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Seventy-sixth Session,
56th Meeting (AM & PM)
GA/12401

Secretary-General Urges Action to Extinguish ‘Five-Alarm Global Fire’, as He Presents Annual Report on United Nations Work, Priorities for 2022 in General Assembly

More Coordinated Efforts Needed to Implement Common Goals, President Stresses, as COVID-19, Climate Crisis, Violent Conflict Top List of Concerns

At the start of a year in which the world continues to be destabilized by an ever-raging pandemic and multiplying conflicts and crises, Secretary-General António Guterres briefed the General Assembly today on his urgent priorities for 2022, calling upon countries to mobilize against a “five-alarm global fire”, referring to COVID-19, the climate crisis, an unprincipled global financial system, lawlessness in cyberspace, and a rise in violent conflict.

“Now is not the time to simply list and lament challenges; now is the time to act,” he said, presenting his annual report on the work of the Organization (document A/76/1) to the 193-member Assembly.  While Omicron constitutes a warning, he cautioned that the next variant may be worse, stressing:  “Instead of the virus spreading like wildfire, we need vaccines to spread like wildfire.”

Highlighting the need to urgently redress vaccine inequity, he castigated the “scandalously unequal” distribution of vaccines, of which manufacturers put out 1.5 billion doses a month, pointing out that vaccination rates in high-income countries are seven times higher than in the countries of Africa.  Against that backdrop, he underlined the need for all countries and manufacturers to prioritize vaccine supply to the COVID-19 Vaccine Global Access (COVAX) facility, and for vaccine misinformation to be effectively combated.

Meanwhile, steps must be taken to reform the “morally bankrupt” global financial system whose imbalances are “inbuilt and structural”, and leading to a lopsided recovery, he said.  Noting that the near-systemic gap between developed and developing countries is a recipe for instability, crisis and forced migration, he outlined a range of measures to redress its failings, including ensuring fairer credit ratings, an operational debt relief framework, reforming the global tax system and tackling illicit financial flows.

On the climate crisis, he warned that global emissions are set to increase by almost 14 per cent over the current decade, which “spells catastrophe”, pointing out that in 2020, climate shocks forced 30 million people to flee their homes — three times more than those displaced by war and violence.  He called for “an avalanche of action” this year “to change the math and reduce the suffering”, including by making sure there are no new coal plants or expansion in oil and gas exploration, and tripling investment in renewable energy infrastructure to $5 trillion annually by 2030.

On technology, an area “where global governance barely exists at all”, he called for steps to be taken to widen access to the 2.9 billion people who remain off-line, mainly in developing countries, and to ensure women do not lag behind.  Expressing concern about data misuse, misinformation and cybercrime, he called for stronger regulatory frameworks to address them, and pointed to his Global Digital Compact, put forth as part of the Summit of the Future in 2023, in this regard.

In an increasingly fractious globe, which faces the highest number of violent conflicts since 1945, and an uptick in military coups and human rights under assault, he said conflict prevention is at the heart of the New Agenda for Peace.  He outlined priorities in the push for peace, including providing a lifeline of help to the Afghan people, sustaining the implementation of peace in Colombia, and reviving the Israel-Palestine peace process, among many others.  “This world is too small for so many hotspots,” he stressed, underscoring the need for a united Security Council to address them.

Abdulla Shahid (Maldives), President of the General Assembly, pointed out at the outset of the meeting that much had been accomplished despite the formidable challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, including the reform of structures to maintain peace and security.  Noting that progress has been made possible through political will and the leadership of the bridge-builder, the Secretary-General, who maintains a constant focus on keeping human dignity and the common good at the core of the Organization’s work, he stressed the importance of coordinated efforts to implementing Our Common Agenda, adding:  “We are committed now more than ever to deliver for people, the planet, and to further strengthen the United Nation as the pinnacle of multilateralism.”  He then suspended the meeting and invited Member States to engage in an informal question-and-answer session with the Secretary-General before the resumption of plenary proceedings.

Delegates went on to congratulate the Secretary-General on his second term, and emphatically endorsed the priorities he outlined for 2022.  Many echoed his trenchant words on the urgent need to ensure the equitable access and distribution of vaccines, with some pointing out the link between emerging variants and new outbreaks and a failure to close the “vaccine divide”.  Others expressed grave concern about the existential threat of climate change, which exacerbated instability and poverty, and a fraying multilateralism that is unable to tackle international threats and challenges.

Cyprus’ representative echoed the Secretary-General’s concern over the deepening East-West divide and risk of a fragmented — or even parallel — set of global systems, stressing that multilateralism is the only framework for an effective international system of collective security that ensures equality in security and the non-tolerance of threats, with consequences for aggressors and justice for victims.  The United Nations ability to uphold the ban on the use of force is the only barometer for measuring the Organization’s effectiveness.  Yet, the threat or use of force has not been eliminated.  “We must do better,” he said.

The representative of Bolivia called for the strengthening of the developing countries’ capabilities to produce vaccines and medicines and warned against external dependency and protectionism.  It is imperative to liberate patents and other restrictions to achieve equitable access to medicines and vaccines, he said, declaring:  “Health and life cannot continue to be an instrument for profit.”

In a similar vein, the representative of Liechtenstein expressed regret that the COVID-19 pandemic continues to demonstrate “not only how far we have to go, but also that we are moving in the wrong direction” in some areas, pointing out that the spread of new variants and new waves of infection is directly linked to the inability to ensure an equitable global vaccine distribution.  Calling for a more preventive approach to security, he voiced regret that the Security Council was unable to adopt a thematic resolution on climate and security, which he described as “ominous not only for climate ambition but also for the Council itself”.

Meanwhile, the delegate of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic spotlighted an evident imbalance in the world’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.  Comparing the billions being pledged to help developing nations recover to the trillions being poured into the recovery of developed countries, he described the discrepancy as an example of the “morally bankrupt global financial system” mentioned by the Secretary-General. 

For his part, the representative of Ethiopia, noting the standalone section for Africa in the Secretary-General’s report, said challenges faced by the continent — ranging from forcible overthrows of Governments, intervention in sovereign countries, the scramble for natural resources and mercenaryism — require a change to the world’s status-quo approach, which is rife with double standards and a “saviour mentality” that disenfranchises Africans in their own affairs.  Moreover, he said unilateral coercive measures hamper countries’ ability to combat the pandemic.

Also speaking were representatives of Cambodia (on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations), Malaysia, South Africa, Japan, Albania, Switzerland, United Kingdom, Egypt, Argentina, Ecuador, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Armenia, Indonesia, Mexico, Syria, Pakistan, Belarus and Côte d’Ivoire.

The representative of India spoke in exercise of the write of reply.

The Assembly will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Monday, 24 January, to conclude the session.

Opening Remarks

ABDULLA SHAHID (Maldives), President of the General Assembly, opening the annual meeting on the Secretary-General’s priorities, said much had been accomplished despite the formidable challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, including the reform of structures to maintain peace and security.  “Hope perseveres despite the pandemic,” he said, adding that progress has been made possible through political will and the leadership of the bridge-builder, the Secretary-General, who maintains a constant focus on keeping human dignity and the common good at the core of the Organization’s work.  “Coordination is of utmost importance,” he said, noting that such efforts are central to continuing discussions on Our Common Agenda, adding:  “We are committed now more than ever to deliver for people, the planet, and to further strengthen the United Nation as the pinnacle of multilateralism.”

ANTÓNIO GUTERRES, Secretary-General of the United Nations, declared: “COVID‑19 continues to upend lives, plans and hopes; the only certainty is more uncertainty.”  Meanwhile, he noted, inequalities are growing, while inflation rises, and climate crisis, pollution and biodiversity loss rage on.  Against this backdrop, the world is “a cauldron of political unrest and ferocious conflicts”, with mistrust among world powers reaching a fever pitch, and the information superhighway “giving oxygen to the worst impulses of humanity”.

However, he stressed: “Now is not the time to simply list and lament challenges.  Now is the time to act.”  Pointing out that the challenges described all stem from failures of global governance, due to a multilateral system that is no longer fit for purpose, as it fails to protect critical global public goods and fails to deliver on common aspirations for peace, sustainable development, human rights and dignity, he noted that his report Our Common Agenda provides a starting point to address such threats from a point of solidarity.  He went on to set out a “five-alarm global fire” calling for the full mobilization of all countries, comprising the COVID-19 pandemic, global finance, climate action, lawlessness in cyberspace, and peace and security.

On the pandemic, pointing to Omicron, which constitutes a warning, he said the next variant may be worse.  Therefore, “Stopping the spread anywhere must be at the top of the agenda everywhere,” he said, pointing out that while vaccines work, vaccine inequity is of grave concern.  Recalling the World Health Organization (WHO) strategy delineated last October to vaccinate 70 per cent of the global population by the middle of this year, he noted that vaccination rates in high-income countries are seven times higher than in the countries of Africa — a rate at which the continent will not meet the 70 per cent threshold until August 2024. 

Although manufacturers put out 1.5 billion doses per month, the distribution is scandalously unequal, he stressed, adding:  “Instead of the virus spreading like wildfire, we need vaccines to spread like wildfire.”  Vaccine supply must be prioritized by all countries and manufacturers to the COVID-19 Vaccine Global Access (COVAX) facility, including through the sharing of licenses and know-how by pharmaceutical companies.  Further, vaccine misinformation must be combated, and pandemic preparedness strengthened.

Secondly, on the global financial system, which is “morally bankrupt”, he said its instability and inability to withstand global shocks is leading to lopsided investment, and a lopsided recovery.  As a result, low-income countries are experiencing the slowest growth in a generation, and many middle-income countries are ineligible for debt relief despite rising poverty, he said, calling for immediate action to be taken to stave off debt defaults in 2022.  Noting that the near-systemic gap between developed and developing countries is a recipe for instability, crisis and forced migration, he pointed out that such imbalances in the global financial system are inbuilt and structural, stemming from a disconnect between the real and the financial economies; between working people and money markets.

Outlining some of the systemic inequities in the global financial architecture, which land heavily on developing economies, he emphasized the need for redistribution, and a serious review of global financial governance mechanisms, which are dominated by the richest economies in the world.  To that end, he set out several corrective measures, including ensuring fairer credit ratings, an operational debt relief framework, redirecting special drawing rights to countries in dire need, reforming the skewed global tax system and addressing illicit financial flows.

He went on to express alarm about the devastating consequences of the climate crisis, tackling which calls for emergency mode.  “The battle to keep the 1.5°C goal alive will be won or lost in this decade,” he said, stressing:  “And we are far off-track.”  Noting that in 2020, climate shocks forced 30 million people to flee their homes — three times more than those displaced by war and violence, with small island nations left exceedingly vulnerable — he called for a 45 per cent reduction in global emissions by 2030 to reach carbon neutrality by mid-century.  However, he warned that global emissions are set to increase by almost 14 per cent over the current decade, adding:  “That spells catastrophe”.

Therefore, he called for “an avalanche of action” this year “to change the math and reduce the suffering”, including by providing big emitters with funding and technology assistance to accelerate the transition from coal to renewable energy, making sure there are no new coal plants or expansion in oil and gas exploration, and initiating an “unprecedented investment surge” in renewable energy infrastructure, tripling to $5 trillion annually by 2030.  The Twenty-Seventh Session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Egypt and the upcoming conferences focusing on biodiversity and oceans will also be important opportunities to protect our planet and all species.

On technology, an area “where global governance barely exists at all”, he said “digital chaos” is benefiting destructive forces and impeding the opportunities that could be made possible through the widespread provision of safe and secure Internet connectivity.  He called for steps to be taken to widen access to the 2.9 billion people who remain off-line, mainly in developing countries, and ensure women do not lag behind.  Expressing concern about data misuse, misinformation and cybercrime, he called for stronger regulatory frameworks to address them, and pointed to his Global Digital Compact, put forth as part of the Summit of the Future in 2023, in this regard.

Fifth, he called for the need to step up efforts to bring peace to a world that sees too little of it.  Painting a dire picture of a globe that faces the highest number of violent conflicts since 1945, a resurgence in military coups, nuclear weapons stockpiles still exceeding 13,000, and human rights — especially those of women and girls — under assault, he called for a renewed defence of human rights.  Noting that conflict prevention is at the heart of the New Agenda for Peace, he outlined a few priorities in the push for peace, including providing a lifeline of help to the Afghan people; sustaining the implementation of peace in Colombia; guaranteeing humanitarian assistance and ending hostilities in Ethiopia; encouraging Haitian-led solutions to end the political crisis in Haiti; supporting talks to revive the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action in Iran; and reviving the Israel-Palestine peace process, among many others.

“This world is too small for so many hotspots,” he stressed, underscoring the need for a united Security Council to address them.  “The world needs a strong and effective United Nations to deliver results,” he continued, adding that while reforms have made significant progress, Member States’ continued support is crucial, particularly with respect to the annual programme budget. 

Statements

SOVANN KE (Cambodia), speaking on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), emphasized that stronger multilateralism is the key to tackling the world’s toughest challenges.  “In the midst of the COVID-19 global health crisis, we must strengthen response to the global public health crisis, reinforce vaccine multilateralism […] as well as fair and equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines,” he stressed.  ASEAN supports the United Nations in promoting sustained economic growth and sustainable development and leaving no one behind, he said, drawing attention to the group’s Community Vision 2025 and Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership plans, aimed at making the region highly competitive through free trade.  Noting the COVID-19 crisis’ far-reaching impacts on climate action, which puts the world at great peril, he called for urgent collective action to get “back on track” and pledged ASEAN’s commitment to implementing the Paris Agreement, while taking into account countries’ different national circumstances.

AMIR HAMZAH BIN MOHD NASIR (Malaysia), associating himself with ASEAN, stressed the importance of multilateralism and his country’s strong advocacy for international cooperation.  The Secretary-General’s report points to continued divisions between major Powers and fragmentation within States, as well as the importance of the global ceasefire, he said, urging all parties to refrain from actions that could spark conflict.  The report also highlights the entry into force of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in January 2021 and he encouraged countries to expedite their ratifications or accessions to it, reiterating Malaysia’s unwavering commitment to nuclear disarmament.  He also underscored the importance of placing human rights at the centre of pandemic response plans, including the right to health care for marginalized and vulnerable groups, and expressed support for affordable, accessible and equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines.  More broadly, he called for urgent and collective action to address inequalities and poverty, especially in least developed countries, small island developing States and middle-income countries, underlining the lead role to be played by developed nations in this regard.  Finally, he expressed support for the necessary reform of the United Nations to make it more inclusive, transparent and accountable, with the Secretariat accorded the appropriate resources.

YASEEN LAGARDIEN (South Africa) said Our Common Agenda does not seek to replace existing agreements, but rather aims at accelerating their implementation.  “Had the implementation of the 2030 Agenda been sufficiently advanced, we would have been better prepared for the pandemic”, he said.  Noting the United Nations was created to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, he echoed the call for sustained investments in prevention and peacebuilding.  He went on to stress the need for recommitment to nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation.  South Africa further supports the goal of boosting partnerships, including recommitting to building synergies between regional priorities such as Africa’s Agenda 2063 and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  His delegation appreciates the Secretary-General’s focus on youth and future generations.  Therefore, initiatives such as the United Nations Youth Office and the focus on education are important and merit further consideration by Member States.  Women and girls must be at the centre of the common agenda, he stressed.

ISHIKANE KIMIHIRO (Japan) said the United Nations work has been strained in many ways due to the pandemic, stressing:  “We need extra efforts to communicate our priorities.”  Japan intends to work with the Organization in several areas, notably on global health, continuing to lead efforts to achieve universal health coverage towards the high-level meeting on the topic in 2023.  Japan also will focus on the 2030 Agenda.  Welcoming the Secretary-General’s reference to Africa’s development, he said Japan plans to work with the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs and the African Union Commission in this regard.  On climate change, Japan remains steadfast in translating commitments made at the twenty-sixth Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and will work with the United Nations to accelerate implementation of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction.  In the area of peace and security, Japan will work with the United Nations towards achieving an irreversible dismantlement of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles of all ranges, he said, calling more broadly for an expanded role for the Peacebuilding Commission to be defined in the “new agenda for peace”.  Japan will also help Member States build capacity to uphold the United Nations universal values, with a priority focus on gender equality, an issue which requires more assistance on the ground.  Finally, he called for “instilling new life” into discussions on Security Council reform.

ALBANA DAUTLLARI (Albania) said her country has fully embraced the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development and has placed implementation of the 2030 Agenda at the heart of its national strategy for development and integration.  As a member of the Conflict Prevention Caucus, Albania strongly supports that the human rights pillar should be fully integrated with the development, peace and security pillars in the Secretary-General’s prevention platform.  On gender equality, her delegation, together with other Security Council members, has adopted shared commitments to make the women, peace and security agenda a priority during their respective presidencies in the 15-member organ.  As a country with one of the youngest populations in Europe and with Tirana as its European Youth Capital for 2022, Albania supports all efforts and proposals that deliver for the young people.  Her delegation finds real value in the Secretary-General’s New Agenda for Peace.

PASCALE CHRISTIN BAERISWYL (Switzerland) outlined areas where her country will support United Nations priorities, noting first that it has contributed over $1 billion to COVID‑19 recovery and will continue to support countries most affected by the pandemic, notably in terms of equitable access and distribution of vaccines.  Switzerland also supports efforts to combat climate change in all its aspects — mitigation, adaptation and addressing climate as a risk multiplier — and has a road map for exiting the crisis.  Underscoring the importance of refocusing on the 2030 Agenda, she said digitization and the rapid evolution of technologies represent significant opportunities to accelerate actions to emerge from the crisis.  She welcomed ideas offered in Our Common Agenda.  She said peace is at the heart of Switzerland’s international commitment, including its candidacy for a Security Council seat in 2023-2024, and pointed to its International Geneva dialogue platform in this context.  Respect for international humanitarian law, conflict prevention and peacebuilding are also among Switzerland’s traditional priorities and it is ready to share its expertise in discussions on a new agenda for peace.  Switzerland also will continue to ensure that human rights — which are worryingly threatened these days — remain at the centre of the United Nations work.

JAMES KARIUKI (United Kingdom) acknowledged that 2022 poses new and evolving challenges to multilateralism, among them COVID-19, and his country will redouble efforts to achieve equitable global vaccination, work to strengthen health systems and take steps towards a global agreement to prevent future pandemics.  Setbacks to implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals caused by the crisis call for increased ambition, and as such, the United Kingdom will prioritize sustainable recovery for the most vulnerable and provide transparent and responsible financing for development.  On climate, the United Kingdom will work with Egypt and the United Nations to build on commitments made in Glasgow.  “We must keep up the momentum on mitigation,” he said, and accelerate global action on finance and adaptation.  He went on to stress that the United Kingdom will prioritize global action to end violence against women and girls and support the Secretary-General’s United Nations reform agenda.  He agreed with the vision for “networked and inclusive multilateralism” across the Organization’s work and asked how Member States can best support plans for implementing the Our Common Agenda report.

CHRISTIAN WENAWESER (Liechtenstein) said no other organization in the world is better equipped or more fully mandated than the United Nations to meet today’s challenges, with its global reach and ability to assist countries in enhancing preparedness.  However, he voiced regret that the COVID-19 pandemic continues to demonstrate “not only how far we have to go, but also that we are moving in the wrong direction” in some areas.  The spread of new variants and new waves of infection is directly linked to the inability to ensure an equitable global vaccine distribution.  Meanwhile, development setbacks show the need to harness the full potential of the Sustainable Development Goals and consider them in a holistic manner.  The United Nations needs to boost the meaningful participation of civil society in its work and continue to prioritize the “triple planetary crisis” of climate change, biodiversity loss and rising pollution levels, he said, as laid out in the “One Health” approach.  He also called for a more preventive approach to security and voiced regret that the Security Council was unable to adopt a thematic resolution on climate and security, which he described as “ominous not only for climate ambition but also for the Council itself”.

OSAMA MAHMOUD ABDELKHALEK MAHMOUD (Egypt) said the COVID-19 pandemic has threatened societies and economies, impeding efforts to fight poverty and bring about peace and security.  He emphasized the need for making vaccines available more widely and equitably, including through technology transfer to developing countries.  As the host of the twenty-seventh session of the Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC, Egypt is reinforcing international efforts against the existential threat of climate change, and will prioritize the redoubling of efforts to implement existing objectives, responding to developing countries’ needs, and assisting vulnerable countries.  Egypt values the upholding of peace, he said, pointing to his country’s contributions to peacekeeping missions, as well as its chairmanship of the Peacebuilding Commission.  Turning to human rights, he noted that “no State is perfect”, and added that Egypt launched a national human rights strategy in 2021.  Turning to the working of the Organization, he hailed its efforts to pursue its work under challenging conditions brought about by the pandemic, and said its reforms enhance transparency and flexibility.

DIEGO PARY RODRÍGUEZ (Bolivia) called for the strengthening of the developing countries’ capabilities to produce vaccines and medicines and warned against external dependency and protectionism.  It is imperative to liberate patents and other restrictions to achieve equitable access to medicines and vaccines, he said, declaring:  “Health and life cannot continue to be an instrument for profit.”  He also called for debt relief and forgiveness.  Climate change poses a risk to the fight against poverty and inequality.  To save Mother Earth and increase communities’ resiliency, it is essential to strengthen implementation of the Paris Agreement and not reinterpret its content or weaken the existing agreements.  The crisis is affecting children disproportionately, he warned, calling for measures to address the digital divide and ensure the Internet is a public good.  The right to education must be protected.

ANDREAS HADJICHRYSANTHOU (Cyprus) expressed support for the focus on the five emergencies laid out by the Secretary-General and agreed that today’s challenges represent failures of global governance, requiring that multilateralism be fit-for-purpose.  The United Nations ability to uphold the ban on the use of force is the only barometer for measuring the Organization’s effectiveness.  Yet, the threat or use of force has not been eliminated.  “We must do better,” he said.  He shared the Secretary-General’s concern over the deepening East-West divide and risk of a fragmented — or even parallel — set of global systems, stressing that multilateralism is the only framework for an effective international system of collective security that ensures equality in security and the non-tolerance of threats, with consequences for aggressors and justice for victims.  Where unlawful use of force cannot be prevented, the United Nations must ensure that its results are neither accepted, nor legitimized.  Cyprus is grateful for the Secretary-General’s good offices mission to reunite the island as a bizonal, bicommunal federation with political equality, and he expressed hope that an envoy will be appointed to facilitate resumption of the peace process.  On inequality, he urged States to collectively design more and better equalizers to avoid a dystopian future where extreme wealth, or poverty, are the norm, before noting that as a conflict State with part of its territory under occupation, Cyprus is extremely concerned about the threat posed to peace and security by climate change.  The inability to share the burden of migrant flows gives rise to questions about how the massive displacement of people due to climate change will be addressed.

MARÍA DEL CARMEN SQUEFF (Argentina) said that, against the continued backdrop of the COVID‑19 pandemic, the need to strengthen multilateralism is more urgent than ever.  Echoing the Secretary-General’s call for an equitable distribution of vaccines to all countries, she also drew attention to many developing countries’ sovereign debt crises, noting that they are struggling to balance the need to pay back their debts with the urgency of combating the pandemic.  In that regard, she called for the urgent reform of the international financial architecture, spotlighting the United Nations crucial role in developing new standards.  She went on to praise the work of the Secretary-General and the International Court of Justice in helping to mediate conflicts, while spotlighting Argentina’s strong support for the rights of women; lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex individuals; and other marginalized communities.  The United Nations must redouble its efforts to ensure that human rights are integrated into all its work, including the global pandemic response, she said, pointing out that Argentina is chairing the Human Rights Council in 2022. 

CRISTIAN ESPINOSA CAÑIZARES (Ecuador) said that a great number of the Secretary-General’s priorities map onto those of his country’s foreign policy, which is geared towards tangible results that will benefit the population.  The COVID‑19 pandemic has laid bare challenging inequalities, whose costs and consequences can only be addressed by concerted action; efforts must therefore be focused on overcoming poverty and unfairness pertaining to climate change, human rights and humanitarian assistance, as well as peace and security.  Stressing the indispensability of international law and justice, he noted that Ecuador is a candidate for Security Council membership in 2023-2024, adding that, if elected, his country will act as it always does:  “by respecting peace, law, and the points made in the Secretary-General’s report”.  He welcomed the Secretary-General’s remarks on preventive diplomacy, for which his country lends its unequivocal support.  Turning to the environment, he stressed the need for urgent and specific action to be taken to combat climate change and protect biodiversity, including through eliminating fossil fuel subsidies, increasing investment in renewable energy, and applying the principle of common but differentiated responsibility.  He outlined measures taken by Ecuador in this regard, including the extension of its marine reserve, which complements the pioneering agreement reached between his country, Colombia, Costa Rica and Panama at the twenty-sixth session of the Conference of the Parties to the UNFCC in Glasgow last year, which created the greatest protected marine area in the world.

MD MONWAR HOSSAIN (Bangladesh), echoing the resounding call to close “vaccines divides” by ensuring safe and affordable COVID‑19 vaccines for everyone, everywhere, said the world must not fail to vaccinate at least 70 per cent of the population by mid-year.  This should be an overarching priority for the United Nations in 2022.  It is imperative to increase vaccine supply to COVAX and support the local production by immediate transfer of vaccine technologies to developing countries.  The Secretary General’s Our Common Agenda report outlined an ambitious road map to address the identified challenges.  It is important to ensure synergies in the initiatives of the Secretariat, the General Assembly, the Economic and Social Council, and its subsidiary bodies to pursue the priorities of the report.  During the pandemic, while the advanced countries could swiftly move to online platforms, the developing countries and the least developed countries were pushed further behind due to lack of resources and technologies.  Recalling that his country’s Prime Minister called on the world leaders to declare remote learning and online education a global public good, he requested the Secretary-General’s support in placing this issue high on the United Nations agenda.  His country has been hosting over a million Rohingya from Myanmar with no progress in sight, he said, expressing hope the new Special Envoy could expand the scope and dimension of United Nations engagements in Myanmar and bring new impetus in finding an early and lasting solution to the Rohingya crisis.

PAHALA RALLAGE SANATHANA SUGEESHWARA GUNARATNA (Sri Lanka) commended the leadership of the Secretary-General in navigating the United Nations through these difficult times.  United Nations efforts have been central to the pandemic response, by assisting over 160 countries in tackling health, humanitarian, social and economic impacts, especially through creating and operationalizing the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator and its COVAX facility, through which Sri Lanka has benefited in administering vaccines to its people.  Vaccine equity is the key to overcoming this evolving pandemic.  On climate action, Sri Lanka adopts a firm “no” to new coal power plants and is implementing green policies aimed at ensuring that 70 per cent of its energy generation by 2030 would be from renewable energy sources, with the long-term goal of making the country carbon neutral by 2050.  Sri Lanka chaired the Fourth Ministerial Conference on Transport of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) in Bangkok, at which the Ministerial Declaration on sustainable transport development and a new regional action programme (2022-2026) were adopted.

MHER MARGARYAN (Armenia) welcomed steps taken by the Organization through the establishment of the COVID‑19 Response and Recovery Fund and elaboration of socioeconomic response plans to support inclusive and sustainable recovery, as well as in operationalizing the COVAX facility to ensure vaccine deployment to many countries, including Armenia.  On the maintenance of international peace and security, he commended the Secretary-General’s appeal for an immediate global ceasefire, adding that the initiative unfortunately did not lead to a cessation of hostilities everywhere, as demonstrated in the fall of 2020, when his region experienced brutal aggression against Nagorno-Karabakh, where affected people are still denied United Nations assistance.  Welcoming the Secretary-General’s New Agenda for Peace, he said his country values the support of the United Nations to the Minsk Group of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in promoting a lasting settlement to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.  Turning to efforts to reform the United Nations, he said its ability to respond to emergencies and effectively deliver on its mandates requires having the necessary means to do so and called for Member States’ timely fulfilment of their obligations in this regard.  Further, repurposing existing funds and adopting less rigid budgetary procedures can also contribute to better and efficient use of available resources.

MOHAMMAD KURNIADI KOBA (Indonesia) said his country is ready to achieve the 2030 Agenda, including in the context of Indonesia’s presidency of the Group of 20 (G20), and looks forward to discussions on the Our Common Agenda report.  On peacekeeping, an indispensable tool for maintaining peace and security, Indonesia will work with the United Nations, including in the context of the Action for Peacekeeping, or A4P, and the A4P+ initiative.  He expressed deep concern that the number of attacks against peacekeepers remains high and he emphasized a focus on ensuring their safety and security.  On natural disasters, he expressed solidarity with the people of Tonga, noting that Indonesia is among most vulnerable countries and has prioritized disaster preparedness in its national agenda.  He drew attention to the upcoming “From Risk to Resilience:  Towards Sustainable Development for All in a COVID-19 Transformed World” conference, where countries will advance the disaster risk reduction agenda.  Welcoming the Secretary-General’s commitment to “leave no stone unturned” in addressing conflicts, he expressed support for the Palestinian cause and called for the provision of sustainable funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).

FERNANDO DE LA MORA SALCEDO (Mexico) said that another pandemic year, marked by the emergence of a new variant that could have been predicted and avoided, underscored yet again that “no one is safe until everyone safe”.  He assailed the abusive practices by some pharmaceutical companies, which impeded this objective under the cover of intellectual property rights, stating that his country will work to ensure vaccines are made accessible as a global public good.  As an elected member of the Security Council, Mexico held open debates during its presidency, which served to emphasize the links between instability and conflict and climate change, corruption, poverty and human rights violations.  He expressed concern about the situation around the world, with high levels of poverty and humanitarian needs at a historic high, and called for ambitious action to tackle these challenges.  Recalling Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s proposed “alliance for well-being” in November, which pertained to cash transfers being given to the 700 million people who live on less than $2 a day, he pointed out that such measures work, as evidenced during the COVID‑19 pandemic, and looked forward to more discussions in this regard in the coming months.  On disarmament, he noted that Mexico introduced Council resolution 2616 (2021), which had 70 co-sponsors.  Turning to the work of the Organization, he said that it has the potential to do more and better, to live up to the ideals and expectations of people, whose well-being depends on more effective multilateralism.

BASSAM SABBAGH (Syria) said his delegation has taken note of the Secretary-General’s report Our Common Agenda, which outlined various United Nations efforts to save lives.  But it did not mention the negative role of coercive measures on livelihoods and economies, including basic services such as education and energy.  Syria welcomes United Nations humanitarian efforts but calls for the lifting of the unfair economic blockades by the United States and the European Union against his country.  These measures impede efforts for the voluntary return of refugees.  The United Nations has made efforts to prevent armed conflict and resolve disputes, but the report failed to mention violations of the United Nations Charter, including attacks on national sovereignty and interference in domestic affairs.  Nor does the report mention the illegal occupation of the Syrian Golan by Israel and aggression by Turkey.  The report does not mention United Nations-designated terrorist organizations, he said, expressing his country’s determination to counter terrorism within the framework of international conventions in cooperation with the United Nations, in the interest of the Syrian people.

MUNIR AKRAM (Pakistan) welcomed the United Nations mobilization of humanitarian and other assistance for Afghanistan, calling last September’s Flash Appeal and the recent $5 billion appeal “timely and essential”.  Similarly, the United Nations role in peacekeeping is a major success and Pakistan will remain a steadfast partner in ensuring the effectiveness of such operations, notably the United Nations Military Observer Group for India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP), stationed in Jammu and Kashmir.  The United Nations and the Secretary-General can do “much more” to address peace and security threats by fully using the authority provided by the United Nations Charter, such as in Article 99, and by taking action in the General Assembly if the Security Council is unable to do so.  The primary threat in South Asia is posed by the dispute over Jammu and Kashmir and India’s attempt to annex and transform the Muslim majority state into a Hindu majority territory, a grave violation of Council resolutions that promised Kashmiris their right to self-determination through a United Nations supervised plebiscite.  Detailing extensive actions taken by India, which he condemned, he urged the Council and the Secretary-General to promote an early, peaceful end to the dispute.  He cited the rise of racial and religious hate and violence, with Islamophobia among its gravest manifestations, notably as characterized by lynching and calls for genocide of Muslims in India.  He went on to welcome the Secretary-General’s call to address inequality and promote universal vaccination on an emergency basis, endorsing the call to restructure the global financial architecture and provide financial resources to help developing countries recover from the pandemic.

PAVEL EVSEENKO (Belarus), welcoming the Secretary-General’s stated priorities for the United Nations, said his country — as a candidate for non-permanent membership in the Security Council — supports his agenda for the Organization.  Spotlighting the negative impacts of the COVID‑19 pandemic, he called for efforts to reduce global inequality and push forward with the sustainable development targets agreed by the international community.  In that vein, he welcomed the creation of a new platform for investors in the Sustainable Development Goals, which will help mobilize crucial capital from the private sector.  He went on to spotlight and express support for various United Nations activities in the fields of peacekeeping and peacebuilding, support to States combating terrorism and the eradication of potential threats related to the use of information and communications technologies (ICTs), all of which can help reduce the threats of armed military action.

GBOLIÉ DÉSIRÉ WULFRAN IPO (Côte d’Ivoire) said the appearance of new COVID‑19 variants calls for achieving vaccine equity in order to save lives, echoing the Secretary-General’s call to make the vaccine a common good, accessible everywhere and to all.  In this context, particular attention should be paid to Africa, which is struggling to achieve the vaccination coverage recommended by WHO.  The pandemic has also negatively impacted efforts to achieve the 2030 Agenda and the African Union’s Agenda 2063, and he cited poverty, financing for development and the effects of climate change, particularly land degradation, as issues of concern.  As such, Côte d’Ivoire places great hope in the fifteenth Conference of States Parties to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, which it will host next May.  Faced with such emergencies that no State can solve alone, he called for a global approach within the framework of a reinvigorated multilateralism, in which the United Nations is the cornerstone.  The Secretary-General’s joint programme, refocused on the essential concerns, is a road map for restoring hope and achieving common objectives.

TAYE ATSKESELASSIE AMDE (Ethiopia), noting the standalone section for Africa in the Secretary-General’s report, said the continent’s political and security landscape is on a path of adversity.  Such challenges as forcible overthrows of Governments, aggression, intervention in sovereign countries, the scramble for natural resources and mercenaryism require a change to the world’s status-quo approach, which is rife with double standards and a “saviour mentality” that disenfranchises Africans in their own affairs.  Noting that COVID-19 revealed deep flaws in the global system, he said unilateral coercive measures also hamper countries’ ability to combat the pandemic.  “The United Nations must be watchful to make sure recovery of the wealthy does not foreshadow the massive need in developing States,” he stressed, citing recent unfortunate discrimination against variant-reporting States in Africa.  Turning to the situation in Ethiopia over the past year, he reiterated that the situation is an internal affair and commended an approach that respects his country’s sovereignty.

ANOUPARB VONGNORKEO (Lao People’s Democratic Republic), associating himself with ASEAN, spotlighted an evident imbalance in the world’s recovery from the COVID‑19 pandemic.  Many global programmes, including the Sustainable Development Goals, remain off track.  Comparing the billions being pledged to help developing nations recover to the trillions being poured into the recovery of developed countries, he described the discrepancy as an example of the “morally bankrupt global financial system” mentioned by the Secretary-General.  While his country is pleased to have been recommended for graduation from the least developed country category in 2026, he said much more work remains to ensure its smooth and irreversible transition.  It is actively formulating a sustainable graduation strategy, prioritizing poverty alleviation and also welcomes all further development cooperation.  In addition, climate change remains a key focus for the country, he said.

Right of Reply

The representative of India, exercising the right of reply, said Pakistan has habitually misused multilateral forums, including the Assembly today, to peddle disinformation against his country.  However, this does not obfuscate the fact that Pakistan is the epicentre of global terrorism.  “We reject all of what they have said,” he stated, emphasizing that Jammu and Kashmir was, is and always will be an integral part of India, including those areas under Pakistan’s illegal occupation, and he called on that country to vacate all such areas.

For information media. Not an official record.