusion.  Creating a more democratic United Nations was part of that endeavour and a prerequisite for achieving universal aspirations.  Noting his role as coordinator of the African Union Committee of Ten Heads of State on Security Council Reform, he emphasized Africa’s demand for two permanent and two non-permanent seats in that body, as outlined in the Ezulwini Consensus and Sirte Declaration.

On the security front, he said Sierra Leone was ready to explore means for increasing its contribution to global peacekeeping.  The recent expert Advisory Group’s review of the peacebuilding architecture was useful, and he looked forward to the intergovernmental process, adding that Sierra Leone was a case study and storehouse of lessons learned.  Support for the Residual Special Court for Sierra Leonne also should be sustained. 

On climate change, he urged action to lower greenhouse gas emissions and to shore up capacities.  No country was immune from the climate impacts, and that insight must be integrated into other decisions on youth unemployment, insecurity, extreme hunger and violence against women.  More broadly, it was imperative to build countries’ capacities to resolve conflicts and handle such issues as peacekeeping and migration.  Fragile conflict-affected States in the so-called “G7+” called for country ownership and country-led implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.  Sierra Leone had tailored its development framework to the 2030 Agenda, he said, citing its Agenda for Prosperity and improvements in political and economic governance.  Justice reforms had responded to national and global demands.  National investment in climate had targeted infrastructure, agriculture, education, health care, youth and women’s employment and public service delivery.  The Ebola outbreak had taken a heavy toll on the country’s socio-economic fabric.  Today, Sierra Leone’s national recovery plan focused on maintaining zero infections and building national resilience systems, including a viable health system and a national security and disaster risk management system.

JUAN MANUEL SANTOS, President of Colombia, said he had come to the United Nations, an organization dedicated to peace, security and human rights, to announce that Colombia was on its own path to peace.  In a world in which there were more than 20 armed conflicts taking place, he was proud to announce that the conflict in Colombia was on the final path to a genuine solution.  Colombia had put an end to the longest armed conflict in the Western Hemisphere.  Using courage and responsibility, Colombia had ended more than 50 years of internal warfare.  Peace was a difficult path, but Colombia was dedicated to it.  Peace “required that every person inside opens their mind and heart and soul to reconciliation,” he added.

He said he had come to the Assembly with optimism because less than a week ago, in Havana, Cuba, following three years of negotiations, Colombia had reached an agreement on the most significant obstacle to peace in the country.  The accord laid down a system of transitional justice to ensure that there was no impunity for the perpetrators of the crimes.  The system respected the principles of international and national law.  “Our goal was maximum justice, which would allow us to move to peace,” he said.  The agreement set out an accountability system in the form of a national court for crimes.  The system could serve as a precedent for other armed conflicts in the world.  Significantly, a deadline for the signing of a final agreement by 23 March 2016 had been set.  In addition, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known as FARC, would begin to lay down its arms no later than 60 days after the signing.  He could return to the Assembly next year representing a Government in peace.

On behalf of 48 million Colombians, he thanked the international community for its efforts.  A Colombia at peace would help the country deal with global challenges, such as climate change and the eradication of extreme poverty.  Colombia was the most biodiverse country, for its size, and it was extremely vulnerable to changes in climate.  It insisted on the environmental elements of the Sustainable Development Goals.  He strongly supported the upcoming climate meeting in Paris.  Peace would let Colombia achieve the Goals as its people would have more economic opportunities.  Peace was the supreme good of any society and the reason for the United Nations.  “In Colombia, in less than six months, the bells will ring out that the time of peace has come,” said the President.  He hoped that the clocks around the world would be synchronized at the same time.

NICOS ANASTASIADES, President of Cyprus, said he was proud that his country had been actively involved in the development of the Sustainable Development Goals since the very beginning, as the process reflected the high principles of effective multilateralism and close cooperation of all nations.

At the same time the global community was witnessing ongoing turmoil, extremism, sectarianism, civil war and terrorism in the Middle East and North Africa and other regions of the world.  The international community must be vigilant as migration flows increased as people left their homes in search of a better future and the refugee crisis persisted in countries and continents around the world.  In order to reverse those worrying developments, global efforts had to be directed to all countries and regions in conflict zones, particularly the Middle East and North Africa, to ensure sustainable development.  The root causes of political instability and economic security also must be addressed.  For example, it was not enough to take action against individuals responsible for terrorist attacks; efforts had to be directed against the enablers of terrorism.

Cyprus, with its proximity and close historical, political and social links to the Middle East and North Africa, was convinced that the international community did not appreciate the region’s complexities, he said.  While recognizing the value and necessity of the United Nations, Cyprus also believed it needed to be reformed and modernized in order tackle contemporary realities.  New global threats had emerged, such as climate change and environmental degradation.  Seventy years after its founding, the United Nations needed more from the world leaders to demonstrate statesmanship and vision, so as to rebuild newly broken societies and find a path to renewal.

TABARÉ VÁZQUEZ, President of Uruguay, recalling the shock of world opinion weeks ago over the image of a Syrian boy on the beach where he had died as he tried to find protection from conflict, said decisive action was needed from the world community to find solutions to the tragedies causing human migration.  Prevention was better than cure, he said.  What was needed was to “recognize other people as ourselves and protect all their rights”, to see democracy as a form of government that allowed people to be full citizens and to protect the planet, the only one where people could survive.  It also meant preventing terrorism and discrimination wherever it appeared and to think and act boldly for future generations.

As a practicing doctor until recently, he called public health a central component of national sovereignty and “an unavoidable responsibility of States”.  The global burden of morbidity was moving from infectious to chronic non-communicable diseases, which were preventable.  Cardio- and cerebro-vascular disease was the major cause of death around the world.  Some 60 per cent of morbidity globally was due to cardio-vascular disease, cancer and other non-communicable diseases, which had no borders.  Coordinated policies were needed to address poverty, promote healthy lifestyles, physical activity, sport and a healthy diet, as well as to control smoking, alcoholism, and drug abuse.

He said that smoking was a disease transmitted by the multinational tobacco industry, which killed its own customers in a quest to double profits.  Human and financial resources were needed to combat its transmission, which required ethical and political will.  It was unethical that tribunals of multinationals were able to make trade a priority over health.  Uruguay was facing difficulties with a major tobacco producer because it had made the issue a priority with the World Health Organization (WHO).  The country was being made an example to prevent others from taking action.

Hailing the resumption of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States, he said a key element to success was ending the embargo.  Uruguay would vote in the General Assembly to do so as it had for many years, he said, adding, “Let’s hope that this is the last time the United Nations will have to take up this issue.” He also called upon Colombia and Venezuela to peaceably resolve their border dispute and expressed support for the peace process within Colombia.  He recalled that, in 2008, Uruguay had presented its candidacy for non-permanent membership on the Security Council for the period 2016-2017.  The country was a founding Member of the United Nations, and believed that the only way for the Council to fulfil its mandate was on the basis of the Charter.  Uruguay was committed to peace before the Organization’s founding.  It was also a peacekeeping contributing country and, as such, would like to bring its experience to the Council.  It requested support for its candidacy.

ARTHUR PETER MUTHARIKA, President of Malawi, noted that the United Nations was created with the understanding that “peace is not just the absence of war, but that it comes with struggles, compromises, sacrifices and choices we make as nations and individuals, for the benefit of humanity.”  In that light, he drew attention to several issues spotlighted by the High-level Independent Panel on Peace Operations, among them that missions should focus on political solutions with an emphasis on conflict prevention; partnerships were needed involving the Security Council, regional actors and national mechanisms; and the United Nations should be responsible for compensating the abused.  He stressed the need for Security Council reform with the Ezulwini Consensus and the Sirte Declaration as guiding principles.

He said that the quest for security and peace should hinge on sustainable socio-economic development.  Looking towards implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, he said that Malawi was well on the way to ending AIDS as a public health threat, by 2030.  Women and youth, who constituted the majority in most developing countries, must not be left behind; they must be represented at all levels of decision-making in society.  The Government was committed to the “He-for-She Campaign” to address gender inequalities and end gender-based violence, promote women’s political participation and economic empowerment.

Singling out Goal 4, on education, he stressed the need to educate youth, and especially the girl child.  He also emphasized the central importance of higher education.  “With improved and increased access to higher education, the world will strike a massive blow at poverty,” he said.  Malawi was committed to promoting human rights and rule of law, which could not be achieved without addressing fraud, corruption and theft of public resources.  The Government, therefore, was also committed to fighting those vices and was pursuing and prosecuting suspects in the theft of public funds.

DONALD TUSK, President of the European Council of the European Union, said Europe was as committed as ever to its values, even as it confronted unprecedented challenges.  It borders were being challenged as it dealt with the refugee and migrant crisis, as well as economic problems.  Yet Europe would cope with all, and it remained dedicated to make the world a better place.  Regarding the flow of migrants and refugees to Europe, he said it was not true that Europe was the only rich place on earth.  There were other regions of wealth in the world.  At the same time, wealth was not the only factor people considered when choosing their future; they made decisions based on human rights, freedom and civil rights, all of which attracted people to Europe.

He said Europe wanted to be fair in any discussions on quotas for immigration, whereas many countries represented here were not letting migrants into their countries at all.  It was sheer hypocrisy to criticize Europe.  No one was escaping from there.  The refugee crisis had global dimensions and demanded a global response.  People should not criticize Europe for not doing enough on the refugee situation.

Syria’s crisis must be resolved, he went on.  Millions of Syrians were being impacted.  The fight against terrorism was very important, and the international community could not overlook the fact that many refugees were fleeing terrorism.  Stability could not be achieved by directing bombs against civilians.  It would be wrong to make Bashar al-Assad part of a transition government.  The peace plan for Syria should let people begin to live a normal life in the region, which would be consistent with the values of the international community and the United Nations.

This year was also crucial in the fight of climate change, and Europe was determined that the Paris summit at the end of the year would be a breakthrough, he said.  Fighting climate change was not a global competition and everyone had to take part in the global effort.  Global challenges must be managed on a multilateral basis or they could not be dealt with at all.

SHINZO ABE, Prime Minister of Japan, highlighted his support for nation-building, citing work to foster human resources, provide assistance and uphold women’s rights.  Japan would enhance its assistance to refugees and internally displaced persons from Syria and Iraq, which, this year, totalled $810 million, or triple the amount it provided in 2014.  In Lebanon, Japan would provide $2 million in new assistance.  Moreover, it would provide $2.5 million for European Union neighbors struggling to accept refugees and migrants, including Serbia and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.  In Iraq, Japan was preparing $750 million to help build peace, and ensure it was maintained across the Middle East.

“In rebuilding devastated countries”, he said, “…cultivating from a grass-roots level each person’s capacity to fight fear and want is, in fact, the shortest path there”.  It was from that belief that Japan valued health and education through a policy of human security, a point driven home by a photograph he had seen of a young woman who had fled a refugee camp near Damascus.  In her bag, she carried a maternal and child health handbook that Japan had distributed at camps in Syria, Palestine and Jordan in hopes that a mother’s love could transform the soil that sometimes created despair.

Japan valued the rule of law — and equality before the law — more highly than any other principle, he said, highlighting work to train police in Afghanistan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, notably through the Japan International Cooperation Agency, which had trained more than 20,000 people.  “I am second to none in looking to women as the ones to take on many of the roles that will carve out Japan’s future,” he said.  Japanese women were helping countries emerging from conflict to uphold the rule of law, and for the second year, Japan had hosted the World Assembly for Women. 

As the United Nations did not “avert its eyes” from actual situations, he turned to that in North Korea, saying Japan would work with relevant countries towards the comprehensive resolution of outstanding issues, including abduction, nuclear and missile matters.  In some areas, there appeared to be increases in nuclear arsenals, without transparency.  The United States and the Russian Federation should proceed with weapons reductions, as should other States.  Japan was preparing a resolution to promote international action on that issue.  Moreover, Japan would pursue Security Council reform through cooperation with the Assembly President, and it was seeking a permanent seat.  Citing peacekeeping work in South Sudan, Kenya, Uganda and elsewhere, he said Japan also had laid the legal domestic framework to contribute to such efforts.

SHEIKH JABER AL MUBARAK AL HAMAD AL SABAH, Prime Minister of Kuwait, said one of the most outstanding milestones of the United Nations was embodied in the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals.  Kuwait affirmed it would spare no effort to fully implement them over the next 15 years and the Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development would continue to provide loans and development programs, including $15 billion to meet the entitlements and requirements of sustainable development.

Turning to regional conflicts, he said that Yemen and its brotherly people faced serious challenges owing to the intransigence of the Houthis militias.  He emphasized the need for implementing relevant Security Council resolutions, especially resolution 2216 (2015).  Kuwait had donated $100 million to meet the humanitarian needs of the Yemeni people.  As the disaster in Syria entered its fifth year and the humanitarian crisis became overwhelming, Kuwait reiterated its firm and principled position that a solution could only be achieved through political, peaceful means.  

Kuwait welcomed the endeavours of the United Nations and the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Syria, who aimed to mobilize efforts to implement the 2012 Geneva 1 Communique of the Action Group on Syria.  Since 2013, Kuwait had hosted three international donor conferences to support humanitarian efforts in that country.  Declared pledges totalled $7.15 billion, of which Kuwait had contributed $1.3 billion, most of which had been delivered to the United Nations specialized agencies and other governmental and non-governmental organizations concerned with humanitarian affairs.  On Libya, Kuwait was very interested in the agreement announced by the Special Representative in Skhirat, Morocco, to form a national consensus government to end the fighting.

He reiterated his country’s firm and principled position to reject all forms of terrorism, radicalization and intolerance.  International and regional efforts for peace in the Middle East faced many impediments as a result of Israel’s intransigence.  Kuwait welcomed Security Council resolution 2231 (2015), which endorsed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on Iran’s nuclear programme.  Kuwait called on Israel to accede to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and subject all nuclear facilities under the control of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in compliance with the resolution adopted in the 1995 NPT Review Conference, which called for a zone free of nuclear weapons in the region.

MATTEO RENZI, Prime Minister of Italy, said that he represented the voice of a generous people.  Public life in the world today was fixated on the present, and led by discussions on television, 24/7 news and social media.  He belonged to a generation that believed in the value of social media but it came with the risk of reducing the broad horizon to the next poll.  “We should reject the dictatorship of the instant,” he said.  On the map, his country was shaped like a bridge — between the North and South, Europe and Africa, East and West, extending from the Middle East to the Balkans.  Italy had always been an extraordinary cultural laboratory.

In the past 70 years, he said, Europe had left behind centuries of war.  As a young man who had witnessed the fall of the Berlin wall, he believed that Europe was born to tear down walls, not build them.  Italy was on the front line of rescuing thousands of migrants fleeing war. He had personally accompanied Secretary General Ban-Ki moon on a rescue ship.  At the age of 70, the Organization had the wisdom to recognize its mistakes and the strength to correct them.  Welcoming the nuclear deal with Iran, he said it had brought hope to the international community.  Only through dialogue and negotiations could the delicate Israel-Palestine question be addressed. 

On Syria, he said, “we have all felt the failure of inertia”.  Italy was proud to be a leading country in the training of security forces in Iraq and had taken a primary role in the working group to counteract financing to Da’esh.  It also stood ready to collaborate with the new Libyan Government, if asked, and would be willing to take a leadership role in a mechanism to stabilise the country under the norms of international law.  “The terrorists want us to die”, he said and fear was the playground of terrorism.  When terrorists attacked schools or museums, they were not attacking the past, they were targeting the future.  It was in Italy where the culture of conservation was born, and it held the highest concentration of United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) heritage sites.  Proposing an international task force to rebuild historic sites; it could be deployed in the framework of peacekeeping. 

SERZH SARGSYAN, President of Armenia, recalled the 2014 centennial of the Armenian genocide and expressed gratitude to those countries that recognized it.  Armenia was determined to keep prevention of genocide on the international agenda.  He also noted the resolution passed recently by the Assembly establishing 9 December as “the International Day of Commemoration and Dignity of the Victims of the Crime of Genocide and of the Prevention of this Crime”.

He said the peaceful resolution of the “Nagorno-Karabakh problem” was one of the most salient for the region, and noted that Azerbaijan’s “aggressive policy” had prevented any meaningful progress in negotiations as the situation “drifted” towards increased tensions.  He drew attention to Azerbaijan’s firing of large calibre artillery at peaceful settlements on the borders of both his country and Nagorno-Karabakh, killing three women a few days prior.

Decrying Azerbaijan’s “disdain” for the joint statement by the Presidents of the United States, Russian Federation and France and the efforts of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group, he said that should that country’s actions continue, Armenia would have to take legal and political-military steps to enable his country and Nagorno-Karabakh to develop in peace and security.  He enumerated instances of ceasefire violations, and said it was obvious why his country had urged the international community to be unambiguous in its statements as to who was violating the ceasefire.  Otherwise, he said, the “muffling of the early warning signals of threats” to peace and security could have catastrophic repercussions.

As witness to the “unspeakable cruelty” occurring in the Middle East, he noted the destruction of Armenian artefacts and expulsion of Armenians from Iraq and Syria.  Armenia had received 16,000 refugees from Syria, one of the largest numbers in Europe.  He also spoke of how joint and adequate actions had led to the historic agreement on Iran’s nuclear programme, demonstrating that where there was political will it was possible to find solutions for the most complicated issues.  He stressed the importance of eliminating closed borders.  The blockade of Armenia by its neighbours was unacceptable, and established artificial obstacles that disrupted intercultural, human-to-human trade and contacts.  He expressed high regard for the periodic review carried out under the United Nations Conferences on Landlocked Developing Countries, and stood ready to invest further efforts in that endeavour.

JAKAYA MRISHO KIKWETE, President of the United Republic of Tanzania, said the United Nations had withstood the test of time, evolved and become a stronger Organization.  It had succeeded in preventing another world war, but many challenges remained, including inter-State and intra-State conflicts, terrorism and the existence of abject poverty.  The United Nations must seek to forge strategic partnerships with regional and subregional organizations.  In addition, while some efforts had been made to reform the Security Council, it was the wish of Member States to see an acceleration of that negotiation during the Assembly’s seventieth session; in that regard, he stressed: “For the United Nations Security Council to remain what it was 70 years ago is incomprehensible and, to say the least, unacceptable.”

Peacekeeping operations remained one of the most dependable instruments of promoting world peace and security, and they would remain so for many years to come.  The United Republic of Tanzania, which contributed some 1,322 troops to those operations, stood ready to contribute more whenever requested to do so.  On Ebola, which had been a stark reminder of how vulnerable people and nations were, he said the biggest lesson learned was that the world needed to be better prepared to prevent and respond to epidemics in the future.  He welcomed the creation of the High-Level Panel on Global Health Crises to come up with recommendations in that regard; having chaired that panel, he said it would complete its work in December 2015 and bring its report before the Assembly.

On the issue of Israel and Palestine, he stressed the need to resume dialogue to resolve the long-standing conflict.  It was about time the pain and suffering of the Palestinians ended and the Israeli people lived peacefully and harmoniously with their neighbours.  The United Republic of Tanzania subscribed to the two-State solution, he said in that regard. Turning to Western Sahara, he said the lack of movement on the part of the United Nations to implement decisions on the matter was both regrettable and incomprehensible.  “The people of Saharawi have waited far too long to get the opportunity to determine their fate and future,” he said.

NICOLÁS MADURO MOROS, President of Venezuela, said 2015 was the year in which Venezuela celebrated 200 years of liberation, when Simon Bolivar led the liberation forces — following hundreds of years of colonization — into an anti‑colonialist, anti-imperialist, geopolitical approach for the Americas.  This was an approach which, 200 years later, Venezuela supported for a balanced world — a world that rejected every kind of hegemony, the use of force, military and economic domination.  For many of the 70 years of its existence, the United Nations led a bipolar world, and with the collapse of the Soviet Union, the world became unipolar — one in which ideologies were supposed to come to an end.

The people of Venezuela sought to build a multipolar world, in which there existed respect for others and the recognition of new, emerging centres, he said.  In the Assembly hall, not one leader would say a single word in support of the wars that had destroyed Africa, Asia and the Middle East.  The war in Afghanistan did not bring peace to Afghanistan; it brought destruction and terrorism.  In Iraq, the war was woven in a fabric of lies, and 12 years later Iraq was devastated.  Leaders in the hall listened to Hugo Chavez when he condemned the bombing of Libya.  Now leaders could agree that no one had a right to judge and undermine the political regime decided by another country.  Syria resembled a “Hollywood version of terrorism — a film about the horrors of war”.  He stressed the need to help and protect the people of Syria.  The United Nations must take some responsibility for the strategic failure of the wars in those nations and the inability of the Security Council to act to resolve them.

The last few days, world leaders had spoken about peace, and only with peace could they achieve the 2030 Agenda, he said.  Latin America had found its path to dignity once more, and declared it would be a zone of peace.  However, the region had one problem: the internal dissention in Colombia.  Venezuela had taken steps for a peace agreement with the guerrillas, and in the same vein, he acknowledged the normalization of relations between the United States and Cuba.  Just as then United States President Jimmy Carter in 1979 turned the Panama Canal over to the Panamanian authorities, the United States must return Guantanamo to the Cuban authorities as soon as possible.  Furthermore, he called on the United Kingdom to negotiate the return of the Malvinas Islands* to Argentina.

Venezuela had faced enormous challenges as it built an economic and social model quintessentially Venezuelan, based on a socialist revolution in the twenty‑first century, he said.  He said that earlier in 2015 the country received a threatening edict by United States President Obama who said Venezuela posed a threat to the United States.  President Obama’s decree of 9 March 2015 must be withdrawn and annulled.  Venezuela continued to call for peace and nonviolent approaches to the problems of the world.  Seventy years after the founding of the United Nations, the world needed another United Nations — a new geopolitical system, a new regionalism that respected the needs of the peoples and new rules clarifying that every Government had the right to control itself.

ELLEN JOHNSON-SIRLEAF, President of Liberia, said that the United Nations was called to action by new and emerging challenges.  Africa, the Middle East, Asia and even Europe still had vortexes of conflict.  Migrants and people seeking refuge from conflicts and economic hardships were swirling across Europe.  Africa was haunted by the growing threats of destabilizing forces like Boko Haram and ISIS as well as attempts to reverse democratic initiatives, such as in Burkina Faso.  She wondered if the United Nations, at 70, was hindered by inflexible structures and overburdened by bureaucracies, and if the Organization was fit for purpose to play its role in transforming the world over the next 15 years.

Welcoming the United Nations comprehensive review of peacekeeping operations and a review of the Organization’s peacebuilding architecture, she said her country could attest, with gratitude, to the critical and indispensable nature of the peacekeeping and peacebuilding functions for post-conflict countries.  She also welcomed the global study on implementation of Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) on women’s participation in peace processes.  Since the resolution’s adoption 15 years ago, improvement had been made in the status of women, but much more remained to be done.  In 70-year history of the United Nations, only three women had served as President of the General Assembly, one of them being her compatriot Angie Brooks Randolph.  Today only a few women served as Special Representative of the Secretary-General, and not a single woman had ever served as Secretary-General.

Turning to the Ebola crisis, Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone bore witness to the fundamental creed of the United Nations, she said, expressing gratitude for outpouring support.  She also thanked the Secretary-General, along with the African Development Bank, the African Union, the European Union and the World Bank, for convening the international conference on post-Ebola recovery.  Her country was implementing its post-Ebola economic stabilization and recovery plan with the expectation that it would receive support from bilateral and multilateral partners.  The three affected countries had also formulated a regional recovery strategy.  Liberia was determined to address the development losses by rebuilding better and more resilient health and education systems.

EDGAR CHAGWA LUNGU, President of Zambia, expressed optimism that the seventieth session of the Assembly would set the tone for the future and meet the expectations of the international community.  However, his country was concerned that the gears to advance the three pillars of the Charter were moving at a “very slow pace”.  The core elements of the 2030 Agenda, which centred on humanity, environment and peaceful societies, would guide its implementation and help to “leave no one behind”.  The development lessons of the Millennium Development Goals and the cumulative experience of the United Nations should serve as a spring-board on which to spur the world’s ambitions in that arena.

In the last 70 years, the inequality gap among nations had continued to widen, as poverty and youth unemployment threatened prospects for peace, security and development, he said.  His Government looked towards the 2030 Agenda — which fostered poverty eradication and aimed to create employment for youth and women, especially in rural communities — to rectify those issues.  While the global community was today more united on some issues, it was equally if not more divided on who should make decisions on global peace and security.  There had been more conflicts in Africa over the past 70 years than on any other continent, yet there had been no move to end Africa’s “absolute exclusion” from decision-making on the Security Council.  Goal 10 of the 2030 Agenda, on reducing inequality within and among countries, would not be achieved without eradicating the inequality among countries on the Security Council.

Zambia had a long history of involvement in conflict prevention, peacekeeping and peacebuilding, he said.  As a landlocked country, independence was incomplete as long as Zambia remained surrounded by countries still fighting liberation struggles.  Zambia had been the beneficiary of various initiatives aimed at achieving the Millennium Development Goals.  But many countries continued to face serious challenges in their quest for development and a better quality of life for their people.  The challenges they faced were numerous, including the inseparable issues of energy shortages and climate change.  This year, Zambia was experiencing an unprecedented energy crisis that had already cost the nation dearly in terms of productivity, jobs and revenue.  Beyond economic limitations, the social ramifications were equally devastating; it was therefore important to exert great effort on mitigation strategies to combat climate change.

Furthermore, he said, developing countries were still grappling with challenges including poverty, high unemployment, skewed industrial development, low intraregional trade and inadequate infrastructure, among others.  Agriculture was one of the country’s priority areas in its efforts to diversify the economy away from mining; to that end, the country was introducing credit schemes and sought partnerships to enable the improvement of services and access to market information.  On financing for developing countries in general, he stressed the need for external resources to bridge the gap required to finance development projects.  The world must quickly identify sources to raise the $100 billion needed by Africa annually to finance its infrastructure development.

TOOMAS HENDRIK ILVES, President of Estonia, said that as the international community continued to tackle global challenges including terrorism, climate change, poverty and human rights violations, the number of conflicts and crises worldwide continued to grow.  Expressing hope that the recent agreement on Iran’s nuclear programme would pave the way for more stability in the Middle East, he stressed that ISIL posed a serious threat to peace and security in Syria, and that his country supported the international coalition against ISIL.  The United Nations and its Global Counter-Terrorism Forum also had an important role to play.  The ongoing conflicts and crises in Syria and Libya, among other places, had led to the current refugee crisis in Europe.  Some 42,000 people worldwide fled from their homes every day.

Meanwhile, the civil war in Syria alone had created more than 4 million refugees, he said.  The majority of those people had sought refuge in neighbouring countries, but many had opted to take the dangerous route across the Mediterranean to get to Europe.  There were 600,000 asylum-seekers in Europe in 2014, and there would be far more in 2015.  “I am extremely worried to witness the rising support for far right or far left political movements in Europe, often fuelled by anti-immigrant, racist sentiments,” he said, adding that short-sighted, populist policies exploiting fears of ordinary people would lead nowhere.  The European Union was the main donor in the effort to alleviate the Syrian refugee crisis, having mobilized approximately €4 billion in humanitarian, development, economic and stabilization assistance to Syrian internally displaced persons and refugees.

Not only did the world have to bring peace and stability to Syria and Libya, but it also had to put an end to the aggression against Ukraine, he said.  Compared to a year ago, the armed conflict there was less intense, but daily fighting continued.  Crimea remained illegally occupied, and those responsible for the downing of Malaysian airliner MH17 were still at large.  Attempts to obstruct justice on that matter were deeply disturbing.  In addition, long-standing protracted conflicts in Georgia, Moldova and the Nagorno-Karabakh region remained unresolved.  Dialogue and diplomatic efforts to find a solution to the conflict between the Russian Federation and Ukraine must continue.  A solution to the conflict, however, must not come at the expense of the principles that underpinned European and global security.

The year 2015 was a crucial one for action against poverty and for promoting sustainable development, he said.  The Climate Conference in Paris should reach an agreement that promoted the goal of economic growth, which did not come at the expense of the environment.  He stressed that all Member States had committed to protect their people from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.  Unfortunately, in the cases of Syria and Ukraine, the Security Council had failed to act due to the use of the veto.  Council members must not vote against actions aimed at preventing and stopping mass atrocity crimes, he stressed in that regard.  Estonia therefore supported the initiatives of France and Mexico on the non-use of veto in such cases.

DANILO MEDINA SÁNCHEZ, President of the Dominican Republic, said the United Nations was born from the unstoppable force of hope and strong will of great men and women who believed in dialogue, solidarity and the greatness of humanity.  The Organization continued to represent those values that inspired the international community daily.  In the past year, the world had experienced difficult challenges, but also witnessed encouraging facts, such as the reopening of embassies between the United States and Cuba.  Similarly, amid a renewed commitment to global development, expressed in the post-2015 agenda, industrialized nations had finally stepped forward to fight climate change with firmness and determination.

The fight against inequities was the starting point to address most global challenges and remained the main task ahead, especially in Latin America, he said.  While 130 million people in the region would have joined the middle class by 2030, Latin America, together with Sub-Saharan Africa, was also the world’s most unequal area.  Despite decisive moves to counter it, poverty was still too large and exacerbated by inequality.  The region needed both a responsible productive sector that generated wealth in all layers of society and an active and efficient State that redistributed that wealth and created opportunities.

There was a need for a new international consensus that allowed space for national Governments to design policies according to their own circumstances, he said.  The outcome of the Millennium Development Goals clearly showed what the world was capable of doing through collective effort.  Experience had shown the Dominican Republic that a clear agenda and a common path was the only way to accelerate progress.  The post-2015 agenda provided the opportunity to focus international efforts on the root cause of its problems, he said, and added that the time had come to work towards equity, solidarity and just distribution of the shared resources the planet offered.

DALIA GRYBAUSKAITĖ, President of Lithuania, said that the ideals and principles of the United Nations were being threatened around the world.  Today, in the twenty-first century, women and girls were abused and sold in slave markets.  The Charter had been breached in the heart of Europe with no consequences.  The Russian Federation had invaded Crimea; that annexation and military aggression stood out among the world’s many crises because of its wide implications for the future of peace and security.

Against that back-drop, the international community had been unable to act, she said.  “If you close your eyes to crimes, they do not disappear,” she stressed in that regard.  Vetoing the Security Council resolutions commemorating the Srebrenica massacre and blocking the investigation of the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 were insults to the victims of those tragedies.  Moreover, the very least the Security Council could do was to put an end to the use of veto in the cases of war crimes, crimes against humanity and mass atrocities.  By protecting the criminals, the four Security Council vetoes on Syria had done nothing to resolve the situation.  Now the world was facing one of the worst humanitarian crises in recent history.

“Lawlessness breeds the worst of the worst — extremism, radicalism and terrorism,” she went on, adding that the world could not allow those elements to take hold.  The United Nations must be adapted to today’s realities and must do much better to tackle the underlying causes — not just the symptoms — of crises.  It must also improve its work in prevention and mediation in order to save lives.  In the twenty-first century, the world would need a strong and reformed United Nations.  “The United Nations will cease to exist if people stop believing in it,” she stressed.

JAMES ALIX MICHEL, President of Seychelles, said that despite the good intentions and inspirations emanating from the Charter, something seemed to be sorely lacking.  The world was deficient in determination, torn apart by vicious wars and conflicts, and full of poverty, hunger, famine, and epidemics.  Inequality, injustice and disparity were on the rise, and environmental degradation and despoliation went unchecked.  Was this the legacy today’s generation wanted to leave behind?  The international community had a duty and obligation to change the world and could do so by accepting responsibility, casting aside indecisiveness and looking beyond the narrow pursuit of ideological and national interest.

The lofty ideals of the United Nations were as relevant today as when it was founded, he said.  However, the structures of governance of the Organization, in particular the Security Council, were not.  International organizations needed to be made relevant to the realities of the present.  Resolute action was needed for the spirit and essence of sustainable development to be truly embraced globally.  Small island developing States were the sentinels of nature and the guardians of oceans.  But actions or inactions of others threatened their livelihood and existence.  Climate change was not the making of those States, but they bore the full brunt of it.

The non-application of the principle of special and differential treatment of small island developing States was one of his country’s major preoccupations, he said.  A one-size-fits-all approach to development was unjust and morally unacceptable.  The growing refugee crisis reminded the world of the need for shouldering the burden in the fight against ideologies of hate.  The world could not allow itself to be condemned to the wrong side of history by a collective failure to reach an ambitious and universal agreement to combat climate change.  Seychelles called on all developed countries to fulfil their commitments to provide $100 billion annually by 2020 for the Green Climate Fund.

MILOŠ ZEMAN, President of the Czech Republic, criticized leaders who had spoken before him for listing too many priorities in their short speeches.  He had only one: the fight against international terrorism.  Terrorism was an outrage and the main danger of human civilization.  Practically all European countries faced migration provoked by a consequence of terrorist actions in the Middle East and Africa.  It was wonderful to criticize terrorism, organize anti-terrorism demonstrations and prepare the declaration against terrorism.  But there remained three illusions concerning the scourge: that terrorism would vanish like a historical fluctuation, when it had been growing like a cancer; that it remained a phenomenon of Islamic States, when it comprised networks across continents; and that there existed a standard form of war against terrorism.

His proposal involved neither tanks, nor artillery, nor a massive occupation, but rather a coordinated action under the umbrella of the Security Council, he said.  The United Nations had many articles concerning the possibility of military action:  some were never activated and were called the “sleeping structures”.  The United Nations needed to activate them.  The international community, under the five permanent Council members, should mobilize small military units equipped with drones, helicopters and rangers, and join together to eliminate the leaders of terroristic groups — the nerve centre of those organizations.  It was his firm hope, he said, that one of the permanent members would propose such a resolution, and if not, as a historic optimist, he believed it would eventually become evident as the way forward.

ABDRABUH MANSOUR HADI MANSOUR, President of Yemen, said the city of Aden had recently been liberated from the criminal Houthi militia.  However, the tragedy continued in other cities.  Three years ago, he had spoken about the peaceful transition of power in Yemen before the General Assembly.  He had also warned that Iran was hindering that process, and that it was training Houthi militias and providing them with weapons.  Indeed, his country had undergone a peaceful, transparent political transition as predicted; nevertheless, Houthis had undertaken a political and military coup d’état as an attempt to impose the Iranian model through the use of force.  Citizens were surrounded and killed, and children were conscripted into armed militias.  Schools and public buildings were turned into military warehouses.

The Houthis were “given every chance” and included in the national dialogue, yet they continued to hold on to their weapons, he said.  Indeed, the coup had taken place despite Yemen’s positive approach to the situation.  Acting under Article 51 of the Charter, Yemen had appealed to neighbouring countries to help them tackle the Houthi militia.  The response had been a courageous one, with Saudi Arabia acting with particular determination.  “We find ourselves mixed in this battle for the legitimacy of the State, to prevent the country from falling into the hands of Iran,” who wanted to see the destruction of Yemen.  He welcomed the resistance of Yemen’s citizens, who had also fought against the Houthis.

Greater effort was needed internationally to alleviate human suffering and to ensure that the Yemeni crisis was not forgotten, he went on.  While the United Nations had announced its annual humanitarian appeal for Yemen, contributions fell short, and covered only a meagre number of needs.  He appealed to donor countries to fulfil all commitments to his country.  Yemen had cooperated with all authentic efforts of the international community, including those of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and and his Special Envoy under Security Council resolution 2216 (2015).

Calling on the Houthis and related militias to lay down their arms and implement that resolution, he expressed hope that the efforts of the United Nations would be met with success.  Terrorism was a true threat for States.  Yemen had endeavoured to combat terrorism, conducting a “determined drive” against that scourge in partnership with friendly countries.  Given the country’s geographical location, its stability was important for the region and the world.  “We shall not allow the Houthis, nor anyone else, to repeat the Iranian experience in Yemen,” he stressed.

AJA ISATOU NJIE-SAIDY, Vice-President of Gambia, said there had never been a greater moment for the Organization to respond to the increasing complexity of threats to peace and stability.  The United Nations must craft and implement critical resolutions for the sustenance of better lives for all.  In order to establish world peace and security, all Member States must be promptly and severely reprimanded for any violations of the Sustainable Development Agenda.  Condemning the barbarism perpetrated by terrorism, she said the Holy Koran had enjoined humanity to live in peace and harmony.  Therefore, Muslims were required to condemn those who twisted religious teachings for their narrow interests and violated the sanctity of life.

Welcoming the agreement on Iran’s nuclear programme, she stressed the need to step up collective action to end all threats to peace and security.  Notwithstanding the sizeable financial support and effective intervention witnessed in the fight against the Ebola epidemic, the long-term effects had been placed at over $3 billion.  Addressing those effects in a timely manner would be conducive to promoting peace and stability in the region and beyond.  Turning to climate change, Ms. Njie-Saidy said the planet was humanity’s only home, which required everyone to reverse the depletion of natural resources.  The United Nations must act with greater resolve in promoting sustainable production and consumption patterns and in reducing man-made disasters.

Intergovernmental negotiations on reforming the Security Council must be driven by Member States themselves, she said, stressing the need to increase representation of African nations through two permanent and two non-permanent seats.  Amid the marked improvement in respect for human diversity, care must be taken by every country not to impose “deviant behaviour” on another under any pretext.  It was time for Africa to end the practice of others taking advantage of its natural resources.  The United Nations should redouble its efforts towards the creation of an independent and viable Palestinian State, as global peace depended on the international community’s efforts to end global injustice.  In that context, she suggested the establishment of a mechanism for reparations for the inhumane slave trade.

PRAYUT CHAN-OCHA, Prime Minister of Thailand, said the United Nations at 70 had a commendable track record in the maintenance of peace and security, as well as the prevention of human rights abuses.  Nonetheless, numerous challenges persisted and required a holistic approach to solving, especially in the realm of development.  The imperative was to craft a truly sustainable solution to peace and security via the nexus of development and human rights.

Sustainability required that humankind learn to live in harmony with nature, he said.  Today, the adverse impacts of climate change and natural disasters could reverse decades of development gains, and it had become incumbent on every country to “join hands” in solving this pressing global issue.  Thailand reaffirmed its commitment under the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions between 20 and 25 per cent by 2030.  Furthermore, countries could only achieve sustainability when a framework of fair rules existed.  Successful implementation of the 2030 Agenda required joint ownership and collective efforts across all sectors.

Most countries expected the strongest to help the weakest and most vulnerable, he said.  But given the widening gap between the two, the United Nations must not overlook the potential value of the middle countries.  Those countries could stand on their own while remaining in touch with the instructive experiences of their growth and development, therefore serving as a crucial link between the strongest and the weakest.  As a middle-income country, Thailand had taken the position that development would not work when some countries forged ahead while leaving the others behind.  Therefore, the country had pursued the “Thailand-Plus-One” policy for region-wide economic and industrial development, creating transport projects and special economic zones in support of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Finally, Thailand attached great importance to building a culture of peace and had actively participated in international efforts to address global conflict, he said.  For those reasons, Thailand had decided to run for a non-permanent seat on the Security Council for the 2017-2018 term.  The Government believed it could serve as a constructive bridge-builder between different cultures and beliefs.  Thailand aimed to promote good understanding and enhance international cooperation in a collective pursuit to achieve the goals of the United Nations.

RALPH GONSALVES, Prime Minister of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, said the consequences of climate change, including rising sea levels, drought and floods, threatened his country — a small, mountainous archipelago of 32 islands scattered across the Caribbean Sea.  Less than two years ago, devastating flooding washed away 17 per cent of its GDP and claimed 12 lives.  The posturing and recalcitrance of some major emitters of global warming gases indicated that the upcoming Climate Conference in Paris, or COP21, might be yet another empty diplomatic dance that prioritized process over progress.

His country and island and coastal States would not settle for any agreement that did not comprehensively and unambiguously bind major emitters to deep and ambitious emissions cuts, and meaningful financing commitments to fund adaptation and mitigation efforts in the most vulnerable countries, he said.  Saint Vincent and the Grenadines embraced a green future and, within the next three years, 80 per cent of its electricity needs would be provided by renewable energy.  But his country’s own efforts were inadequate in the face of a global threat.

He also reiterated a united call of the Caribbean Community for reparatory justice from the major participants in and beneficiaries of the transatlantic slave trade.  That must form part of the post-2015 development conversation.  Turning to Security Council reform, he said that “for too long, reform efforts have fallen victim to the geopolitical ambitions of entrenched Council members and the regional rivalries of legitimate aspirants”.  The clearest signal of the United Nations desire to remain in modern times would be a decision on the contours of a reformed and expanded Council that recognized the emergence of new Powers, revised working methods, and gave voice to other important perspectives, such as those of African and small island developing States.

He supported the Assembly’s decision to fly the Palestinian flag at the United Nations as “an unmistakable endorsement of a true two-State solution” to the Israel-Palestine conflict.  While welcoming the détente between the United States and Cuba, he said there was much more to be done to unshackle the Cuban people from the chains of an unjust, illegal and plainly outmoded blockade.  He also expressed support for the inclusion of “Taiwan” in the work of the United Nations specialized agencies, as the continued exclusion could neither be explained nor justified by any rational and forward-looking global gathering.

HABIB ESSID, Head of Government of Tunisia, said his country had witnessed important work in its democratic transition, where growing political awareness allowed stakeholders to employ dialogue to resolve its problems.  Legislative and presidential elections had produced robust institutions that were focusing attention on policies and programmes aimed at promoting social and economic development.  National guidelines on ensuring sustainable development had been crafted in the interest of the people and the country in alignment with the global agenda.

Changes in the region had been swift and ongoing, leading to an exacerbation of the terrorist threat which jeopardized safety and security in many countries, he said.  Although Tunisia had made great strides in countering terrorism, it was the victim recently of two heinous attacks aimed at undermining the country’s culture of tolerance as well as the economy.  Tunisia’s counter-terrorism strategy went beyond a military dimension and sought to address root causes through bilateral and multilateral cooperation and coordination.  The escalation of conflicts across the globe — regardless of the reasons — was a source of concern and required greater international partnership.

Tunisia supported the resumption of peace negotiations between Palestinians and Israelis within a specified time-table that would end the occupation and grant Palestinians their legitimate rights, he said.  Efforts to change the status quo and undermine the two-State solution were unacceptable.  Libya was witnessing a crisis whose fallout went beyond its borders, which underscored the importance of a political solution.  The worsening crisis in Syria required credible and immediate measures to end the violence and protect lives.  International efforts to revive a consensus-based political solution were urgent in Syria as well as in Yemen.

SAMIUELA 'AKILISI POHIVA, Prime Minister of Tonga, said a key piece of the development agenda remained outstanding, and he looked forward to an agreement on climate change in Paris — one that stabilized greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere.  Tonga remained highly vulnerable to natural disasters, which continued to increase in frequency and destructiveness.  Climate change posed an irreversible threat to the country’s people, livelihoods and natural environment.  He reaffirmed his support for the call to the Secretary-General to appoint a special representative on climate and security, as discussed in the dialogues in the Security Council.

Tonga’s vulnerability to natural disasters also re-emphasized the small island developing States’ special case for sustainable development, he said.  Such susceptibilities must also factor into development finance calculations designed to assist those countries.  The use of GDP per capita as a determinant for access of small island developing States to development financing, therefore, needed replacing with a new index that recognized their exposure to natural disaster.  This would save Tonga and other States from increasing their indebtedness in obtaining funds from multilateral institutions for reconstruction in the wake of a cyclone.

Furthermore, Tonga remained thoroughly committed to the management and conservation of the oceans and seas, he said.  The Government of Tonga passed legislation related to seabed mining activities relevant to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.  Within the country’s exclusive economic zone, officials continued to combat the problem of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and supported the proposed triennial United Nations Oceans and Seas Conference to drive progress on ocean preservation.

As Tonga worked to translate the new Agenda into action, the development system of the United Nations must adapt to suit small island developing States’ priorities, he added.  The country supported efforts to ensure the United Nations was “fit for purpose” in implementing the 2030 Agenda and looked forward to continued dialogue on the longer-term positioning of the United Nations development system, as well as a more representative Security Council in line with today’s realities.

JULIE BISHOP, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Australia, said the critical services the United Nations provided each and every day in many parts of the world often went unnoticed or unappreciated.  Australia recognized the dedicated and courageous work of the thousands of United Nations personnel in the field who protected vulnerable civilians, delivered vital humanitarian assistance, rebuilt damaged societies and supported development.  The world faced an unprecedented number of long-running and seemingly intractable conflicts, the global threat of terrorism and an immense development challenge.  The Charter was a remarkable achievement, whose values and aspirations articulated seven decades ago still guided the world.  Australia reiterated the pledge it took on the signing of the Charter to achieve higher living standards, solutions to international problems and universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Ms. Bishop said only the United Nations could have produced the remarkable 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  The Agenda recognized the centrality of economic growth to sustainable development and affirmed that ODA, while important, was only one source of financing.  Climate change was a challenge for all nations which required decisive action and engagement by the entire United Nations membership.  Australia was committed to ensuring the Paris Climate Conference was the platform needed to secure a collective approach to the 2°C goal.

The world could not be transformed unless the place of women within it was transformed, she said, stressing the need to step up the fight against violence against women and girls.  It was time to put into practice the collective thinking on the role of women in conflict embodied in the Organization’s women, peace and security agenda.  Human rights, good governance and open and inclusive institutions were crucial foundations for development.  With the rise of terrorist groups like Da’esh, the continuing depredations of the “North Korean” regime and the persistence of forced labour and other contemporary forms of slavery, the need for the United Nations to prosecute a strong human rights agenda had never been more urgent.  While the Security Council’s role was more essential than ever, that body could only perform its role if it had the tools it needed.

PHILIP HAMMOND, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and Commonwealth Affairs of the United Kingdom, said that 70 years ago leaders of the countries that founded the United Nations gathered in London to institutionalize the conditions for peace.  From the ashes of war, the quest for peace and human dignity had begun.  His country was proud to be a founding member.  Today, it was proud that the United Kingdom was the only industrialized nation that met development assistance targets set by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the United Nations alike.  The world today faced numerous challenges, old and new, and immediate and long-term, including humanitarian crises, denials of fundamental freedom and violations of territory integrity.  In addition to those challenges, longer-term threats had emerged, such as climate change.  The international community must avoid putting the future generation at risk.

The world must tackle immediate challenges as well, he said.  Most imminent was the Syrian crisis.  Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and ISIL were inflicting suffering on its people on an unimaginable scale.  There was an urgent need to end that conflict.  He commended Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan for their generosity to accept those fleeing conflict.  The United Nations appeal for the Syrian humanitarian crisis must be met.  His country would remain in the forces to counter ISIL.  But defeating the group alone would not bring an end to the crisis.  An inclusive political settlement was needed, and perpetrators of crimes must be held to account.  But progress on that front had been blocked for too long in the Security Council.

Each country must follow its path to prosperity, he said, underscoring the need for security as a prerequisite for development.  Security within a country must be also matched by security between nations.  Stability could be best achieved by following the rule-based international system with the Charter at its heart.  All States should respect territory integrity and political independence.  His country stood shoulder to shoulder with Ukraine.  Aggression must have consequences.  Crucial to the success of the United Nations was to embrace change and remain relevant.  The Council must be reformed, and a transparent process was needed to select the next Secretary-General.  “He or she has to head a more efficient Organization” in which every penny was used to maximum effect, he said, stressing that his country would champion that reform agenda.  The world was a better place because of the United Nations.  That legacy must be preserved.

HAMADI OULD MEIMOU, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Mauritania, speaking on behalf of President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, said the seven decades since the founding of the Organization had been spent in strenuous pursuit of its global goals.  While it had many successes to its credit, the United Nations also continued to face old and new challenges.  He expressed hope that the Sustainable Development Agenda would succeed in addressing many of those challenges.  Mauritania had attained remarkable results over the past years in improving the lives of the people.  Unemployment had been curtailed and basic services were being provided, while rule of law, judicial independence and transparency were being strengthened.  In recognition of the organic nexus between security and development, the country had taken forward both priorities together in national policies and programmes.  A culture of dialogue had been promoted with people and groups to prevent them from being misled into religious extremism.

The Sahel had witnessed a proliferation of networks of organized crime, gun-running and unauthorized migration, endangering security of the region, he said.  In that context, countries of the Sahel had embarked on coordinated efforts to achieve sustainable development and address common challenges.  Upholding its commitment to maintain international peace and security, Mauritania participated in United Nations peacekeeping operations in Africa.  While the conflicts in Yemen and Syria required greater efforts towards achieving political solutions, the process under way in Libya must be advanced by all stakeholders there.  The Arab-Israeli conflict continued to be a threat to peace and security of a region that was vital to the world.  Despite successive United Nations resolutions, it was regrettable that the parties had failed to reach agreement on the creation of an independent Palestinian State.

Africa faced a multitude of challenges in the security and development fields, he said, stressing the need to establish a well-developed health system to prevent the outbreak of diseases.  Despite their challenges, most African countries had made progress in achieving the Millennium Development Goals.  A continent with immense natural and demographic resources deserved a permanent seat on the Security Council.  The objectives of the United Nations would not be achieved unless full justice was attained in the distribution of wealth across the world.


* A dispute exists between the Governments of Argentina and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland concerning sovereignty over the Falkland Islands (Malvinas).

For information media. Not an official record.