The General Assembly concluded today its consideration of the Secretary-General’s report on the work of the United Nations, taking note of that text after delegates emphasized the urgent need to strengthen multilateralism in order to ease global tensions, tackle the climate crisis and realize the Sustainable Development Goals.
“In the face of emerging realities, multilateralism is our best bet”, said the representative of Bangladesh, a view shared by other speakers a day after Secretary-General António Guterres presented his report (see Press Release GA/12238).
Nigeria’s representative called for focused multilateral efforts to stem the tide of small arms and light weapons in Africa. Climate action and development financing will be critical tests of the international system’s seriousness in delivering on the Sustainable Development Goals, she emphasized.
Peru’s representative said that country — among the world’s 10 “mega-diverse” nations — is not only facing the risk of severe biodiversity loss due to climate change, but also the challenge of hosting the mass influx of migrants from neighbouring Venezuela.
The Russian Federation’s representative questioned parts of the report, saying it overlooks the nefarious effects of outside interference in the internal affairs of States. As for the Secretary-General’s description of the United Nations as an optimal platform on which countries and civil society connect, she underlined that it is an intergovernmental organization in which Member States have the decision-making prerogative.
Syria’s representative reiterated his delegation’s rejection of the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism that the Assembly established in 2019 to investigate serious crimes committed since the conflict in his country broke out in 2011. He also called for an end to the sanctions imposed on his country so that Syrians can rebuild their economy.
Also speaking today were representatives of South Africa, China, Ireland, Oman and Indonesia.
Pakistan’s representative spoke in exercise of the right of reply.
The General Assembly will reconvene at a date and time to be announced.
JOHANNA ELIZABETH MARAIS (South Africa) said her delegation is excited about the Organization’s programme for 2020, including its seventy-fifth anniversary, the tenth anniversary of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women) and the Youth Plenary on the theme “The future we want, the UN we need: reaffirming our collective commitment to multilateralism”, to be held on 31 March. She added that South Africa also looks forward to the Third Summit of the South — to be held in Kampala, Uganda, in June — which will address development challenges. She urged Member States to give new impetus to reform of the Security Council so that it can live up to current realities, pointing out that the nexus between peace, security and development cannot be over-emphasized.
TAREQ MD ARIFUL ISLAM (Bangladesh), noting that 2020 will mark the convergence of several important United Nations anniversaries, said it will be crucial to map out “where things are not going right” and shift course. Spotlighting the interests and challenges of developing countries, he said priority must be accorded to the graduation of least developed countries, climate challenges and implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals. “In the face of emerging realities, multilateralism is our best bet,” he said, adding that the United Nations can do a better job of communicating with the world’s peoples. Calling for a shift in mindset, he welcomed the fact that the Rohingya crisis has not escaped global attention, saying the legal arms of the United Nations must be better utilized in the coming years. Noting that Bangladesh currently hosts 1.1 million Rohingya refugees, he underlined the primacy of political solutions, even as the United Nations works to support those displaced around the globe. He went on to outline other priorities for developing countries, including financing for development, the transfer of technology and the fight against the existential threat posed by climate change.
ZHANG JUN (China), associating himself with the Group of 77, said the world is undergoing significant change, marked by rising unilateralism, rampant power politics, and traditional and non-traditional security threats. Peace and development nevertheless remain the theme of the present era, with globalism and multipolarism moving forward despite twists and turns, he said. Reaffirming that the spirit of the United Nations Charter is the best way to commemorate the seventy-fifth anniversary of the United Nations, he said all Member States must shoulder the mission of maintaining world peace and promoting common development. Noting that China supports the Secretary-General’s priorities in general, he urged the Organization to focus on defending multilateralism, speeding up implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, promoting win-win cooperation and fostering the proper handling of differences. He went on to underline the equality of all States and the need to respect their sovereignty, territorial integrity and chosen development path. Likening human history to a river that runs forever, he said the international community must believe firmly in multilateralism in the face of growing instability around the world.
BRIAN FLYNN (Ireland) said multilateralism is essential to safeguarding the gains made over the past seven decades and to addressing the challenges that await in the new decade and beyond. The United Nations must demonstrate that the multilateral system is capable of responding to existential threats to climate and biodiversity, he/she emphasized, noting that it is the only institution that can coordinate the necessary responses to climate change. The international community must attend the 2020 Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change with enhanced ambition. The event will be a crucial moment in collective efforts towards generating sustainable and healthy oceans, he/she said. There is also a need to “push back against the pushback” in relation to gender equality, he/she stressed, expressing hope that Ireland’s 11 February event on girls’ education will help to build momentum towards a “new deal” on gender equality that will meet the needs and demands of the coming generations.
FARIDAH ISMAILA MOHAMMED (Nigeria), associating herself with the African Group and the Group of 77, said her delegation shares the Secretary-General’s concern about deepening global challenges that transcend borders, including climate change, violent extremism and terrorism, great-Power rivalry and dwindling support for multilateralism. She went on to encourage all partners to support the Action for Peacekeeping initiative and the Secretary-General’s disarmament agenda, while calling for focused multilateral efforts to stem the tide of small arms and light weapons flowing in Africa. As for reform of the United Nations development system, she said its benefits must be visible, concrete and measurable, she asserted, emphasizing that, going forward, climate action and development financing will be critical tests of the international system’s seriousness in delivering on the Sustainable Development Goals.
SULTAN MOHAMMED THANI AL FAZARI (Oman) welcomed the Secretary-General’s stated priorities for 2020, underlining the importance of full respect for the principles of international law. Turning to one of the Secretary-General’s main themes, he said scientific progress and the use of new technologies can help to address global challenges, including by tackling climate change, realizing the Sustainable Development Goals and reducing hate rhetoric. The United Nations should redirect its work to more effectively address challenges to international peace and security, he said, underlining the primacy of Chapter VI of the United Nations Charter on the peaceful resolution of disputes.
NÉSTOR POPOLIZIO (Peru) noted that his delegation joined others in spearheading an extraordinary session of the General Assembly aimed at tackling the global threats posed by corruption and impunity. Pointing out that eight of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals explicitly refer to financial inclusion, he said Peru has seen improvements in that area since it implemented the national plan for financial inclusion in 2015. Peru also serves as Co-Chair of the Group of Friends of Financial Inclusion, he added. Outlining his country’s efforts to tackle the impacts of climate change, he noted that Peru — as one of the world’s 10 “mega-diverse” countries — faces the risk of severe biodiversity loss. It also faces the challenge of mass migration from Venezuela, which has now surpassed 4.8 million, with more than 900,000 migrants hosted by Peru alone. Against that backdrop, he called for stable and predictable financing for regional efforts to support those refugees and migrants.
MOHAMMAD KURNIADI KOBA (Indonesia), associating himself with the Group of 77, expressed support for the Secretary-General’s ongoing efforts to reform the United Nations. “It is imperative to ensure that the [Organization] is fit for purpose and gives value for money in addressing the challenges our world is facing today,” he said, calling for sustainable financing to ensure the United Nations can implement the mandates handed down by Member States. Underlining the importance of the Decade of Action to deliver on the Sustainable Development Goals, he welcomed the strides made since 2015 in reducing poverty in its many dimensions, emphasizing the need to accelerate such efforts. Meanwhile, the quality and effectiveness of peacekeeping operations — including an increased role for women peacekeepers — should also be pursued, he said. Turning to the situation in the Middle East, he reaffirmed Indonesia’s solidarity with the Palestinian people and support for a two-State solution to the long‑standing Israeli-Palestinian conflict based on internationally agreed parameters.
DINA A. GILMUTDINOVA (Russian Federation) said that while her delegation understands that the United Nations needs to adapt to a changing world and that reform is an ongoing process, parts of the Secretary-General’s report raise questions. Recalling his remark that the United Nations is an optimal platform for countries and civil society to connect, she emphasized that it is an intergovernmental organization in which Member States have the decision-making prerogative. Expressing regret that the report fails to deal with the nefarious impact of external interference in conflicts, she said loose interpretation of international human rights law and international humanitarian law are unacceptable, stressing that humanitarian assistance to Yemen must be distributed to all. However, the Russian Federation shares the Secretary-General’s intention to help States in the area of arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation, she said, expressing regret that the 2019 session of the Disarmament Commission never took place and hope that the Secretary-General will help resolve visa issues to avoid any more unpleasant surprises. The Russian Federation is committed to the goal of a world free of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction, she said, adding that it also supports the Secretary-General’s intention to conduct a broad exchange of opinions on that issue. She added that her delegation expects the Secretary-General to investigate how members of Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) ended up with such an impressive arsenal of weapons from abroad.
AMMAR AL ARSAN (Syria), associating himself with the Group of 77, warned that the multilateral system is in danger of erosion and collapse at a time of growing populism and protectionism, while negative interference in the internal affairs of States is spreading chaos and destruction. Investing in armed radical terrorist groups is one of the most dangerous forms of proxy war because terrorism knows no borders and puts all lives at risk. On the situation in his country, he said the efforts of the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy will remain precarious so long as Syria is subjected to an illegal economic blockade and unilateral coercive measures. After nine years of war, Syrians do not need money from Western donors, he said, emphasizing that what they do want is to rebuild their economy and to live without fear of the future. Regarding the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism to Assist in the Investigation and Prosecution of Persons Responsible for the Most Serious Crimes under International Law Committed in the Syrian Arab Republic since March 2011, he said the Assembly exceeded its mandate in establishing it. Syria never requested such an entity, will not pay one dollar to finance it and disassociates itself from the Assembly’s decision to fund it from the regular budget.
The General Assembly then took note of the Secretary-General’s report (document A/74/1).
Right of Reply
The representative of Pakistan, speaking in exercise of the right of reply in response to a statement delivered by India’s delegate on 22 January, described the latter’s Government as a purveyor of neofascist beliefs. Rejecting any such statement by a representative of the BJP Government — the same one that endorsed Hitler’s goal of eradicating the Jews and which now seeks to rid India’s Hindu population of minorities — he said that Government’s hands are drenched in the blood of Muslims. Its violent thugs behave like Hitler’s “brown shirts”, lynching Muslims and coercing journalists into silence, he added. The aim of India’s 2019 Citizenship Amendment Act is to deny Muslims the same rights as other Indian citizens, he continued, emphasizing that it violates several international conventions prohibiting discrimination. Meanwhile, in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, Indian forces are imposing a “final solution”, much like the Nazi party once did, seeking to re-engineer the demographics of that occupied territory, he said, describing the complete lockdown of the state for more than 170 days as an admission that the occupation can only be accomplished by force and has been widely rejected by the international community.