Seventy-fourth Session,
5th & 6th Meetings (AM & PM)

World Leaders Denounce Breaches of Sovereignty in Collective Efforts to Settle Conflict, Tackle Climate Change, as General Assembly Debate Continues

Iran’s President Vows Robust Response to Any Such Violation, as Others Call for Greater Investments in Building Resilient Societies

International peace and security are gravely threatened when national sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity — principles on which the United Nations was founded — are undermined and violated, world leaders told the General Assembly today as it continued its annual general debate.

Speakers throughout the day called for greater regional and international cooperation in tackling a daunting array of challenges, from climate change and sustainable development to terrorism and military occupation.  Several turned the spotlight on developments in the Middle East, underscoring the need for dialogue.

Driving that point home, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani vowed that his country will respond decisively and strongly to any transgression of its security and territorial integrity.  “Our region is on the edge of collapse, as a single blunder can fuel a big fire,” he warned.  The United States is no-one’s neighbour in the region nor the guardian of any State.  The solution for peace, security and stability should be sought within the region, he said, adding that regional issues are bigger than the United States’ ability to resolve them.

For his part, Iraq’s President Barham Salih declared that his country — having overcome the threat posed by Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) —  has no desire to be party to a Middle East conflict or become a battleground where others settle scores.  Nor will it allow itself to be a launchpad for aggression against its neighbours.

Agreeing that the Middle East is a “constant flashpoint”, Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun said the social and economic repercussions of ongoing conflicts in the region, while perhaps less intense, are becoming more entrenched.  “Indeed, no justice or peace can be established as long as the principle prevailing in our world is ‘I am strong therefore I am right’”, he said.  He underscored the impact that refugees from Syria are having on Lebanon’s economy and development.

Faiez Mustafa Serraj, President of the Presidential Council of the Government of National Accord of Libya, said his country is experiencing a very serious crisis due to negative foreign interference in blatant violation of Security Council resolutions.  Pointing to widespread human rights violations by the aggressor — which had led to 3,000 fatalities and displaced hundreds of thousands of people — including bombings of civilian infrastructure, airports and hospitals, he called on the United Nations to quickly send a fact-finding mission and on the chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court to open an investigation.

President Iván Duque Márquez of Colombia said the current situation in Venezuela represents a threat to peace and security in the South American region.  Within the framework of international law, diplomacy and multilateralism, collective efforts are needed to restore democracy to Caracas, he said, recalling that more than 50 nations have recognized the legitimate presidency of Juan Guaidó and are “shedding light on the crimes of the current dictator”.

President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine said his country still finds itself defending its sovereignty and territorial integrity in the five years since the Russian Federation occupied Crimea, despite the efforts of international organizations and existence of international law.  Every country has its own problems, but there is no longer such a thing as somebody else’s war.  “We cannot think globally while turning a blind eye to small things,” he stated, emphasizing that two world wars and the loss of millions of lives resulted from negligence, silence, inaction and the unwillingness to relinquish ambitions.

Armenia’s Prime Minister, Nikol Pashinyan, said Turkey remains a serious security threat in refusing to establish diplomatic relations and overtly assisting Azerbaijan against Nagorno-Karabakh.  Disagreeing with the Azerbaijani position that the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is territorial in nature, he stressed the importance of a peaceful settlement, noting that tensions among his country’s neighbours puts Armenia in a very challenging position.

For President Klaus Werner Iohannis of Romania, unresolved conflicts in the Black Sea region are a “serious source of instability and hamper serious cooperation”.  He characterized unauthorized military build‑ups and hybrid tactics as “warring developments that should be rejected by all of us”.  The United Nations is the best hope for tackling challenges, but its helpfulness hinges on the willingness of its Member States to uphold its core values, he added.

In a similar vein, Lithuania’s President, Gitanas Nausėda, said the world needs a stronger United Nations to respond more effectively to current challenges, including the illegitimate use of force and violations of sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Underlining the importance of respect for States’ sovereignty, Guatemala’s President Jimmy Morales said the United Nations Secretariat violated his country’s rights in that domain.  In establishing the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala under the guise of combating corruption, it weakened Guatemala’s institutions, undermined its governance and led to the deaths and imprisonment of citizens.  Expressing alarm that inviting the United Nations into Guatemala led to such destructive results, he demanded the General Assembly provide an exhaustive report on what had occurred.

Recalling the theme of this year’s Assembly session — “Galvanizing multilateral efforts for poverty eradication, quality education, climate action and inclusion” — King Mswati III of Eswatini pressed the United Nations to translate its numerous debates into action.  While ending poverty is a priority, it is also a daunting challenge in the face of climate change and food insecurity, he said, calling for greater investments to build strong societies and protection systems.

Liberia’s President, George Manneh Weah, described his country as a “United Nations success story” after the Organization’s peacekeeping mission helped it emerge from 14 years of conflict.  He drew attention to a rising chorus of voices calling for the creation of an economic and war crimes court.  He also said that protectionism and climate change are creating unintended consequences on developing countries.

However, President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo of Ghana said the process of economic growth would be easier with more equitable trade practices, even though it appears that rich nations are not prepared for a fairer world economic order.  While Africa’s rich mineral resources bring vast wealth to nations and peoples outside the continent, Africans do not get a fair share and their environment is often left devastated, with such activities undermining the fight against poverty.  To change this, the nations of the world must collaborate to “stop this rape of Africa”, he declared.

Seychelles’ President Danny Faure praised multilateralism in the fight against poverty, adding that his island nation must have faith in the multilateral international order, as it relies heavily on others for its survival.  Moreover, humanity cannot simply “plunder indiscriminately” under the guise of development for the sake of short-term profit.  “Through exploitation we are dooming future generations to a planet beyond their ability to repair,” he warned, adding that “bringing law and good governance to the ocean is the only way we can ensure our collective survival.”

Also speaking today were Heads of State and Government of Palau, Georgia, Central African Republic, Mauritania, Estonia, Guinea, Zambia, Chad, Honduras, Australia, Fiji, Ecuador, Kenya, Namibia, Panama, Costa Rica, Ireland, Mali, Kiribati, Zimbabwe, Kuwait, Czech Republic, Andorra and Germany.

The General Assembly will reconvene at 9 a.m. on Thursday, 26 September, to continue its general debate.


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, President of Ukraine, asked delegates to remember how they felt when they made their first statement in the General Assembly, when their eagerness to improve the world had yet to be overtaken by tough geopolitical realities.  “Please recall how important it was to convey your country’s troubles and to be listened to,” he asked, recounting the story of opera singer Vasyl Slipak.  Being heard gave meaning to his life, and his voice filled places such as Carnegie Hall, Covent Garden and Notre Dame Cathedral, before he was murdered in Donbass defending his country against Russian aggression.  The 12.5‑milimetre bullet that claimed his life cost just $10, he said, adding that “that is the price of a human life on our planet”.

Noting that five years have passed since the Russian Federation occupied Crimea, he said that despite international law and the role of international organizations, Ukraine is still defending its sovereignty and territorial integrity.  More than 13,000 people have died, 30,000 have been wounded and 1.5 million forced to flee their homes.  Such numbers are reported every year and they continue to increase.  He said restoring Ukraine’s territory and restoring peace are his priorities, a task that requires wide international support.

Every country has its own problems, but in the modern world, there is no longer such a thing as somebody else’s war, he said.  No one can feel safe until the Russian Federation stops waging war against Ukraine in the centre of Europe.  “We cannot think globally while turning a blind eye to small things,” he stated, emphasizing that two world wars and the loss of millions of lives resulted from negligence, silence, inaction and the unwillingness to relinquish ambitions.

Recalling that his country abandoned the large nuclear arsenal that it inherited from the former Soviet Union, he said Ukraine always demonstrated a readiness to ensure peace in a civilized manner, yet it lost part of its territory and it continues to lose citizens every day.  Ukraine does not call into question the United Nations, but the system as it stands is not perfect, and it is high time for the calls for change and new initiatives made from the Assembly’s rostrum to be backed up by deeds.  Technology means the planet is no longer so big and in the short time it takes to say a few words, the world can be razed to the ground.  A strong leader is one who cares about the lives of everyone.  Quoting the novelists Erich Maria Remarque and Ernest Hemingway, he called for a new human mindset that does away with aggression, anger and hatred.

KLAUS WERNER IOHANNIS, President of Romania, declared his renewed commitment to multilateralism and rules‑based international law, with the United Nations at its helm.  He said that decades after the fall of the “hideous communist regime”, his country was committed to interacting openly with the rest of the world, based on democratic principles.  The United Nations is “indispensable” for finding solutions for international challenges. 

Turning to climate change, which he termed “a global challenge” he noted that Romania is not spared by adverse events, adding that it is committed to taking concrete steps to adhere to targets set out in the Paris Agreement on Climate Change and at the twenty‑fourth Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, held in 2018 in Katowice.  Climate change was a focus during the first semester of Romania’s presidency of the European Council, and a long‑term strategy will be finalized soon.  This strategy will focus on increasing global adaptation and resilience, in service of a wider strategy of sustainable development.  He added that Romania is scaling up national efforts to fulfil the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Moving on to security challenges in the Black Sea, he expressed concern that the region continues to witness unresolved conflicts, which are a “serious source of instability, and hamper serious cooperation”.  He characterized unauthorized military presence, build‑ups and hybrid tactics as “warring developments that should be rejected by all of us”.  The United Nations remains the best hope to tackle such challenges, he stated, although its helpfulness is contingent on Member States’ willingness to uphold the Organization’s core values.

He affirmed Romania’s strong commitment to United Nations peacekeeping, referring to its efforts in Georgia, Haiti and soon in Mali.  He went on to reiterate deep concern over the global spread and magnitude of terrorism, highlighting a recent attack on embassy compound in Kabul, which claimed the life of one Romanian diplomat.  In that context, he stressed the need to implement a global counter‑terrorism strategy.

BARHAM SALIH, President of Iraq, said history will show that, with the help of their friends, Iraqis overcame a dangerous terrorist project by Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) to destroy their country and the region.  Perhaps no other country has experienced what Iraq has in terms of time and scope, but those events created new conditions that point to a promising future, he said, citing positive relations between Baghdad and the Kurdistan regional government.

However, the remaining challenges require regional and international cooperation, he said.  Efforts are underway to rebuild areas damaged by the war on terrorism and to guarantee the return of internally displaced persons.  “We must not allow ourselves to be distracted from the importance of confronting terrorism in all its manifestations,” he said, emphasizing that terrorist elements are trying to reorganize and that hotspots persist in Syria and elsewhere.  Terrorism takes advantage of security and political vacuums and the international community must work together to fill them.

The tragedy in Syria requires practical efforts that will enable the Syrian people to reach a permanent political solution, he said.  Diligent work is also required to deal with the Palestinian question and he underscored Iraq’s solidarity with the Palestinian people and their legitimate right to self‑determination.  Israel’s recent proposal to annex the Golan Heights and the Jordan Valley can only prolong the crisis, he said, stressing that support for a comprehensive political solution in Yemen must also be a priority.

Turning to the Gulf region, he said the international community must help to contain escalating tensions that could have dangerous repercussions.  The region does not need a new war, especially amid efforts to fight terrorism.  While Iraq has long been a battleground for others, for which it has paid a high price, it aspires to be a bridge for understanding.  Reiterating the call for a joint security framework in the Middle East, he said Iraq does not want to be part of any conflict or a battlefield for others to settle scores, nor will it be a launchpad for aggression against its neighbours.

Regional security depends on good neighbourly relations and he clarified that Iraq’s policy today is not as it was under the previous regime.  Its relations with Iran and Turkey, among others, matter greatly and a federal, democratic and stable Iraq represents an opportunity to enhance regional understanding based on economic integration and security.  He went on to call for the establishment of an international alliance against corruption, including money laundering, to complement the global fight against terrorism and to help Iraq recover lost assets.

GEORGE MANNEH WEAH, President of Liberia, described his country as a “United Nations success story”.  Following a 14‑year civil conflict, peace was restored and maintained by what was then the largest peacekeeping force in the Organization’s history, the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL).  “Under the auspices of UNMIL peacekeepers, Liberians enjoyed 16 years of unbroken peace,” he said, noting that responsibility for maintaining that peace was passed to Liberia’s Government in 2017 when the Mission withdrew.  Despite those successes, survivors have had to live with the war’s collateral damage — the plight of the war-wounded, the resettlement of refugees, the displacement of populations and the shattering of families — long after the guns were silenced.

Since he assumed leadership in 2018, he said his focus has been on ensuring that peace prevails and the democratic rights of all Liberians are protected.  “Our country today is a beacon of democracy in Africa, where freedom of the press, freedom of expression, freedom of association and other political and democratic rights are respected under the rule of law,” he said.  Liberia’s political environment remains vibrant and no political prisoners exist on the territory.  Nonetheless, he warned of a creeping threat —  the incitement to violence, the misuse of social media and hate speech by those who have lost democratic elections — which is aimed at gaining power through undemocratic means.  Calling for full adherence to the rule of law, he urged all parties to learn to respect the mandate of the electorate without selectivity.

Recalling that Liberia’s 2003 Comprehensive Peace Agreement called for the establishment of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to address issues of impunity, he said the platform also provides an opportunity for both the victims and perpetrators of rights violations to share their experiences and facilitate healing.  In addition, the Commission made use of traditional conflict‑resolution mechanisms.  Underlining his preference for a dialogue‑centric mechanism that brings people together around such issues as poverty reduction, growth and economic development — rather than retribution — he cited a rising chorus of voices calling recently for the establishment of an Economic and War Crimes Court, an idea supported by many international organizations and other partners.

“We are at a loss to understand why the clamour for the establishment of [that] court is now being made, almost a full decade after it was first called for,” he continued.  Nonetheless, the Government is listening to those calls and has begun consultations with the national legislature to determine relevant timing, funding, venue and other details for such a court.  Noting that the world is now gathered at a time of uncertainty and heightened tensions in global politics, security and trade, he cautioned that both protectionism and climate change are having unintended consequences — especially on developing countries.  In that context, he underlined Liberia’s continued belief in the Organization’s ability to maintain international peace and security, foster friendly relations among nations and promote social progress, better living standards and human rights. 

He went on to outline Liberia’s national development plan, namely the “Pro‑Poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development”, which is intended to serve as a compass for reconstruction, development and modernization.  While it prioritizes poverty reduction, the plan aims to help middle‑ and upper‑income Liberians prosper.  Noting significant challenges in its implementation — due largely to the declines in export prices, revenue shortfalls and structural imbalances — he said the country has embarked on a new series of investment incentives and tax relief benefits aimed at the private sector.  It is also engaged in talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and is reorganizing its central bank to address those challenges, he said.

MICHEL AOUN, President of Lebanon, thanked Member States that supported resolution 344 (1973) and the establishment of the Academy of Human Encounters and Dialogue in Lebanon, a preventive diplomacy initiative launched two years before.  “I believe that true peace is the one established between human beings, and not peace on paper,” he said, underscoring his faith in Lebanon’s role and vocation as a land of convergence and dialogue.  On climate change, he expressed support for Austria’s “Initiative for more Climate Ambition”, having been an early signatory to the Paris Agreement.  Lebanon has also taken numerous steps to promote the role of women, notably with its adoption of a national plan to implement Security Council resolution 1325 (2000). He then touched on steps taken in accordance with the National Commission for Human Rights and the Torture Prevention Committee.

Spotlighting the “heated wars in the Middle East”, he said that while the intensity of conflicts had reduced slightly, their social and economic repercussions are becoming increasingly “entrenched”.  He expressed deep concern over the adverse impact of Syria’s displacement crisis — across security, political, social, economic and environmental dimensions — aggravating Lebanon’s economic crisis and seriously threating its sustainable development.  He urged all world leaders to work for the safe return of the displaced to Syria — a shared responsibility — making it imperative for “all of us to collaborate urgently to find solutions”.

As Syria’s security situation has stabilized, with conflict confined to the Idlib region, he said 250,000 displaced people have left Lebanon and returned to Syria.  However, he decried that “some States and international organizations are trying to hinder this return, […] sowing fear among the displaced, […] as if the displaced have become hostages in an international game to be swapped when settlements and solutions are imposed.”  He described Lebanon’s “discouraging” historical experience, which began in 1948 after waves of Palestinians came to the country, where they still live in camps awaiting a political solution and the implementation of resolution 194 (1948).  Meanwhile, reduced services provided by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) threaten to “turn Palestinian youth from ‘education candidates’ to ‘revenge candidates’.

He rejected Israel’s Judaization of Al‑Quds, methodical colonial policy, legislation that contravenes human rights and annexation of lands that were occupied by force.  Spotlighting recent attacks on a residential area in Beirut, he said Israel’s violations of resolution 1701 (2006) have never ceased, and neither have its aggressions against Lebanon’s sovereignty by land, sea and air.  Reiterating that Lebanon is peace‑loving and respects resolution 1701 (2006), he said “this commitment does not eliminate our natural non‑transferable right to defend our land and people with all available means.”  Lebanon will “spare no opportunity to consecrate its land borders which are firmly documented at the United Nations”, he said, and will demarcate its maritime borders in light of its plans for exploratory oil and gas drilling in its territorial waters this year.

The Middle East has been the “constant flashpoint of the planet”, he said.  While our people continue to pay the price, in terms of security, stability, and even demographic diversity, the core of the problem is unchanged:  it is about the interests of the strong prevailing over the right of the weak.  Although many of the United Nations efforts to safeguard peace have not had the desired outcome, it remains “the only reference to safeguard our rights”, he said.  “Indeed, no justice or peace can be established as long as the principle prevailing in our world is ‘I am strong therefore I am right’.”

MSWATI III, Head of State of Eswatini, said multilateralism is an essential ingredient for a peaceful world, a lesson learned over seven decades. But while cooperation has supported the global economy in lifting one billion people out of poverty, numerous conflicts persist — some sponsored by those who believe they have the right to impose their ideologies on other nations — and he called on the Secretary‑General to discourage such behaviour.  “We are equal, irrespective of our country size and economic power,” he insisted.  Urging Member States to speak with one voice while encouraging dialogue and protecting civilians in conflict, he called for a prosperous, integrated, peaceful and multilateral world. 

Emphasizing on the Assembly’s theme — “Galvanizing multilateral efforts for poverty eradication, quality education, climate action and inclusion” — he pressed the United Nations to translate its numerous debates into action.  While ending poverty is a priority, it is also a daunting challenge in the face of climate change and food insecurity and he called for greater investments in order to build strong societies and protection systems.  Acknowledging that Member States have the responsibility to channel national wealth into protection programmes, he demanded that financing meet the SDGs by 2030, especially in times of global economic austerity.

He explained that Eswatini is exploring cooperation with the global community and that the integration of African economies presents an opportunity to achieve the Goals.  He advocated support for the African Continental Free Trade Area as a way to help countries increase trade and end poverty.  Beyond armed conflict, Africa is confronted with Ebola, HIV, malaria and tuberculosis that require significant funding, he said, lamenting that new outbreaks reverse any gains made against these pandemics and that funding gaps persist, hampering efforts to support basic health.

Noting that Africa carries a high burden of malaria cases, he said Eswatini has the potential to reverse indigenous malaria transmission by 2020 and he announced the launch of a public‑private partnership to eradicate the disease by 2022.  On climate change, he said countries must work together to devise contingency plans, establish regional disaster funds and set up sub-regional humanitarian hubs in order to mitigate the impact of disasters, save lives and ensure early recovery of affected countries.  He declared Eswatini’s commitment to science and technology, pointing to its strategic economic roadmap for 2019‑2023.  Finally, he said Taiwan is essential to the full implementation of the 2030 Agenda and he urged the United Nations to uphold the principle of universality by allowing Taiwan to participate in its work on “dignified and equal footing”.

HASSAN ROUHANI, President of Iran, said the Middle East is burning in the flames of war, bloodshed, aggression, occupation, religious and sectarian fanaticism and extremism, with the suppressed people of Iran being the biggest victim.  The “deal of the century,” recognizing Beit-ul Moqaddas as the capital of the Zionist regime, and the annexation of the Syrian Golan are doomed.  Compared to the destructive plans of the United States, Iran’s regional and international efforts on security and counter-terrorism have been decisive, he said, citing its cooperation with the Russian Federation and Turkey on the crisis in Syria and its peace proposal for Yemen.

Drawing attention to United States efforts to prevent Iran from participating in the global economy, he said his country has never surrendered to foreign aggression and does not believe any invitation to negotiate with those who apply the harshest sanctions in history.  The attitude of that Government towards the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action not only breaches Security Council resolution 2231 (2015), but also violates the sovereignty and independence of all States.  Iran was committed to its promises, but “our patience has a limit” and it will never negotiate with an enemy that seeks its surrender using the weapons of poverty, pressure and sanctions.  “Stop the sanctions so as to open the way for the start of negotiations,” he said.

Iran’s security doctrine is based on maintaining peace and stability in the Persian Gulf and freedom of navigation in the Strait of Hormuz, but recent incidents have jeopardized that security, he said.  He invited all countries directly affected by developments in the Gulf and the Strait to join a “coalition of hope” that aims to promote peace, stability, progress and welfare for everyone in the Strait of Hormuz region and to promote good relations among them.  Such a coalition would be based on the fundamental principles of non-aggression and non-interference in domestic affairs, he said, adding that the United Nations can play a role by creating an international umbrella to support the new entity.

Security in the region will come about when United States troops pull out, he continued.  While the United States has failed to reduce terrorism over the past 18 years, Iran managed to terminate the scourge of Da’esh with the help of neighbouring countries.  “Security cannot be purchased or supplied by foreign Governments,” he said, adding Iran has long taught that “neighbours come first, then comes the house” and that the United States is no-one’s neighbour in the region.  The United States is not the guardian of any State and if conflict in Yemen has spread to Hejaz, then the war-monger should be punished.  The solution for peace in the Arabian Peninsula, security in the Persian Gulf and stability in the Middle East should be sought within the region, not outside it, he said, adding that the region’s issues are bigger and more important that the United States’ ability to resolve them.

“Our region is on the edge of collapse, as a single blunder can fuel a big fire,” he said.  Iran will not tolerate the provocative intervention of foreigners and it will respond decisively and strongly to any transgression of its security and territorial integrity.  The proper solution lies in strengthened consolidation among all States with common interests in the Persian Gulf and the Hormuz region, he said, calling for a return to justice, peace, law, commitments and the negotiating table.

TOMMY ESANG REMENGESAU JR., President of Palau, declared that as a small island nation, his country has much to contribute to global efforts to protect the marine environment and climate systems.  He spotlighted the achievements enumerated in Palau’s first voluntary national review to the Economic and Social Council, notably universal education, ending hunger and establishing a protected area network.  However, further efforts are needed to improve nutrition, transition to a low-carbon energy system and build a more resilient public infrastructure.  As Palau has one of the highest rates of obesity in the world, a new Government food program serving pelagic fish has been introduced to tackle it, he added.

Moving on to marine protection, he emphasized the great threat posed by overfishing, which has been aggravated by a globalized world and climate change.  Palau has some of the world’s best-preserved coral reef ecosystems thanks to its ability to know when to exercise restraint — when the elders called a “Bul” or a call to cease fishing.  With the creation of the Palau National Marine Sanctuary — some five hundred thousand square kilometres of ocean protected as a no-take area — in January 2020, Palau will once again call a “Bul”, “at a scale the world has rarely seen,” he added.  He touched on other plans to galvanize momentum on ocean actions, including the Our Ocean conference, which it will host in 2020.

Turning to climate change, he stressed that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s special report on the ocean “painted a picture of neglect” — of warming and acidifying seas, which threatens fish lifecycles and coral reefs.  “For a country like Palau, whose economy, culture and way of life are dependent on the ocean, this is of existential concern,” he stressed.  He underscored the importance of collective action to support the Sustainable Development Goals and Paris Agreement, such as securing sustainable food and decarbonizing ocean industries.

Moving on to multilateralism, he stressed the need for the United Nations institutions to be “fit for purpose” and urged the Secretary-General to reform the Security Council so that it “better reflects the geopolitical realities of the world today”.  He went on to reiterate the call for a Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Climate and Security to be appointed and a United Nations multi-country office in the North Pacific, as part of the Secretary-General’s recommendations for reform of the United Nations development system.  In this regard, he demanded an end to the exclusion of Taiwan and its 23 million people.  He concluded by expressing concern about the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s recent ballistic missile launches, which violate Security Council resolutions, threatening peace in the region and around the world.

SALOME ZOURABICHVILI, President of Georgia, said her country, which is small and located on the edge of Europe, has over the past 28 years experienced quite a few shocks and transformations:  recovering its independence, opening its borders, taking part in the first wave of globalization and shifting to a market economy.  It also has endured open or protracted conflicts, war and occupation.  Stressing that peace is the ultimate goal of every society, she said that, for centuries, Georgia has suffered numerous invasions, with its capital Tbilisi burned down 26 times.  Nonetheless, it survived and proudly remains on the map of developing democratic countries.

Since the 2008 war, 20 per cent of Georgia’s territory has been occupied by the Russian Federation.  “I speak out here,” she said, for the people living on the administrative boundary line that divides relatives and villages, and for the citizens living in the occupied territories of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali.  “Our answer to the tragedy of war and occupation has been multifold,” she said, explaining that Georgia, under the 2008 ceasefire agreement, renounced the use of force unilaterally and has deployed no military forces close to the occupation line.  Instead, it continues to march on the determined path of development and economic and democratic advancement.

Overcoming poverty has been the major concern for successive Governments, she stressed, underlining the key role of education in addressing the scourge.  Georgia’s education budget is set to increase to 6 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2022, she said, describing science, technology, research and innovation as the basis for progress.  Georgia regards education as greatly important to its global outlook, and thus, cooperates with European and United States institutions.  More broadly, she said Georgia is confronted with both emigration and immigration, in addition to its 300,000 internally displaced persons.  To address these issues, Georgia aims to increase living standards and regulate these flows through bilateral or multilateral agreements.

Turning to climate change, she said Georgia is a party to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and has updated its nationally determined contribution for the period 2021 to 2030, ensuring that by 2030, greenhouse gas emissions will stay 40 per cent below 1990 levels.  With the goal of building a climate-resilient country and reducing climate-driven losses, the Government is spearheading an integrated climate policy process, led by an inter-ministerial committee, ensuring that climate-friendly energy incentives and energy efficiency policies are put in place. “We have inherited one planet and it is where Georgians want to live, peacefully,” she said.  “We have to remember that we have only one life to live and only one planet to save.”

FAUSTIN ARCHANGE TOUADERA, Head of State of Central African Republic, said the Assembly’s theme of “Galvanizing multilateral efforts for poverty eradication, quality education, climate action and inclusion” is especially relevant.  While the world has moved towards realizing a common dream of becoming one village, so many barriers have been raised and this is a moment for self-introspection to overcome differences.  He underscored the need to pool efforts, stressing that no country is safe from these threats and that political will is required to find innovative solutions towards lasting peace and sustainable development.

In the Middle East, he advocated a two-State solution to the Palestinian-Israel conflict and efforts to end conflicts in Syria and Yemen.  For Africa, implementation of the Arms Trade Treaty is important as it would reduce threats from small arms and light weapons.  He called for creating “virtuous momentum” around ending poverty through social protection for all and equitable wealth distribution, which in turn, would help avert conflict.  For its part, the Central African Republic makes significant investments in education, particularly teachers, and as it emerges from crisis, new technologies are of vital importance.

Turning to climate change, he said countries must reflect deeply on their exploitation of natural resources, which amounts to “the selling of the humanity’s future”.  The Central African Republic is not a major polluter.  It seeks to preserve the planet and supports ratification of the Paris Agreement.  Clearly collective efforts are the cornerstone of a safe world.  International solidarity has opened a new chapter for his country, he said, citing the efforts of the African Union, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the United Nations to forge a political agreement between the Central African Republic and four armed groups earlier this year.

However, while armed groups access weapons through illicit trade, legitimate security forces are struck by arms embargos.  Recalling that a standing committee supported lifting that ban and welcoming the passage of Security Council resolution 2488 (2019), which eased the embargo, he repeated his call for completely lifting the embargo so that Central African Republic forces can provide protection for civilians across the country.  Conditions have been met for the total lifting of the ban, he insisted.

IVÁN DUQUE MÁRQUEZ, President of Colombia, described the ethical, social and political touchstones guiding Colombia — a country celebrating 200 years of independence — as ending extreme poverty, defending democracy, protecting the environment, promoting entrepreneurship and innovation and upholding the rule of law, concepts that also shape its international policy.  The biggest challenge for humanity is climate change and he denounced that deforestation in the Colombian Amazon is directly linked to illegal drug trafficking.  As such, Colombia has reduced deforestation by 17 per cent in one year with the goal of planting 180 million trees by 2022.

Colombia signed the Leticia Pact with the countries that share the Amazon, pledging to protect the tropical rainforest.  On the economic front, actions laid out in the national “Pact for Colombia, the Pact for Equity”, which involves legislative measures and tax cuts for businesses, have helped Colombia grow more than the regional average in recent years.  As for the process of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration, he said Colombia is on the road to peace, currently reintegrating 13,000 people into broader society.  Thanking the United Nations Verification Mission in Colombia for its support during this process, he more broadly warned criminals against hiding behind “claims of ideological goals”.

On that point, he accused armed groups of being supported by illegal drug trafficking.  He denounced the destruction and pollution caused by coca cultivation, a practice that enhances corruption and forms the lifeblood of terrorism.  “The more coca that is grown, the less peace we will have”, he declared.  Colombia is fighting corruption, notably through its accountability law governing the actions of public servants, and support for efforts to establish an the international anticorruption court.

Turning to Venezuela, he said Colombia rejects the dictatorship of Nicolás Maduro Moros and requests that democracy be restored, recalling that more than 50 nations, including those in the Lima Support Group, have recognized the legitimate presidency of Juan Guaidó and are “shedding light on the crimes of the current dictator”.  Within the framework of international law, diplomacy and multilateralism, collective efforts are needed to restore democracy in Venezuela, he said, calling the current Government a corrupt structure that serves drug cartels, fuels violence in Colombia and provides refuge to child rapists and murderers.

Announcing that he will hand to the Secretary‑General and the President of the General Assembly a 128‑page dossier with evidence detailing the links between criminal groups and narco‑terrorists within Venezuela’s regime, he said “it contains overwhelming proof that demonstrates the complicity of the regime of Nicolás Maduro with the terrorist cartels that are attacking the people of Colombia”.  It also contains information on the location and names of armed individuals, landing strips and National Liberation Army hideouts in Venezuela.  With that, he called for a transitional Government, free and fair elections and restoration of the rule of law in Venezuela, comparing the crimes of Nicolás Maduro with those of Slobodan Milošević in the former Yugoslavia.  “We reaffirm that the set of criminal activities tied to the humanitarian crisis triggered by the deterioration of the political and social in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela represents a threat to the maintenance of peace and security in our continent”, he declared, urging that sanctions be imposed on Mr. Maduro.

DANNY FAURE, President of Seychelles, praised multilateralism in the fight against poverty almost 75 years after the United Nations was established.  At the same time, conflict, economic hardship and climate change persist and he cautioned against a world filled with “disillusioned people who have lost sight of the visions of hope and security that were promised” when the United Nations was founded.  Having placed people at the centre of development, Seychelles has worked to realize the full potential of its citizens to contribute to democracy.  As an island nation, Seychelles must have faith in the multilateral international order, as it relies heavily on others for its survival.  Humanity cannot simply “plunder indiscriminately” under the guise of development for the sake of short‑term profit. 

“Through exploitation we are dooming future generations to a planet beyond their ability to repair”, he warned.  In Seychelles, youth‑led groups and grassroots movements are promoting a ban on single‑use plastics and advocating for protection of the ocean, which Seychelles relies upon for its food security and prosperity.  He expressed hope for the development of “the Blue Economy” with the goal of increasing economic opportunities while protecting the ocean.  Stressing that Seychelles will remain in the forefront of the fight against climate change, he said it is “unacceptable that 50 per cent of greenhouse emissions are produced by 10 per cent of the planet’s wealthiest inhabitants living in the richest nations”. 

Stressing that humanity has more maps of the surface of Mars than of the ocean floor, he called for protecting the ocean once priority areas for its protection are identified.  Along with implementing the 2030 Agenda and the Paris Agreement, “bringing law and good governance to the ocean is the only way we can ensure our collective survival” and he pressed the United Nations to develop a legally binding conservation framework.  Transparent and inclusive instruments are also needed that consider the condition of small‑island developing States, which require marine technology transfer.

He explained that Seychelles has initiated various donor‑recipient relationships with the goal of ocean protection and climate action, and has pioneered “the world’s first debt‑for‑adaption swap”.  It has also amplified the protection of its ocean space.  “Big ideas come from small islands”, he said, stressing that for too long small countries like Seychelles have been relegated to the side‑lines of international discourse.  Identifying overfishing and pollution from plastic as other threats, he said “the issue is bigger than all of us and we cannot wait for the next generation to solve it”.

MOHAMED OULD CHEIKH EL GHAZOUANI, President of Mauritania, elaborated on his country’s sustainable development strategy, pointing out that clean energy comprises 40 per cent of its energy mix and efforts are underway to increase this percentage.  Mauritania also cooperates with Sahel countries in the “Great Green Wall” initiative to counter the negative impact of desertification, notably by rehabilitating large surface areas so they can be reused, and supports the Permanent Interstate Committee for Drought Control in the Sahel in efforts to replenish biological diversity.

As part of the African Development Bank’s Sahara energy initiative, Mauritania aims to make the Sahel a premier region for solar energy production, allowing more than 29 million people to have access to clean energy.  Touching on efforts to strengthen compulsory education and realize gender equality through curricula focused on liberty, equality, tolerance and openness, he stressed the goal of tailoring education to the needs of the national economy.  Mauritania aims to provide basic services to all its citizens and has improved access to health coverage, better equipped hospitals and medical centres and invested in training for medical personnel.

To fight poverty, he said Government projects aim to improve the purchasing power of vulnerable groups, as well their access to electricity, drinking water, education and health care, and more broadly support job training for young people.  Stressing the importance safeguarding the rule of law, human rights, democracy and both individual and collective freedoms, he described Mauritania’s transparency in managing its public affairs.  He cited the establishment of legal mechanisms to fight corruption and efforts to strengthen public freedoms, an approach that led to the recent conduct of transparent presidential elections in which the outgoing President did not participate, as the Constitution does not authorize more than two consecutive terms.

He went on to outline Mauritania’s holistic approach to fighting terrorism and extremism, which takes into account the economic and social dimensions of those threats, as well as its participation in peacekeeping, especially in the Sahel, noting that Mauritania provided a haven for 50,000 refugees from Mali.  Reiterating its support for Palestinians’ right to dignity and sovereignty in the context of an independent State with East Jerusalem as its capital, he said that in Libya, Mauritania supports international efforts aimed at peace, territorial integrity and sovereignty.  Regarding Syria, he stressed the importance of reaching a political settlement that ensures dignity of its people, and in Yemen, of the settlement initiative to be adopted there.  In South Sudan, he called for removing the country’s name from the list of State sponsors of terrorism.

KERSTI KALJULAID, President of Estonia, said her country is ready to take an elected seat on the Security Council — behind “the most difficult table of international cooperation” — for the 2020‑21 period.  “We are ready to serve our electorate and all the others, too, as true service for humankind in a multilateral system always demands,” she said.  Estonia is the only digitally transformed nation which runs its Government totally online.  Having successfully engaged in leapfrogging, thanks to its e‑governance, Estonia feels a responsibility to protect cyberspace.  It declared its own intent in applying national and international law where cyberspace is concerned, she said, inviting all States to do the same in order to clarify how international law applies in digital sphere.

Estonia sees the Internet as a tool for educating girls globally, she said, offering jobs for women, and thus, reducing global population growth by emancipating women.  Estonia cares about States facing extinction through the “slow weapon of mass destruction” — the climate catastrophe — and as such, its start‑up sector promised to be climate neutral by 2030.  There is a need for civic movements and for politicians to allocate resources to stop climate change, which will inevitably exceed 1 per cent of global gross domestic product (GDP).

Welcoming the first Climate Summit on 23 September, she called climate change the world’s biggest existential challenge.  “This global, interlinked and globally warming world cannot survive unless our goodwill and good actions can work beyond artificial limitations created by various — and from the viewpoint of humankind as a whole — artificial fragmentations of global society which has hounded us and keeps hounding us,” she said.

ALPHA CONDÉ, President of Guinea, said that the contemporary world is full of challenges, among them inequality, armed conflicts, terrorism, global warming and migration flows.  He said that as a young revolutionary student and later a political activist, he used to dream of a more just, inclusive and caring world.  He thought with nostalgia about a past when human beings, and the duty to protect and respect one another, were at the centre of the international community’s concerns.  “Why and how did we lose sight of our values?” he wondered, stressing the need to restore the core values of humankind.  Achieving a better world is possible, he said, outlining measures undertaken in his country, including debt cancellations, necessary reforms and a reduction of the armed forces by 4,000 officers.  Despite difficult decisions he had to make, including guiding the country as it grappled with the emergence of Ebola, the people of Guinea rose to the challenge and overcame such obstacles through collaboration and courage.

Today, Guinea is experiencing strong economic growth and private investment, he said.  To fight poverty, the Government set up relevant national agencies for financing local authorities and socioeconomic inclusion that have led to a greater distribution of wealth.  He has dedicated his mandate to women and young people, providing more than 100 billion Guinean francs in microcredit through a revolving credit scheme benefitting thousands of women.  A total of 6,857 women were recruited for civil service jobs from 2010 to 2018, and 3,314 farmers have received technical training to improve agricultural production.  Guinea also intends to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 13 per cent and to reforest 2 million hectares of land by 2030.  Gender equality is a priority for his Government, which has eliminated discriminatory practices and policies in educational institutions.  The Government is also combating unemployment through public‑private partnerships.

Thanks to investments in infrastructure, including housing, rail and road projects, the country is now able to export value‑added finished products, he said.  During Guinea’s presidency of the African Union, members of the bloc firmly committed to make the African Renewable Energy Initiative a model for the exploitation of renewable energy sources across the continent.  On 23 September, the Administrative Council, in the fight against climate change, approved 78 projects, with investments from development partners totalling 6.4 billion euros, which will enable the supply of clean energy to millions of households scattered across the country.  Noting that two‑thirds of Africans lacks access to electricity, he called for greater public and private investment in the renewal energy sector to create a brighter future for young Africans, enabling them to consider emigration a choice, not an unavoidable necessity.  “When Africa wins, the whole world wins,” he said, because “Africa is our future”.

EDGAR CHAGWA LUNGU, President of Zambia, warned against the devastating effects of climate change, pointing out that this year, three of Zambia’s neighbours — Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe — were affected by cyclones.  Half of Zambia experienced a severe drought which resulted in low crop productivity and low water levels for hydroelectricity generation, demonstrating that opposite climatic extremes can occur within the same neighbourhood.  Zambia must enhance its capacity in scientific research, early warning, rapid response and technology transfer to help cope with the negative impact of climate change, he said, calling for greater financial support for countries with limited resources.  Wildlife flora and fauna must also be preserved through such initiatives as the elephant summit in Botswana and the “Africa’s Wildlife Economy Summit”, which Zambia will host in May 2020.

Recalling the establishment of the Sustainable Development Goals Centre for Southern Africa, he drew attention to the collective efforts of Southern African countries to fight poverty, hunger, disease and illiteracy.  With a focus on women, children and young people, Zambia’s seventh national development plan aims to raise living standards, ensure equal access to education and carry out health reforms.  However, such objectives are not fully attainable due to limited financial resources.  Poverty is especially devastating for Africa’s refugee children and he called on the United Nations to help Zambia share the burden of helping refugees.  On the need to end child marriage and engage traditional leaders in reforming the customs that promote it, he said efforts are underway to harmonize statutory and customary marriage law to prohibit early marriages.

On peace, security and the rule of law — which represent the basis for meaningful development in any society — he recalled Zambia’s chairing of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and hosting of a regional awareness meeting on Security Council resolution 1540 (2004), a vital element in the global architecture to prevent the proliferation nuclear, chemical and biological weapons to non-State actors, including terrorists.  Properly implemented, it stands to significantly help prevent humanitarian, political, economic and environmental catastrophes should any of these weapons be used.  As international terrorism does not discriminate between combatants and non-combatants, he urged the General Assembly to quickly conclude the long-overdue Comprehensive Convention on Combatting International Terrorism.  He also called for United Nations reform, as it is time for the Security Council to be representative, democratic and accountable to all Member States, irrespective of status.

IDRISS DEBY ITNO, President of Chad, welcoming the partnership between the African Union and the United Nations, underscored the urgent need for greater international involvement in the Sustainable Development Goals, especially those related to quality education, climate change and inequality.  Noting that the commitments made to achieve the 2030 Agenda have not been followed by results, he said that in the absence of robust actions, a shared dream to shape a better world is giving way to fear and uncertainty and he called for collective action to fight poverty.  More broadly, he said the grave consequences of climate change have been felt in the Sahel, describing the harmful effects of drought and flooding, including mass exodus, as well as the risk that young people turn to extremist ideologies.  Emissions must be cut, and he emphasized that the Paris Agreement will be credible only when coupled with actions to fulfil common but differentiated responsibilities.  He urged developed countries to disburse $100 billion a year for mitigation efforts.

Quality education is the driver of social transformation and “the best guarantee for a better world”, he said, pointing out that many children around the world do not have such access.  Despite the acute economic and financial crisis, which reduced investments in Chad, his Government spends 15‑16 per cent of the national budget on education, and the allocation is expected to increase to 20 per cent in the coming years.  The challenge to overcome is immense, but resources are scarce, which is why “we need to act together” in a complementary manner with solidarity to give all children a chance.  The Sahel and its surrounding areas have been gripped by terrorism over decades, undermining development, forcing countries spend 18‑32 per cent of their budgets on untenable security efforts. 

“The international community cannot ignore this if we are to win this battle,” he said, pressing the Security Council to ensure that the G5 Sahel Joint Force is funded through assessed contributions while calling for greater coordination of actions, including by the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), to implement a more effective counter‑terrorism strategy.  He went on to advocate an end to the crisis in Libya, which negatively impacts the Sahel, stating “there are no winners and no losers, apart from one loser, which is the Libyan people”.  Chad also calls for strong involvement of the African Union in pursuit of a lasting solution.  The question of United Nations reforms, notably of the Security Council, deserves full attention, he said, claiming that Africa — with more than 1 billion people — is deprived of a legitimate place in the United Nations.  He called for accelerated efforts in this regard, also expressing support for a two‑State solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict as well as the lifting of the embargo on Cuba.

JUAN ORLANDO HERNÁNDEZ ALVARADO, President of Honduras, recalled that corruption had gone unpunished in his country, which used to be the world’s most dangerous place.  Gangs and drug traffickers were rampant and violent, taking over public order, making some politicians their allies.  They undermined the economy and security.  But the homicide rate has been halved and today the country has stronger institutions to grapple with these organized crime syndicates.  These entities are working to extradite drug traffickers and prosecute money laundering, and a special force has been set up to combat extortion.  Some businessmen and politicians with links to these criminal groups are seeking to harm his reputation, he said, adding that some of the gangs and traffickers are from Venezuela.

Turning to the 2030 Agenda, he said that Honduras has put in place macroeconomic policies to generate stability and gain access to concessional loans from multilateral financial institutions for infrastructure projects.  The Government is also supporting small businesses, which employ 70 per cent of the workforce, while implementing a minimum wage and social protections as well as supporting students and other youths through grants.  The country is on its way to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, he added. 

Noting that Honduras is the world’s fifth‑largest coffee producer, he expressed a concern that coffee prices are dropping, negatively impacting small farmers who produce 90 per cent of the product.  On climate change, he welcomed that the United Nations Secretary‑General committed to mobilize the Green Climate Fund to finance an integrated Central American climate action plan.  Along with Puerto Rico and Myanmar, Honduras is among the countries most affected by climate change.  Having contributed little to global warming, his and other small countries paying the price of climate change is “the gravest injustice of the twenty‑first century”, he said.  Honduras is implementing climate adaptation measures using its domestic resources.  “It’s now or never,” he said, calling on world leaders to move beyond making speeches to action that will combat the menace.

SCOTT MORRISON, Prime Minister of Australia, recalled his country’s recent ratification of a maritime treaty setting out a new sea boundary with Timor-Leste as well as the commitment to its “Pacific family”.  The goal is simple:  a Southwest Pacific that is secure strategically and economically, and sovereign politically.  He drew attention to the United Nations’ work with Australia in building a more sustainable Pacific.  Noting that Australia has the world’s third-largest maritime jurisdiction, stretching from the Antarctic to the Pacific and Indian oceans, he said 85 per cent of its population lives within 50 kilometres of the coast.

He said oceans connect Australia with the world, and as such, the Government is leading efforts to end plastic pollution, over-exploitation of fisheries and ocean habitat destruction.  Amid estimates that the weight of plastics in the ocean will exceed that of fish in 30 years, Australia announced an export ban on waste plastic, paper, glass and tires, starting in 2020, and has designed “bioplastics” to convert end-of-life plastics into waxes, diesel and new plastics, he said emphasizing that a circular economy is not only possible, but achievable.  Other efforts involve budgeting $167 million for a recycling investment plan, cracking down on illegal fishing and preventing commercial whaling.

As the Great Barrier Reef is among the world’s most pristine areas, Australia’s $2 billion “Reef 2050” sustainability plan will support reef, coral and water quality science.  The Government is taking real action on climate change and achieving results, he said, underling that while responsible for just 1.3 per cent of global emissions, Australia’s latest estimates show that both emissions per person and emission intensity of the economy are at their lowest levels in 29 years.  The country also has the highest per capita investment in clean energy technologies.  He further recalled Australia’s commitment to the Montreal Protocol, an agreement to guard against ozone depletion and combat climate change.  “I get many letters from children in Australia concerned about their future,” he said, adding that he deeply respects their concern and welcomes their passion about the environment.

JOSAIA VOREQE BAINIMARAMA, Prime Minister of Fiji, said that this week has seen inspiring calls to action for young people tired of watching helplessly as their future is hijacked by nations too blind to the impacts of climate change.  For Fijians and others living in low-lying areas around the world, the report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warning that global average sea levels could rise by up to 1.1 metres by 2100 was heart-breaking news.  Such findings added urgency to the Climate Relocation and Displaced Peoples Trust Fund for Communities and Infrastructure that Fiji launched in New York on 23 September.

“This is our moment of truth, the defining issue that will determine the course of history,” he said.  Previous generations fought each other to defend their own interests, but global warming requires the world to unite around common interests to fight a monster it has created itself.  Every country has a role to play, but only industrial nations have the economic capacity and advanced technical know-how to lead the world to victory.  “Defeat is not an option,” he said, emphasizing that there is no alternative to committing to net zero carbon emissions by 2050 or capping average global temperature at 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

Oceans must be at the heart of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change process at the Conference of the Parties in Chile in December because without a healthy ocean, there can be no stable climate, he said.  Fiji emits only 0.04 per cent of total global emissions, but it intends to lodge a revised Nationally Determined Contribution next year that includes a commitment to achieve net zero emissions by 2020.  Leadership is about leading by example, not lecturing others or expecting them to shoulder the burden alone, he said.

Drawing attention to Fiji’s contribution to United Nations peacekeeping over four decades, he said his country is establishing — with help from its development partners — a peacekeeping training centre that will also provide a rapid response to climate-induced disasters in the Pacific region.  He said he is particularly excited by an initiative to preserve and plant more forests and mangroves and to monetize these through carbon trading arrangements on the international marketplace.  Ground-breaking legislation that enshrines the Paris Agreement into Fijian law is meanwhile expected to go through Parliament in the coming months.  It is part of a holistic response to secure the future of every Fijian citizen and it is something other countries can emulate, he stated.

LENIN MORENO GARCÉS, Constitutional President of Ecuador, said universal principles such as “do unto other nations as you wish other nations to do unto you” are valid in times of peace and conflict.  Those principles are reflected in the United Nations Charter and they remain useful guides for coexistence, peace and harmony.  Describing the United Nations as a living example of multilateralism that remains entirely necessary, he said human beings must work together to address such challenges as sustainable development, climate change and inclusive societies.

When international action is null and void, or when wars persist and injustices go on for eternity, it is usually because States lack the will to apply fundamental principles, he said.  More than ever, multilateralism and the United Nations system is under attack, with harmful effects.  Sustained attempts are being made to undermine the work of the Organization, but fundamental principles must be upheld.  Dialogue forms the very basis of multilateral action, nourishing the work of the United Nations, and it must continue, he stated.

Emphasizing the need to look at what unites people, rather than what separates them, he said the quest for agreement among all actors is never easy, and it requires overcoming difficulties together and leaving the door open for solutions and innovation.  Planet Earth is limited in size and its population keeps growing, but it remains a world in which imposing a specific vision through use of force remains a temptation.  The danger of weapons of mass destruction is the common denominator of all of today’s conflicts, he added, noting Ecuador’s ratification earlier this year of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. 

Noting that Ecuador is the fifth country to have ratified all United Nations human rights conventions, he said the restoration of the country’s democratic institutions, respect for freedom of expression and the elimination of bureaucracies set up to expand the power of the State at the expense of civil society are among the Government’s goals at it pursues sustainable development.  With determination, institutions that silenced the media and intelligence services that recorded private conversations will be dismantled.  Creating clean air for democracy to breath is a matter of pride, he said.

Emphasizing that Ecuador has taken in 500,000 Venezuelans who are victims of the worst excesses on the South American continent, he said it is the job of the United Nations to find a definitive solution to the crisis in that country.  No one should have to abandon their beloved land, friends and family due to a despotic Government.  He called on everyone to talk with the victims of that crisis, adding that Ecuador will host conferences later this year on inter‑American human rights, migration and development.

JIMMY MORALES, President of Guatemala, said his country will hold free elections in line with democratic standards this year.  He noted progress in the education sector, with the school year having been expanded from 163 days in 2015 to 198 in 2019, with enrolment of 3.2 million students.  Expenditure on school lunches has been quadrupled, more than 1,000 schools are being equipped with modern technology and textbooks issued in Maya and Spanish, with free education extended to every citizen.

He pointed to a national policy of transparency to battle corruption and foster good governance under the auspices of a presidential commission.  Homicide has been reduced per 100,000 inhabitants to the lowest level in 20 years, with police forces increased from 31,000 officers in 2015 to 42,000 in 2019.  His Government inherited crumbling infrastructure, with 60 per cent of roadways decrepit.  Today, 72 per cent of roads are paved and assessed as good or optimal, with the goal of reaching 85 per cent by the end of the year. 

On the environment, he said his Government is aiming for 1.2 million hectares of reforestation of “the lungs of the world” by 2032 and expressed dismay over the recent fires in the Amazon.  Preserving and cleaning up Guatemala’s rivers, lakes and seas is a priority, with the country serving as a role model for removing plastics from waterways via handmade barriers made of recycled plastic, an invention that now interests other States in the Americas.  At the international level, his Government reiterates its commitment to migratory policies that put human beings at the centre of prosperity and development and is coordinating efforts with other States to tackle the root causes of irregular migration, but shared responsibility is required. 

Turning to respect for the sovereign rights of States, he accused the United Nations Secretariat of violating Guatemala’s rights in that domain through the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala, which weakened his country’s institutions and undermined its governance.  Worse, he said, it was done under the façade of combatting corruption.  “We Guatemalans will not allow it”, he said, noting that Guatemala has been a sovereign State since 1821.  While the mandate of the commission has ended, the consequences of its actions should be investigated thoroughly.  Given the commission was not an entity of the United Nations, he asked to whom it was accountable, stating citizens had died or been jailed as a result.  It is alarming that international civil servants would devote energy to disserving his State after it had “opened its doors to the United Nations”. 

Noting that not a single cent of all funds donated to the commission were administered by his Government, he called for a detailed United Nations report on how they were spent.  He denounced the use of false witnesses and slander in the media as “despicable acts”, worse still if directed from the United Nations itself.  He demanded the General Assembly provide an exhaustive report on what had occurred.   Pointing to a terrorist act in his country on 3 September, he said his Government had declared a state of siege in 22 cities.  He rejected any attempt at investigation by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), as any investigation is the strict purview of Guatemalan institutions.  Turning to the importance of coffee, as a major producer, he called for better conditions, prices and access to international markets. 

UHURU KENYATTA, President of Kenya, said that the world’s countries can obtain higher living standards, stronger social cohesion, and sustainably managed resources.  However, accomplishing this requires making the right policy choices.  First, data must be harnessed to support development that prioritizes the needs of people, particularly young people.  For its part, Kenya has made wise investments in education, including providing free sanitary napkins to all girls attending school.  “Kenya’s children now enjoy an average of 10.7 years of schooling, the highest in the region,” he said.  All students now transition from primary to secondary school.

Second, he continued, peace is a prerequisite to development.  “In the Horn of Africa region, a complexity of factors has, in the last three or so decades, led to multilayered threats to peace,” he said.  Climate change has exacerbated the problem, adding ecological vulnerabilities to a delicate security environment.  The progress made in South Sudan is encouraging, he said, and Sudanese women should be commended for driving and facilitating a sustainable peace.  Kenya continues to reach out to Somalia to find a workable solution to the maritime boundary dispute dividing the two countries, he said, stressing that Kenya is committed to negotiations, consistent with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

The third policy that leaders must focus on concerns climate change, he said.  Kenya joined with Turkey in leading the Infrastructure, Cities and Local Action component of the recent Climate Action Summit.  Kenya launched the largest wind power project in Africa.  Fourth, the world must increase its development assistance.  The country needs an estimated $2.5 — 3 trillion annually to finance the SDGs and climate action and target the critical needs of the population, he stressed.

The fifth area policymakers must prioritize is the use of technology to boost development, he said.  Kenya has introduced innovative financing models that reorient private capital, create new instruments and modalities, and strengthen regulatory frameworks to make investments safer.  “Taking advantage of mobile phone financial services, we have more than tripled financial inclusion, from 26 per cent in 2006 to 82 per cent in 2019,” he said.

HAGE G. GEINGOB, President of Namibia, calling on the international community to introspect on the role of peace in eradicating poverty and addressing climate change, reported that his country is actively reducing inequalities in income and wealth.  The Government allocates a high percentage of resources to the social sectors, including to universal education access and a highly subsidized healthcare system.  Within a period of 22 years, poverty in Namibia has declined from a 70 per cent baseline down to 18 per cent by 2016, lifting more than 400,000 citizens out of poverty, he said.

Drawing attention to the “difficult situation that so‑called upper middle‑income countries like Namibia find themselves in”, he added that the formula by which the GDP of his country is divided by the small number of its population to derive a high per capita income is flawed and requires reconsideration.  Turning to climate change, he noted that Namibia is under a state of emergency due to a severe, widespread and prolonged period of drought, with adverse effects on livelihoods.  Reaffirming commitment to the Paris Agreement, he added that the principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities” must guide the international community’s actions to implement it.

“We cannot talk of leaving no one behind when we live in a world in which the people of Western Sahara and Palestine have been left behind,” he said, also renewing the call to lift the outdated economic and financial embargo on Cuba.  Turning to Security Council reforms, he stressed the need to reposition it effectively and reiterated the African Common Position on that matter as articulated in the Ezulwini Consensus and the Sirte Declaration.  Also noting the approaching twentieth anniversary of Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) on women, peace and security, he welcomed the increased participation of women in peacekeeping operations.

“A few days ago, young people converged here to demand consequential climate action that will safeguard the planet,” he recalled, urging the international community to heed their call and leverage their participation in the search for solutions.  The United Nations has a responsibility to establish a world that transcends racism, tribalism and nationalism, he stressed, calling on the international community to bequeath to children a world that is more peaceful, inclusive and prosperous, in which they can access opportunities to employ their gifts and talents, and where women and youth no longer suffer exclusion. 

LAURENTINO CORTIZO COHEN, President of Panama, said solutions to global and regional issues require international cooperation for a more just and safer world, without imposing upon any other nation.  As a symbol of connection, he noted his country is an isthmus where the Atlantic and Pacific are just 35 minutes apart.  “The Book of Panama contains the first railroad across the isthmus that united the two oceans,” he said.

Global problems demand multilateral solutions, and Panama stands ready to solve conflicts, especially regional ones.  He stated the next conquest is the fight against poverty and inequality, which represents a huge challenge.  “To let people die in misery is inhuman,” he said.  Corruption must be tacked with effective justice.

Pointing to the importance of transforming education, he said Panama and other countries need better systems so that students learn to think and work as a team to solve problems, be creative, appreciate and care for the environment as well as appreciate art, culture and science.  Education pulls people out of poverty, brings progress and social peace and makes people more equal in their diversity. 

Citing the green hues of Panama’s tropical forests as the “most beautiful in world”, he noted the country is home to 10,000 types of plants and 1,000 species of birds.  “The biodiversity of our planet is in our hands,” he said, noting that one million species are at risk of extinction worldwide.  Panama has the best air and maritime connectivity, as well as the best port and telecommunications infrastructure in the region.  “We are the hub of the Americas,” he stated, pointing to innovation in science and technology.  “Never will we be defeated by adversity.”

CARLOS ALVARADO QUESADA, President of Costa Rica, recalled German statesman Konrad Adenauer, who in the 1920s, decades before he became the first Chancellor of West Germany, foresaw that the future of peace in Europe depended on cooperation between Germany and France, not hostility.  On issues ranging from decolonization to welfare states, leaders in Central America, including Costa Rica, have similarly been ahead of their time, he said.  All countries in the world must be committed to tackling current challenges.  Modern thinkers agree that the current world situation parallels the world of the 1930’s.  “Despair, frustration, resentment” and other emotions are the seeds that grow regimes which violate human rights and launch wars.  Defeating these scourges requires courage.  It also requires multilateral solutions.  “Building a joint future […] doesn’t mean we have to agree on every detail,” he said.  Countries can respect their differences and disagreements “through dialogue and comprehension”.

No cause demands cooperative global solutions more than climate change, he said.  It’s truly a global problem.  “Nobody is spared the effects of climate change,” he argued.  Next month, Costa Rica will organize the preparatory meeting for the twenty-fifth session of the Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.  “Commitments must be clear, concrete and forceful,” he said.  For its part, Costa Rica is committed to transitioning to an economy devoid of fossil fuels by 2050.  The country has long been an environmental leader, showing the world that it’s possible to reverse deforestation — with its forest cover increasing from 20 per cent in the 1980s to more than 50 per cent today — and to run on clean and renewable electricity.  Young people who demonstrated globally recently are demanding this action and more from world leaders.

The effects of climate change are also creating migratory flows that create challenges for the international community, he said.  Migration could be stopped if economic and social progress were brought to rural areas in Central America, from where most of this migration is occurring.  Strengthening international markets is the best solution to the migration problem.  In Nicaragua the need to restore peace is clear.  Costa Rica has denounced violence against those who oppose that country’s Government, which has dramatically increased the number of refugees Costa Rica receives from Nicaragua.  National dialogue and the holding of an inclusive, transparent, internationally monitored electoral process in Nicaragua are vital.  The international community must also seek a peaceful, expeditious solution to the serious political, humanitarian and human rights violations being carried out in Venezuela.  He called for ending the economic blockade against Cuba and showing solidarity with Haiti in addressing its social and political crisis.  Stressing that Costa Rica is committed to advancing the rights of people of African descent, he said it will host a high-level meeting on that topic in October.

Additional pressure on countries stem from the information society and digitalization, he said, stressing that participating in “the Fourth Industrial Revolution is not optional”.  Technology must be harnessed to generate decent work and close existing inequality gaps.  In today’s world, leaders “must be courageous in both heart and mind,” he said, by strengthening a free press, protecting the security of private information and devising algorithms and protocols which are ethical.  This is what getting ahead of history looks like, he said.

FAIEZ MUSTAFA SERRAJ, President of the Presidential Council of the Government of National Accord of Libya, said his country is experiencing a very serious crisis due to negative foreign interference that has wrought division, including a military assault against its capital.  “It is no exaggeration that Libyan stability is critical for both the region and the world,” he said.  He cited the assault of 4 April led by the criminal Khalifa Haftar, which hit the country during the excitement of preparations for a national conference to solve its crisis.  The attack “demolished the aspirations of Libyans,” he said.  It was not Mr. Haftar’s first coup attempt, but this one has failed.  Mr. Haftar is still making desperate attempts to militarize the country and flout efforts to create a modern democratic civilian State.

He said Mr. Haftar is a war criminal who has received support from certain States in flagrant violation of Security Council resolutions.  Libya’s brave forces have won repeated victories, but other countries continue to interfere, including the United Arab Emirates, allowing its territories to be used for the promulgation of hate speech.  He further said it was strange to find neighbouring Egypt lecturing Libya.  He confirmed the continued response to the aggressor to defeat Mr. Haftar, including repeat victories in the Volcano of Rage Operation. 

He pointed to widespread human rights violations by the aggressor, which had led to 3,000 fatalities and hundreds of thousands of displaced people, and war crimes against Tripoli, with bombings of civilian infrastructure, airports and hospitals, and child recruitment.  He called on the United Nations to quickly send a fact-finding mission, and the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court to open an investigation.  He said Mr. Haftar is trying to provoke war between east and west Libya, which is a futile effort.  There are no differences culturally between the regions, and it is time for the east to work towards a consensual political solution in the context of a modern civilian State.  “No one wins in a military conflict and only Libya loses,” he stressed.  Young people lured to warfare by “a war-obsessed man” should return home and take the side of the nation.  He rejected interference in domestic affairs and welcomed Security Council resolution 2434 (2018).  Proposing a national conference for those who support a democratic civilian State, he said there is no room in such dialogue for someone who wants to militarize it. 

His Government is undergoing decentralization by transferring services to elected municipal councils, extending funding without marginalizing any areas.  He warned against efforts to sell Libyan oil outside legal means and renewed a call for United Nations oversight of the Central Bank of Libya in Tripoli, as a prosperous economy brings security, peace and progress.  “The use of force must be the right of the State alone,” he affirmed.

Turning to migration, he noted its path through Libya seeking Europe, which affects its entire society.  Aggression has exacerbated the situation, with migrants becoming easy prey for terrorists against a backdrop of international silence.  Libya continues to cooperate with destination States of migrants, and critically needs political support proportional to the challenge, to control borders and minimize impact.  He supported Council reform and stressed the need to grant Africa permanent membership.  On peace in Middle East, he voiced support for a Palestinian independent State with East Jerusalem as its capital, and peaceful solutions in Syria and Yemen.

NANA ADDO DANKWA AKUFO-ADDO, President of Ghana, eschewing a complicated definition of the term, stated that poverty is a daily reality that burdens far too many Ghanaians, robbing them of the dignity that should be the inherent right of every human being.  Acknowledging that Governments will be judged by their efforts to reduce poverty in their countries, he said that technological advances are shortening the path leading out of poverty.  The proliferation of mobile phones has facilitated increased communication and participation in the formal banking sector.  He pointed out that the application of technology can set Ghana on the road to prosperity, and that agricultural modernization may be the fastest route to economic turnaround.

This process would be easier, he said, if trade practices were more equitable.  As it appears that rich nations are not prepared for a fairer world economic order, Ghana must continue the fight towards one.  Africa’s rich mineral resources bring vast wealth to nations and peoples outside the continent, while Africa’s people do not get a fair share and their environment is often left devastated.  Pointing out that this unfairness undermines the fight against poverty and referencing reports showing that Africa loses more than $50 billion annually through illicit financial outflows, he said that the nations of the world must collaborate to “stop this rape of Africa”.

He went on to say that the fight to eradicate poverty is intrinsically linked to providing quality education, as education has always been the most equitable source of opportunity and provided the fastest route out of poverty.  To this end, he highlighted Ghana’s decision to spend a third of its national budget on education and its efforts to use technology to provide quality education to as many people as possible.  To benefit from this, however, he stressed the need to improve national infrastructure to provide reliable electricity and Internet services to Ghanaians living in towns and villages.

Turning to climate change, he called for practical and proactive steps to curb human activities that are endangering the planet.  Now that scientists have spoken on the realities of climate change, he urged the international community to “stop unnecessary arguments” and direct its energies to what can and should be done to counteract the danger.  Citing the devastation wreaked by Cyclone Idai, Hurricane Dorian and the extreme summer temperatures across Europe, he said that it is time to act to “bring back our world from the precipice”.

Reflecting, on the fiftieth anniversary of the moon landing, on seeing an image of the Earth from an astronaut’s perspective those years ago, he said that picture demonstrates to us that the natural path is to be inclusive.  While many difficulties remain and much work has yet to be done, he stated his hope that the discussions of the seventy-fourth General Assembly lead to a new era, in which collaboration among nations and peoples allow the international community to dream of and achieve a sustainably prosperous world.

GITANAS NAUSĖDA, President of Lithuania, recalling his country’s painful losses during two world wars, experiences with two brutal totalitarian regimes and its road to independence, said history teaches people not to repeat the mistakes of the past and to move on to new heights.  Lithuania has always strongly supported and promoted multilateral cooperation, which upholds the world order and contributes to international peace and security.  The world needs a stronger United Nations to respond more effectively to current challenges, including the illegitimate use of force and violations of sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Raising several concerns, he said the Russian Federation, encouraged by a feeble international response to its aggression against Georgia in 2008, continues its attempts to destabilize countries, including its continued military actions against Ukraine.  Urging Moscow to respect the United Nations Charter, he said Lithuania will never recognize the illegal annexation of Crimea and the occupation of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, adding that implementing the Minsk agreements is a precondition for normalizing relations with the Russian Federation.  As for a recent idea of some political leaders to create a new geopolitical space from the Atlantic Ocean to Vladivostok, drawing the Russian Federation in, he said there is no common ground for such a plan, and that Moscow has done nothing to inspire confidence of such a union.

Open disrespect for international law endangers global security, he continued, stressing that peace and security depend on responsibility.  Indeed, impunity only breeds new violence, and perpetrators must be held accountable.  Lithuania still awaits justice since gaining independence in 1991 after which the Soviet military attacked protestors, and now the Russian Federation continues to shield the perpetrators.

He said Lithuania will continue to work to ensure the universality of human rights, including by actively participating in the United Nations, from its candidacy for the Human Rights Council, its term on the Security Council and in peacekeeping operations.  Only lasting stability across societies and nations as well as greater democratic inclusion of all citizens will ensure the delivery of the Sustainable Development Goals, especially at a time when general welfare is threatened by new challenges globally.  Now is the time for every United Nations Member States and Head of State to demonstrate true leadership on national, regional and global levels; input from every nation counts.

Recalling that Lithuania launched its “Welfare State” idea as a concept built on 2030 Agenda principles, he called on all nations to identify the biggest threats to the Sustainable Development Goals.  Serious impediments include violations of a rule-based global order, transforming cyberspace into a new field for an arms race, disrespecting global environmental and nuclear safety standards and neglecting climate change.  Strongly committed to the Paris Agreement, Lithuania has developed wind and solar energy and is committed to switching from fossil fuels to biomass.  Deeply concerned about the threats and negative environmental impact of dumping chemical weapons at sea, Lithuania intends to submit – for the fourth time – a draft resolution aimed at assessing the risks of new related technologies, with a view to encourage the international community to become more engaged in creating a safer, cleaner and sustainable environment on land and at sea.  “Only by acting together we can build a better future,” he said.

MICHAEL D. HIGGINS, President of Ireland, noted that even as delegates gather for the Assembly, “the United Nations and its agencies are under attack,” be it through underfunding, withdrawal of support, or the explicit promotion of a narrow version of a theory of interests as an alternative to the Charter’s multilateralism.  But it is multilateralism that has allowed the international community to develop mechanisms for conflict resolution, peacekeeping and peacebuilding, he pointed out.  The progress made in the development of international law is a testament to the significant steps humanity can take when the international community works in harmony. “We must this week defend, strengthen and advocate for multilateralism,” he said.

Ireland, he continued, considers the United Nations the anchor of its foreign policy, a special institution where newly free nations found a home after their struggles for independence and a forum to give a voice to the marginalized.  “For many, it is the only forum that is available to them,” he reminded delegates, calling the United Nations a “great peace project” and a “house of hope”.  Thus, he felt compelled to acknowledge that the international order is now again under grave pressure, he said, cautioning that history has shown the error of thinking that aggression or even adventurism is a better way forward than cooperative multilateralism.

Conflict is not endemic to any region, people, class of values, or belief system, he said, adding that his country has experience of prolonged intractable conflict and of the painstaking work and compromises which pave the way for a peace settlement.  “For this reason, the Israel-Palestine conflict resonates deeply with the Irish people, he said, adding that no peace process is linear or without cost.  Stressing that his country and its European Union partners will not recognize any changes to the pre-1967 borders, including regarding Jerusalem, other than those agreed by the parties, he asked the leaders on both sides to sit down, face to face, immediately.

While the Paris Agreement, he continued, gave the international community a framework and a foundation to move forward, the cost of inaction is catastrophic.  The debate on climate action demonstrates how global issues can be inclusive, he pointed out, commending the powerful role played by small island developing States.  Addressing those Member States, he said, “you have a unique moral authority to speak out.  You are paying an unbearable price for a problem you did not create.”  Calling on the international community to muster the intellectual and political courage to prevail against powerful, heavily resourced interests who can purchase media space, and have stolen concepts and language itself, he said that schoolchildren have grasped the urgency of the situation better than some global leaders.

Migration is central to the Irish consciousness, he said, adding:  “We are a migrant people, always have been from our origin, through our Famine, into the modern period.”  The country, having seen people leave in millions, is now a country of net immigration.  “We have been transformed from a place where people were forced to leave to a place of welcome,” he stated, adding that in a world where so much of migration is necessary, it should be well-managed and safe, not irregular and dangerous.  To applause from other delegates, he pointed out that many areas of the world are insufficiently or not at all represented in the Council and stressed that Africans must be allowed to have a fair say in Council decisions affecting their own continent.

IBRAHIM BOUBACAR KEITA, President of Mali, said that while no occasion could be more beautiful than this reaffirmation of the Charter of the United Nations, there is nothing more urgent than stepping up action to address the root causes of instability.  Noting that his country is dealing with terrorist threats daily, he added that if it is true that in difficult times you know who your friends are, then clearly Mali has no shortage of friends.  Expressing gratitude to the international community for the political, diplomatic and military support provided to his country, he said such support is enabling Mali in a range of ways, from combating terrorism to reconstructing the country.

More than 500 former fighters have been reintegrated, he reported, highlighting Mali’s ongoing disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process.  The road ahead remains long, he cautioned, noting that political and institutional reforms are necessary.  The Government plans to hold an inclusive dialogue which would lead to strengthened democracy in the country, he said, also pointing to the recent adoption of the law of national agreement, as well as the work of the truth and justice commission.

The Government is creating development zones in northern Mali, he said, adding that the joint will of the Malian parties is supported by international partners.  In particular, he commended the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), which worked in a complex and difficult environment.  Paying tribute to the men and women of that Mission for their contributions to peace and security in not just his country, but the region, he lamented that the volatile security environment and drug trafficking continued to pose problems.

Outlining priority areas for Mali, he said that efforts are under way to address youth employment, food security, energy and climate, and access to social services.  Regarding the “worrying situation in the centre of the country”, he said that extremists are abusing differences between groups, but their motivations have little to do with religion or development.  Mali has been an Islamic country since the eleventh century, he pointed out, condemning extremists for exploiting the weak presence of the State to create a space where their criminal activities could flourish.  The Government is taking measures to re-establish security and order, he added.

“I believe in the youth of Mali,” he stressed, also emphasizing the importance of women’s contributions to the country.  Highlighting the recent approval of 3,000 housing units to low-income people, he noted the support of the African Development Bank in similar initiatives.  Also expressing concern about the situation in Libya, which continues to have a negative impact on the Sahel region, he called for a representative Security Council and reaffirmed Mali’s commitment to the Common African Position.

TANETI MAAMAU, President of Kiribati, stated his country’s moral and in-kind support of any initiative that seeks to make the planet cleaner, greener and safer.  Referencing the Secretary-General’s recent visit to the Pacific, he highlighted the need for a more balanced presence within the multi-country office for the islands in the North Pacific.  He also expressed condolences to those Bahamians suffering as a result of Hurricane Dorian and called for urgent action to address climate change.

Poverty and inequality remain humanity’s biggest dilemma and challenge, he said, and the social and economic security of any nation can only be strengthened if the support system empowers people from home.  It is critical, then, that United Nations programmes target the family at a household level, where the “fragmentation of values draws a fault line in our societies”.  Referencing his country’s copra subsidies targeting households and coconut farmers, he expressed a desire to benefit those who are not poor, but who have been deprived of the opportunity to improve their socioeconomic status.  He also highlighted Kiribati’s efforts to leave no one behind, such as promoting the inclusion of marginalized and forgotten sections of the community and increased outer-island infrastructure development.  Bold infrastructure projects, such as a programme to provide a round-the-clock clean water supply to all residents of South Tarawa, exemplify Kiribati’s ownership of unique developmental challenges.

“Education is the backbone for a nation to inspire the future of its citizens,” he said.  Kiribati is investing 11 per cent of its GDP into the education sector, he said, and expressed his conviction that this will pay dividends.  Further, a new childhood education initiative will catalyse intergenerational transformation towards sustainable development.

Turning to climate change, he stated that this alarming dilemma is of great importance to Kiribati and the Blue Pacific, and it was evident to his people before the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its report on global warming.  He also stated the importance of current negotiations on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity and on boundaries beyond national jurisdiction, and stressed that any outcome of the talks should not jeopardize the health and wealth of the Blue Pacific.  Acknowledging that the rising sea may alter Kiribati’s legal boundaries, he stressed the urgent need for States to heed the Intergovernmental Panel’s reports and commit to multilateral action to address climate change and to ensure that Kiribati’s legal boundaries similarly apply to its airspace.

From a small-island perspective, he said there is a risk of over-engineering the development of States like Kiribati and implored the Assembly to consider the complex web of support pouring into these countries without the capacity to effectively coordinate it.  To this end, Kiribati will start to take control of the situation to alleviate stress on Government resources.  Noting the “island paradox” that applies to Kiribati — as it is considered a least developed country due to its permanent state of fragility and yet maintains a relatively high gross national income per capita — he urged the members of the Economic and Social Council to visit his country and hear the voices of the youth calling out “we are not sinking, we are fighting”.  Joining this call, he challenged the international community to act right, act now and be seen as good neighbours.

EMMERSON DAMBUDZO MNANGAGWA, President of Zimbabwe, said his country is in transition and determined to overcome the reality of a “collapsed economy with a collapsed currency, due to the illegal economic sanctions”.  Under his leadership, Zimbabwe is making progress towards macro-economic and fiscal stabilization as well as private sector-led growth, he said.  In order to deepen democratic space in the country, his Government established an open platform where all political parties are invited to a frank dialogue on all aspects of the sociopolitical and economic reforms.  Further, fiscal austerity has resulted in balanced books and a budget surplus.

Sanctions, he stressed, constitute a denial of the human rights of the people of Zimbabwe.  Applauding the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the African Union for standing by his country in demanding the immediate and unconditional removal of illegal sanctions, he said that cooperation is a win-win game while sanctions are a lose-lose game.  “Zimbabwe deserves a restart,” he emphasized, adding that the country is also reforming laws governing trade and investment.  The new national investment policy reflects his Government’s commitment to open the economy, he noted.

Further, there is greater focus on science, technology and innovation, with incubation hubs and industrial parks being established throughout Zimbabwe.  Another important priority is deepening rule of law, he added, highlighting the anti-corruption drive that his Government is accelerating.  Commending the support received from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), he added that various outdated media and access to information laws have been repealed.

Turning to the climate crisis, he pointed out that the recent Cyclone Idai serves as a reminder for southern Africa that the damage caused by climate change to humankind and life on earth is “dire and irreparable”.  The cyclone caused thousands of deaths in the region and left a trail of infrastructure destruction in its wake.  The cost of recovery is estimated to be $600 million for Zimbabwe alone, he noted, thanking well-wishers across the world for their assistance and solidarity.  As an agro-based economy, climate change also affects the country’s productivity and food security, he said, adding that while the road to a more secure future is long and at times bumpy, Zimbabwe is determined to succeed. 

JABER AL-MUBARAK AL-HAMAD AL SABAH, Prime Minister of Kuwait, referencing the United Nations role as a safe haven in which to end differences and promote the logic of peace based on diplomacy, stated that his country has followed a foreign policy based on the foundations of peace since its inception.  As Kuwait’s non-permanent membership in the Security Council nears its end, he said that his country has an increased awareness of the importance of reinforcing dialogue and pluralism to confront global challenges and therefore renews its support for the principles and purposes of the Charter.

Turning to the Gulf region, he condemned the attacks on Saudi Arabian installations on 14 September and reaffirmed Kuwait’s support for all measures Saudi Arabia takes to preserve its security and stability.  He also called on the international community to protect freedom of navigation in the region and to adhere to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

He went on to say that the Palestinian question occupies a central and pivotal place in the Arab and Islamic worlds.  It is imperative to continue efforts to hold serious negotiations within a specific time frame, to end the Israeli occupation and establish an independent Palestinian State with East Jerusalem as its capital.  He also called for the cessation of all Israeli settlement activities on occupied Palestinian land and of Israeli practices violating the sanctity of religious sites.

Pointing out that the human suffering resulting from the crisis in Syria exemplifies the lack of international consensus and absence of dialogue between the parties, he reiterated that there is no military solution and emphasized the importance of reaching a political settlement according to relevant resolutions.  He also said that there is no military solution to the crisis in Yemen and offered Kuwait’s readiness to “host our Yemeni brothers” and hold another round of consultations in Kuwait to reach a comprehensive political agreement and preserve the security, stability and territorial integrity of Yemen.  He also called on Iran to start a dialogue built on respecting the sovereignty of States — and non-interference in their internal affairs — and to maintain the safety of maritime navigation.

On the domestic front, he highlighted Kuwait’s efforts to create an investment-friendly environment and noted the progress achieved in this area in recent years.  He said Kuwait looks forward to raising its status within international financial indicators, including the World Bank Group’s ease of doing business index.

NIKOL PASHINYAN, Prime Minister of Armenia, highlighting the momentous changes taking place in his country over the past year, stated that the results of parliamentary elections held last December — for the first time in about 25 years — were fully accepted by the public and uncontested by any political party.  He added that international observers called these elections free, fair and transparent, and that they represent a major achievement of the non-violent 2018 revolution.  That revolution, he said, was a manifestation of Armenian free will to reject corruption, the abuse of power and political fraud and should not be approached from the angle of competition of global powers.

He stressed that this non-violent revolution is proof of the potential of democratic change in the contemporary world, but that it was just the beginning.  It now falls on Armenia to prove that the democratic transformation is sustainable.  To that end, he pointed to a growing economy and efforts to establish an independent judiciary, anti-corruption bodies and a level playing field for all economic and political players.  The most important part of these reforms, he said, is education, and it is Armenia’s goal to make life-long learning a nationwide activity for all citizens.

Turning to international concerns, he stated that Turkey remains a serious security threat because it refuses to establish diplomatic relations and “overtly assists Azerbaijan against Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh”.  Noting that the tension between his country’s neighbours and strategic partners puts Armenia in a challenging position, he expressed a desire to remain a reliable partner and good friend to all without damaging relations with any.

Stressing the importance of a peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, he reiterated that any solution must be acceptable to the people of Armenia, Nagorno-Karabakh and Azerbaijan.  However, Azerbaijan only considers its own interests in this matter, which indicates that it seeks to “defeat” the people of Nagorno-Karabakh rather than seek compromise.  In fact, he added, Azerbaijan’s position is “tantamount to claiming restoration of the Soviet Union”.  Disagreeing with Azerbaijan’s position that the conflict is territorial in nature, he said that it is instead about people and their right to live in their homeland and invited the President of Azerbaijan to accept the formula that will facilitate the peace process — a solution that is acceptable for all involved peoples.

Armenia places significant importance on effective multilateralism, he said, and works to advance global security and non-proliferation and to combat terrorism.  To this end, he highlighted the Armenian humanitarian mission in Syria and peacekeeping operations in Lebanon, Mali, Kosovo and Afghanistan.  He also referenced his country’s efforts to advance the role of women and youth and to develop an innovative climate finance mechanism to satisfy Armenia’s pledge for the Secretary-General’s Climate Action Summit.  A policy of escalation and arms race to establish military superiority has no future in the South Caucasus, he concluded, as the peoples of the region deserve to live in peace and prosperity and to freely exercise their human rights and freedoms.

ANDREJ BABIŠ, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic, said that 2019 marked the twentieth anniversary of the Velvet Revolution, which helped free Central Europe.  The country is now among the safest countries in the world, with a fast-growing economy and a high quality of life.  The Allianz Euro Monitor ranks the Czech economy as the fourth most stable in the European Union.  The Czech Republic aims to become a European leader in innovation and artificial intelligence and serve as a role model for the rest of the world.  The current European Union, however, is not very efficient and should be more active in addressing foreign policy, international trade and migration in the Middle East and Africa.  “All Member States must be active, not only the largest ones together with President of the European Commission, as was the case in the last five years,” he said.  The European Council should act like a European coalition government, providing guidance on the European Union’s major challenges, notably Brexit, trade relations with the United States, and external security, among others.

Climate change is an additional problem, and the Czech Republic is committed to the Paris Agreement and to helping devise a solution, he said.  The country is significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions, earlier in the year hosted the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting in Prague and is fully committed to creating a long-term strategy towards carbon neutrality.  But the European Union cannot solve this issue alone.  Countries that contribute most to climate change must participate in the solution.  In addition, the world must invest in green energy and be open-minded in looking into zero-carbon energy sources such as nuclear energy.  The Czech Republic has no other option than the nuclear one and must keep the sovereignty of its energy mix intact.  Greta Thunberg has many interesting observations, he said.  “Yet I am not sure that emotional, even aggressive, hysterical theatrics lead to a rational discussion,” he said, adding:  “It is an unfair generalization that nobody is doing anything.  Many of us are doing what we can!  And Greta should differentiate.  Otherwise she is not being helpful.”  

Europe decreased its carbon dioxide emissions by 20 million tons in 2019 and the total European share of global emissions is just 9 per cent, he continued.  The Czech Republic’s economy is heavily dependent on industry, and although it is investing a lot in new technologies and strengthening low-emissions energy sources, the country must do so not only with regard to environmental, but also technological, economic and sociological factors.

Migration is an additional major global issue, he said.  Although the second part of the migration wave that commenced in 2015 has been reduced, the causes of migration must be addressed and eliminated.  “Refugees must be motivated to return home, and this will only happen when their homes will give them hope again,” he said.  That is why the Czech Republic supports the SDGs.  These will help eradicate the causes of people fleeing from war zones or failing economies.  The country is more engaged in Africa than before, opening an Embassy in Bamako and helping with the stabilization of Mali.  “For a long time, we have been active in Syria, where we were the only EU country to maintain an open embassy headed by an ambassador throughout the conflict,” he added.  Europe must find a “common language” with President Erdoğan of Turkey.

XAVIER ESPOT ZAMORA, Head of Government of Andorra, identified eradication of poverty, quality education, climate action and inclusion as the four pillars of challenge facing the global community.  Quality education in particular is the best weapon to fight poverty and foster empowerment.  As a small nation, Andorra has relied on the talents of its population, especially in communication.  He noted that Catalan, Castilian Spanish and French are prevalent languages, with English included as an international language and Portuguese also part of the mix.  Some citizens speak all five languages and can therefore communicate with hundreds of millions of people worldwide. 

He cited climate action as “the multilateral action par excellence”.  No goal can be achieved unilaterally in that domain.  Global warming threatens the environmental balance of his high-altitude country, especially the skiing sector.  However, implementing effective measures on climate change requires major global commitments.  He cited the analogy of the financial crisis a decade ago, which required changing the global rules of the game, with more transparency in tax measures, a harsh evolution for small countries.  If that was possible, industrialized countries should be able to address the climate issue.  Pointing to youth rallies worldwide, he said they are literally calling for the protection of human life. 

He noted that vehicles and heating are the main causes of carbon dioxide emissions in Andorra.  His Government is converting its fleet into electric vehicles, and as of 1 January 2020, all new buildings in the country must have practically zero net energy consumption.  His Government will forge partnerships with civil society to create circular sustainability models, aiming to expand collection, retrofitting and recycling, which will create jobs.  What is at stake is recognizing that, going forward, the only model for development is sustainability.

Inclusion is a cross-cutting objective, as no policy is sustainable if it is not inclusive.  He said it is like trust, the cement that builds the future.  However, he said the logic of representative democracy is under threat by populist movements.  Often, those who criticize those democratic institutions as being unrepresentative are the very ones trying to weaken them.  The global community must improve and reform institutions, not weaken them further.  He stated that in 2020, Andorra will mark 600 unbroken years of its general council.  That persistence has often required adaptability.  He noted that 25 years ago, only one of its 28 representatives was a woman, and now half of them are.  All institutions are more lasting when they are flexible.  Andorra is further directly tackling the gender pay gap and glass ceiling.

HEIKO MAAS, Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs of Germany, said that the one word that crops up more often than any other in the speeches of the past few days is sustainability.  While some people think that is nothing but hype, “we risk losing the race against climate change”, he cautioned.  A sustainable foreign policy is one that seeks lasting solutions to conflicts, involves all stakeholders and focuses on prevention instead of just reacting to events.  Such a policy relies on viable agreements, “not on speedy deals at the expense of others”, he stressed.

The attacks on two oil facilities in Saudi Arabia, he said, show how fast things can escalate.  The only way towards an easing of tensions is talks between the United States and Iran.  But that will only happen if no unrealistic preconditions are placed on such a dialogue, he added, stressing that diplomacy means not getting bogged down in black and white logic.  Turning to Afghanistan, he condemned the attacks by the Taliban which sabotaged the talks in Doha and added that a sustainable solution can only come about through political compromise.

On Ukraine, he added that in the past two years the Minsk process had more or less come to a standstill.  But the people in that country want peace, he said, recalling that the bridge in Stanytsia Luhanska was destroyed for four years.  It is now being rebuilt, and military equipment and soldiers are being withdrawn. That is an example of the disengagement called for by the Minsk process but a huge step for those who use the bridge every day.  “We want to seize the momentum,” he said, adding that Germany and France are working hard in the Normandy format to find solutions to issues that have been on the table for almost four years.

Expressing “cautious hope” about the situation in Syria, he added that the creation of a constitutional committee is an important first step.  Justice is equally important, he stressed, asking:  “How can thousands of traumatized, tortured, displaced Syrians, victims of poisonous attacks, believe in peace if their tormentors go unpunished?”  The examples of these countries show that sustainable foreign policy demands stamina, resilience, and resolve, he pointed out.

His country has been a member of the Security Council for nine months now, he said, adding that far too often crises are not discussed in that body “until shots are being fired and people are dying”.  That is the very opposite of sustainable policymaking.  Hence Germany has put “climate and security” on the agenda at the start of its term, he said.  Climate change has long ceased to be an ecological challenge; it is now a matter of war and peace.  Climate protection must become an imperative in a sustainable foreign policy, he emphasized.

For information media. Not an official record.