He says New Year Dawning amid Surging Geopolitical Tensions, Existential Climate Crisis, Deep Mistrust, Risky Technology
With a new decade dawning and the United Nations marking its seventy-fifth anniversary, Secretary-General António Guterres warned the General Assembly today that 2020 is also beginning in the midst of four existential threats — surging geopolitical tensions, the climate crisis, dangerous technology and deepening mistrust — against which the international community must mobilize rapidly.
“The risk of a great fracture is real”, Mr. Guterres emphasized, as he delivered an extensive briefing on the work of the Organization ahead of a question-and-answer session with delegates. Spotlighting the significant achievements of the United Nations in its 75 years, he called upon Member States to use the anniversary to cast their eyes to the future reiterating that “four horsemen in our midst” pose particular threats to humanity. Amid epic geostrategic tensions and the existential global climate crisis, he said, there is growing mistrust among peoples and technology is advancing at a faster pace than humans can control.
Citing the massive fires raging across Australia, he noted that rising temperatures around the globe continue to melt records, with ocean temperatures increasing at a rate of five Hiroshima bombs per second. “We are at war with nature and nature is fighting back hard”, he said. Gradual approaches to climate change are no longer enough, he added, asking Member States — especially those that have contributed most to the current crisis — to make concrete commitments and green investments.
He went on to warn against threats posed by the “dark side of the digital world”, adding that despite signs of hope in 2019, the international community has much more work ahead in that regard. Member States should create the conditions needed for peace enforcement, coupled with sustainable funding, and redouble efforts to combat violence and extremism. Meanwhile, with mistrust sparking disquiet and discontent, societies around the globe are churning as fear and hatred grow, he said, adding that more and more people distrust institutions and feel that existing systems do not work. He called upon Member States to help build a fairer version of globalization and urged Governments — and the United Nations — to listen more closely to their peoples.
Following the briefing — which was held in January, as specifically requested by Member States, instead of during the Assembly’s usual September session — the Secretary-General took part in an informal question-and-answer session with delegates, who then delivered national statements on the contents of his briefing as well as his annual report on the Work of the Organization (document A/74/1).
Togo’s representative, speaking on behalf of the African Group, joined other speakers in expressing his commitment to multilateralism as the only way to solve collective global challenges. Agreeing with the Secretary-General’s assessment that contemporary challenges — from climate change, conflicts, violent extremism and terrorism to resource scarcity and environmental degradation — are becoming more complex, he warned that such threats now jeopardize the modest development progress made to date.
The Head of the European Union delegation pledged to work with all partners in building a United Nations that delivers for all people. Vowing to push forward crucial reforms aimed at reducing bureaucracy and ensuring better outcomes, he welcomed the new decade as a crucial one for realizing the Sustainable Development Goals and for defending and promoting human rights. Countries must also ensure that ambitious action mirrors their climate promises, he said, spotlighting the newly proposed European Green Deal as a positive example.
Saint Lucia’s representative, speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), emphasized the need for greater attention to the Secretary-General’s alarming warnings on climate change. He expressed particular concern over the report’s assertion that the world remains far off track from the targets enshrined in the Paris Agreement and its warning of “potentially catastrophic” consequences for development.
The representative of Cyprus was among speakers who welcomed the decision to move today’s debate to the beginning of the calendar year, in response to requests from various delegations. He proposed that, going forward, the annual report on the state of the Organization be regularly presented in January — when the term of the General Assembly President could also begin — enabling him or her to better prepare for the year ahead. Holding a meeting on common global threats during the Assembly’s autumn session, or during its busy annual high-level week, presents many challenges, he cautioned.
In other business, the Assembly took note of letters from the Secretary-General (documents A/74/642/Add.3, A/74/642/Add.4 and A/74/642/Add.5, respectively), in which he informed members that Lesotho, Tonga and Yemen have made the necessary payments to reduce their arrears below the amount specified in Article 19 of the Charter of the United Nations.
Also speaking today were representatives of Norway (on behalf of the Nordic countries), Guyana (on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China), Belize (on behalf of the Alliance of Small Island States), Burkina Faso (on behalf of the “Group of Five” Sahel countries), Cuba, Jamaica, Singapore, Spain, Liechtenstein, Malaysia, Venezuela, Armenia, Pakistan, Ecuador, Costa Rica, India, Canada, Iran, Switzerland, Azerbaijan, Argentina, Trinidad and Tobago, Egypt and Tajikistan.
The Head of the European Union delegation also delivered a statement.
The General Assembly will reconvene at a date and time to be announced.
ANTÓNIO GUTERRES, Secretary-General of the United Nations, briefed Member States on the work of the Organization as it marks its seventy-fifth anniversary. Spotlighting all the progress achieved in that time, he nevertheless called upon all stakeholders to use the occasion to cast their eyes to the future. He drew attention to four “horsemen” — looming threats facing humanity and the planet in the twenty-first century — citing the resurgence of epic geostrategic tensions; the existential global climate crisis; deepening global mistrust among peoples; and rapidly advancing technology. Indeed, terrorist attacks continue to take a merciless toll, the global nuclear menace is growing and tensions over trade remain unresolved, he noted, declaring: “The risk of a Great Fracture is real.” Meanwhile, rising temperatures continue to melt records, the planet is burning and ocean temperatures are rising at the equivalent of five Hiroshima bombs per second. Deep and growing global mistrust is sparking disquiet and discontent, with societies from North to South churning. “More and more people are convinced that globalization is not working for them”, he said, pointing out that young people and women are rightly rising up around the globe to demand their rights. However, fears and anxieties are also spreading, as is hostility against refugees and migrants, he said, adding: “Hatred is growing.” As for the rising threat posed by the “dark side of the digital world”, he said technological advances are growing faster than humanity can adapt to them. Artificial intelligence is generating breath-taking capacities, he added, while cautioning that it is also generating enormous risks and bringing humanity into unacceptable moral and political territory.
Pointing to some signs of hope, he highlighted successful democratic elections conducted in 2019, as well as the prevention of conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mali and beyond. Despite the hostilities in Yemen, a fragile ceasefire is holding, and a constitutional committee process has begun in Syria, he said, emphasizing that all such efforts require patience and persistence but are essential and save lives. “As we look ahead, we have our work cut out for us”, he added, pointing out that Security Council resolutions continue to be ignored as external interference continues to exacerbate conflicts. While the United Nations successfully delivers aid, such assistance is no substitute for solutions or long-term development, he stressed. However, the Organization’s peacekeeping efforts are becoming more effective, he continued, spotlighting his “Action for Peacekeeping” initiative. Calling upon States to help create the conditions needed for effective peace enforcement and to couple that with sustainable funding, he stressed that greater efforts are also needed to combat violence and extremism, recalling in that context that, in 2019, he put forward a first-of-its-kind action plan to fight hate speech. He went on to call upon all States parties to ensure that the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons remains able to fulfil its fundamental goals of preventing nuclear war and facilitating the elimination of nuclear weapons.
“We are at war with nature, and nature is fighting back hard”, he said, calling attention to the massive fires burning across Australia and other ongoing natural disasters around the globe. Gradual approaches are no longer enough, he stressed, asking Governments to deliver the change that the world needs. Every bank, region, city, industry and pension fund must completely reimagine how it operates in order to limit temperature rise to 1.5°C, he added, underlining that countries that contributed most to the current climate crisis must lead the way. Spotlighting the opportunities provided by the upcoming Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Glasgow, the World Oceans Conference in Lisbon and the Biodiversity Conference in Kunming, he called specifically for a global ban on single-use plastics and greater attention to the importance of living in harmony with nature.
To help vanquish the third horseman, global mistrust, States should help build a fairer version of globalization, he said, noting that such a plan already exists in the form of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It has already achieved concrete progress, from reducing child mortality to expanding education and improving access to family planning. However, that is not enough, he said, pointing out that the world remains off track, with half a billion people living in poverty and a large gender gap in economic participation. To generate ambition, innovation and solutions, there must be improved governance and greater efforts to tackle illicit financial flows, stamp out corruption and develop effective, common-sense taxation systems, he stressed, urging Governments to listen to their people and open new channels for all to be heard, while harnessing the ideas, energy and hope of young people and women.
He went on to spotlight the significant threats posed by cybercrime, calling for greater cooperation on that issue at the global level, while noting that cybercrime will soon cost an estimated $6 billion annually. Indeed, the United Nations is a tailor-made platform from which to enable countries to hammer out new standards and protocols, including both legally-binding measures and voluntary approaches, he said. Recalling the 2019 report of the United Nations High-level Panel on Digital Cooperation, he pledged to put forward an action plan on cyberthreats and asked Member States to focus on making artificial intelligence better serve human beings. “We continue to move towards a world of killing machines that are beyond the control of human beings”, he warned, calling for an immediate and total ban on all lethal autonomous weapons.
Outlining progress made within the United Nations system, he said that, on 1 January 2020, for the first time, the Organization achieved male-female parity in all its high-level posts — those at the Assistant-Secretary-General and Under-Secretary-General levels. Over the course of the year, efforts to seek better gender and geographical balance in posts at all levels will continue, he said, emphasizing, however, that more resources are needed to fill vacant posts. He also called attention to the broad integration of the new policy on sexual harassment and the launch of a new database aimed at preventing those found guilty of sexual harassment from re-entering the United Nations system. “Too often, Governments and international institutions are considered talking shops, and not places that listen to people”, he noted, adding that the United Nations should make use of its seventy-fifth anniversary to focus more on the needs of people around the world.
COSMOS RICHARDSON (Saint Lucia), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said he recognizes that no single country, or group of countries, can successfully address global challenges, which must be confronted collectively by all States and relevant actors within the international community. One of the critical issues identified in the Secretary-General’s report is that of climate change and the existential challenges it creates, he noted, emphasizing the need for attention to the alarming warning in the Secretary-General’s report that the world is far off track to reach the Paris Agreement targets. It notes that the situation is “potentially catastrophic for any development gains achieved thus far”, he added.
CARICOM countries, he continued, have consistently joined with other small island developing States to confront challenges to sustainability and to pledge continued support for a meaningful global partnership to combat the effects of climate conditions. The Community’s Heads of Government have reiterated their strong commitment to the 2030 Agenda, with a special emphasis on Goal 14 on the conservation and sustainable use of the oceans, he emphasized. CARICOM has taken note of the reforms under way within the United Nations system and recognizes they are critical to the full and effective implementation of the global development mandates adopted by Member States, he added, citing the 2030 Agenda, the SIDS Accelerated Modalities of Action (SAMOA) Pathway, the Paris Agreement and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction.
KOKOU KPAYEDO (Togo) spoke on behalf of the African Group, reiterating its commitment to strengthening multilateralism as the only way to solve collective global challenges. The Group has been calling for a reformed United Nations for a long time, he said, noting that contemporary challenges are becoming more complex, from climate change, through conflict, violent extremism and terrorism to resource scarcity and degradation. They threaten the modest progress made in promoting development and achieving stability, while jeopardizing chances for further progress, he added.
Emphasizing that sustainable development is a top priority for the African Group, he said it is the only way to address poverty, under-development and environmental degradation. Reform of the United Nations development system will be vital in accelerating efforts for implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, he added. Expressing the Group’s deep concern about the impact of climate change on African countries, he underlined the continent’s negligible contribution to the phenomenon, while pointing out that climate change contributes to conflict and insecurity, which in turn threaten the ability of African countries to pursue sustainable development and to eliminate poverty.
MONA JUUL (Norway), speaking on behalf of the Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Sweden), said they are steadfast supporters of the Secretary-General’s leadership on United Nations reform and welcome the report’s focus in that regard. Emphasizing that real impact will require a culture of change at all levels, she pointed out that the international community has agreed on ambitious reforms that must now be implemented at the country level. Stakeholders must share what has worked and what has not, she said. As for 2020 and beyond, she agreed with the Secretary-General that silos must be broken and that all pillars of the United Nations must work together.
She went on to stress that United Nations peacekeeping must remain adequate in the maintenance of international peace and security, underlining the importance of efforts to implement the Action for Peacekeeping initiative on the ground. The Nordic countries look forward to the upcoming review of the United Nations peacekeeping architecture and hope it will contribute to further strengthening of the Organization’s role in preventing conflict while building and sustaining peace, she said. Underlining the need for the United Nations to ensure system-wide coherence in prioritizing human rights, she said there are clear links between lack of respect for human rights and other challenges facing the international community. If the Organization fails in its obligations to respect, protect and fulfil human rights, it is unlikely to succeed in its efforts to promote sustainable development and peace, she warned.
RUDOLPH MICHAEL TEN-POW (Guyana), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said that, consistent with its priority relating to sustainable development, the Group will be looking to the United Nations for support and resources as the Organization pursues organizational reform of the development pillar. It will support efforts by the Secretary-General and the Secretariat to continue promoting the repositioning of the United Nations development system, he added.
The importance of preserving oceans cannot be over-emphasized, he continued, emphasizing also that the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction remains a priority for the Group of 77. Scientists and most Governments agree that the world is facing an unprecedented crisis, with huge numbers of species on the brink of extinction, as global temperatures continue to rise, he noted, saying the Group of 77 looks forward to these issues being given the attention that their urgency demands, especially in forthcoming processes.
SHARON LINDO (Belize), speaking on behalf of the Alliance of Small Island Developing States (AOSIS) and associating herself with the Group of 77, said significant efforts will be needed to drive momentum ahead of the United Nations Climate Change Conference. The Alliance will continue to advocate for the particular circumstances of small island developing States and will identify opportunities to put them at the forefront, she emphasized. She went on to highlight the importance of oceans to small island developing States, saying AOSIS looks forward to the United Nations Ocean Conference. The Alliance will engage actively to gain a strong outcome from the event, she reiterated. In addition to the climate crisis, a biodiversity crisis is unfolding, she noted, warning that without global action, one of the planet’s greatest resources will be compromised. Twenty-twenty is the year in which the international community must act with the highest ambition, she stressed.
OLOF SKOOG, Head of Delegation, European Union, pledged to work closely with all partners, including civil society, in using the anniversary to build a United Nations that delivers for all. Agreeing with the Secretary-General on the need to send a clear signal that the Organization “listens and is open to all”, he vowed to push forward crucial reforms aimed at reducing bureaucracy, pursuing better outcomes and ensuring stronger delivery of mandates. Underlining the need for adequate financing, he urged all Member States to pay their contributions on time while seriously reflecting on the Organization’s liquidity crisis and drawing lessons from it. Welcoming the new decade as an ambitious one for action on the Sustainable Development Goals, he recalled that the World Economic Forum noted recently that the five top global risks are all linked to the climate crisis, biodiversity loss and environmental disasters. Ambitious action must now mirror the determination that delegations stress in various speeches, he emphasized, spotlighting the newly proposed European Green Deal as a positive example.
He went on to stress that the defence and promotion of human rights and fundamental freedoms will remain a cornerstone of the work of the United Nations in 2020, which will be a particularly important year for gender equality, women’s empowerment and the rights of women and girls more broadly. “We must also continue to speak out loud and clear against those trampling human rights”, he said, stressing that human rights defenders must be better protected and United Nations conflict-prevention and mediation capacities strengthened. Underlining the benefits of diplomacy, he cited the recent conference on Libya, held in Berlin; the continued importance of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on Iran’s nuclear programme; political negotiations to end the nine-year-old conflict in Syria; and the recent “Normandy 4 Summit” in Ukraine. The European Union also attaches importance to the 2020 review of the United Nations peacebuilding architecture, he said, noting that it comes at a critical juncture and provides a chance to demonstrate ambition in building peace.
YEMDAOGO ERIC TIARE (Burkina Faso), speaking on behalf of the “Group of Five” Sahel (G5 Sahel) countries, noted that the Secretary-General’s concerns raised today unfortunately include his region’s volatile security situation. Recalling the great loss of life, destruction of infrastructure and increasing terrorist actions suffered over the course of 2019, he said 2020 is now shaping up to present similar challenges. Against that backdrop, he called upon Member States to support Sahel countries — including by providing funding for the G5 Sahel Joint Force tasked with fighting terrorism — by strengthening the international presence in the region and focusing greater attention on the ongoing crisis in Libya. Emphasizing that security and development are inextricably linked, he said more attention to the Sahel’s development priorities and stronger coordination among its partners are crucial to ensuring regional stability. He went on to reiterate the G5 Sahel’s plea that the region remain at the heart of United Nations efforts.
OSCAR LEON GONZALEZ (Cuba) said the Secretary-General’s report reflects the relevance of the United Nations as a multilateral forum, adding that it is a shared duty to preserve the Organization, as well as peace and development, for present and future generations. As reflected in the Secretary-General’s report, the 2030 Agenda continues to be the road map for promoting the sustained growth of States, he noted. However, despite their efforts to implement the Agenda, developing countries face many challenges, he said, pointing out that the voluntary national reports presented to the High-Level Political Forum made this clear. He went on to reiterate the importance of meeting commitments on Official Development Assistance (ODA), transferring technology, and creating and fostering capacity to complement the efforts of developing countries to implement the 2030 Agenda. Denouncing the United States blockade of his country, he said its purpose is to destroy the political and social order chosen by the Cuban people. The blockade is the main obstacle to Cuba’s development, he said, underlining that his country continues to move forward despite the criminal blockade.
CHRISTINE RENEE BAILEY (Jamaica), associating herself with CARICOM, the Group of 77 and AOSIS, said it is significant, that the United Nations is able to point to tangible results over the course of 2019. The results provide a useful barometer for gauging the extent to which the international community is able to live up to the mandate ascribed by the Charter of the United Nations, which reflects multilateralism at its best, she noted. It is proof that the Organization’s work is relevant and present in people’s daily lives, while bearing testimony to the urgency with which further work must be undertaken. This is especially obvious in relation to the persistent challenges of combating extreme poverty, confronting violence, responding to humanitarian crises and advancing the promotion of human rights.
BURHAN GAFOOR (Singapore) said his delegation was among those which requested that the Assembly review the report on the work of the Organization earlier in 2020 than in previous years. Welcoming the early meeting as well as the report’s updated format, he expressed regret over the “retreat from multilateralism” on the part of some States at a time when more cohesion is needed. Every Member State must uphold its responsibility to Charter principles, he said, while welcoming the Secretary-General’s reform initiative, particularly the repositioning of the United Nations development system. In that regard, some outstanding mandates require expeditious completion, including review of the multi-country offices that will better support country-level efforts to realize the Sustainable Development Goals, he said. Concerned about the worst liquidity crisis in a decade, he said its root cause lies in the continued withholding of contributions. No amount of austerity will make up for a basic lack of resources, he emphasized, reminding Member States that they have all agreed to provide predictable, sustainable contributions, in full, on time and without conditions.
MARÍA BASSOLS DELGADO (Spain), associating herself with the European Union, said young people must be given reasons for hope as well as positive examples of dialogue. Outlining several key national priorities, she cited the need for urgent climate action, outlining Spain’s own commitments in that area. “We must all rise to the needs of our national tasks, as well as those of those countries most vulnerable to climate change”, she said. Underlining the need to strengthen commitments to gender equality in 2020, she warned against backsliding on previous gains. The role of women as social actors must be enhanced and zero-tolerance policies on sexual exploitation and abuse must be put in place, she stressed. She went on to spotlight the social and psychological costs of conflict, calling upon the United Nations to scale up its efforts in preventing and mediating conflict as well as peacebuilding, with significant contributions from women. Meanwhile, the defence of human rights should remain “the guiding light for our multilateral work”, she said.
CHRISTIAN WENAWESER (Liechtenstein) said high expectations for the United Nations are today clashing with concern and frustration. Warning that the Organization’s enormous and arduous tasks can easily become impossible when States reduce or end their political and financial investments, he stressed that “with the urgency of the present dangers […] there could be no worse time for States to turn away from global solutions for which the United Nations is the natural home”. Spotlighting the Security Council’s central and high-profile role, he expressed regret that it is increasingly unable to carry out its functions due to political paralysis and the increased use of veto power. He went on to propose convening the General Assembly whenever a permanent Council member casts a veto, with an open-ended outcome aimed at strengthening the Assembly’s role and enhancing the relationship between the two organs. He recalled that in 2016, the Assembly created the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism in Syria and quickly made it operational, suggesting the replication of that process in other situations. Hailing the 2030 Agenda as one of the largest recent achievements of the United Nations, he called for renewed efforts to push its implementation forward, pointing out that a third of its time frame has already elapsed.
SYED MOHAMAD HASRIN AIDID (Malaysia) expressed disappointment that fewer Member States paid their assessments in 2019 than in 2018, noting that such a situation is likely to undermine the ability of the United Nations to implement its mandates and carry out its programmes. Calling upon all States to honour their financial commitments in full, on time and without conditions, he welcomed the dawn of the Decade for Action to Deliver the Sustainable Development Goals, recalling that Malaysia hosted a summit on implementing the Goals in November 2019 and supports the Secretary-General’s efforts to boost all sources of financing for development, that of developing countries in particular. Turing to peace and security, he said Malaysia has endorsed the Action for Peacekeeping initiative and stands at the forefront of the global fight against extremism.
JOAQUÍN ALBERTO PÉREZ AYESTARÁN (Venezuela) expressed concern about the resurgence of a trend towards unilateralism and supremacist ideologies by a State that believes it is above international legality, that expands its military power to impose itself on all other nations. This is a return to the dark past, when domestic ambition to dominate the world led to the use of armed force and endless war as a method for expansion, he recalled. Emphasizing that the United Nations is underpinned by the principles of the Charter, he said they include the principle of sovereign equality of States. There is no space for a State to call itself exceptional and to decide when it complies with the Charter and when it does not. Today, precisely because of this trend towards unilateralism, Venezuela cannot vote in the General Assembly, he noted, stressing that his country has found it impossible to meet its commitments to the Organization owing to the illegal blockade imposed by the United States for the purpose of overthrowing the elected Government of President Nicolás Maduro. Venezuela can only renew its commitment to the Charter and to the standards of international law, he added.
ANDREAS MAVROYIANNIS (Cyprus) said his delegation sees merit in a debate on the state of the Organization at the beginning of each year and in adjusting the Assembly’s work to the calendar year. Annual reports could be presented in January, when the term of the Assembly President could also begin, enabling him or her to better prepare for high-level week in September, he said, noting that the extremely high number of activities during high-level week diverts attention from the general debate and makes it impossible to follow the substance of any event. He went on to say that Cyprus is extremely concerned about the threat that the climate crisis poses to international peace and security. “We urgently need a comprehensive strategy that goes beyond mitigation, adaptation and curbs on fossil fuels”, he emphasized, adding that such a strategy must ensure full respect for human rights and respond to the human dimension of the consequences of climate change.
MHER MARGARYAN (Armenia) expressed support for efforts to render the United Nations more fit for purpose and better able to adapt to the challenges of a changing world. Protecting and upholding human rights is essential to resolving conflicts and for pushing sustainable development forward, he stressed, also highlighting the important role of regional organizations. More should be invested in preventing conflict, genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, he said, adding that more attention to early warning signs, such as rising intolerance, is also a priority. Armenia’s ambitious reforms include boosting sustainability and making a greater push for gender equality and the empowerment of women, he said, expressing concern about the global trend towards backsliding on the latter. Speaking in his capacity as Chair of the Committee on the Status of Women, he welcomed the marked increase in the share of women holding high-level United Nations positions. He also joined other speakers in welcoming increased use of the interactive meeting format.
SAAD AHMAD WARRAICH (Pakistan) said the report represents a call to action in support of multilateralism, including by ensuring that the United Nations represents the interests of all its Member States, no matter their size or power. Expressing concern that the Organization too often remains mired in internal conflicts, neglecting crisis around the globe, he said it is myopic for major Powers to restrict crucial peacekeeping efforts, emphasizing that no situation better reflects the Organization’s abdication of its conflict-resolution responsibilities than the long-standing and unresolved conflict in Jammu and Kashmir. Meanwhile, Islamophobia, xenophobia and fascism are rising around the world and the international community remains off track to realize the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030 as climate change poses an existential threat, he noted. Addressing those challenges requires enhancing the roles of the General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council, he stressed, calling for reform of the Security Council to better reflect the United Nations wider membership.
HELENA DEL CARMEN YÁNEZ LOZA (Ecuador) said multilateralism represents hope for millions of people throughout the world, emphasizing that global challenges call for a concerted response. Climate change, armed conflict, poverty, displacements and violations of human rights demand the defence of multilateralism in order to guarantee international peace and security as well as sustainable development, she noted. Ecuador assigns great importance to multilateralism and the global rules-based order. The road maps arising from the Organization’s work are linked to all international efforts in response to challenges and in pursuit of global peace and security, she said, stressing the imperative of implementing the United Nations agenda. While resources must be mobilized to that end, political will is even more important, she added.
RODRIGO A. CARAZO (Costa Rica) expressed hope that the Secretary-General’s comprehensive response to the membership’s questions and suggestions will set the tone of punctuality and respect that will mark the rest of the session. He went on to state that, faced with inequality, poverty and the reality of a climate catastrophe, the international community needs specific, effective solutions, emphasizing the need to protect the environment and strengthen democratic institutions. Faced also with the reality of biodiversity loss both on land and sea, the international community must act urgently while there is still a window of opportunity, he stressed.
NAGARAJ NAIDU KAKANUR (India) said that although the world is more interconnected and interdependent today, the spirit of global partnership is showing clear signs of strain, battered by a steadily rising tide of protectionism and unilateralism. He went on to welcome efforts to strengthen the partnership between the United Nations and troop- and police-contributing countries through the Action for Peacekeeping Initiative. As one of the leading troop contributors, he added, India appreciates the priority accorded to increase the number of female uniformed personnel, as well as the promotion of meaningful participation of women in peace processes. Citing such “tentative winds of hope” as the electoral processes in Madagascar, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Afghanistan, he noted that the political dialogue in Sudan and the peace process in the Central African Republic are also promising. However, the inability to address terrorism casts doubt on the relevance of the United Nations to the very people it is obliged, under its Charter, to protect, he emphasized, pointing out that the Organization has yet to agree on a common definition, let alone craft a coherent policy to tackle terrorism and dismantle its enabling networks.
ANTHONY JOHN HINTON (Canada) said that building and sustaining peace in an environment of increased geostrategic tensions will require enhanced engagement with regional partners. This is particularly the case in efforts to advance peace, security and development in Africa, he added, welcoming the United Nations-African Union Joint Framework for Enhanced Partnership in Peace and Security as a robust framework. He went on to note that the challenges presented by climate change continue to mount, even as the international community struggles to implement effective responses. The impacts are disproportionately felt by people in countries that have contributed least to global emissions, he pointed out, while emphasizing that climate change must be met with new, innovative and ambitious actions to improve adaptation and mitigation. Financing the necessary changes will be vital to success, he added. Canada is encouraged by the progress made towards gender parity within the senior United Nations management and in combating sexual harassment and abuse, he said, stressing that the Organization must be a model of gender equality with the approach of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.
MAJID TAKHT RAVANCHI (Iran) said nothing is more crucial than an appropriate assessment of the work of the United Nations in light of increasing unilateral, hegemonic and confrontational tendencies on the part of some States. Geopolitical tensions have reached dangerous levels, he added, recalling that 2020 began with fresh turmoil, generated largely by a small group of States that violate international law in pursuit of their own interests. “This trend puts the very basis of multilateralism at risk just when it is needed most”, he emphasized, adding that such an approach is seen in such unilateral and malicious actions as those taken recently by the United States. That country’s withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action and its imposition of sanctions on Iran are a clear breach of its international obligations and a rejection of diplomacy, he stressed. Meanwhile, pervasive and rising inequality is a source of concern and can be attributed to the failure by developed countries to “keep their side of the bargain” in such areas as migration and sustainable development, he said. Disarmament solutions enjoying consensus support are likely to remain out of reach in 2020, and a new nuclear arms race now raises serious concerns, he added.
JÜRG LAUBER (Switzerland), reiterating his delegation’s commitment to multilateralism, the rule of law and the peaceful resolution of disputes, expressed concern about continued human rights violations and the shrinking space for civil society. Noting the increasing threats against journalists and human rights defenders, he welcomed the Secretary-General’s pledge to issue an official call for stronger human rights protection in 2020. He went on to underline that measures adopted as part of counter-terrorism regimes must never hamper human rights nor the delivery of humanitarian assistance. Member States must also adhere to their commitments on protecting women’s rights and enhance their participation in decision-making. While the far-reaching transformation sought by the United Nations reform agenda will require time to bear fruit, it should nevertheless be pursued as quickly as possible, he said, pointing out that its success will be seen not in New York, but in the Organization’s effectiveness on the ground. Echoing the Secretary-General’s concerns about the growing power of technology, he noted that Switzerland will host the United Nations World Data Forum in Berne, in October.
YASHAR T. ALIYEV (Azerbaijan) said that, as the world faces protracted conflicts, terrorism, inequality, poverty, hunger and climate change, no single Member State or organization can address such challenges alone. The 2030 Agenda provides a road map for transforming economies and societies in order to ensure no one is left behind, he added. Among the important steps towards realizing the 2030 Agenda’s targets, he noted, are transforming the United Nations development system, strengthening the peace and security architecture and decentralizing decision-making authority. Solving climate change is fundamental to realizing the Sustainable Development Goals, he added. Azerbaijan supports the Action for Peacekeeping Initiative and endorses its declaration of shared commitments, he said, pointing out that the deployment of Azerbaijani officers to the United Nations Mission in the Republic of South Sudan (UNMISS) in 2019 was his country’s first contribution to peacekeeping under the United Nations flag, and demonstrates Azerbaijan’s commitment to the maintenance of international peace and security.
MARTÍN GARCÍA MORITÁN (Argentina) said the Organization’s seventy-fifth anniversary is a great opportunity to strengthen and renew international commitment to multilateralism and to gauge future challenges. Today more than ever, it is essential to consolidate multilateralism, he added. While underlining the role of the International Court of Justice in the peaceful settlement of disputes through its dispute and advisory jurisdiction, he also highlighted the Secretary-General’s efforts to mediate between parties, exercise his good offices and seek peaceful solutions. Such efforts should continue until the parties concerned have resolved their dispute, particularly when there is a mandate from the General Assembly or the Security Council. He went on to say that activities to universalize the protection of all persons against enforced disappearances are an essential aspect of Argentina’s foreign policy, adding that his delegation is especially attentive to the section of the Secretary-General’s report on gender. Full equality is not merely a question of numbers but of truly inclusive public and private environments, he stressed.
PENNELOPE ALTHEA BECKLES (Trinidad and Tobago), associating her delegation with CARICOM, emphasizing that developing countries need robust support to help their progress towards realizing the Sustainable Development Goals. The development system, including the resident coordinator system and multi-country offices, must be provided with the skillsets and capacities they need to provide better-tailored support to Member States. It is imperative, she stressed, that the United Nations be able to respond effectively to the needs and challenges of small island developing States, including through adequate allocation of core resources to the small island developing States units in the Office of the High Commissioner for Least Developed, Landlocked Developing and Small Island Developing States and in the Department of Economic and Social Affairs.
MOHAMED MOHAMED FOUAD ABDULLAH AHMED (Egypt) said the Secretary-General’s briefing provided a reminder of the challenges facing the Organization as well as the important role it plays in addressing them. Millions of people have been lifted out of poverty and more women are assuming leading roles, he said, noting, however, such negative developments as the prevalence of terrorist attacks. He urged all States to refrain from supporting terrorist groups, including by providing them with safe havens. He went on to state that 2020 will witness milestone events in the area of peace and security, pointing out that The Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations will convene next month and that the 2020 review of the United Nations peacekeeping architecture is approaching.
ISHIKANE KIMIHIRO (Japan) said the Security Council must be reformed in order to reflect the realities of the contemporary world. More Member States today are capable — and willing — to contribute to the maintenance of international peace and security, he noted, saying the Council’s membership should be expanded to include them. “We must not delay the reform of the Council anymore”, he emphasized. He went on to welcome the launch of the Decade of Action, saying Japan will take full advantage of the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo and other events to promote the Sustainable Development Goals. Underlining the critical importance of a successful outcome to the 2020 Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference, he called upon States to work towards upholding that instrument.
MAHMADAMIN MAHMADAMINOV (Tajikistan), noting that the United Nations has provided the venue for resolving urgent issues for 75 years, said that rising international tensions, terrorism, drug trafficking and climate change are among the most pressing challenges that the international community is facing now and in the future. It is essential to make more effective use of the tools the Organization has at its disposal, he emphasized, adding that there is also need to strengthen the commitment to maintain the rules-based order with an efficiently functioning United Nations as a key component. Today the international community faces serious danger due to the rise of international terrorism, he noted, stressing that it is a real threat that must be addressed. He went on to applaud the creation of the United Nations Office of Counter-Terrorism, saying it has already delivered concrete results.