Seventy-eighth Session,
10th & 11th Meetings (AM & PM)

Weighing Benefits, Risks of Digital Revolution, Speakers in General Assembly Urge Action, Regulation to Ensure Technology Facilitates Development, Not Inequality

On the precipice of a technological revolution — following widespread transition to digital solutions in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and rapid advancements in artificial intelligence — speakers in the General Assembly today continued the annual high-level debate by contrasting the benefits and risks of this progress, along with its potential to either facilitate development or perpetuate inequality.

Robert Abela, Prime Minister of Malta, underscoring the huge impact of artificial intelligence on all aspects of society, called for global action to make the rapidly advancing technology “a global good”. Emphasizing the potential of artificial-intelligence technologies to enhance public services, he spotlighted pilot projects developed by his country covering areas from health care to traffic management.  He also noted that Malta — like many young nations — has harnessed digital technology to expand into sectors previously off-limits to small countries.

Echoing that was Kausea Natano, Prime Minister of Tuvalu, who pointed out that adopting a “digital nation approach” can enable citizens to access education, health care and economic opportunities that were previously out of reach.  Embracing such a digital transformation is crucial for both the global community and small island States — as it will help bring innovative solutions to climate and environmental concerns — and he therefore affirmed a vision of a digital revolution to empower individuals and communities with knowledge, connectivity and access to essential services.

Ntsokoane Samuel Matekane, Prime Minister of Lesotho, in that vein, stated that technology is key to fighting diseases and pandemics.  However, while the current digital age “compels our countries to ensure wide access to digital tools”, he pointed out that full digital access remains a challenge for rural communities, which further perpetuates inequality.  Further, while digital access has increased civic engagement — especially for women and girls — he underlined the need to address clear threats to safety and privacy. 

Similarly, Vivian Balakrishnan, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Singapore, stated that many nations are not ready for the wave of digital transformation sweeping the world, as more than 2 billion people lack Internet access.  He also called on the international community to prepare for the risks inherent in artificial intelligence.  That technology will disrupt assumptions on military doctrines and strategic deterrence, he said, as the speed at which autonomous weapons systems can be almost instantaneously deployed will dramatically reduce decision times for leaders.

Gaston Browne, Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda — in addition to spotlighting his country’s challenges in obtaining modern technology to tackle weapons smuggling — voiced concern over the potential acquisition of autonomous weapons by organized criminal groups.  “This isn’t the plot of a dystopian novel, but a looming reality,” he stressed, urging Member States to formulate a legally binding instrument to prohibit lethal autonomous weapon systems by 2026.

Mia Amor Mottley, Prime Minister of Barbados, meanwhile — while calling for a regulatory framework to ensure that artificial intelligence is used righteously — observed that this area is not one of immediate focus for many.  Pointing out that 735 million people suffered from chronic hunger as of 2022 and that more are likely to be hungry in 2030 than in 2015, she underscored the need for fundamental governance changes.

On that, Sheikh Hasina, Prime Minister of Bangladesh, said that her Government is heavily investing in building a “Smart Bangladesh” to transform the country into a high-income, poverty-free developed nation, grounded in proper utilization of science and technology and powered by innovation.  She expressed concern, however, over the misuse of information and communications technology for terrorist purposes, also stating:  “The recent incident of burning copies of the holy Qur’an has shaken our conscience.”

Several other leaders voiced similar concern, including Mohammed Shia’ Al Sudani, Prime Minister of Iraq, who stressed that “burning the holy Qur’an is a hate crime” and added:  “We, in Iraq, know the bitter taste of religious extremism.”  Abdullatif bin Rashid Al Zayani, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Bahrain, called on the international community to adopt an international convention to criminalize religious, sectarian and racial hate speech, along with preventing the use of digital platforms “for religious contempt” or to incite intolerance.

On a positive note, Oliver Dowden, Deputy Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, stated that “every single challenge discussed at this year’s General Assembly — and more — could be improved or even solved by AI”.  “Perhaps the most exciting thing,” he added, “is that AI can be a democratizing tool, open to everyone”.  As technology companies and non-State actors often have country-sized influence in this field, meeting the regulatory challenge requires a new form of multilateralism.  “Because it is only by working together that we will make AI safe for everyone,” he said.


STEVO PENDAROVSKI, President of North Macedonia, stated that fear of the future seems to be the predominant feeling of people today, with the international order shaken to its core.  In this regard, he condemned the aggression of the Russian Federation against Ukraine — a flagrant violation of the Charter of the United Nations and the principles of international law.  Expressing concern that the danger of escalation and the suffering of Ukrainians increases, he advocated for the unconditional withdrawal of the Russian military and respect for Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders.  He emphasized that all issues in the world must be resolved peacefully — by renouncing the use of force and shifting to negotiations and dialogue.  “It is high time to silence the drums of war and to respect the Charter of the United Nations,” he declared.

Besides peace, resolving the current challenges also requires trust.  This has been seriously undermined and the international community needs time, efforts and, most of all, political will to rebuild it, he stressed.  Regardless of all differences, the world must act together in the interest of peace, stability and prosperity.  The alternatives are frightening, he warned.  Turning to the food and energy supply crises caused by the war in Ukraine, he pointed out that those endangered the most are the poorest.  This threatens to provoke humanitarian disasters with unprecedented magnitude in many parts of the word.  He thus expressed support for the full restoration of the Black Sea Initiative.  “We find it completely unacceptable to use food and energy as weapons for the realization of military or political goals,” he proclaimed.  On the Sustainable Development Goals, he called for redoubling efforts aimed at their implementation.

“It is beyond understanding that, in the third decade of the twenty-first century, millions of people are left without fulfilment of elementary human needs,” he lamented.  This also undermines the authority of political leaders.  Recalling the global solidarity that helped Skopje recover after a devastating earthquake 60 years ago, he claimed that the essence of humanity is vulnerability to natural hazards as well as the inclination to help the weak and the suffering.  He reminded world leaders that such occurrences do not know borders and the international community should thus jointly use the mechanisms at hand. South-Eastern Europe — his region — is also experiencing climate change first-hand through storms that verge on tornadoes.  The solution — by which developed economies achieve zero emissions by 2040 and provide financial and technical support to developing States — is laid out in the Climate Solidarity Pact as well as the Acceleration Agenda.

At a time of geopolitical turbulences, wars, terrorism, climate change, fake news, cyberthreats and artificial intelligence, it is an urgent need to bring back predictability, early warning and prevention, he said.  Internal reforms of the United Nations system are a prerequisite to this, he argued.  Since its independence, North Macedonia has been committed to the principles of peace, regional cooperation and the resolution of issues through dialogue.  It has affirmed the rights of ethnic communities to the highest degree possible and fostered a culture of dialogue when resolving both internal and external issues, he detailed.  Skopje has perceived compromise as an expression of self-confidence to protect its interests without damaging the interests of others, he noted, detailing that his country currently chairs the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), remains a proponent of regional cooperation and strives to become a member of the European Union.

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, Prime Minister of Israel, said that over 3 millennia ago, the leader Moses told the people of Israel, as they prepared to enter the promised land, that they would face before them two mountains, which were the sites of a blessing and a great curse. Their fate would be determined by the choice they made between those sites, he said, adding:  “We face such a choice today.”  Recalling his 2018 address at the Assembly, during which he issued a warning about the “tyrants of Tehran” who were “a curse to their own people and a threat to the world”, he said the common threat posed by that country had brought Israel and Arab States closer together, with countless meetings between world leaders potentially facilitating a breakthrough for broader peace in the region.

This success came after a quarter century of failed peacemaking and good intentions, based on a false idea that relations would not be normalized with Israel unless a peace agreement with the Palestinian State was concluded, he went on.  “We must not give the Palestinian State a veto against a peace process,” he stressed, adding that they represented 2 per cent of the Arab world. Recalling the “amazing breakthrough” by his country in 2020, when it brought about four peace treaties with four Arab States, he said that these events placed Israel on the cusp of a more dramatic breakthrough:  historic peace between his country and Saudi Arabia.  Citing the announcement during the recent Group of 20 (G20) Summit of “visionary plans” to connect India to Europe with maritime links, rail links and energy pipelines, he said Israel can become a bridge of peace and prosperity, paving the way for a new Middle East.

Recalling that he had, during a previous address, held up a map depicting Israel at the point of its creation in 1948, surrounded by “a hostile Arab world”, he said that events over the past few years have helped Israel “tear down the walls of enmity”, representing “a monumental change and a pivot of history” that brought the prospect of prosperity and peace to the entire region.  However, the path to genuine peace with Israel’s Palestinian neighbours must be based on truth, not on “lies or the endless vilification of the Jewish people”, he stressed, underlining the need for the Palestinian leadership to stop glorifying terrorism and put an end to its ghoulish ‘pay to slay’ policy. Citing his youthful experience as a soldier in the Israel Defense Forces, he said, “Those who suffered the curse of war are committed to the path to peace.”

Underlining the indispensable role of the United States in these peace efforts, he said, “Just as the Abraham Accords were achieved with the lead of [former United States] President Donald Trump, peace in Saudi Arabia will be achieved with the lead of [United States] President [Joseph] Biden.”  However, he warned about the “fly in the ointment” to this optimistic vision:  the “fanatics of Iran”, who intended to thwart peace, by pouring money into spreading the tentacles of terrorism across the Middle East and the world.  Emphasizing that his country aims to do all it can to prevent nuclear weapons from falling into Tehran’s hands, he underlined that Iran’s people, who braved death by protesting on the streets, and not their oppressors, were the “real partners to a better future”.  Turning to the artificial intelligence revolution, he said that nations must address the dangers it poses quickly and together, so that the promise of utopia does not turn into dystopia.

PRAVIND KUMAR JUGNAUTH, Prime Minister of Mauritius, said that the surge in health challenges underscores the importance of global unity.  “Scaled-up action to reduce emissions to align with goals set forth in the Paris Agreement is becoming imperative,” he continued.  Island States such as his, wrestle with coastal erosion, marine pollution and coral bleaching, while sea-level rise and climate-related disasters loom large.  “Mauritius is facing a rise in sea level of 5.6mm annually, almost twice the global average of 3.3mm,” he underscored, saying that his country is spending about 2 per cent of its gross domestic product (GDP) on environment and climate-change related policies.  The successful implementation of national determined contributions requires a total of $6.5 billion while Mauritius has been able to commit only $2.5 billion.  He urged developed countries to deliver on their promise made at the 2009 Copenhagen Climate Change Conference to provide climate finance of $100 billion per year.  “This amount is no longer sufficient, so there is a need to make the scale of climate finance commensurate with the challenge through the New Collective Quantified Goal on Climate Finance”, he stated.

Citing a United Nations report that projects Mauritius to become a water-stressed country by 2025, he said that his Government’s top priority is to ensure the continuous supply of clean and safe water to every citizen.  “The ocean, on which we are all dependent, is a critical reservoir of marine biodiversity,” he stressed, welcoming the adoption of the Agreement under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea on the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Marine Biological Diversity of Areas beyond National Jurisdiction and encouraging all countries to sign and ratify the Agreement as soon as possible.  “We also look forward to the finalization of the international legally binding instrument on plastic pollution, including in the marine environment, and ensuring its effective implementation,” he said.

Turning to other issues, he said that the instability in some parts of Africa is detrimental to progress, while upholding the rule of law is essential for restoring faith in governance, fostering stability and enabling sustainable progress on the continent.  “Peaceful transition of power through democratic means is the only way to ensure peace, development and prosperity,” he emphasized.  He also reaffirmed solidarity with the Palestinian people and reiterated support for the two-State solution.  Noting that the Security Council has a vital role to play in maintaining international peace and security, he said that it no longer reflects the realities of the modern world.  Urgent reform of that organ is needed as well as the revitalization of the General Assembly in order “to strengthen the United Nations for future generations”. On the Ukraine-Russian Federation conflict, he urged the international community to relentlessly pursue peaceful dialogue and commended African nations and other mediators for their vital role in this regard. 

“It is now four years since the International Court of Justice gave its advisory opinion on the legal consequences of the separation of the Chagos Archipelago from Mauritius prior to its independence,” he recalled, adding that the Court made it clear the Chagos Archipelago is an integral part of the territory of his country and invited the colonial Power to withdraw its administration from the Archipelago as rapidly as possible.  “Indeed, Mauritius and the United Kingdom have started negotiations on the exercise of sovereignty over the Chagos Archipelago, on the basis of international law,” he said, expressing hope that the talks will lead to the completion of the decolonization of Mauritius and also appealing to France to resolve the dispute over Tromelin.

ANWAR IBRAHIM, Prime Minister of Malaysia, said that major Powers, and those that aspire to greater international status, are increasingly casting the United Nations aside.  “We are living in a deeply polarized world,” he stressed.  The ideals and principles enshrined in the UN Charter call upon nations to resolve their disputes through peaceful means, and refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity, sovereignty and political independence of any State.  “We condemn unequivocally the Russian invasion of Ukraine,” he went on to say, adding that the conflict underscores the urgent need to make peace and settle differences amicably through negotiations.  He also urged for a concerted multilateral effort led by the United Nations to resolve the conflict.  “We cannot choose our neighbours, but we can choose to live in peace with them,” he added.

The extent of the Ukraine conflict has radiated throughout the world, as food prices have skyrocketed, leading to shortages, hunger, further malnutrition and despair, he stressed.  In the Middle East, the politics of dispossession continue with a vengeance, with more illegal settlements being built, stripping Palestinians of land that rightfully belongs to them.  This constitutes a gross violation of international law.  It also poses an obstacle to a two-State solution.  On Afghanistan, Malaysia remains deeply concerned with the dire humanitarian situation in that country.  This is especially so given that Afghanistan is grappling with its third consecutive year of drought and a devastating locust infestation that severely undermined its wheat harvest.  He further called on the authority of Afghanistan to reverse discriminatory policies against women and girls.  “Denying the right to go to school is a violation of the teachings of Islam,” he stressed.

Malaysia is also “deeply horrified” by the continued violence and instability in Myanmar.  “The barbarism and depravity inflicted upon the people of Myanmar is indefensible,” he stressed.  Malaysia calls on Myanmar to immediately implement the Association of Southeast Asian Nations’ (ASEAN) Five-Point Consensus towards achieving peace and stability. Turning to climate change, he said that his country is witnessing the adverse impacts of the scourge with increasing temperatures, rising sea levels, intensified monsoons and erratic weather patterns.  He called on developed countries to fulfil the commitment of mobilizing $100 billion a year to support the climate ambitions of developing countries.

Moreover, the global economy is projected to continue to be weighed down by geopolitical uncertainties, supply chain disruptions and increases in commodity prices, he said.  This has widened the gap between economic growth and income, leading to continuous disparity.  “The contrast lies starkly in the things that matter:  food on the table, shelter, access to quality education, health care,” he said.  Further, he expressed concern over the “emergence of a new form of racism”.   Malaysia is appalled by the legitimization of these acts under the feeble defence of human rights.  “Qur’an burnings are nothing but a clear Islamophobic act intended to incite hatred,” he stressed.

ROBERT ABELA, Prime Minister of Malta, spotlighting that his country is a “proud island nation”, quoted English poet John Donne, who said “No man is an island entire of itself.  Every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.”  Conscious of its unique geographic positions at the crossroads of Europe and Africa, Malta stepped up in a unique role, building bridges and understanding between different traditions, he observed, adding:  “Earlier this month we were proud to be just such a bridge.” Trusted by both sides, the country hosted talks between the United States Security Adviser and China’s Foreign Minister.  The countries response to the situation in Ukraine and other global crises is guided by its values of neutrality, he noted, stressing that Malta will never be neutral when it sees pain caused by an illegal invasion.  As the country tackles many challenges it faces with its Mediterranean neighbours, it will host the Summit of Southern European Union countries in September, he announced.

“The most pressing issue in the Mediterranean is Libya,” he underscored, recalling that within hours of the disaster caused by Storm Daniel, Malta — being a good neighbour — was on the way to provide rescue.  Reiterating his country’s objective to be a “bridge between the continents”, he said the Government opened new diplomatic missions in Ghana and Ethiopia; launched its first Strategy for Africa; and concluded agreements with Ethiopia to facilitate business connectivity.  While the sea plays a profound part in Malta’s national life and has a special place in the hearts of its people, he emphasized that securing the future of the seas and oceans is his Government’s urgent imperative. “We must preserve the sovereignty of coastal States — no matter what the ravages of the sea,” he underscored, pointing to the country’s “Island for Islands” initiative and its scholarship programme for students from small island developing States.

He went on to say that — like many young nations — Malta has harnessed digital technology and is breaking down trade and tariff barriers to expand into sectors previously off-limits to small nations.  To equip more citizens — of all ages and from all backgrounds — with digitals skills, it has included information and communications technology (ICT) as a compulsory subject in secondary schools.  Recognizing that, it may seem, that “technology is in charge” and the society has lost control, he said that artificial intelligence has a huge impact on all aspects of society.  “But if we, as leaders, take [the] right decisions — the impact can be a positive one,” he stressed, emphasizing that this technology can enhance public services.  To this end, Malta has developed six pilot projects, covering areas from health care to traffic management — “taking ownership, not trying to ignore the future”.

“To make artificial intelligence a global good, we need global action,” he continued, calling for enhanced international cooperation in the field.  Also noting that technology is changing fast, while its potential is vast, he said that failing to work together is not an option.  “Working together is not only a key value for Malta,” he observed, also noting that it is at the centre of the country’s political tradition.  “Standing together we can achieve so much more than working alone,” he emphasized.

MARK RUTTE, Prime Minister of the Netherlands, said that peace in Europe has been shattered by the Russian Federation’s aggression and asked for support in ending Moscow’s war.  He said that the United Nations is structured as if it were still 1945 but the world has changed.  “In this world, in this time, we all need each other, all 193 countries, because we all face a common task,” he said, underscoring that the Netherlands is not only one of the United Nations’ most loyal development donors but also supports the reform plans of institutions such as the World Bank.  He also called for building a circular economy by 2050, making the financial sector more sustainable and combating deforestation and loss of biodiversity.  “The Netherlands is increasing its annual contribution to international climate finance to €1.8 billion by 2025, and over half of that will go to climate adaptation,” he pledged.  He added that his country will provide 100 million people in developing countries with access to renewable energy by 2030 and will help set up and scale up green hydrogen corridors, together with South Africa, Egypt, Morocco, Namibia and others.  “Currently, only 2 per cent of global investment goes to Africa, despite the huge potential there,” he noted.  “The examples I’ve offered of Dutch action, working together with our Kingdom partners in the Caribbean, show that we are willing to fulfil our responsibility,” he said.

Speaking about peace, freedom and justice, he emphasized:  “On 17 July 2014 those values — which the Netherlands holds so dear — were trampled underfoot.  It was the day that flight MH17 was downed by Russia.”  On that day, the Dutch people and people everywhere were reminded, in such a painful manner, that peace, freedom and justice are not givens, but require constant efforts, he said.  “Every day, millions of people feel the effects of Russian aggression.  Above all the Ukrainian people, who are the victims of terrible crimes,” he said, adding:  “We can’t leave one country to fend for itself.”  He also said that some countries are hesitating, asking themselves why they should get involved in someone else’s war.  “To them I say:  it’s your war too.  Because even if there’s no shooting in your towns, and your cities aren’t being bombed, this war affects everyone,” he underscored.

The global food supply is being used as a weapon of war and food prices are soaring, he said, adding that millions of people are being pushed back into poverty and hunger while it is precisely the most vulnerable countries that are being hit the hardest.  “You won’t find them on the official casualty list, but those countries, and the people who live there, are also victims of [Russian Federation President] Putin’s aggression,” he said, highlighting that Moscow’s conduct goes against everything the United Nations stands for.  “The General Assembly of the United Nations is the ultimate time and place to hold each other to account, to remind each other of our responsibilities,” he said, calling on others to speak out against Mr. Putin and Moscow’s violation of the Charter of the United Nations and to tell the Russian Federation to give back the stolen children of Ukraine.

As some countries feel they are supporting peace in Ukraine simply by calling for an immediate ceasefire, he called the Russian Federation the perpetrator and the aggressor, stating:  “Putin has occupied 20 per cent of Ukraine.  An immediate ceasefire now would mean victory for Russia.”  He also said:  “Putin is counting on us being divided, he’s counting on us ending our support as the war drags on longer and costs more than we thought.  He’s counting on us losing interest and returning to our own problems.  This is Putin’s strategy.”

ANWAAR-UL-HAQ KAKAR, Prime Minister of Pakistan, said conflicts rage in Ukraine and in 50 other places around the world.  Tensions between the global powers have continued to escalate, with the rise of new and old military and political blocs.  “The world cannot afford Cold War 2.0.,” he asserted, noting that challenges confronting humankind demand global cooperation and collective action.  A succession of exogenous “shocks” — COVID-19, conflict and climate change — have devastated the economies of many developing countries.  Poverty and hunger have grown, reversing development gains of three decades, he observed, calling for the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals Stimulus, the expansion of concessional lending by multilateral development banks, and the resolution of the debt problems of the 59 countries in debt distress.  Also crucial is the fulfilment of the climate change commitments made at the twenty-eighth UN Climate Change Conference by the developed world:  to provide over $100 billion in annual climate finance; allocate at least half of such finance for adaptation in developing countries; operationalize the fund and funding arrangements for loss and damage; and accelerate their carbon emission mitigation targets.

Pakistan is one of the worst-affected countries from the impacts of climate change, he pointed out, drawing attention to the epic floods of last summer, which submerged a third of the country, killed 1,700 and displaced over 8 million people, destroyed vital infrastructure and caused over $30 billion in damage to the country’s economy.  Commending the commitment of over $10.5 billion for Pakistan’s comprehensive recovery plan — “the 4RF Plan” — he expressed hope that his Government’s development partners will accord priority to allocation of funds for the plan.  Reiterating his Government’s commitment to rapid economic recovery, he outlined plans to stabilize the country’s foreign exchange reserves and currency, expand domestic revenues and mobilize significant domestic and external investment.  “Pakistan’s long-term shift to geoeconomics is well underway,” he said, noting that the second phase of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor has been initiated.

Underscoring that Kashmir is the key to peace between Pakistan and India, he said that, since 5 August 2019, India has deployed 900,000 troops in illegally occupied Jammu and Kashmir to impose the “final solution” for Kashmir.  To this end, India has imposed extended lockdowns and curfews; jailed all the genuine Kashmir leaders; violently suppressed peaceful protests; resorted to extrajudicial killings of innocent Kashmiris in fake “encounters” and so-called “cordon and search operations”; and imposed collective punishments, destroying entire villages.  In light of this, global Powers should convince New Delhi to accept Pakistan’s offer of mutual restraint on strategic and conventional weapons, he asserted.  Turning to the situation in Afghanistan, he said peace there is “a strategic imperative for Pakistan” and advocated for continued humanitarian assistance to its population, in which Afghan girls and women are the most vulnerable, as well as for the revival of its economy and implementation of the connectivity projects with Central Asia.  He also condemned the cross-border terrorist attacks against Pakistan by the Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan, Da’esh and other groups operating from Afghanistan.

Further, he commended the progress made towards ending the conflicts in Syria and Yemen, as well as the normalization of relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran.  Unfortunately, he continued, the tragedy of Palestine continues, with Israeli military raids, air strikes, expansion of settlements and evictions of Palestinians. Turning to terrorism, he opposed “State terrorism” and underlined the need to address its root causes, such as poverty, injustice and foreign occupation.  He also voiced concern over the proliferation of Islamophobia:  while it is an age-old phenomenon, after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, it has assumed epidemic proportions, as manifested in the negative profiling of Muslims and attacks on Islamic sites and symbols, such as the recent public burnings of the Holy Quran.

MIA AMOR MOTTLEY, Prime Minister of Barbados, questioned whether the world’s actions will be sufficient to meet the Sustainable Development Goals.  She pointed out that, as of last year, 735 million suffered from chronic hunger, and that more people are likely to be hungry in 2030 than in 2015.  Fundamental governance changes are thus imperative.  While calling for a regulatory framework to ensure that artificial intelligence is used righteously, she observed that this area is not the immediate focus of many.  Turning to climate change, she claimed that multinational corporations engaged in fossil fuels have always known the consequences of their actions.  They must take responsibility and the international community needs to engage them meaningfully and credibly, she underscored, noting that their activities are bolstered by financial institutions as well as insurance and transport companies — they are, however, invisible in the transactions.

“We cannot continue to put the interests of a few before the lives of many,” she declared.  At the same time, she commended the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) establishment of a Resilience and Sustainability Trust that that will make funds available to vulnerable middle-income countries.  Welcoming that the World Bank has acknowledged the necessity of debt-pause clauses, she advocated for their applicability also to existing instruments.  Reality has disconfirmed the belief that short-term money can finance development and resilience, she said, arguing that markets should be educated on why long-term capital is “the only salvation for people and the planet”.  She also urged developed States to accept that reparatory justice is their obligation.  This must be a conversation of equal partners rather than “an active charity of those who simply feel that their conscience must be cleansed,” she stated.

On regional issues, she stressed that the situation in Haiti should be resolved — a Government of national unity may be the only path to safety.  There must be a compromise in forming it.  While Cuba has helped many countries, it continues to be a victim of a blockade as well as categorized as a designated State sponsor of terrorism, she lamented, calling on the beneficiaries of that country’s assistance to stay united.  The artificial division into good and bad cannot continue, as we need joint efforts to save the planet, she insisted.  “How it is possible for Chevron and the European Union to access the oil and gas of Venezuela when the people of the Caribbean Community cannot access it at the 35 per cent discount offered by the people of Venezuela?” she asked, detailing this has put a burden of 4 per cent of GDP on her country.

She went on to express support for the United Nations accepting responsibility for tax.  Although the world was able to find a mechanism for a global minimum corporate tax, it could not find a way to enhance financing opportunities for developing countries, she regretted.  Despite making progress, world leaders need to recommit themselves to actions — the mission is to save the planet, give opportunities to live, save biodiversity and soils and ensure access to safe water.  The Security Council should protect the world from the climate crisis rather than just speak to it, she emphasized, also asking world leaders to prompt their Governments to adopt decisions that will enhance funding, solidarity and trust.  Nevertheless, the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals also requires actions of individuals citizens — Governments should create conditions conducive to creating this synergy.

SRETTHA THAVISIN, Prime Minister of Thailand, noting that he only assumed office a few days ago, said that he intended to strengthen his country’s democratic institutions and values.  On foreign relations, Thailand will play a proactive and constructive role in partnership with the international community, forging closer ties through commerce, investment and trade agreements.  In the face of multiple global challenges, including fragile global peace and declining human development, he said his country intends to work closely with all nations to tackle such challenges head-on.  Welcoming the Secretary-General’s New Agenda for Peace, he noted that Thailand’s vision for effective multilateralism is inclusive, resilient and result oriented, reaffirming its commitment to peace and inclusivity amid increasing international conflicts, violence and a shifting global order.

Highlighting the links between sustainable peace and development and respect for human rights, he said Thailand is working to advance equality and justice, especially for the most marginalized.  It will ensure that the law is fair, strictly enforced and applied to everyone equally.  Against this backdrop, he noted that his country is ASEAN’s candidate for the Human Rights Council for the term 2025-2027, which reaffirms its commitment to the advancement of human rights at home and abroad.  Turning to health care, he noted that his country plans to invest in upgrading its universal health-care programme, as the pandemic underscored the vital importance of such access.  Dealing with contagious diseases is the world’s shared responsibility, he stressed, calling for the global health architecture to be reformed and strengthened, including through the establishment of a pandemic treaty.

Underscoring the need to accelerate the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, he said that his Government plans to enact policies to stimulate job creation and provide financial support for low-income families and other vulnerable groups, thereby helping create a more just society.  Emphasizing his country’s long-standing locally driven development approach, he highlighted its “Sufficiency Economy Philosophy” and its “Bio-Circular-Green Economy Model”, which leverages science, technology and innovation to advance economic growth, while conserving the environment and ecosystems.  “These are not merely concepts; they are being implemented in Thailand,” he said, pointing to its sustainable agronomy model, which reimagines the way farmers cultivate their lands and manage water supply.

Turning to the global climate crisis, an “urgent threat that requires collective and immediate action”, he said Thailand welcomed the Climate Ambition Summit to accelerate climate action.  The worsening climate crisis will exacerbate food insecurity and malnutrition, he said, noting that his country, which is a leading exporter of food and agricultural products, is impacted by climate change and El Niño.  Nonetheless, he enumerated measures taken by his country to bolster food security, including improving its water management systems and farming techniques, as well as its implementation of a green finance mechanism to boost growth and investments in environmental and social projects.  To this end, he spotlighted Thailand’s national energy plan, which integrates its climate targets, including to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40 per cent by 2040, through enhancing energy efficiency and increasing the share of renewable energy, among other measures.

XAVIER ESPOT ZAMORA, Head of Government of Andorra, said that greenhouse gas emissions — caused by the unlimited consumption of natural resources — have led the planet to exhaustion.  “We humans are guilty of climate change,” he added.  It is too late to avoid certain consequences, which are already unfortunately irreversible, but not too late to slow down others.  Solutions are to be found in a new form of multilateralism — one oriented towards collective action.  Solutions must contribute to rebuilding international cooperation, providing adequate resources and promoting inclusive governance.  “We must, more than ever, support and remember the original values of this Organization,” he added. 

Europe is worried about a conflict that has ended up becoming a war of attrition, with enormous consequences for Ukraine’s civilian population, he continued, condemning all violations of that country’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.  Yemen, Pakistan, Ethiopia, the Sahel and other territories are no longer in the headlines; yet these are frozen conflict zones.  Turning to the 2030 Agenda, he said Andorra is committed to the achievement of sustainable development.  “We all have a window of opportunity here to ensure a viable and sustainable future for all,” he added.  Andorra has placed particular importance on education, health care and gender equality.

Andorra is a high mountain country, particularly sensitive to changing climate, which seriously threatens its biodiversity, water supply and even its way of life, he emphasized.  Underscoring Andorra’s geographic and demographic connection with members of the European Union, he said it is essential to continue to defend the values of multilateralism, such as human rights, democracy and rule of law.  Andorra urges the world to take advantage of the era of scientific knowledge which has helped so many improve their living conditions thanks to medicine and artificial intelligence.  Solutions, to be fair and sustainable, must include everyone, he added. 

PHILIP JOSEPH PIERRE, Prime Minister of Saint Lucia, said that the Sustainable Development Goals are in peril.  He described his country’s entire post-independence experience as one of dashed expectations and institutional frustration, adding:  “In the 1990s, we watched helplessly as powerful countries utilized the World Trade Organization (WTO) to dismantle Saint Lucia’s marketing arrangements for bananas in Europe, forcing hundreds of our farmers into poverty, while these already rich countries provided huge subsidies to their own farmers.”  Mentioning Caribbean financial services industries that were blacklisted, he said that the Russian-Ukrainian war revealed which metropolitan capitals are the real tax havens and the true pipelines for illicit money.  “Our citizenship by investment programmes, which we have successfully pursued for decades, are being undermined while the golden passport and golden visa programmes of some OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) countries remain unquestioned, untouched and unmolested,” he noted.

Recalling that the people of the Caribbean and Saint Lucia have been designated by the African Union as part of its sixth region which comprises people of African origin, he stated:  “We feel ourselves obliged to seek justice, through reparations, for the crimes against humanity that tore our ancestors from our African homeland and enslaved them in the lands of the Western hemisphere.”  Reparations for slavery mean that the countries which benefited and developed from 400 years of free labour from enslaved humans should now provide compensation, he said, urging the United Nations to embrace this principle as a central part of its work.  Stating that developed countries behave as though they are blameless and not responsible to repair and compensate for the damage they have inflicted on the planet, he said that the goal of 1.5°C to stay alive is now very much at risk and called for an ambitious global climate action plan to 2030 and a complete reform of the global financial system.

Underscoring that there is no peace and the Sustainable Development Goals are in jeopardy, he asked:  “How can trust and global solidarity for sustainable development be rebuilt when the unwarranted Russian war in Ukraine rages on with its collateral economic damage to other countries the world over, of biting inflation, particularly on food prices, high oil prices and shortage of food?”  He also said that the embargo against Cuba must immediately be withdrawn, the sanctions against Venezuela should cease, the Palestinian people should have their own State alongside Israel and the people of Taiwan should be allowed the continued enjoyment of their right to self-determination. He expressed grave concern over the deteriorating political, social, humanitarian and security crises in Haiti which requires attention. “The need for robust security assistance to counter the murderous armed gangs is clear,” he stated, voicing the Caribbean Community’s (CARICOM) hopes that the establishment of the multinational force will be given full endorsement by the Security Council to support restoration of law and order and improve the humanitarian conditions of Haiti’s people.  As CARICOM welcomes Kenya’s willingness to lead such a multinational force, he urged various Haitian stakeholders to cooperate with the Community to find a political compromise for the sake of the Haitian people.

He also said that illegal firearms were responsible for 70 per cent of the homicides in CARICOM States in 2022 while neither Saint Lucia, nor its fellow CARICOM member States manufacture small arms.  He welcomed the announcement by the United States to provide technical assistance to combat illegal weapons smuggling into the Caribbean. 

SITIVENI LIGAMAMADA RABUKA, Prime Minister of Fiji, stated that today’s world is full of pain, mistrust, mysticism, cynicism and apathy. Instead of leveraging global cooperation to address the challenges, growing geopolitical rivalry is escalating tensions, he observed.  In addition, for the Pacific, climate change has been identified as a threat to peace, security and the region’s very existence.  “We directly bear the brunt of climate change on our coastlines, communities, livelihoods, security, statehood and identity,” he underscored.  Further, he noted that small island developing States also struggle to respond to global supply shocks.  Their debt levels impact the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.  Nevertheless, Fiji remains committed to them as well as to Our Common Agenda, he declared, expressing support also for the Summit of the Future.

In this regard, his country recently presented a second voluntary national review of the 2030 Agenda implementation.  Lamenting that the pandemic as well as other natural hazards caused a significant economic downturn in Fiji, he announced that recovery is already underway.  He went on to reiterate that his country will continue to uphold global peace and security, taking pride in the participation of Fijian troops in six United Nations peacekeeping missions.  Endorsing the “A New Agenda for Peace” policy brief, he pointed out that it is consistent with the Boe Declaration on Regional Security issued by leaders of the Pacific Islands Forum.  He thus proclaimed:  “We must consider the Pacific a zone of peace.”  As the blue Pacific is the world’s largest ocean, it should be protected and sustainably managed, he stressed.  To this end, the region’s leaders are guided by the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent.

Recalling the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Fiji remains committed to implementing corresponding human rights covenants and conventions as well as the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the International Labour Organization (ILO) Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention.  Returning to climate change, the world needs not only to reduce emissions but also to support vulnerable communities and foster resilience, he said, expressing hope that, this year, the modalities of the loss and damage fund will be finalized and the climate finance commitment to mobilize $100 billion annually will be met.  He thus welcomed the announcement of the President of the United States to contribute $11 billion every year to help lower-income countries implement their goals.  Nevertheless, he emphasized that the global financial architecture requires reform if future targets are to be met.

On disaster risk reduction, he detailed that his country enhances its responses through building resilient infrastructure, strengthening early warning systems, enhancing community preparedness and improving disaster response capacities as well as promoting ecosystem-based approaches.  Adding that Fiji will continue to deploy humanitarian and disaster relief to neighbouring countries, he informed that it has already relocated six coastal communities out of 42 in need.  Further, Fiji signed the High Seas Treaty and intends to ratify it as soon as possible.  Last week, the country’s Parliament also endorsed the WTO Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies.  To combat plastic pollution, Fiji is actively engaged in negotiating a new treaty, he spotlighted, urging countries to finalize it by 2024.  Turning to the strained health systems of small island developing States, he encouraged partners to contribute to a voluntary health fund for these countries.  He also welcomed progress on a multidimensional vulnerability index.

XAVIER BETTEL, Prime Minister of Luxembourg, stressing that States must act together as “truly united nations”, said:  “I have an impression that everyone has their own definition of what it means to be united.”  First, it means to be able to count on each other, he observed, pointing out that Luxembourg, as a small country, has always believed that a union with other States makes it greater and stronger.  As a founder of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), OECD and the Council of Europe, it wants to strengthen multilateralism by building bridges.  Pointing out that the pandemic and the war in Ukraine have led to worsening of poverty indicators, he recalled that, for years, his country has allocated 1 per cent of its gross national income to official development assistance (ODA) for least developed countries.  He also observed that in many European countries, when Governments come to power, one of the first budgets they cut is that on cooperation, because of their domestic problems, adding:  “We do not realize that the problems we have at home are ‘luxury problems’ […].  The problems they [other countries] have are the question of survival.”

He went on to say that the High-level Dialogue on Financing for Development — prepared by Luxembourg and South Africa — allowed Member States to identify ways for bridging funding gaps for the Sustaianble Development Goals and mobilizing resources for developing countries to tackle debt.  On climate change, he said that tornadoes and floods, which used to happen in other parts of the world, are now happening “at home”.  “Can you imagine coming from a country that risks disappearing because ice caps are melting?” he asked, encouraging those present to think about how they could change this.  In this context, his Government has increased its Green Climate Fund by 25 per cent for 2024-2027, while Luxembourg Green Exchange has emitted its first green bonds and mobilized private capital.  Underscoring the importance of public-private partnerships, he stated:  “You are welcome to visit Luxembourg to see the different options to bring the public and the private [sectors] together.”

Expressing regret that, in 2023, human, civil and economic rights differ for people depending on their place of birth, gender and orientation, he lamented:  “We are not united when we speak about human rights.”  For Luxembourg, defending human rights of women and children will remain a priority, he underscored, also calling on those present to be “intolerant to intolerance”.  He also noted that “being gay is not a choice, but being homophobic is [a choice]”, pointing out that he had to confront people who do not accept diversity.  Recalling that he is one of the few leaders who had calls with Ukraine President Volodymir Zelenskyy and Russian Federation President Vladimir V. Putin, he said he was criticized for it, adding:  “But I don’t regret it.  If we want to find solutions, we need to speak to one and to the other.”  Noting that he grew up in peace, he emphasized:  “If I am free in front of you, it is because other countries supported Luxembourg.” Countries will truly be “united nations” if they provide their citizens with the same rights to live, to be educated and to be as they are, and not like other people would like them to be, he emphasized.

SHEIKH HASINA, Prime Minister of Bangladesh, highlighted that the poverty rate in her country has been reduced from 41.5 per cent in 2006 to 18.7 per cent in 2022, and extreme poverty has gone from 25.1 per cent to 5.6 per cent.  Additionally, social safety net coverage has been expanded to ensure social and financial security of destitute women, widows, the elderly, persons with disabilities, persons of third gender and other marginalized segments of society.  In the current fiscal year, $12 billion has been allocated for the social safety net programmes.  Reiterating her Government’s commitment to ensure women empowerment and gender equality within a stipulated time frame, she said special attention has been given to overall education, including female literacy.

She underscored that, despite contributing less than .47 per cent of global emissions, Bangladesh is one of the most climatically vulnerable countries in the world.  Accordingly, she pointed to the “Bangladesh Climate Change Trust Fund”, established in 2009 to finance climate adaptation.  Under the “Ashrayan” project, a landmark initiative of her Government for landless and homeless people, more than 800,000 families have been provided with houses free of cost.  The developed economies must fulfil their $100 billion commitments, she asserted, demanding the urgent operationalization of loss and damage funds, as agreed at the twenty-seventh UN Climate Change Conference.  She called for stronger global solidarity in sharing the burden of climate migrants induced by sea-level rise, salinity increase, river erosion, floods and droughts.  The interlinked crises of the past few years have pushed up prices of food, energy and commodities globally — as an energy- and food-importing country, Bangladesh’s import bills have shot up significantly, having a negative impact on its foreign currency reserves.

Stressing that her Government has ensured food for everyone, she spotlighted various initiatives to keep inflation under control.  In this context, she voiced deep concern that the Black Sea Grain Initiative has become defunct and called upon all parties concerned for its early restoration.  For countries like Bangladesh, uninterrupted access to fertilizers must be ensured, she added.  As part of Vision 2041, her Government is heavily investing in building a “Smart Bangladesh” to transform the country into a high-income, poverty-free developed nation, grounded in proper utilization of science and technology, and powered by innovation.  Further, she noted that after peaceful settlements of maritime boundaries with neighbouring countries, the “blue economy” has opened up a new horizon for the country’s development.  In this context, she emphasized that the provisions of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea need to be effectively implemented to ensure the sustainable use of marine resources.

Further, she expressed concern about the continued prevalence of terrorist threats, which are now taking new shape due to the misuse of ICT.  “The recent incident of burning copies of the Holy Quran has shaken our conscience,” she said, adding that such acts of perversion not only hurt religious sentiments of Muslims, but also instigate violence and harm the peaceful coexistence of people of various faiths and beliefs.  Turning to the forcibly displaced Rohingya people from Myanmar, she said last month marked six years of their mass displacement.  Out of humanitarian concern, Bangladesh has given temporary shelter to those who fled their homes for safety.  However, the displaced Rohingyas want to return to Myanmar and live a peaceful life there, she underlined, adding:  “Let’s ensure that those destitute people return to their own country.”

MOHAMMED SHIA' AL SUDANI, Prime Minister of Iraq, said that his country has always believed in the principles the UN was founded upon.  The spirit of consensus has prevailed in Iraq.  “We now have a Government that enjoys a widespread political coalition that covers all aspects of society,” he added.  It has adopted a programme with crucial priorities that reflect issues that must be implemented without delay and that benefit the people of Iraq. These priorities include employment opportunities, poverty eradication, fighting corruption and enacting economic reforms.  “Iraq has become a safe environment” for investors as well.  A pivotal State in the global oil market, Iraq is also working on a regional corridor that will make transport and trade easier.

Turning to corruption, he said, indeed, his country faced a “corruption pandemic”.  The Government is focused on eradicating “this disease”, he stressed.  It is vital to pursue those who spread corruption.  “We must return the money they have stolen because we believe there is a symbiotic relationship between corruption and terrorism,” he went on to say.  “We want Iraq part of the solution to any international and regional problem,” he added. Iraq is committed to international law and respects all United Nations resolutions.  That is why Baghdad rejects any interference in its internal affairs “regardless of the excuse”.  He stressed that “Iraq will not be a launching point of aggression against any other State.”  To its neighbours, his country extends the hand of friendship.  “We hope to achieve regional integration.”  Iraq’s place in the field of international cooperation must be bolstered.

On the holding of local elections, after a 10-year hiatus, he said the Federal Government is working with the region of Kurdistan and all other regions of Iraq on “equal footing”.  Turning to climate change, he noted that “the land of Mesopotamia” is suffering from a drought, also cautioning:  “The cradle of civilization must not be allowed to die of thirst.” Iraq is working on exerting more efforts between relevant regional States to form a negotiating bloc and to manage cross-border water resources.  He stressed the need to mobilize international efforts to ensure the sustainability of water sources.  On a national level, Iraq has taken steps to lower emissions and combat pollution.  However, institutions are needed to deal with mounting climate challenges.

Further, he underscored Iraq’s “intensifying” efforts in combating drugs and any related activities.  “It is no secret that there is a direct relationship between terrorism and drugs,” he said.  Young people constitute 60 per cent of the country’s population.  “They are the best investment,” he continued, underscoring the many programmes that aim to support students and youth so that they can find employment opportunities.  Students and young people must be empowered with skills that can allow for innovation.  He also recognized the role of women in helping Iraq achieve victory against terrorism. Pledging support to the Palestinian people, he called for an end to the suffering of the Syrian people and stressed that they must be allowed full control of their territory.  “Burning the holy Qur’an is a hate crime,” he went on to say, warning also:  “We, in Iraq, know the bitter taste of religious extremism.”

GASTON BROWNE, Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, said that Guyana’s election as a non-permanent member of the Security Council for 2024-2026 demonstrates that “smallness is not an impediment to making significant contributions to international decision-making”.  Also noting that the world is “failing developing countries”, he stressed that those States must build unity.  “A united front can compel the global community to sit up, to listen and to act,” he stated, pointing out that his country’s President has been building alliances to counter climate-change impacts.  To this end, Antigua and Barbuda cofounded the Commission of Small Island States on Climate Change and International Law, which requested an advisory opinion by the International Tribunal of the Law of the Sea, he noted, also reporting that advisory proceedings started in Hamburg on 11 September. Emphasizing that small island States do not want to rewrite laws but, rather, seek to clarify the existing ones, he added:  “SIDS [small island developing States] cannot sit idly while our countries sink beneath our feet or are crippled by a burden of debt, as we are left — abandoned by the international system — to rebuild within our own limited means, one disaster after another.”

Although these countries are not the poorest, they are vulnerable to climate change and lack resilience due to structural problems, limited human and financial resources, and a lack of economies of scale caused by their isolation from “manufacturing hubs”.  Denying them concessional financing based on their per capita income is unfair, he underscored, noting that the multidimensional vulnerability index is their “getaway” to essential financing and “possibly the final beacon when seeking insurance and compensation against the rising tides”. Announcing that Antigua and Barbuda will host the Fourth International Conference on Small Island Developing States in 2024, he said it will also establish a centre of excellence for small island developing States.

Recalling that, historically, the nations that thrived on the industrial revolution did so “on the backs of enslaved and victimized generations from the Caribbean and other corners of the African diaspora”, he said it is unjust that the countries that paid the highest human price are bearing the heaviest climate burden.

He went on to report that the use of illegal guns accounts for a homicide rate of 15.1 per 100,000 people in the Caribbean region, spotlighting that most of those weapons are smuggled or trafficked from the United States.  At the same time, his country faces challenges in obtaining modern technology — satellite imagery, radar and surveillance systems — to tackle smuggling of weapons, he said, voicing concern over the potential acquisition of autonomous weapons by organized criminal groups.  “This isn’t the plot of a dystopian novel, but a looming reality,” he stressed, urging Member States to formulate a legally binding instrument to prohibit lethal autonomous weapon systems by 2026.  Also noting that his country is small, without military might and financial influence, he emphasized:  “We refuse to let our size diminish our voice or lessen our rightful place at the decision-making table.”

RAYMOND NDONG SIMA, Prime Minister of Gabon, said his country has emerged from trials and tribulations following a chaotic electoral process which was interrupted on 30 August by the security and defence forces.  This intervention was condemned by the international community as a violation of a democratic requirement for the handover of power.  He recalled the Gabonese political context which preceded this takeover of power, specifically the experience of the 2016 presidential election, of which the current situation is a result.  This election — denounced as fraudulent — was characterized by violence and loss of human lives.

“Any attentive observer of Gabonese political life in recent years would be fully aware of the unravelling of the situation,” he continued, adding that neither the political actors nor the voters were ready to accept — once again —electoral misconduct.  Given this situation, the defence and security forces had a choice:  they could either prepare to repress the protests with the risk of being prosecuted before international courts or they could choose to interrupt a process that is fraudulent and dangerous for national cohesion.  They chose the latter, he said, noting that “consequently, this military intervention without bloodshed, without any material damage was seen as a lesser of two evils”.  He stressed the need to prepare reforms and return to an ordinary institutional process that would allow for the handing over of power through elections.

Turning to the multiple security, humanitarian, health, climate and geopolitical crises, he said the system of collective security advocated by the Charter of the United Nations appears to be fiction in many regions of the world, particularly in Africa, where the Sahel region, the Horn of Africa and the Great Lakes region have become “real epicentres of instability”.  In most of these regions, the predation of natural resources constitutes a significant source of conflict to the point those resources have become a real curse for the countries that possess them.  Accordingly, he called for real structural transformation of the peace and security architecture of the United Nations.  The absence of adequate resources allocated to prevention and peacebuilding has contributed to the resurgence of crises in periods of transition or to new conflicts.  “Our generation has a responsibility towards future generations,” he emphasized, detailing Gabon’s investments in the preservation of biodiversity and its commitment to fighting climate change.

Pointing to the new debt-for-nature financial contract, he said it offers opportunities to increase budgets dedicated to protecting biodiversity, responding to the unsustainability of the debt of developing countries and combating climate change.  Through this new green financing mechanism, Gabon has benefited from restructuring 3 per cent of its debt, against a commitment to invest $163 million in the preservation of its marine ecosystems.  Further, he called on international financial partners to increase debt conversion initiatives to face the challenges of global warming, loss of biodiversity and sustainable development.  He said that, throughout the transition he is leading, he plans to accelerate the implementation of the 2030 Agenda by strengthening national policies in a pragmatic manner and encouraging innovative partnerships.  However, to achieve this end, it is fundamental that the international community increases its support for developing countries, he said, declaring:  “Africa must be able to find its rightful place as a full-fledged player on the international scene and not simply a stake for the world’s powers.”

MANASSEH DAMUKANA SOGAVARE, Prime Minister of Solomon Islands, said the planet’s health has declined and poverty has increased since the 17 SDGs were adopted eight years ago, and runaway climate change threatens the world’s very existence.  “Taking stock of our achievements, it is unacceptable that 85 per cent of the global Sustainable Development Goals are either off-track, regressed or stagnant,” he said.  “The gravity of this situation cannot be ignored, especially for LDCs and SIDS.”  As a least developed country reviewing its 2016-2035 National Development Strategy, the Government has made infrastructure resilience, digital connectivity, technology transfer, investment, trade and energy reforms its priorities.  He called for the immediate implementation of the six priorities of the Doha Programme of Action 2022-2031 and the translation of these commitments into reality.

The world’s commitment to multilateralism must be strengthened, and he called for stronger political will from the “haves” to grant the least developed countries non-reciprocal trade arrangements and the Generalized System of Preference arrangement.  Good neighbourly relations mean caring and striving for all, yet the 47 least developed countries account for only 1 per cent of global trade.  Acknowledging the value of South-South cooperation, he applauded China for several initiatives, including the Belt and Road Initiative.  During a July discussion with Chinese President Xi Jinping, the two Governments established a comprehensive strategic framework to achieve the Solomon Islands’ National Development Strategy and the 2030 Agenda through transformative initiatives.  He called on all partners to adopt this transformative partnership model.  “If we are to rebuild trust and reignite solidarity, then let us start by changing how we engage and reforming our international financial architecture,” he said.

As a small island developing State, the Government supports the Fourth Small Islands Developing Countries Conference to be held in Antigua and Barbuda in May 2024.  Turning to environmental issues, he said global stocktaking under the Paris Agreement is critical to “keep everyone honest, know where we are, what we need to do and how to keep the 1.5°C goal alive”, adding that global trust needs to be restored to uphold the accord’s credibility.  He welcomed the International Court of Justice’s deliberations on the Vanuatu initiative for climate justice.  He then noted that the Pacific has been a stage of power politics for many years, and this situation continued after the United Nations’ inception in 1945.  From 1946 to 1996, approximately 300 nuclear devices were tested in the Pacific, including in the Marshall Islands, French Polynesia and Kiribati.  “Did we have a say in this?” he asked.  “We never did.”  These countries and their people must be compensated commensurably. 

As the Solomon Islands is a signatory to the 1985 Treaty of Raratonga and the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, the Government’s commitment to keep the Blue Pacific Continent nuclear-free is non-negotiable.  Standing with like-minded Pacific islanders, the Solomon Islands is appalled by Japan’s decision to discharge over one million tons of treated nuclear wastewater into the ocean.  He noted that the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) assessment report is inconclusive and the scientific data shared remains inadequate, incomplete and biased.  “If this nuclear wastewater is safe, it should be stored in Japan,” he said.  “The fact that it is dumped into the ocean shows that it is not safe.”  He called on Japan to explore other options to address the treated nuclear wastewater and to immediately stop discharging it into the Pacific Ocean.  “If we are to rebuild trust and reignite global solidarity, we must be honest and frank in protecting our oceans, which is the lifeblood of our people.”

PHAM MINH CHINH, Prime Minister of Viet Nam, noted that, having endured great sufferings and sacrifices in the past century, his country understands better than any the value of cooperation “and putting the past behind” to turn enemies into friends and partners.  As a model for post-war cooperation, recovery and reconciliation, Viet Nam prioritizes the values of trust, sincerity and solidarity, all of which enhance multilateralism.  Citing threats including the arms race and the risks of weapons of mass destruction, non-traditional security challenges, climate and food insecurity, he posed the critical question:  What do world leaders need to do to help their respective nations and the world writ large?  “Global challenges require global solutions,” he stressed, urging the international community to foster sincerity and trust through candid dialogue to address differences and prevent and contain conflicts, and refrain from the use of force and power politics.

He emphasized the need for enhanced international solidarity, with each country placing its interests in the broader picture of the international community, strengthening the central role of the UN.  Affirming Viet Nam’s solidarity with other countries, including Cuba, he urged the United States to end its embargo of the island nation.  States require solutions for the whole population, with people as the centre and goal, as development can only be meaningful when it benefits every person — creating jobs, enhancing investment in education, social security and healthcare.  He affirmed the importance of holistic political, economic and social measures, promoting innovation and startups, reducing trade and investment barriers, and facilitating market access.  He further called for expedited reforms of international financial and monetary institutions towards more equity and equality for developing countries, improving their ability to effectively manage risk.

It is likewise crucial to mobilize and effectively utilize resources in which self-reliance and resilience and harnessing potential are important factors, underscoring the prosperity and strength of each nation, region and the world at large.  Least developed countries are the most vulnerable to the severe consequences of climate change, natural disasters and diseases, requiring substantial assistance in finance, technology, human resources and governance.  He further voiced support for the Summit of the Future to effect changes via a new mindset, modus operandi and actions with a view to help multilateral institutions operate in a more synchronized manner.  Quoting former President Ho Chi Minh, he stated:  “a country is rooted in its people, only when the root holds strong can the tree stand firm”.  By building on that philosophy, Viet Nam has recoded historic socioeconomic achievements across the board, with the multidimensional poverty rate having dropped to under 2 per cent.

Viet Nam steadfastly pursues the consistent foreign policy of independence and self-reliance, and remains a responsible member of the international community.  He recalled that Vietnamese men and women from the People’s Army and police forces have been participating in UN peacekeeping missions.  Domestically, the country is expediting an energy transition to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, and maintains food security for a population of 100 million — while also striving to export around 7 million tons of rice in 2023, helping to ensure global food security.  “From a region plagued with war and division, Southeast Asia has emerged as a region of solidarity, friendship and cooperation, and an epicentrum of growth,” he affirmed.  Moreover, ASEAN has affirmed its centrality in maintaining peace, security and prosperity in the region.  He reaffirmed the country’s commitment to working with countries within and outside the region to safeguard peace, stability, security, safety, and freedom of navigation in the South China Sea.

NTSOKOANE SAMUEL MATEKANE, Prime Minister of Lesotho, emphasized that small and landlocked developing economies like his own “bear the biggest brunt” of economic uncertainty because they have not yet fully integrated into global markets.  Reversing current economic trajectories requires multilateral cooperation, and the international community must level the playing field of the world’s financing architecture by democratizing and reforming the Bretton Woods institutions.  He called for G20 countries to provide at least $500 billion per year toward the Sustainable Development Goals through a combination of grants and both concessional and non-concessional finance.  Despite the country’s challenges, however, he affirmed that Lesotho is “not sitting back” as a spectator to achieve the SDGs.  His Government hosted a high-level event on nutrition and food security this year and has embarked on comprehensive constitutional and legislative reforms.  These reforms will improve management of public resources, checks and balances, and political stability with a focus on the development agenda. 

To address climate change, he announced that Lesotho will host the ‘Water and Hydrogen in a Digital Future Conference and Expo’ to showcase its efforts to become the world’s first sustainable “digital hydro nation”.  In order to generate clean energy for domestic use and export to neighbouring countries, he invited other countries and the private sector to invest in the sector. While he recognized climate change as “one of the formidable challenges of our time,” he spoke of “a silver lining on the horizon” to “turn the fortunes” of Lesotho’s people.  Lesotho has water, sunlight, and wind “in abundance” that provides opportunities for innovation and partnerships to generate renewable energy and create jobs.  He also urged developed countries to meet their commitments of providing $100 billion a year to developing States to implement the Paris Agreement.  People with disabilities, the youth, women, and other vulnerable groups need to be at the centre, and inclusion of all stakeholders will bring “fundamental changes in the livelihood and well-being of our societies”.

Regarding international peace and security, he called for the total elimination of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction, as well as the implementation of the Programme of Action on Small Arms.  Peace will continue to elude Lesotho if access to small arms and light weapons, which kill the country’s people on a daily basis, remains unfettered.  He also stated that Lesotho’s troops in Mozambique, under the Southern African Development Community, have made “commendable strides in thwarting the threat of deadly insurrection”.  Elsewhere, he urged the international community to “not forget the plight of the Saharawi and Palestinian peoples, who continue to live under oppression”.  Western Sahara should determine its own destiny and live in peace side by side with Morocco, and the solution to the Palestine question is to implement the two-State solution with Israel and Palestine living side by side in peace, security, and harmony.  Moreover, he called for the uplifting of the economic embargo against Cuba and the remaining sanctions against Zimbabwe, as well as United Nations Security Council reform along the lines of the Ezulwini Consensus and Sirte Declaration for a more transparent and democratic Council.

Recognizing the current digital age that “compels our countries to ensure wide access to digital tools,” he stated that technology is key to fighting diseases and pandemics.  Global cooperation needs to ensure that access to health and medicine continues to be adequately funded as a priority, particularly since full digital access remains a challenge for rural communities — further perpetuating inequalities.  While digital access has increased civic engagement, especially among women and girls, he cautioned against losing sight of the need to address clear threats to people’s rights to safety and privacy.

SAMDECH MOHA BORVOR THIPADEI MANET HUN, Prime Minister of Cambodia, stressed that, without bold, urgent action, the world will see increased poverty, hunger and pandemics, along with more entrenched cycles of instability and conflict.  Trust among nations must be restored, as must be trust in the rules-based global system, in which all States fully respect international law and the Charter of the United Nations.  However, he emphasized that the international community must first address development issues and prevent existing conflicts from widening.  On that, he expressed support for the Secretary-General’s “New Agenda for Peace”, along with his vision for the future of global cooperation outlined in Our Common Agenda.  Further, his call for a stimulus for the Sustainable Development Goals — an investment of $500 billion a year on sustainable development and climate action between now and 2030 — will put progress towards implementing the Goals back on track.

Turning to national progress, he reported that, over the past 20 years, poverty has fallen steadily in Cambodia; the country was hailed for its success in controlling and recovering from COVID-19; and economic growth — which returned in 2022 — will continue in 2023. Further, 72.5 per cent of national Goal indicators are on track, he noted, pointing out that Cambodia is “steadily transitioning from least developed to developing country status in 2027”.  He attributed this to sound Government policies, along with the country’s ability to maintain peace, political stability, high economic growth, equitable distribution of benefits and good cooperation with all stakeholders. Additionally, Cambodia successfully held general elections in July with a turnout rate of almost 85 per cent — the highest since UN-supervised elections in 1993.  This “is a clear indication of our people’s greater political maturity and enthusiasm in exercising their democratic rights,” he observed.

He then detailed the Government’s “pentagonal strategy”, which aims for growth, employment, equity, efficiency and sustainability. To ensure its success, the Government will accelerate reforms to ensure that public administration runs efficiently with integrity, along with safeguarding peace, political stability, security, social order and macroeconomic stability.  Further, Cambodia will continue its independent, neutral foreign policy — based on the rule of law, mutual respect and adherence to the Charter — to promote its national interests, strengthen existing friendships and build more amicable ties.  He underscored that Cambodia “shall not authorize any foreign military base on its territory” — as clearly stated in its Constitution — nor will it allow any country or group “to use its territory against another country”.

Spotlighting a national goal to become mine-free by 2025, he called for continued financial and technical support to this end.  He also urged greater participation by the international community in raising awareness of the dangers of landmines and unexploded ordnance — “the hidden killers that threaten human security even after armed conflicts end”.  As a troop-contributing country, Cambodia supports increasing the portion of ODA devoted to peacebuilding and will further contribute to the process of peacekeeping by standing for membership in the Peacebuilding Commission for the 2025-26 term.  He added that, despite challenges and instability, “we can build a better world for all by working together towards our common goals with reinforced mutual trust and global solidarity”.

IRAKLI GARIBASHVILI, Prime Minister of Georgia, began by reminding the Assembly of the full-scale military aggression his country suffered in 2008, the devastating consequences of which are still being experienced today.  He noted that 20 per cent of Georgian territory is under occupation by the Russian Federation with an attendant displacement of hundreds of thousands of people from their homes.  Nevertheless, “despite the devastation we have endured, we have not hesitated to pursue our ambitions”, he added.  Taking the opportunity to thank the international community for its unwavering support in upholding Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, he also called for a global effort to persuade the Russian Federation “to engage with the Geneva International Discussions and fully implement the EU-mediated 2008 Ceasefire Agreement”.

He highlighted his Government’s achievements, stating that Georgia has enjoyed sustained economic growth over the past 10 years in addition to double-digit economic growth for two consecutive years.  Official reserve assets as of July 2023 show a historic 90 per cent increase in comparison to 2012.  Unemployment and poverty rates are similarly at a historical low.  He stated that, on the rule of law, Georgia ranked top in Eastern Europe and Central Asia regions by the World Justice Project’s 2022 Rule of Law Index, adding that the 2023 Numbeo Crime Index positions his country as the eighth-safest country in Europe and eighteenth globally.  His Government is also committed to social welfare and education.  “These successes are just a fraction of the progress my country has made, but they clearly demonstrate our efforts to create opportunities for all our citizens, including those residing in the occupied territories of Georgia,” he said.

Describing his country’s intended membership in the European Union as a “geopolitical priority”, he spotlighted achievements of his Government towards this reality, including the European Union Association Agreement, the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement and the visa-free regime.  He expressed his country’s commitment to address the 12 priorities required for European Union Candidate Status, saying:  “Through a rigorous, inclusive and transparent domestic implementation process involving all stakeholders, we are on track to complete them this year.”  Spelling out Georgia’s contributions over more than two decades to NATO missions globally, as well as the loss of 32 Georgian soldiers in Afghanistan, he reiterated his country’s “unwavering commitment to stand alongside NATO to safeguard our collective security”.  He bemoaned the aggression against Ukraine that “reawakens the trauma of the 2008 war in Georgia” and highlighted his Government’s response to the situation.  It has sponsored and supported over 500 resolutions, statements and initiatives on the conflict and is currently catering to more than 2,200 Ukrainian students, besides other humanitarian assistance. 

On Armenia and Azerbaijan, he said his Government’s Peaceful Neighbour Initiative will help to “finally bring lasting peace to the South Caucasus” while the comprehensive road maps signed with Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan will “eliminate bottlenecks and enhance the Middle Corridor from 2022 to 2027”.  He noted that, in light of the apparent increasing need for energy and the equal imperative for addressing climate change, Georgia is actively pursuing new ventures in renewable energy with a goal to attract investors and create a favourable environment for the establishment of innovative power plants.  “We remain dedicated to achieving even greater results for the Georgian people while making significant contributions to the global community,” he stated.

LEO VARADKAR, Taoiseach of Ireland, stressing that the Sustainable Development Goals represent a high point for international cooperation, said his country led negotiations with Kenya in 2015, and this year worked with Qatar to achieve the SDG Summit’s political declaration, which was unanimously approved earlier this week.  Stressing that collective commitments must be turned into reality, he said Ireland has presented its second voluntary national review to the UN high-level political forum and 80 per cent of its SDGs are fully achieved.  Ireland will provide at least €225 million annually in climate finance for developing countries by 2025; this year alone, it will spend 149 million.  The global response to the climate crisis must include adequate levels of finance for adaption for countries on the frontline of the crisis.  This week’s discussions on the loss and damage fund must make real progress and the international community must be ready to take a definitive step at the twenty-eighth session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP28) in Dubai later this year.

From the time of its admission to the United Nations in 1955, Ireland has committed unequivocally to uphold the Charter.  Its term on the Council in 2021-2022 saw grave breaches of the Charter and none was more flagrant than the Russian Federation’s “imperialist and brutal invasion of Ukraine”, he said.  The Russian Federation’s actions have caused unfathomable suffering for the Ukrainian people and increasing global food, energy and economic insecurity.  The Russian Federation’s decision last month to collapse the Black Sea Grain Initiative has only made this bad situation worse.  The Ukrainian people deserve the unqualified support — and the action to back it up — of all Member States.  Equally, the Russian Federation and its leaders deserve Member States’ utter condemnation for their actions and must be held accountable, he stressed.

Turning to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he said the international community has failed repeatedly to resolve it.  For decades, Member States have known the parameters of the only just solution:  a two-State solution, with a viable Palestinian State based on the 1967 borders, living in peace and security alongside the State of Israel, whose right to exist should be accepted and respected by all its neighbours. “The political and civic space for those who seek to promote peace and reconciliation is diminishing,” he said.  “And the consequences are stark.”  He agreed with the Assembly’s decision to seek an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice on the legal consequences arising from Israel's prolonged occupation.  Ireland, along with others, has submitted a statement to the Court.  A clarification of international law can help strengthen international peace and security, he observed.

During its recent term on the Council, Ireland viewed first-hand the positive effect of the Council’s work as well as how its efforts have been stymied; its mandate undermined; and crucial decisions and actions blocked by the use of the veto. The Organization needs a reformed Council — without the anachronism of the veto.  “It has no place in the twenty-first century,” he added.  The Organization also needs a Council that properly reflects the world’s demography and politics as it is no longer in the 1940s.  “We know what can be achieved through cooperation at the UN.  We have seen it.  We have lived it and participated in it,” he said.  “This is our institution and system that has real value.”

DICKON MITCHELL, Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure and Physical Development, Public Utilities, Civil Aviation and Transportation and Minister for National Security, Home Affairs, Public Administration, Information and Disaster Management of Grenada, noted that the international community must never forget the “blunt force trauma effects of the COVID-19 pandemic”, which took a deadly toll on his country.  “Wherever there are severe challenges and especially human suffering, the United Nations and its members must come together and respond to such crises with the greatest urgency through its multilateral efforts and cooperation,” he stated.  Looking forward to domestic progress, he noted his Government has made significant advancements in improving access to quality education for all citizens, implementing a free tuition policy, which gives all students access to a post-secondary school and tertiary level education.  On gender equality, Grenada has launched the “Spotlight Initiative”, which aims to end violence against women and girls, highlighting the “all-of-society” approach, a well-conceived comprehensive national program to contribute to ending that scourge in Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique.

Addressing life below water, he reaffirmed that “many of our citizens, especially in the fishing community, heavily depend on the ocean for their daily sustenance and livelihoods.”  His Government has embarked on the projects aimed at supporting Grenada’s transition to a blue economy, as well as the creation of additional marine protected areas, legislative and policy frameworks, all geared to protecting the integrity and lending support to marine areas management.  In a related vein, with only 35 per cent forest-to-total-land ratio, Grenada has made advancements in measures to protect that resource.  He recalled that States that contribute least to the climate crisis are the ones bearing the heaviest burden and without immediate and deep emissions cuts, “we are on a trajectory for far worse outcomes”.  Grenada’s adaptation efforts will be scaled up through initiatives such as the Climate Smart Agriculture Programme and its second nationally determined contribution, which has set an emission reduction target of 40 per cent below 2010 levels.

Turning to issues concerning “those of us in the Global South of the Caribbean Archipelago”, he renewed the call that the Caribbean region remain a zone of peace and an environment that continues to facilitate the social, economic and environmental development of all Caribbean States and the world at large.  In this regard, in light of the just concluded “G-77 + China Summit” in Havana, he urged the United States to remove its economic, commercial, and financial blockade against Cuba, and remove the country from the State Department’s list of countries that are co-sponsors of terrorism.  He expressed deep concern over the deteriorating situation in the rule of law in Haiti, and the very troubling escalation of violence in that fellow CARICOM member State.  The urgent support of the international community needs to be ramped up — in particular, in the humanitarian and security areas where the needs are greatest.  

“The need for robust security assistance to counter the rampaging armed gangs is clear, yet the decision to enable this is meandering slowly through the Security Council,” he emphasized.  CARICOM welcomes Kenya’s willingness to lead such a multi-national force and the offers of support from Rwanda, Bahamas and Jamaica to contribute personnel.  Inter-Haitian dialogue is also key, he affirmed, for any progress in addressing the multifaceted crisis.  He noted that CARICOM is providing its good offices through an Eminent Persons Group consisting of three former Prime Ministers of the region to facilitate these efforts.  A resolution of the political crisis in Haiti is also key to free and fair elections to place the country back on a constitutional path and to open the door to an improved future for its citizens.  “The people of Haiti deserve no less,” he stressed.  He further called for the end of unilateral coercive measures against Venezuela.

KAUSEA NATANO, Prime Minister of Tuvalu, stressed that climate change — particularly sea level rise — threatens his country’s physical existence, lives, and livelihoods.  As a low-lying island State, Tuvalu “cannot afford to take the back seat and spectate while others manoeuvre their own interest in our multilateral process” on climate change.  He proposed establishing a coalition on sea level rise and existential threat to bring together like-minded States and stakeholders to protect statehood, sovereignty, territorial integrity, and livelihoods.  He also called for other countries to join Tuvalu and other Pacific nations to negotiate a fossil fuel non-proliferation treaty to reduce reliance on fossil fuels, accelerate the just transition to renewable energy, and curb greenhouse gas emissions.  At the national level, his Government developed a comprehensive long-term adaptation plan to elevate the country’s land territory and ensure a sustainable habitat for the population “well into the next century and beyond”.

Additionally, he urged all United Nations Members to submit endorsements of an advisory opinion regarding the obligations of States parties under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and Complementary Instruments to protect and preserve the marine environment from the effects of climate change — including ocean warming, sea level rise, and ocean acidification.  This advisory opinion, before the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, is crucial in the pursuit of climate justice and the matter’s urgency cannot be overstated.  “Justice delayed is justice denied,” he emphasized.  He also reinforced the collective support for the United Nations resolution for an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice to reinforce the international legal responsibility of States to safeguard the climate system.  Through this effort, international law will “provide the moral punch to phase out fossil fuels and confront polluters to become responsible”.

Beyond Tuvalu, he called for the United Nations to ensure the participation of everyone worldwide, including the people of Taiwan.  He urged for Taiwan’s meaningful participation in United Nations specialized agencies as a widely known partner that is trustworthy and willing to contribute to collective efforts on pressing global issues.  Sadly, many people have not been given the same treatment of inclusivity, non-discrimination, and oneness of humankind that the United Nations must uphold.  He also deemed it unfortunate that the Cuban people still endure economic hardships imposed by long-standing unilateral economic blockades that disregard human rights and go against principles of cooperation.  “The decision to maintain these measures,” he continued, “has deprived Cuba of much-needed international development assistance and partnerships crucial for its recovery and future development.”

Regarding digital technology, he affirmed the vision of a digital revolution to ensure no one is left behind and that individuals and communities are empowered with knowledge, connectivity, and access to essential services.  Adopting a “digital nation approach” can have a profound impact on resource and geographical challenges, enabling Tuvaluans to access education, health care, and economic opportunities that were previously out of reach.  A digital transformation will be pivotal to harness progress, inclusivity and sustainability for Tuvalu.  For both the global community and small island developing States like Tuvalu, embracing a digital transformation is crucial and will help bring innovative solutions to climate and environmental concerns. 

ARIEL HENRY, Prime Minister of Haiti, spotlighting the difficulty of achieving sustainable development without peace and security, said that multiplying security, health and food crises “remind us that we are moving further away from the lofty ideals of the Charter of the United Nations”. An estimated 258 million people needed emergency assistance in 2022 due to food insecurity caused by conflict and violence, and the COVID-19 crisis caused stagnation in the global economy. Less-developed countries — especially Haiti — are facing price volatility and serious crises exacerbated by deteriorating national security situations.  And with every hurricane, Caribbean economies suffer huge losses that challenge socioeconomic and political progress through the destruction of economic, educational, health and energy infrastructure.  Haiti has reached a critical point, where armed gangs assassinate, set fires, pillage, steal and abuse with particular cruelty — driving people from their homes, blocking roads and forcing schools, hospitals and businesses to close.

Further, he reported that a deteriorating security situation has led to a new humanitarian crisis, with displaced persons occupying more than 25 schools in the capital under “subhuman conditions”.  Systematic human rights violations caused by gang violence compromise the peace, stability and security of the country and region.  As a result, Haiti has experienced five years of economic contraction, negative growth rates and increased inflation, and half the population lives below the poverty line on less than $2 a day.  “We are not here to make up for or justify the past,” he said; rather, “we are here to ask friendly countries to understand there is something urgent to be done to benefit the people of Haiti”.  That country has borne successive shocks over the last 15 years, including three major earthquakes, several cyclones and the 2021 assassination of former President of Haiti Jovenel Moïse.  “It is impossible today to invent a peaceful story about Haiti,” he observed.

He therefore requested help to bolster the Haitian National Police, pressing the Security Council to urgently act under Chapter VII of the Charter to “authorize the deployment of a multinational support mission to underpin the security of Haiti”.  Such mission should consist of both police and military personnel to support the police in combating gangs and restoring peace and order.  The use of force — as an initial step — remains essential to creating an environment in which the State can function properly. However, he underscored that a solution to extreme poverty must also be found, as this is “the origin of all ills facing my country”.  Such poverty accentuates youth unemployment and marginalizes poor communities, making a life of crime tempting.  He called on all political actors to work with the Government to combat gangs, restore security and, “as true democrats, seek power via the ballot box”.

On that, he underscored the Government’s determination to hold elections “as soon as practically possible”, stating that Haiti needs a return to normalcy to address the major challenges it faces.  Turning to the situation “causing unnecessary problems” between his country and the Dominican Republic, he said:  “Haiti is not at war with anyone.”  The Massacre River is a background for friction between the two countries, and he therefore underlined the need to “do our very best to ensure that old demons do not break free again”.  Calling for equitable sharing of the river’s resources, he added that the Haitian people choose the path of dialogue and negotiation to peacefully resolve any differences under the auspices of international agreements signed in good faith between the two States in 1929 and again in 2021.

SIAOSI ‘OFAKIVAHAFOLAU SOVALENI, Prime Minister and Minister for Education and Training, Minister for Police, Fire Services and Emergency Services, and Minister for His Majesty's Armed Forces of the Kingdom of Tonga, offering his condolence to the Governments and peoples of Lahaina, Hawaii, Morocco and Libya for their recent natural disasters, noted that the Assembly convenes “at a time where people, countries, regions, and our world confront a quick succession of multiple challenges”.  He spotlighted the existential threats of climate change, spelling out its related consequences, including a rise in non-communicable diseases, declining living conditions, human trafficking, cross-border criminal activities and mounting violence against women and girls, among others.  “Our responsibility is to act.  The means of retaining people’s trust and inspiring hope is through taking action and achieving results,” he advised.  He therefore pointed out the imperatives of rebuilding the trust upon which the United Nations was founded, which, beyond dialogue, must involve “concrete actions that demonstrate our commitment to shared values”.

On sustainable development, he cautioned about the risk of its being relegated to “another unattainable goal”, urging that the international community must act to prevent this from happening.  Acknowledging the difficulty of this task, he said:  “It is imperative that we investigate the root causes of our significant lag in attaining our development targets.”  He further lamented the fact that the SDG progress report reveals that over half of the world is left behind.  Finance for development is a critical issue germane to the attainment of the Global Goals.  Therefore, a review of the international financial architecture is well supported by Tonga, along with the call for debt relief for countries in “dire circumstances, particularly those that have been severely affected by natural disasters or other external shocks”.  Stating that his country’s goal is to decrease reliance on fossil fuel by 70 per cent before 2025, he urged a concerted effort on ensuring emissions do not exceed 1.5°C, strongly encouraging completion of the first global stock-take.

He further called for the establishment of a Pacific Fund “to offer direct assistance to Pacific small island developing States (SIDS) in their endeavours to tackle climate change impacts”, stating that, having been appointed champion on climate financing for the Pacific, Tonga “is determined to take a lead on the issue”.  He also affirmed his country’s commitment to the implementation of the Secretary-General’s Early Warning for All initiative announced at COP27 last year, and he spotlighted the UN chief’s report that the “ocean remains under significant threat from human activities”.  He therefore called for urgent remedial actions to address imminent threats.

Describing today’s young people as the planet’s future custodians, he said:  “Children and youth under 30 years of age represent about 40 per cent of the world’s population.  Their voices must be heard in decision-making bodies.”  He called for the empowerment of this category of the world’s inhabitants.  He also reminded the Assembly of its founding, urging Member States to “do our utmost to rebuild trust in multilateralism through action”.

OLIVER DOWDEN, Deputy Prime Minister and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, and Secretary of State for the United Kingdom, said nations are gathering here this week to recommit to help resolve the world’s biggest challenges:  climate change, the Sustainable Development Goals, migration and the Russian Federation’s brutal invasion of Ukraine, an attack on a sovereign member of the United Nations by a permanent member of its Council.  “The most heinous assault imaginable on everything this organization stands for and was founded to prevent,” he said, adding that the international community demands that the Russian Federation end this war tomorrow.  “Until that happens, the United Kingdom will stand alongside Ukraine.” 

He then turned to another contemporary challenge, artificial intelligence, which will change education, business, health care, defence, Government and relations between nations, as well as the United Nations.  The international community needs to prepare for the artificial intelligence of tomorrow, the biggest transformation the world has known.  “Our task as Governments is to understand it, grasp it and seek to govern it,” he said.  Artificial intelligence offers opportunities and the models being developed today could deliver the energy efficiency needed to beat climate change, stimulate crop yields, detect signs of chronic disease or pandemics, better manage supply chains, and enhance productivity in business and Governments.  “In fact, every single challenge discussed at this year’s General Assembly, and more, could be improved or even solved by AI,” he said.  “Perhaps the most exciting thing is that AI can be a democratizing tool, open to everyone.”

The United Kingdom will host the AI Safety Summit in November to forge a shared understanding of the potential risks of frontier artificial intelligence, he said.  Individual companies and countries will strive to push the boundaries as fast and far as possible and Governments must decide how to respond.  “We cannot afford to become trapped in debates about whether AI is a tool for good or a tool for ill; it will be a tool for both,” he said.  “We must prepare for both and insure against the latter.”  In the past, leaders have responded to scientific and technological developments with retrospective regulation.  Yet the necessary guardrails, regulation and governance must be developed in parallel with the technological progress, he said, pointing out that right now, global regulation is falling behind current advances.  Since technology companies and non-State actors often have country-sized influence and prominence in artificial intelligence, meeting the challenge requires a new form of multilateralism.  “Because it is only by working together that we will make AI safe for everyone,” he said. 

The AI Safety Summit will kick-start this process and focus on frontier technology, he said.  The Summit will aim to reach a common understanding of the extreme risks and how the world should confront them.  “And at the same time, focus on how safe AI can be used for the public good,” he added.  Only nation States can provide reassurance that the most significant national security concerns have been allayed.  The United Kingdom’s Frontier AI Taskforce has brought pioneering experts and national security advisers together to developing the capacity to conduct the safe external red-teaming that is critical to building confidence in frontier models.  The artificial intelligence revolution will test the multilateral system to show it can work together on a question that will help define the fate of humanity.  “Our future… humanity’s future… our entire planet’s future… depends on our ability to do so,” he said.  “That is our challenge, and this is our opportunity.  To be, truly, the United Nations.” 

VIVIAN BALAKRISHNAN, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Singapore, said his “tiny, vulnerable and open-island city-State” strongly supports the UN and the indispensable rules-based multilateral system.  However, the SDG Summit “shows that we have fallen behind our targets”.  With free trade in retreat and supply chains being fragmented, the international community “must avoid turning competition into a zero-sum game”, he stressed.  The need for compromise and mutual understanding is a feature, not a bug, of the multilateral system as, “in the face of planetary challenges, there is no winner who can take it all”.  Member States should accept and respect the diversity of experiences, systems, and ideas, as no one has a monopoly on culture and wisdom.  He pointed to the Summit of the Future as an opportunity to strengthen the multilateral system by taking into account diverse points of view and building a common framework.

Turning to the artificial intelligence revolution, he called for preparing for the risks while distributing the benefits fairly.  “In the past year, generative AI has captured popular imagination,” he stated, “but we are already on the verge of the next stage — AI agents with the ability to negotiate and transact with each other and humans”.  This has profound implications; and autonomous weapon systems without human fingers on the triggers are already here.  Artificial intelligence will disrupt assumptions on military doctrines and strategic deterrence, as the speed at which such weapons systems can be almost instantaneously deployed would dramatically reduce decision times for leaders.  Warning that there will be many occasions when humans may not even be in the firing loop, he called for an inclusive global dialogue now at the UN, while welcoming the Secretary-General’s decision to convene a High-Level Advisory Body on Artificial Intelligence to explore such important issues.      

In reality, he noted, many nations are not ready for the wave of digital transformation sweeping the world, as more than two billion people still lack Internet access.  Working to bridge that digital divide, in 2022 Singapore launched “Digital FOSS”, a platform for members of the Forum of Small States to learn from and support each other in digital technologies.  The international community can address global challenges, he affirmed — as shown by the recent adoption of the Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction Agreement.  “We need to bring the constructive spirit of the BBNJ process to the global commons, including AI, cybersecurity, digital technology and outer space,” he stressed.  The High-Level Advisory Board on Effective Multilateralism has put forward six “transformative shifts” that will make the UN and the multilateral system future-ready — and the survival and success of many small States requires just such a strong UN and effective multilateral system, he stated.

PENNY WONG, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Australia, cautioned that the Indo-Pacific region is experiencing unprecedented military build-up and the world is facing an existential threat of conflict between great Powers — a consequential risk for every Member State.  With dangerous encounters in the air and at sea, including between nuclear Powers, the world faces “the most confronting circumstances in decades”, where military power is expanding but measures to constrain conflict are not.  Noting rising tensions over the South China Sea, as well as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea continuing to destabilize and threaten the region with its nuclear weapons programme and ballistic missile launches, she urged all stakeholders to deploy collective statecraft to prevent catastrophic conflict. She encouraged modest steps to reduce military risk and open communication lines at all levels, as well as clearer arrangements among all maritime countries equally to prevent unsafe actions at sea.  “Australia is contributing to a strategic equilibrium”, she said, and aims to reinforce the region’s existing economic and security architecture.

More broadly, her Government is renewing Australia’s commitment to a world without nuclear weapons.  Australia is working to strengthen the Non-Proliferation Treaty and urging progress on a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty, alongside efforts with IAEA to ensure the peaceful use of technology and nuclear security risks. On the Security Council, she urged greater permanent and non-permanent representation for Africa, Latin America, and Asia, including permanent seats for India and Japan.  As Australia seeks a seat from 2029 to 2030, she also expressed support for regional leadership on peacekeeping, including Fiji’s proposal for a new Pacific Peacekeeping Network and the call from African States for United Nations assessed contributions for African Union-led peace operations. Regarding the Russian Federation’s “illegal and immoral invasion of Ukraine” and “cynical games on food security”, she emphasised, other permanent members and all Member States “must be unyielding in our response to Russia’s grave violation of Article 2 of our shared UN Charter.”

She expressed her Government’s determination to make Australia a renewable energy superpower, with 82 per cent of the country’s electricity generation becoming renewable within this decade.  Australia is also supporting the region’s renewable energy transition, helping countries build resilience and access more climate finance — including through its Infrastructure Financing Facility for the Pacific.  As a member of the Pacific Island Forum, she noted, Australia “believes in Pacific sovereignty and solidarity”.  With the Pacific Ocean covering one fifth of the Earth’s surface and several States only metres above sea level, “there can be no security if the sea itself closes in.” Alongside climate change, the world must address “systemic shortcomings and funding needs” to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.  She expressed support for reforms to international development financing, including the multidimensional vulnerability index and the Bridgetown Initiative. Australia has rechannelled $3 billion of its IMF Special Drawing Rights to support vulnerable countries, she said.

ABDULLATIF BIN RASHID AL ZAYANI, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Bahrain, emphasized the importance of dialogue to ending wars and settling regional and international differences. Foremost in this is advancing a just, comprehensive and lasting peace in the Middle East, which includes supporting the Palestinian people’s right to establish an independent State with East Jerusalem as its capital; extending the UN humanitarian truce in Yemen; and achieving sustainable, peaceful solutions to the crises in Syria, Lebanon, Sudan, Libya and Afghanistan.  He also urged the promotion of tolerance and dialogue between religions, cultures and civilizations as “essential pillars” to achieve security, development and respect for human rights.  To this end, he called on the international community to adopt an international convention to criminalize religious, sectarian and racial hate speech, along with preventing the misuse of freedoms, media and digital platforms “for religious contempt or to incite extremism, terrorism and intolerance”.

He also called on the international community to channel financial resources towards achieving growth and prosperity, eliminating hunger and poverty, addressing water and energy crises, and supporting least developed countries through open markets and alleviated debt burden.  In this vein, he supported the economic-corridor project aiming to link India with Europe through the Middle East.  Turning to national progress, he spotlighted achievements such as successful parliamentary elections; the establishment of justice frameworks; respect for human rights, along with political and civil liberties; and the provision of quality, competitive Government services integrated with sustainable development.  He also pointed to Bahrain’s success in combating COVID-19, recalling that the World Health Organization (WHO) labelled Manama as “the first healthy city in the Middle East”.  Over the past year, Bahrain’s achievements translated into 5 per cent net economic growth, along with an 83 per cent increase in non-oil sectors’ contribution to GDP.

Among other successes, he spotlighted women’s advancement, with Bahraini women representing 22 per cent of the cabinet, 23 per cent of the legislature, 56 per cent of the Government workforce, 35 per cent of the private sector and 34 per cent of diplomatic personnel.  He went on to stress that “peace is our strategic choice”, pointing to the King Hamad Global Centre for Peaceful Coexistence and Bahrain’s hosting of regional and international conferences to promote security and dialogue among religions, sects and cultures.  He also detailed the international awards offered by his country for dialogue, peaceful coexistence, the service of humanity, digital transformation in the field of education and the empowerment of women and youth.  Further, he said that Bahrain delivers humanitarian relief to countries affected by war, conflict or natural disaster through the efforts of its Royal Humanitarian Foundation and the Bahrain Red Crescent Society.

TOBIAS BILLSTRÖM, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Sweden, said this year’s Assembly opens as a permanent member of the Council, tasked with maintaining international peace and security, has proven its complete disregard for human life in Ukraine and globally.  The Russian Federation is weaponizing food and aggravating the global food crisis, most recently by reimposing its blockade against grain deliveries across the Black Sea.  The European Union’s Solidarity Lanes, efforts to build alternative export routes for food from Ukraine, have become a lifeline.  Sweden has exercised its sovereign right to make its own security policy choices by applying for NATO membership — a historic decision that ends Sweden’s military non-alignment, which dates back to 1812.  Along with Finland’s membership, its NATO membership will improve stability in the entire Euro-Atlantic area, he said. 

Turning to the importance of ODA, he noted Sweden is only one of a handful of countries in the world to reach the United Nations target of 0.7 per cent of gross national income in development assistance.  Its assistance responds to the multiple challenges that the world is confronting today and contributes to positive development. “Sweden’s development assistance is relevant, long-term, efficient and transparent,” he said, adding it focuses on poverty alleviation and health interventions for the most vulnerable, providing democracy assistance to defenders of human rights and democracy on all continents.  Meanwhile, emerging technologies, including artificial intelligence, are transforming the world and offer unprecedented possibilities.  They can accelerate international efforts on climate change, global health and the SDGs as they create challenges for international security and human rights. Together with Rwanda, Sweden is co-facilitating the Assembly process of developing a Global Digital Compact.

Noting that human rights, democracy and the rule of law are determinants of development, he said countries with high levels of democracy have 94 per cent lower infant mortality, provide 40 per cent more electricity and have 23 per cent greater access to safe water than autocracies.  “Building societies that are democratic, respect human rights and uphold the rule of law will be crucial for how fast we achieve the 2030 Agenda,” he said, underlining that women’s and girls’ enjoyment of human rights — including sexual and reproductive rights — is a key condition for development and a prerequisite for democracy.  “Human rights are, and must be, universal.  They are not a privilege for the few.  They belong to everyone, everywhere.”  The upcoming Summit for the Future will provide an opportunity for the international community to confirm its commitment to the Charter.

FREDERICK AUDLEY MITCHELL, Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Public Service of the Bahamas, said his country’s number one foreign policy issue is climate change, as declared by the Prime Minister, who also equally expresses fears for associated existential issues faced by island territories in the Atlantic or Pacific.  “Will we be climate refugees, or will we face a watery breath?” he asked.  He expressed his Government’s shock on hearing the position on climate reparations on loss and damage by one of its developed nation partners, which stated that “under no circumstance will there be reparations for loss and damage from climate change”.  Small island developing States like the Bahamas have been negotiating for loss and damage for over 30 years, asking how much the 399,314 lives of his nation are worth.  He noted how the United Kingdom Government paid 20 million pounds to slavers for the “loss of their property”, which represented 40 per cent of their national budget, translating to 17 billion pounds today, the bonds of which were completely paid off in 2015.  He lamented that not a penny was paid to the slaves themselves or their dependents, nor an apology “for the moral tragedy slavery represents”. 

He went on to say that because their forbears never accepted no for an answer, each succeeding generation, including his, has been respectively freer than their predecessors.  His Government therefore wants the world to know that “no is not an answer to an unfree people” on reparations for slavery or on climate change, adding that “we must use our collective voices to reject the gospel according to ‘no’”.  This message will be passed to the next generation until success is attained and justice served.  The Bahamas’ position is same for Haiti, as the “the Western world owes Haiti and the Haitian people, and we must fight to help them resolve their issues.”  While thanking the Governments of the developed world, the United States, Canada and in CARICOM for their work towards resolving the security issues in the Caribbean nation, he called on its Government and people to do all they can to develop a Haitian-led political solution, as well as the international community to approve a Security Council-backed resolution on a multinational force for the country. 

He also called for a geopolitical settlement on Cuba, urging the dropping of all restrictions and economic sanction as “the continuation of the status quo represents a security problem for the Bahamas.”  He said that, on taxation, the OECD and the European Union have made themselves the moral police of the world, a result of which “free trade no longer exists”, making banking and international trade difficult.  He therefore expressed his country’s support for the calls by other developing States for a United Nations convention on tax.

ARNOLDO RICARDO ANDRÉ TINOCO, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Worship of Costa Rica, called for a ceasefire in the war against Ukraine so the Russian Federation can withdraw its troops and be held responsible for its actions in front of international courts.  Geographical borders no longer have meanings in the face of conflict or climate catastrophes, he said — but there is still time “to change the direction of our inaction”.  Extraordinary circumstances require bravery and leadership to change the collective security architecture, “which is falling apart like a house of cards”, he stressed — pointing to paralysis in the Security Council and clear violation of the Charter of the United Nations by one permanent member, but also widespread non-compliance with non-proliferation and weapons controls. Pointing to a forthcoming resolution submitted to the General Assembly by Costa Rica, Austria and Mexico on autonomous weapons systems, he stated:  “Our only weapon should be international law.”

Turning to the transnational challenge of migration, he noted that Costa Rica is the Latin American country with the highest proportion of migrants to total population, at 11 per cent.  The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (OHCHR) noted that it ranks third in requests for asylum, with over 270,000 by September; however, as a middle-income country, its resources are limited, requiring immediate action from the international community to manage migrant flows, and financial support to integrate them into the social fabric. Stressing that middle-income countries must not be excluded from aid, he called for reform of international financial institutions, including regional development banks — which must radically reconsider the criteria for access to ODA.  The international community needs countercyclical solutions to systemic shortcomings which force States to choose between human security and debt repayment. 

On the climate emergency, he affirmed that “time is running out to save our home planet”.  Costa Rica stands as an example that it is possible to encourage development while protecting the environment in unison — a pioneer in reversing deforestation through its protected areas programme, making resources available to recognize all 22 indigenous territories for their guardianship.  However, due to its geographical location in one of most vulnerable regions in world, the climactic impact on infrastructure remains devastating, especially for rural and coastal communities.  Further calling for better governance of the oceans, he voiced alarm over pollution, overexploitation of fish stocks, and the loss of coral and biodiversity.  To address this, his country will co-host with France the United Nations Conference on Oceans in June 2025 in Nice.  Costa Rica will continue to lead the call for a protocol on the use of undersea mineral resources and will remain an example that “dialogue can be more powerful than guns”, he stated.

Right of Reply

Speaking in exercise of the right of reply, the representative of India said Pakistan has been a habitual offender in misusing this forum to pedal baseless and malicious propaganda against India.  Member States and other multilateral organizations know it does so to deflect international attention from its own abysmal record of human rights.  She reiterated that the union territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh are an integral part of India.  Pakistan should put its own house in order before pointing a finger at the world’s largest democracy.  For example, Pakistani women that are part of minority communities face very poor conditions, and they are the victims of abduction.

The representative of Japan, also speaking in exercise of the right of reply, stated that references from the Solomon Islands about the discharge of Advanced Liquid Processing System (ALPS)-treated water into the sea were “not based in fact”.  The Government of Japan “has never allowed and will never allow” the discharge of “nuclear waste water that exceeds regulatory standards” or water that would endanger human health or the marine environment.  In a comprehensive report of its review missions, she cited, IAEA concluded that the approach to the discharge of the ALPS-treated water into the sea and associated activities are consistent with relevant international safety standards and that the radiological impact on humans and the environment will be negligible.

The representative of Pakistan, responding to the “pure political fiction” by India’s delegate, said that Jammu and Kashmir is not part of that country, never was and never will be. The Security Council has affirmed that the final disposition of the territory will be decided by a plebiscite, which India accepted under Article 25 of the Charter of the United Nations.  That State has instead used fraud and force, suppressing Kashmiri demands for the right to self-determination by imposing occupation and, on 5 August 2019, annexing Jammu and Kashmir, resulting in crimes including the abduction of 15,000 boys, many disappeared and tortured.  India must be held responsible for its war crimes in the territory; it is not a victim but a serial sponsor of terrorism against each of its neighbours, she stressed. 

The representative of Iran, responding to an earlier address by the Prime Minister of Israel, noted that the Protocol and Security officers of the General Assembly had arrested and expelled the Israeli ambassador, who “was indeed hell-bent on disrupting the high-level General Debate on Tuesday afternoon”.  What was heard from the Israeli Prime Minister was floundering by a totally isolated regime.  Iran-phobic statements or unfounded allegations, or, “better to say, comedy shows made by Israel authorities in this august body.”  He categorically rejected unfounded claims levelled against Iran, including its attribution of unmanned aerial vehicles used in the Ukraine war.  Israel is trying to distract from its own dark record of financing and arming the most dangerous terrorist networks and disseminating hate speech, while attempting to portray Iran’s peaceful nuclear programme as a threat to regional peace and security. 

For information media. Not an official record.