Seventy-eighth Session,
84th Meeting (PM)

Diplomacy, Cooperation, Dialogue Only Way to Comprehensively Address Global Challenges, President of Guatemala Tells General Assembly

‘This Organization Must Do Much More,’ He Added, Urging Assembly to Act when Security Council Does Not

Spotlighting Guatemala’s transformation — including its tremendous efforts to combat corruption — as an example of what national endeavours bolstered by international support can achieve, that country’s President underscored the urgent need to rescue multilateralism as a fundamental tool for overcoming pressing global challenges as he addressed the General Assembly today — a point also made by the body’s President, who opened the meeting.

Dennis Francis (Trinidad and Tobago), President of the General Assembly at its seventy-eighth session, reaffirmed the importance of “the principles of consultation, inclusion and solidarity that have underpinned multilateralism for nearly 80 years”.  Unfortunately, geopolitical tensions and mistrust appear to be testing these values today.  “We see the devasting consequences of this in the more than 36,000 Palestinians and 1,500 Israelis killed in the relentless, unnecessary violence in Gaza, the continued unlawful aggression against Ukraine — among numerous other simmering conflicts around the world,” he said, urging the international community to “return to our multilateral roots”.

Welcoming the presence of Guatemala’s President, he said that country is a diverse, multicultural nation with a rich heritage and strong resilience woven into its vibrant social fabric.  Its road to peace was not the work of any one Government, political party or social group.  Rather, it took several years and several Administrations playing their part, with strong support from the United Nations, a broad spectrum of civil-society organizations and La Unidad Revolucionaria Nacional Guatemalteca.  As a result, he said, “the people of Guatemala brought an end to an era of terrible violence and ushered in a new era of tranquillity and stability”.  Underscoring that this success demonstrates the value of working together for the greater good, he called on Member States to do the same and advance negotiations on the “Pact for the Future” ahead of a successful Summit of the Future in September 2024.

César Bernardo Arévalo de León, President of Guatemala, then took the floor to state that his country is the cradle of “one of the most splendid civilizations that humanity has ever seen”.  The Mayan people — with whom most Guatemalans still identify — produced science and knowledge that survived generations of plunder and exploitation.  Spotlighting the challenges Guatemala has faced throughout its history, he said that the majority of its population has seen the doors to development closed, the division wrought by conflict and violence, the denial of fundamental freedoms and human rights and conditions that forced much of its youth to seek refuge in other countries.  Even though the country was able “to leave behind the ghosts of violence and authoritarianism”, he said that it continues to face large development deficits and fights to consolidate its democratic institutions.

Noting “the determination of Guatemalan society to overcome turbulent and dark parts in our history”, he recalled that a corrupt minority attempted to illegally hinder the freely expressed will of the people by bringing spurious court cases during the 2023 electoral process.  However, civil society fought decisively to prevent the country’s democracy from failing. “Governments of nations from different continents and regional organizations helped us in our struggle to condemn these coup attempts,” he stated.  “We Guatemalans live in a democracy today thanks to the solidarity and robust support that we receive from the international community and, today, from this forum,” he said, underlining multilateralism as “one of the key tools to create a more just and sustainable world”.

Highlighting the enormous challenges humanity faces — including climate change, forced migration, hunger and poverty — he said that multilateralism serves as a reminder that diplomacy, cooperation and dialogue are the only mechanisms with which to comprehensively address these global challenges.  He further observed that “for a long time, corruption was considered a secondary problem associated with the quality of governing — almost like an inevitable deficiency.”  Nevertheless, Guatemala’s recent experience shows that corruption is much more than that – it is a structural problem that has assumed threatening dimensions within the framework of globalization.

“Corruption makes any effort to achieve development unviable by diverting resources that should be used to invest in the well-being of the people into private pockets,” he stressed, adding that it also erodes the effectiveness of public institutions.  Further, it weakens the principle of freedom of the people and feeds on injustice, and he emphasized that “where there is no justice, there is no peace”.  Injustices and illegalities spark conflicts and wars, and corruption promotes both.  “Furthermore, corruption is the oil that lubricates the trade in illicit substances, arms trafficking and human trafficking,” he said, stating that it is a threat to democracy, peace and development. 

Detailing Guatemala’s fight against corruption, he said that his Government has presented more than 84 allegations of major corruption to national prosecutors to date.  Moreover, it eliminated more than 1,300 public-service posts that were involved in influence-peddling and cronyism.  The Government has also formed a special commission with the participation of civil society, tasked with identifying cases, schemes and patterns of illegal enrichment so they can be immediately reported.  In parallel, it collaborates with the legislature to strengthen the justice system, he said, underlining the importance of an independent, impartial judiciary.  The Government has also asked the Organization of American States (OAS) to send a mission to observe the appointment of judges to the Supreme Court of Justice and the appellate courts, which must be renewed in October 2024.

He then turned to the increasing number of violent conflicts worldwide, stating that war in Ukraine, the humanitarian crisis in Gaza and conflicts in Sudan and Myanmar illustrate the collapse of the relative peace enjoyed during the first decade of this century.  For countries like Guatemala, the weakening of the international order — based on equality among States and respect for international law and human rights — is “an existential threat”, he cautioned.  Strengthening multilateralism requires an effective, inclusive UN; however, the Organization has been paralyzed by the irresponsible exercise of the veto in the Security Council, which has contributed to international friction instead of promoting peace among nations.  Amid deteriorating international institutions, humanity will be unable to respond to the challenges it faces, he pointed out, underlining the need for institutional reform and adequate financing.

He therefore underscored the need to strengthen the power of the General Assembly so that it can act when the Security Council fails to preserve international peace and security.  “This Organization must do much more,” he declared, noting that Guatemala is doing its part.  Its people have shown the world that — as stated in the Popol Vuh, the sacred book of the Mayan Kʼicheʼ people — “even in the darkest darkness, the will for change can shine through with its own light”.  But Guatemala’s transformation alone “will not be enough to achieve our objectives,” he stressed, calling for a world committed to the future of peace and development that inspired the creation of the United Nations.

For information media. Not an official record.