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GA/12269
23 September 2020
Seventy-fifth Session, 6th & 7th Meetings (AM & PM)

Pandemic Recovery Assistance, Debt Relief Vital to Keeping Developing Countries’ Economies Afloat, Speakers Stress As General Assembly Continues Annual Debate

World Leaders See Opportunity in COVID-19 Crisis to Build Fairer Global Economy

While the COVID‑19 pandemic represents a stress test for the international community, it is also an opportunity to build a fairer, greener global economy, the General Assembly heard today as it continued its general debate with pre‑recorded video messages from 35 Heads of State and Government around the world.

The concerns of developing countries and small nations took centre stage today as speakers highlighted the financial havoc wreaked by the pandemic on already struggling economies.  Amidst concerted calls for pandemic recovery assistance and debt relief, many also emphasized the need to tackle the ongoing crisis of climate change.

“All our best‑laid plans have turned out to be of no use,” Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo‑Addo, President of Ghana said, noting silent places of worship, broken economic rules and closed borders.  Drawing attention to the finding by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) that the coronavirus has brought a significant reduction in the financing available to developing economies, he said that external private finance inflows could drop by $700 billion in 2020 compared to 2019, exceeding the immediate impact of the 2008 financial crisis by 60 per cent.  It is vital to restructure the global financing architecture to enable fresh financing to developing countries as an immediate necessity, he added.

Echoing that, President Hage G. Geingob of Namibia encouraged all partners to facilitate their emergency lending mechanisms and accelerate technical support to even so‑called higher‑middle‑income countries such as his.  The COVID‑19 pandemic is compounding high debt burdens, reduced fiscal revenues, capital outflows and lack of adequate access to financial markets, he said, and this did not bode well for the future of developing countries.  Commending the Secretary‑General for the launch of the $2 billion multi‑partner trust fund, he stressed that an effective multilateral system is an “insurance policy”.

Barham Salih, Iraq’s President, reflected on how 40 years of war and corruption have stripped resources from his people, leaving them bitter and angry.  Renewing the call for an international coalition to dry up terrorism financing, he reminded delegates that the country is fighting the pandemic, with a limited health‑care infrastructure all the while continuing its ongoing battle against terrorism.  The plummeting oil prices in the global market have exacerbated this burden.

Michel Aoun, President of Lebanon, reported that the earthquake‑like explosion that hit Beirut in August caused unprecedented damages, both human and material.  The fallout will cause a sharp increase in poverty rates, already at 45 per cent before the blast, he said, suggesting that devastated areas be divided into geographic zones that countries wishing to help could claim and undertake reconstruction directly.

While Palau, that country’s President, Tommy Esang Remengesau, Jr., noted, has been spared from the ravages of the pandemic, it has not been spared its consequences and now finds itself more isolated than ever.  Palau’s high‑income categorization is unrealistic, he said, calling for pandemic responses to address the needs of small island developing States.   At the same time, deteriorating climate conditions exacerbate security threats, he noted.

Juan Orlando Hernández Alvarado, President of Honduras, warned the international community of the long road ahead, with recurring crises over health, land ownership disputes, food, water and political ideologies.  Noting that some countries have withheld the production of medicine in short supply or prohibited its sale beyond national borders, while multilateral lending bodies have responded weakly to financing and deferments to deal with the recession, he asked:  “Are people supposed to be left to die?”

Nicolás Maduro Moros, President of Venezuela, said that even before the pandemic, the collapse of the international geopolitical and geoeconomic order was already in motion, with health becoming a luxury in some States.  Moreover, WHO is a model of multilateralism and its role must be strengthened, not attacked or threatened.  He proposed creating a revolving public purchasing fund within the United Nations system to guarantee access to food and health products, financed with public resources, with a view to make it possible to face discrimination and economic blockades.

Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, President of Kazakhstan, lamented the trade protectionism, political nationalism that followed in the wake of the pandemic. Joining the Secretary-General’s call for a rescue package amounting to 10 per cent of the world economy, he highlighted the need to suspend debt repayments by the poorest countries.  Post‑COVID recovery can provide a unique opportunity to put environmental protection at the forefront of the international agenda, he said, pointing to the possibility of building a fair and inclusive world.

Stevo Pendarovski, North Macedonia’ President, echoed those words, pointing to the economic and social impact of the health crisis.  Warning that poverty is fertile ground for extremism and conflict, he said the international community must seize the opportunity to restructure economies, technologies and lifestyles, in accordance with the principles of sustainable development.

Chandrikapersad Santokhi, President of Suriname, urged fellow Member States in the global South to promote their economic interests and to be more active in working towards development, as well as seeking out South‑South partnerships and collaborations.  He also underscored that Suriname is a leader in the mobilization of financial resources for sustainable development, as well as an important contributor to climate change mitigation efforts.

Mohammad Ashraf Ghani, President of Afghanistan, was similarly optimistic, extolling the possibilities and capacities of his country.  He noted that Afghanistan is situated “right at the heart of untapped potential that could bring prosperity and peace to our region”.  To unleash that potential, he stressed that current challenges needed to be addressed, particularly given that the pandemic has exacerbated existing inequalities.

David Kabua, President of the Republic of the Marshall Islands, made a plea for assistance, noting that although his country had successfully prevented the encroachment of the virus, “We are fragile, and cutbacks are throwing us backwards in our basic development, at the very time we must be moving forward”.  He stressed that multilateral cooperation was needed to move his country in the right direction.

Mario Abdo Benítez, President of Paraguay, expressing similar sentiments, said that due to the pandemic many States are struggling with debt and with making timely payments.  Financial institutions should help them by developing a more humanistic model and assisting with recovery.  In particular, the case of Landlocked Developing Countries should not be overlooked, and the Vienna Programme of Action for such countries should be implemented, especially where it concerns issues faced by countries of transit.

Also speaking today were Heads of State and Government of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Uzbekistan, Hungary, Saudi Arabia, Mozambique, Finland, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Algeria, Slovakia, Kenya, Liberia, Ecuador, Bolivia, Ukraine, Switzerland, Serbia, Guyana, Poland, Dominican Republic, Panama and Mongolia.

Statements

ŠEFIK DŽAFEROVIĆ, Chairman of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, said COVID‑19 brought forth challenges that could not have been imagined, sowing disaster around the world.  It blocked physical connections between continents, regions, countries and peoples.  “This was very demanding, and finally, traumatic,” he said, damaging both economies and the general quality of life.  At the same time, that was the only way to protect human lives — a pursuit more important than economic growth.  A strong solidarity arose, internationally and within individual societies, and people had the opportunity to understand who provided help to others.  Thanking the friends who aided his country, he said Bosnia and Herzegovina likewise tried to respond to appeals for help.  While not a European Union member, his country was grateful to take part in the European public procurement system, he said, adding that a vaccine must be made available to all humanity.

He went on to stress that global problems cannot be solved by one, three or five countries.  Only a multilateral response, based on dialogue among as many countries as possible, provides a viable path forward.  He pointed to the European Union’s historic €2 trillion recovery package — and its €300 million lifeline to Bosnia and Herzegovina alone — to demonstrate that solidarity is strong.  Such unity has only strengthened his country’s commitment to integrate into the bloc.  Over 25 years the Dayton Peace Agreement has proven to be a strong stabilization framework.  However, he cited a lack or partial implementation of its provisions as a key shortcoming that must be addressed.  “The Dayton Agreement must be fully implemented,” he assured, and equal rights for all citizens upheld in line with the European Convention on Human Rights.  An upgrade to the pact will require broad political consensus.  “There are no quick and easy changes,” and thus, “no quick and easy progress”.

Expressing support for a global ceasefire, and concern over the lack of progress in ending conflicts in Syria, Libya and Ukraine, he said Bosnia and Herzegovina also supports dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade.  It is a reliable partner in regional efforts to strengthen security in the Western Balkans, placing good cooperation with its neighbours atop its foreign policy.  While it resolves disputes in accordance with international law, he cited the issue of State border agreements as an unresolved issue, noting that his country concluded such an accord with Montenegro, however those with Serbia and Croatia have not been reached.  Illegal migration has worsened, due to migrant routes from the Middle East, which pass through his country, a huge humanitarian problem.  To address this challenge, Bosnia and Herzegovina plans to strengthen its border protection institutions, however, much greater support is needed from the European Union — and from migrant countries of origin.  He also cited the emigration of young educated people as a huge problem and advocated the creation of a society based on equal opportunity, political stability and legal security, making it possible for young people to plan for their future.  It is equally important to fulfil North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) obligations.

SHAVKAT MIRZIYOYEV, President of Uzbekistan, said the COVID‑19 pandemic vividly reveals humanity’s vulnerabilities and highlights the need for regular dialogue, trust and close cooperation.  Member States must work towards achieving a fair global system that ensures basic rights and freedoms, he said, calling for the creation of an international code of voluntary commitment of States during pandemics under the auspices of the United Nations that reflects each country’s commitment to its citizens and international partners.  For its part, Uzbekistan is strengthening social protection and health systems through special funding mechanisms, he said, pledging his support for the development and widespread use of essential drugs and vaccines.

He said the transformation process he heralded three years ago has forged a new Uzbekistan in which democratization is now irreversible.  Parliamentary elections held in 2019 demonstrated growing political activism and highlighted the important role of civil society in the country.  To further this transformation, gender equality has become a priority and the number of women in leadership positions is on the rise.  “The human rights situation has also completely changed,” he said, noting that child labour was fully abolished.  The Government is also implementing entrepreneurship and job creation policies to reduce poverty levels.  Noting that nearly half the country’s population is young, he urged Member States to support his initiative to adopt the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Youth.

Turning to regional concerns, he said Central Asia’s leaders are pushing to deeply integrate the region into the global economic, transport and transit corridors and proposed the creation of a regional centre for the development of transport communications under the auspices of the United Nations.  Identifying Afghanistan as an integral regional partner, he voiced support for that country’s peace talks and said efforts were under way to integrate it into the regional economy.  On a global scale, he highlighted the risks posed by climate change and poverty and called for United Nations initiatives to protect and restore at‑risk ecosystems.

JÁNOS ÁDER, President of Hungary, said today’s situation could be seen as the prototype for the Anthropocene era as human beings have the biggest impact on changes to the planet.  The question will be if the world can learn from the COVID‑19 crisis and act in areas that have posed threats to humanity for a long time, and where it has been clear that procrastination only increases the risks and costs.

The majority of the Sustainable Development Goals are unattainable in the absence of appropriate water policy, he went on, warning that there is no hope for increased productivity in the impoverished regions of the world or adequate food production without access to safe water.  The lifestyle human beings have created is unsustainable, every year consuming more resources than nature can replenish, he said.  The solution is a circular economy where raw materials are recycled.

In an effort to make progress on that front, Hungary held the Budapest Water Summit three times in recent years and is organizing a sustainability expo at the end of 2020 which will deal with issues including food production, transportation, energy and waste management.

KASSYM-JOMART TOKAYEV, President of Kazakhstan, calling the current global emergency a stress test for the international community, lamented the trade protectionism, political nationalism and critical collapse of global cooperation that followed.  Acknowledging that the post‑cold war world missed the chance to build a people‑centred international system, he said priority must be given to upgrading national health institutions through timely and coordinated support from developed countries and United Nations agencies.  “We must take the politics out of the vaccine,” he said, adding that it is not too late for reaching a COVID‑19 vaccine trade and investment agreement that would protect global production and supply chains.

Pointing to the need to revise the International Health Regulations to increase the World Health Organization’s (WHO) capacity, he stressed that launching a biological weapons control system is becoming more acute than ever and proposed the establishment of a special multilateral body, the International Agency for Biological Safety, based on the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention.  Joining the Secretary‑General’s call for a rescue package amounting to 10 per cent of the world economy, he highlighted the need to suspend debt repayments by the poorest countries.  Cautioning that the nuclear non‑proliferation and disarmament crisis is also looming over humanity, he noted that his country has willingly abandoned its nuclear arsenal.

Turning to climate change, which he called a “threat multiplier”, he noted that the post‑COVID recovery can provide a unique opportunity to put environmental protection at the forefront of the international agenda.  Kazakhstan, despite its high dependence on fossil fuels, is deeply committed to develop a decarbonized economy, he said, noting goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 15 per cent by 2030 and plant more than 2 billion trees in the next five years.  Central Asia is undergoing rapid transformation through regional cooperation, he said, stressing that the rational use of transboundary water resources is instrumental to regional stability.  Crisis brings opportunity, and the possibility of building a better, greener, more efficient, fair and inclusive world, he concluded.

SALMAN BIN ABDULAZIZ AL‑SAUD, King of Saudi Arabia, reported that, as the President of the Group of 20 (G20), the Kingdom held a leaders’ summit in March aimed at coordinating the international response to the COVID‑19 crisis and pledged $500 million to support efforts to combat the pandemic.  Turning to the security situation in the Middle East, he said the region suffers from attempts by forces of extremism and chaos to hijack countries’ present and future.  Saudi Arabia advocates policy that relies on international laws and principles, and continues to work to achieve security, stability and prosperity in the region.

While Saudi Arabia has sought peace with Iran over the past decades, the world has witnessed how Tehran refused those and other global efforts, squandering the wealth and resources of that country’s people with its expansionist agenda.  Iran continues to target Saudi Arabia through its proxies with missile and armed drone attacks in violation of Security Council resolutions, he said.  A comprehensive solution and firm international position are needed to address the Iranian regime’s attempt to obtain weapons of mass destruction and sponsor terrorism.  Furthermore, Iranian interference in Yemen has led to a political, economic and humanitarian crisis there and continues to obstruct efforts to reach a political solution.

If the international community intends to win the battle against terrorism, it must face countries that sponsor terrorism and stand firmly against those that promote transnational extremist ideologies.  He expressed support for United States efforts to bring Palestinians and Israelis to the negotiating table and condemned foreign interventions in Libya.  The explosion at the Port of Beirut was a result of the hegemony of Hizbullah that led to the disabling of the constitutional State institutions in Lebanon, he said, calling for that organization to be disarmed.

STEVO PENDAROVSKI, President of North Macedonia, said that 2020 is undoubtedly one of the most difficult years that humanity is living through in recent history.  The pandemic, in addition to taking nearly 1 million lives, has caused many tectonic changes, and revealed that the health crisis is both economic and social because it causes poverty, and poverty is fertile ground for extremism and conflict.  This vortex of crises and threats generates fear, uncertainty and mistrust and polarizes the relations between States, and within States, undermining multilateralism.  Instead of the existing static order created after the Second World War, we need a functional and dynamic system of shared rules and principles that we believe in, adapted to the new times.

The tragedy caused by COVID‑19, he continued, should not be used to raise geopolitical tensions and increase rivalry among the great powers.  Science must be separate from the logic of profit and the destructive effects of propaganda and misinformation.  The pandemic, he stressed, is an opportunity to restructure economies, technologies and lifestyles, in accordance with the principles of sustainable development.  Unfortunately, to repair the economic damage caused by the pandemic, many Governments and companies are already making compromises at the expense of the environmental and climate agenda.  By doing so, they only protect the unsustainable economic model of development based on fossil fuels and the use of underpaid labour, he cautioned, also joining the Secretary‑General’s call for a global truce and full respect for international humanitarian law in these extraordinary circumstances.

As a small country in South‑East Europe, he continued, “we have brought additional stability to the region by resolving, through the mediation of the United Nations, the complex dispute with our neighbour Greece.”  Unfortunately, the region still faces unresolved political and historical disputes, he said, but the solution to these problems lies in overcoming historical myths, and not in the ethnic and religious domination ideologies of the nineteenth century.  Further, democracy is under fierce attack from populism and authoritarianism.  “If we want to maintain the moral superiority of democracy,” he said, the international community must invest in education and global solidarity.  This effort should be guided by the United Nations, reformed and adapted to the new reality, he stressed.

NANA ADDO DANKWA AKUFO-ADDO, President of Ghana, said that it would have been implausible a year ago to not shake hands or hug loved ones.  For many, the most difficult aspect of these uncertain times has been the silence forced upon churches, mosques, temples and other places of worship.  All sacred economic rules by which countries have been urged to conduct their affairs in the past century have been thrown out, at least for the moment.  “All our best‑laid plans have turned out to be of no use when faced with the ravages of an unknown virus,” he acknowledged.  Ghana has chalked modest success in efforts to defeat COVID‑19 through resolute actions by his Government, cooperation by the people and the grace of the almighty.

“The lessons are clear,” he said, and as borders and airports closed, the reality dawned that people had to rely on each other.  “We have all gone down together, we should all rise together.”  If the answer lies in finding a vaccine, then a vaccine should be provided to the entire world, for people of all races and all beliefs.  There is no special protection for the rich or a particular class.  The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) found that the coronavirus has brought a significant reduction in the financing available to developing economies, estimating that external private finance inflows could drop by $700 billion in 2020 compared to 2019, exceeding the immediate impact of the 2008 financial crisis by 60 per cent.  He called for the restructuring of the global financing architecture to enable fresh financing to developing countries as an immediate necessity.

He went on to stress that with WHO in the eye of the storm during the pandemic, lessons have emerged.  “We should have arguments about the United Nations and its agencies, but after 75 years, they should be like the ones we have in our families, not about their very existence,” he explained, underscoring the need to tackle long‑standing injustices in the structure of the Security Council, whose membership does not reflect twenty‑first century realities.  He expressed support for the Ezulwini Consensus approach, stressing also that effective implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals is critical to maintaining the relevance of the multilateral system.  He described threats to the consolidation of democratic governance in Africa — and noting Ghana’s role as Chair of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) — pointed to the political situation in Mali as an immediate test, following the coup that ousted the President.  Stressing that terrorism and violent extremism are not restricted to any one jurisdiction, he pressed the United Nations to support ECOWAS efforts to restore normalcy.  On technology, he endorsed the Secretary‑General’s recommendations in the Road Map on Digital Cooperation, noting that as Ghana prepares for presidential and parliamentary elections in December, it is relying on technology to popularize its messages.  All Ghanaians agree on working together to ensure transparent, free, fair, safe and credible elections, he said, also highlighting the Ghana project, which aims to modernize all aspects of daily life, and the commemoration of the 400th anniversary of the Transatlantic Slave Trade, during which his nation declared 2019 the Year of Return and welcomed slave descendants back the country.

FILIPE JACINTO NYUSI, President of Mozambique, said the international community has witnessed marked improvements since the inception of the United Nations.  Social and development indicators improved, life expectancy increased, mortality decreased and efforts to empower women are deepening.  He assured the Assembly that multilateralism remains the best approach to address challenges and mitigate suffering, including addressing the COVID‑19 pandemic.  Member States pursuing nationalist and isolationist policies in the face of the pandemic are bound to fail, he said, adding that in the global village, national and international issues are increasingly less discernible.

He welcomed the Secretary‑General’s efforts to reform the United Nations system.  However, he expressed concern over the lack of progress in negotiations to reform the Security Council.  Earlier in 2020, Mozambique submitted its first voluntary national report on the Sustainable Development Goals, he noted, stressing that only collective approaches will lead to the successful implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  Mozambique is still recovering from cyclones that hit its coast in 2019, he said, highlighting the need for concerted action to mitigate the risks of climate change.

Development gains made in the country are being put at risk by terrorist and criminal threats in certain provinces, he continued.  Terrorist attacks have claimed the lives of over 1,000 people and resulted in the displacement of some 250,000 more.  The Government is implementing a two‑pronged approach to countering the terrorist threat.  On one hand, he said the Government is taking a firm security stance with the support of local populations while at the same time implementing humanitarian assistance programmes to assist affected communities.  He closed by reaffirming his support for international peace and security, peacemaking and human rights.

BARHAM SALIH, President of Iraq, delivering greetings from the “City of peace, Baghdad” called the current virtual meeting a symbol of the radical change under way in human life and communication.  Calling on developed countries to support developing ones, he stressed the need to fight misinformation, which jeopardizes the lives of millions.  Early planning can guarantee equity in the distribution of a COVID‑19 vaccine, he said, stressing that the international community must prevent its distribution from becoming a commercial act.  Within the limited health‑care infrastructure resources of his country, he said, Iraq is fighting the pandemic, while continuing its ongoing battle against the scourges of terrorism and corruption.

His country’s military victory over terrorism, he continued, came at great sacrifice from the people and the army, and was accomplished with support from the international coalition.  Nevertheless, transnational extremism continues to exist in the form of sleeping cells across the country, especially in the desert areas.  Cautioning that terrorists may reorganize, he voiced hope that Iraq will continue to receive support from the international community in funds and in “identifying sources of corruption leading to capital flights”.  Corruption has stripped resources from Iraq’s people, and as a result they are bitter and angry, he said, renewing the call for an international coalition to dry up terrorism financing.  Further, the international community must stand shoulder to shoulder with his country to ensure that the genocide and other crimes committed against the Yazidi people will not be repeated.

Forty years of war, blockades and terrorism, he reflected, is the lamentable history that Iraq carries.  The plummeting oil prices in the global market and the economic havoc wreaked by the pandemic have exacerbated this burden.  Around a year ago, the country saw a popular movement in which citizens expressed a desire for change and dialogue.  Pointing to reforms undertaken in response, he said that a new Government was formed in 2020.  The Iraqi people wish to usher in a new political age, he said, noting the intention to hold early elections in 2021.  Calling for technical assistance from the United Nations, he said, “we do not want Iraq to become a playground for external forces.”

SAULI NIINISTÖ, President of Finland, called for an effective global response to the common enemy that is COVID‑19.  “No one is safe, until all are safe,” he said, pledging support to WHO and the United Nations more broadly.  Regrettably, the pandemic revealed how countries are tempted to react amid immediate threats — nationally, and not internationally.  However, it also showed the world’s ability to take radical measures when required, and that same impetus is also needed in fighting the even more persistent existential threat of climate change.  “Our lives may have been on lockdown this year, but climate change has not stopped for a moment,” he stressed, adding that the urgent need for bold and swift action is growing by the day.

Underscoring the need to truly “build back better and greener”, he said the Paris Agreement on climate change, 2030 Agenda and the Convention on Biological Diversity need to guide the way forward.  Finland stands firmly behind its aim to become climate neutral by 2035, and thus the world’s first fossil‑free welfare society.  Voicing concern about the fate of multilateralism, he warned that global institutions are suffering from inward‑looking nationalism and great‑power competition alike.  Global agreements, norms and principles are increasingly challenged and weakened, and the rules‑based order is under threat.  Calling on States to work to reverse that trend, he also underlined the need to adapt institutions to changing circumstances.

“As any global crisis, the COVID‑19 pandemic, too, can have negative effects on peace and security across the world,” he said.  It can intensify existing conflicts, stall peace processes and wake up dormant tensions.  However, he echoed the Secretary‑General’s March call for a global ceasefire, noting that COVID‑19 can also offer opportunities for peace and calling for greater investments in conflict prevention.  “No Government should use the crisis as a pretext to violate human rights or to limit democratic and civic space”, nor undermine respect for the rule of law, he stressed.

SOORONBAI ZHEENBEKOV, President of Kyrgyzstan, said the United Nations system is the most important instrument to overcome global issues and said the COVID‑19 pandemic highlights how interlinked the world has become.  Kyrgyzstan has significantly diminished the spread of the virus that has taken a heavy toll on the country, in no small part due to ongoing assistance from the United Nations and other international partners.  He welcomed decisions to suspend debt payments due to the pandemic.

Voicing support for the Secretary‑General’s calls to reform the United Nations, he urged rapid action to enhance the effectiveness of the Security Council, General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council.  He called for wide support to Kyrgyzstan’s candidacy for the Human Rights Council and Security Council and said the United Nations must remain the central coordinator for counter‑terrorism efforts.

Noting the country’s ratification of the Paris Agreement, he said Kyrgyzstan is working to lower its use of fossil fuels and expand its use of hydroelectric power.  However, to adapt to the consequences of climate change, Kyrgyzstan needs continued support from the international community.  He urged increased efforts to preserve glaciers and the ecosystems in which glaciers form and cited Kyrgyz initiatives to protect flora and fauna in those ecosystems.  He said Kyrgyzstan will present a draft resolution in the General Assembly on the protection of biodiversity.  Turning to Central Asia, he pledged continued support and cooperation in regional mechanisms to develop transport communications and more deeply link Asia and Europe.  The country’s national strategy on sustainable development enshrines human rights and the Government is undergoing large‑scale reform of its judiciary.

TOMMY ESANG REMENGESAU, JR., President of Palau, said he took the opportunity to use this, his final address to the General Assembly before stepping down after 16 years as President, to echo the call for solidarity he made in his first address at the fifty‑second session of the Assembly.  Much as world leaders came together then following the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 in New York, they must once again unite to address the COVID‑19 pandemic.  While Palau has been spared from the ravages of the pandemic, it has not been spared from its consequences and now finds itself more isolated than ever.  This isolation shows that Palau’s high‑income categorization is unrealistic, he said, noting that the economy is vulnerable.  He called for pandemic responses to address the needs of small island developing States and warned the Assembly about the risks of vaccine hoarding.

The pandemic must not distract the international community from long‑term threats that continue to afflict the world, he said, noting that long‑term development hinges on repairing humankind’s relationship with nature.  Palau is reaching new milestones in efforts to protect marine ecosystems, he said, noting the international community’s reliance on marine resources.  The High‑Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy — chaired by Palau — is set to launch a set of recommendations on actions needed to transition towards a sustainable ocean economy.  “At least 30 per cent of the ocean needs to be protected by 2030,” he said.

World leaders must not allow the pandemic to delay climate action, he said, adding that Palau is making progress towards reaching its target of 45 per cent renewable energy production.  Deteriorating climate conditions exacerbate security threats, he noted, welcoming a forthcoming Security Council meeting convened by Germany on the climate emergency.  He reiterated calls for the appointment of a Special Representative of the Secretary‑General on Climate and Security to integrate concerns into the Council’s agenda.  He said bilateral relations with Taiwan [province of China], United States and Japan are helping Palau mitigate the pandemic and advance development initiatives.

IGOR DODON, President of the Republic of Moldova, said that, with help from its partners, his country offered immediate support to the health‑care system, purchasing medical equipment and materials.  “The fight against COVID‑19 requires coordinated and transparent action at the global level,” he said, underscoring the imperative to ensure universal access to treatment and vaccines, when they become available.  On the development front, Chisinau presented its first voluntary national report in July, mapping out progress, challenges and opportunities.  Over the last year, it made gains in the fight against corruption and worked towards justice reform.  To increase the social protections, it indexes pensions and allowances twice a year, he said, adding that a national road rehabilitation programme is in full swing and reforms were initiated to ensure decent working conditions and expanded social services for women.

Turning to security, he expressed deep concern over the arms race and excessive build‑up of conventional weapons.  In Eastern Europe, he noted the lack of progress in overcoming conflict, stressing that since 1992, in both the United Nations and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the Republic of Moldova has addressed the Transnistrian conflict settlement.  It remains unresolved, due to the lack of political will, existence of underwater economic interests and the strong geopolitical character of the problem.  He emphasized the importance of a constructive approach by all involved in the “5+2 format” mandated to find a final solution, pressing the guarantors and observers to step up their efforts, based on respect for his country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within internationally recognized borders, the adoption of special status for the Transnistrian region and guaranteed rights for its people.

Expressing regret that COVID‑19 has created new obstacles to the free movement of people, goods and services over the Nistru River, strained the situation in the Security Zone and delayed progress in negotiations, he said a political decision on a complete settlement of the Transnistrian conflict must be based exclusively on proposals formulated by his country — rather than by those abroad.  The Government will do its utmost to ensure that a draft of the Basic Parameters and Principles of the final settlement model is submitted in the first half of 2021.  He called for greater cooperation between the United Nations and OSCE in managing peacekeepers, ensuring respect for human rights in conflict regions and facilitating mediation.  At the same time, the necessary preconditions exist for resumed bilateral dialogue with the Russian Federation to identify a solution regarding the Cobasna weapons depot, he said, noting that 20,000 tons of obsolete ammunition remain stationed in the Republic of Moldova.  Recalling that “our country was formed on the crossroads of various civilizations, cultures, languages, religions and geopolitical interests”, he outlined his belief that it can develop as an independent, sovereign, democratic, rule‑of‑law nation actively pursuing a policy of permanent neutrality, based on the desire for peaceful coexistence.

ABDELMADJID TEBBOUNE, President of Algeria, underscored the importance to implement the reforms at the United Nations, calling for the start of intergovernmental negotiations on equitable representation on the Security Council.  He went on to call on parties in Libya to work together to find a resolution to the conflict under the auspices of the United Nations and without foreign intervention, and said Algeria looks forward to the restoration of constitutional order in Mali.

Turning to the Western Sahara, he called for the resumption of discussions in designating a new Special Envoy of the Secretary‑General for that region.  A Special Envoy could foster negotiations between the parties with the purpose of meeting the hopes of the people of the Maghreb and Africa.  Calling for international cooperation to combat terrorism, extremism, corruption and money‑laundering, he pledged Algeria’s continuing engagement in disarmament and non‑proliferation efforts.

On the environment, he called on developed countries to take more responsibility and strengthen technical and financial support for developing countries.  COVID‑19 has not deterred Algeria from striving to implement the Sustainable Development Goals, he said, reporting that it had created a national framework for indicators of progress and is working to integrate the 2030 Agenda into the country’s annual budgetary laws.  In the wake of the 2019 elections, Algeria has made strides in implementing reforms aimed at building a stronger country and will soon hold a referendum for a draft reform of the Constitution which will ensure the protection of peoples’ rights and freedoms.

JUAN ORLANDO HERNÁNDEZ ALVARADO, President of Honduras, said that, as a survivor of COVID‑19 and leader of a developing country fighting to beat the pandemic, he expressed concern over the multifaceted consequences of this emergency.  “We must give our people confidence,” he said, especially “at a time when they are wondering what is around the corner.”  Crises will likely recur, not only over health but also over land ownership disputes, food, water and political ideologies.  Detailing achievements, he said Honduras reduced the number of violent deaths by 60 per cent. “We are no longer one of the most violent countries in the world,” he exclaimed, encouraging the United Nations to recognize gangs and drug traffickers as terrorists.  Yet, the world has not been able to fulfil the altruistic purposes that gave rise to the United Nations in 1945.  The pandemic has revealed vast inequalities at a time when all countries are seeking medicine and equipment for hospitals, yet only a few succeed:  those first in line, rather than those most in need.  In some instances, countries have withheld the production of medicine in short supply or prohibited its sale beyond national borders.  “Are people supposed to be left to die?” he wondered.

While Honduras agrees with some WHO recommendations on the purchase of medical equipment, it did not agree with the agency’s initial ruling that face masks were unnecessary.  “We had to take our own decisions, based on our own experience,” he explained, thanking the country’s health workers who gave their lives to beat back the pandemic and noting that, thanks to two particular medicines, Honduras reduced its mortality rate from 9 to 3 per cent.  When science can pre‑empt some situations, those findings must be shared with all countries in a transparent, timely manner, in order to avoid information being manipulated.  For instance, it was useful for Honduran doctors to share information with their European Union and United States peers.  Had they not, it would have been a crime against humanity.  He called on all States to provide critical information to the world, either through WHO or other means, stressing that “This virus has attacked us all, equally.”

The time has come to revise the United Nations into a more efficient and effective organization, he said, able to provide the world’s people with the information they need to prepare for the next crisis.  He called for a forward‑looking analysis — “so that we do not move forward blindly” — and more broadly for equality in accessing technology and health information.  The Sustainable Development Goals also must be updated to align with the current reality, with efforts undertaken in a manner that avoids excessive red tape.  He credited a lack of respect for nature and the looting of national resources as reasons behind the emergence of new epidemics and called for moving “from theory to fact and the nitty gritty reality that climate change has been an emergency for years”.  He questioned where the “green climate funds” are to be found, as Honduras has requested yet not received them.  “Why are they not reaching the neediest?” he asked.  “Are you not concerned by our inaction, that we seem to be going round and round in circles on these matters?”  The poorest countries should not be castigated with bad ratings by agencies.  To date, multilateral lending bodies have had a weak response to financing and deferments to deal with the recession.  He suggested that the Secretary‑General convene a select group of leaders on health care, education, small business and technology to outline a road map countries can use to emerge from the crisis.  “If so, the United Nations will be able to say it rose to the occasion,” he assured.

MICHEL AOUN, President of Lebanon, said the earthquake‑like explosion that hit Beirut in August caused unprecedented damages, both human and material.  The fallout will not only affect economic activity but will also cause a sharp increase in poverty rates, already at 45 per cent before the blast.  The Lebanese Army has undertaken the management of emergency relief in collaboration with United Nations agencies, Red Cross, volunteers and licensed non‑governmental organizations.  In order to rebuild totally demolished neighbourhoods and facilities, Lebanon needs support from the international community, he stressed, suggesting devastated areas be divided into geographic zones that countries wishing to help could claim and undertake reconstruction directly.  The Lebanese High Judicial Council continues to investigate the cause of the explosion.

In addition to the calamities of recession, COVID‑19 and the Beirut explosion, Lebanon has dealt with the Syrian displacement crisis for 10 years, hosting a displaced population that amounts to one third of the national population, he said.  Demanding intensified efforts for the safe return of the displaced that is not linked to a political solution in Syria, he called on donor counties to honour their pledges and follow up on their commitments.

Welcoming the Security Council resolution extending the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) mandate, he called on the international community to bind Israel to its obligations to cooperate fully with UNIFIL and cease its land, sea and air violations of Lebanese sovereignty.  Beirut specifically requests United States mediation for negotiations to define and delineate maritime borders according to international law in a manner that preserves Lebanon’s sovereignty and rights to its resources.  Highlighting the inviolability of internationally recognized borders, he underscored that any negotiations, regardless of their formula or the party conducting them, must consider sustainable solutions sponsored by concerned parties and in various United Nations resolutions.

ZUZANA ČAPUTOVÁ, President of Slovakia, said the COVID‑19 pandemic has shown that ordinary people can achieve extraordinary things if they are led by solidarity and compassion and that responsible behaviour saves lives, even if it limits comfort.  She called for the globalization of compassion and warned the Assembly against letting the quest for a vaccine become yet another global competition.  “If we are to be successful in averting any crisis, we need responsible leadership.”

She said world leaders must be guided by facts and knowledge, rather than political calculations and selfish interests, only so will citizens trust their Governments.  To guard these principles, it is imperative to protect free and independent media.  She said times of crisis do not provide an excuse to suppress human rights and liberties.  Any restrictions on rights and freedoms must be proportionate, time‑limited and legally sound.  Rights violations remain too common and have recently been witnessed in Belarus, she said, adding that authoritarianism is a disease that threatens humankind.

The COVID‑19 pandemic demonstrates what the international community can accomplish when it comes together under a common goal, she said, adding that the spirit of cooperation must be directed at addressing climate change.  Member States know what needs to be done to tackle climate change, she said, calling on leaders to show genuine will to work as one.

UHURU KENYATTA, President of Kenya, said the COVID‑19 pandemic defines today’s challenges, challenges that can only be overcome if everyone succeeds.  Kenya’s firm belief in multilateralism is aligned with its shared global values grounded in human dignity, equity, social justice, human rights and good governance.  The COVID‑19 pandemic should give fresh impetus to collective efforts to strengthen international cooperation, he said, noting that the crisis has deepened existing inequalities.

In response to the pandemic, he said that Kenya created a multi‑agency team, expanded the national health‑care system, and introduced financial and tax interventions to aid the economy.  At a continental level, Kenya has been working with the African Union to adopt a COVID‑19 mitigation strategy which has successfully prevented severe illness and minimized social and economic disruptions, he said, calling on the global community to enhance cooperation and assistance to vulnerable countries and to achieve universal health coverage.

Global geopolitics and competition between global powers have complicated and undermined the response to the pandemic, causing anxiety and weakening coordinated responses, he remarked.  After addressing the acute phase of the pandemic, the international community must remain collectively committed to global recovery, including a debt moratorium for developing countries and an early replenishment of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Poverty Reduction and Growth Trust and the World Bank International Development Association.  Turning to climate change, he called on the expansion and harmonizing of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN‑Habitat).  Expressing support for the Secretary‑General’s appeal for a global ceasefire and rollback of international sanctions, he called specifically for an end to the embargo against Cuba and lifting sanctions against Zimbabwe and Sudan.

HAGE G. GEINGOB, President of Namibia, stressed that an effective, rules‑based multilateral system is an “insurance policy” against existential threats such as wars, nuclear proliferation, pandemics and climate change.  The adverse socioeconomic effects of the COVID‑19 pandemic, compounding existing challenges such as high debt burdens, reduced fiscal revenues, capital outflows and lack of adequate and sufficient access to financial markets, do not bode well for the future of developing countries, he said.  Commending the Secretary‑General for the launch of the $2 billion multi‑partner trust fund for COVID‑19 response and recovery, and acknowledging the debt relief initiatives announced by IMF, World Bank and the G20, he encouraged all partners to facilitate their emergency lending mechanisms and accelerate technical support to even so‑called higher‑middle‑income countries such as his.

Praising the targeted efforts of WHO, he underscored that a vaccine, once developed, should become “a global public good”, accessible to all, freely and equitably.  Namibia stands ready to partner in such development for the benefit of its citizens and the world at large.  Lamenting that the pandemic has diverted resources from climate change mitigation efforts, he noted that his country continues to suffer major environmental disasters such as floods, drought and water scarcity.  As a member of the High‑Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy, Namibia is committed to tackling global warming, ocean acidification, marine pollution, including plastic pollution, and unsustainable exploitation of its living marine resources, he said.

The African continent, he continued, wishes to see a reformed Security Council, which is reflective of its African Common Position as outlined in the Ezulwini Consensus and the Sirte Declaration.  Thanking those speakers who supported the Position, he also noted the upcoming opening of the International Women’s Peace Centre in Namibia.  The Centre will become an institute of excellence in mediation and conflict prevention to support and ensure that women are given adequate tools to contribute to humanity’s future, he said, calling on the international community to unite in safeguarding global peace and the human dignity of every man, woman and child in the world.

GEORGE MANNEH WEAH, President of Liberia, said that poor and rich countries have stood together in the face of the COVID‑19 pandemic.  While Africa has been spared large‑scale deaths due to the virus seen elsewhere, the continent has still been hit hard.  Liberia and its development partners have built on the experience of the past Ebola epidemic to launch a robust national response to the COVID‑19 pandemic.  As a result, the country is now able to pursue its post‑COVID‑19 economic recovery plan which targets the agriculture and tourism sectors.

He called for urgent review of the priorities of the United Nations so that the Organization can remain the foremost forum for peace, conflict resolution and the prevention of war.  Such a review will allow the United Nations to redouble efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.

Responses to the COVID‑19 pandemic have resulted in related issues within Liberia, including an increase in rape and sexual- and gender‑based violence following the closure of schools, he said.  To address this problem, the Government declared rape a national emergency and appointed a special prosecutor to establish a sex offender registry, as well as created a national security task force on the matter.  Further, traditional community leaders have agreed to assume a leadership role as part of efforts to end female genital mutilation.

LENIN MORENO GARCÉS, President of the Republic of Ecuador, said the pandemic has impacted the planet and put pressure on multilateralism.  The international community is facing a health crisis, as well as a social and economic one.  Lives cannot be saved without the support of multilateral bodies, private enterprise, the academic community and society as a whole, he said, welcoming calls for a multilateral response to the crisis.  “COVID‑19 has changed the recent history of the world and quite likely the history of our future world,” he said, noting that it will also impact the fulfilment of the Sustainable Development Goals.  The 2030 Agenda is in line with his country’s national development plan, he said, underscoring the need for a strong united multilateral system that ensures financial and technical support for everyone.  Technology is essential to ensure the right of citizens to telemedicine and teleworking.

In the post‑COVID era, the global community will face the challenge of recovering its economies, he said.  It must offer agile and adequate lines of credit with appropriate terms and must comply with official development assistance (ODA) commitments.  Ecuador supports the COVAX initiative to speed up vaccines and also supports the existence of a repository of technologies to combat the pandemic.  Only by having patent‑free vaccines distributed fairly will the world be saved, he said.  The pandemic has seriously affected the most vulnerable groups and worsened domestic violence.  Older people and persons with disabilities have also suffered disproportionately, as have those with greater risk of contracting the disease.  Indigenous people are vulnerable and require priority attention, while migrants have also been hard hit.  As a destination country, Ecuador is ensuring that their rights are protected and will continue to support the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration.

Climate change is an issue that cannot be ignored, he said.  Limited implementation of climate agreements will have serious repercussions.  He highlighted the existence of a large fleet of fishing vessels off the Galapagos Islands, noting that his country will reinforce its maritime rights in this exclusive economic zone.  The Galapagos Islands must be protected, he said, appealing to countries fishing in the south‑east waters of the Pacific Ocean to limit their activities and comply with regulations.  He also called for stronger information on the location of these vessels, as well as better monitoring and oversight.  As a first step to achieving lasting and sustainable peace, the duty of the global community is to work together to combat the pandemic.  He welcomed the upcoming entry into force of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and supported the initiative to profoundly reform the United Nations system in order to maximize its efficiency.

JEANINE AÑEZ CHÁVEZ, President of Bolivia, said Latin America sees more clearly than ever the two paths ahead, but the choice is not between left or right, statism or neoliberalism, socialism or capitalism.  The choice, she said, is between freedom and oppression, the dilemma between democracy and dictatorship.  Latin America in general has not overcome authoritarianism and the threat of oppression driven by dictatorial populism, with dictators and cronies aiming at complete capture of the political sphere, culture, economy and ultimately people’s freedom.  It is the system for a few, a certain caste or political clan.

In choosing the other path based on democracy, Latin America has the option to build on a republican tradition, she said.  Bolivia is focused on returning power to the people after over a decade of authoritarianism, and she pointed to “clean and transparent elections” scheduled for 18 October, despite an attempt to halt them with brutal violence just a few weeks ago.  The Bolivian people stopped that attempt, as they no longer want to watch Governments building palaces or museums to dictators.  The current Government is investing 10 per cent of its national budget in health, including jobs and free healthcare for those suffering from the pandemic.  “This is a Christian value for us,” she said, to care for our neighbour and those we see as our brother and it includes giving cash to Bolivian families in need.

She stated she could not end her address without denouncing the abusive attack by Argentina against the institutions and people of Bolivia, an attack by a Government, dictators and their cronies who use abusive methods to hold onto power.  She asked what authority Argentina has to meddle in the affairs of Bolivia or offer impunity to former Bolivian President Evo Morales, who has been accused of violations of human rights and abuses of women and girls.  Turning to maritime issues, she appealed to the international community to help solve through negotiation pending problems between States, such as Bolivia’s lack of sovereign access to the Pacific Ocean.  She invited the world to watch Bolivia’s political process on 18 October.

VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, President of Ukraine, said that in technological terms, the Organization can be described as the “software” that has saved the world from critical errors since its founding.  However, it is increasingly coming under attack from “bugs” or “viruses” that are sometimes hard to contain.  Pointing to the Russian Federation’s annexation of the Crimea and its military aggression in Donbas, he said that Ukraine has proven in the past year that it is really striving for peace.  With a ceasefire in place since 27 July, the next step should be the withdrawal of unlawful military formations and armaments from occupied Ukrainian territories and restoring the country’s territorial integrity.  To achieve that goal, Ukraine is hoping for greater international unity, with the United Nations playing an important role.

“It is unacceptable when sovereignty of the independent State is violated by one of the permanent members of the Security Council,” he said.  That state of affairs is proof that mechanisms created in 1945 do not fully work today.  The Council should become more representative, balanced, transparent and efficient.  An effective instrument should also be in place whenever a permanent Council member abuses its veto.  He invited Ukraine’s friends to participate in setting up an international platform to protect the rights of Crimeans and to de‑occupy the Crimean peninsula, and called upon Member States to support the updated draft resolution titled “Situation with human rights in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, Ukraine” to be presented in the Assembly by the end of this year.  Until the wound in the centre of Europe stops bleeding, the pain will be felt all over the world, he said.

It is terrifying that calamities have become a new normal, with the world getting accustomed to horrible news, he said.  Yet the planet is no longer so big, as demonstrated by the case of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, the downing of a Ukrainian airliner over Iran, environmental threats and fake news that can sway financial markets and even elections.  As for the coronavirus, mankind did not even manage to search for the terms “COVID” or “Wuhan” on the Internet before COVID‑19 was knocking on the doors of every home.  The current pandemic will not be the last, however, and “that is why we have to emerge from the existing crisis stronger and well prepared”.

CHANDRIKAPERSAD SANTOKHI, President of Suriname, said that aside from the human toll of COVID‑19, food supply chains have also been turned upside down, paralyzing economies and eroding consumer purchasing power.  The international community must embrace multilateralism as its best defence against future global threats and seek effective means to support small and vulnerable nations.  Spotlighting the crucial role of the United Nations, he said that — despite considerable progress on issues from climate change and migration to terrorism and cyber warfare — multilateralism continues to come under attack.

Noting that the geopolitical landscape has changed drastically over the last 75 years, he emphasized the need for a structured evaluation of the Security Council’s membership and working methods.  “Let us, based on current realities and challenges, dare to create a new multilateralism that fundamentally focuses on peace and prosperity of all nations and allows for increased efficiency,” he said.  Such a system should acknowledge all nations — irrespective of their size and development level and place in the global order — as equal and treat them with respect, while promoting a common culture of inclusiveness and equality.  In that regard, he called for the lifting of the longstanding unilateral economic, financial and commercial embargo still imposed against Cuba and its people.

Even as the international community remains focused on managing and containing the further spread of COVID‑19, he also called for continued attention to other challenges — including accelerating sustainable development and tackling climate change.  As a country with 239 miles of a low‑lying coastline, Suriname is among the top 10 nations most vulnerable to the effects of sea‑level rise.  It has taken the lead in mobilizing financial resources for sustainable development, making a significant contribution to the mitigation of global warming.  Urging developing countries in the Global South not to be passive in their quest for development, he said they should instead pursue more South‑South cooperation and actively promote their economic and business interests.

SIMONETTA SOMMARUGA, President of Switzerland, said it is necessary today to take a critical look at the United Nations.  Wars are raging around the world, there are more refugees and displaced people than ever before, gender equality remains unachieved and the climate crisis currently still has no solution.  “We could criticize the United Nations for this — but who are we really talking about, when we blame ‘the UN’?”, she asked, emphasizing that the Organization is made up of its Member States.  It is countries that block decisions or refuse to implement them, undermine resolutions or flout their principles.  Such actions weaken the United Nations “and it weakens all of us, too”.  A strong United Nations requires its members to more strongly support the Organization and pursue common goals.

Noting that global tensions are rising and many countries are becoming more polarized in their internal affairs, she said the United Nations is now indispensable for the promotion of peace and security, the protection of human rights and the achievement of sustainable development.  Switzerland works to translate those objectives into national law, even when it is not easy, and has also committed itself to supporting conflict prevention, providing good offices and promoting the rule of law abroad.  Against that backdrop, Switzerland has put itself forward as a candidate for a non‑permanent seat on the Security Council for 2023‑2024, and remains firm in its support of mediation, dialogue, diplomatic negotiations to conflict and the International Criminal Court.

“While ‘International Geneva’ contributes to peace and security in the world, it is also the seat of the World Health Organization, which has played such a crucial role since the onset of the COVID‑19 pandemic,” she continued.  The pandemic has caused untold suffering, with the most vulnerable hit hardest.  WHO plays a central role in combating the pandemic and requires adequate support.  “Is it fair to demand so much from this organization when 80 per cent of its funding comes from voluntary contributions?”, she asked, describing the current moment as a time of change that can allow institutions to reinvent themselves.

ALEKSANDAR VUČIĆ, President of Serbia, said the General Assembly is very significant place, where small nations have the right and opportunity to make their points and defend them.  Only by joint actions, mutual harmonization and respect can answers be found to global challenges, demonstrated by the pandemic response, which emphasizes the need for close international cooperation, whereby the United Nations and its specialized agencies, like WHO, have an irreplaceable role in an organized response.  Thanking partners for their help, he said Serbia expects economic growth in 2020, despite pandemic‑related challenges.  Full membership to the European Union is a foreign policy priority, and Serbia is also committed to resolving relations with some neighbouring nations through dialogue, he said, highlighting examples of economic cooperation in the Western Balkans.  Indeed, without the full integration of the Western Balkans in the European Union, common economic and political space on the continent will not be complete.

Pointing to several initiatives and raising concerns, he said that in terms of territorial integrity on the issue of the autonomous province of Kosovo and Metohija, Serbia supports preserving peace, stability, cooperation and economic progress as an incentive to resolve this long-lasting problem.  The recently renewed Belgrade-Priština dialogue under the European Union’s auspices is the first step on this path, along with the recent signing of an economic normalization agreement in Washington, D.C., he said, thanking the United States for its part and adding that:  “we believe that the agreement between Serbs and Albanians is a key to regional stability”.  Serbia is also committed to global initiatives, including peacekeeping, fighting terrorism and supporting the Paris Agreement on climate change.

While the United Nations Charter should be the modern global community’s constitution, he said it was unfortunate that Serbia had witnessed unilateral measures and activities at the end of the twentieth century that undermined and questioned the efficiency of multilateralism and international law.  Recalling the bombing of what was then the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, severely violating the Charter and without the Security Council’s consent, he said Serbia defends its sovereignty and territorial integrity.  At the same time, it defends international law, the Charter and the supremacy of the Security Council.  “We believe that it is essential to further strengthen in the upcoming period efforts for the preservation of principles this Organization was founded on 75 years ago,” he said, pledging Serbia’s commitment to being a reliable partner to achieve common goals.  “We are convinced that the role of the United Nations in these processes was and remains irreplaceable,” he concluded.

MOHAMED IRFAAN ALI, President of Guyana, thanked the United Nations for supporting Guyana’s democratic will and pledged to pursue political inclusion and enact institutional reforms to ensure democracy, the rule of law, and constitutional rights are protected.  He said no matter how big or small, each country gets one equal vote within the General Assembly and that the United Nations system is instrumental to alleviating poverty and hunger, as well as upholding human rights.  However, to remain relevant, its makeup and that of the Security Council, must reflect the realities of the world, he said, calling for an increase to the number of developing countries with permanent seats on the Security Council.

He warned the Assembly that developing countries continue facing barriers to accessing development financing — funding that is vital to the achievement of the 2030 Agenda and Sustainable Development Goals.  Multilateralism is also central to tackling global challenges, he said, calling on leaders to work together to eradicate poverty in all its forms and dimensions to ensure no one is left behind.  He called on the General Assembly and Economic and Social Council to play a more proactive role in catalysing partnerships that ensure joint economic, environmental, and sociopolitical initiatives are undertaken.  Efforts must also protect institutions like the International Court of Justice, where Guyana is awaiting a decision regarding the Court’s jurisdiction to hear the country’s case regarding territorial disputes with Venezuela.

The COVID‑19 pandemic has emerged as the greatest challenge facing the international community, he said, noting that the pandemic is reversing gains on health, poverty, and education.  More than ever, the resolve of the United Nations is being tested and it is evident that no single country can overcome the debilitating effects alone, he said, placing his country’s trust on the Organization to ensure fair and timely access to preventive tools.  Turning to climate change, he said Guyana is implementing a low carbon development strategy that places the country on a path of sustainable and climate-resilient development.

MARIO ABDO BENÍTEZ, President of Paraguay, said the coronavirus pandemic has brought a great deal of pain and uncertainty to the world, with considerable loss of life and healthcare systems in all countries tasked to the limit.  He agreed with German Chancellor Angela Merkel that it represents that greatest challenge the world has encountered since the Second World War.  With many States facing indebtedness and difficulty making payments, multinational financial institutions should redesign their functions towards recovery and a more humanistic approach.

Multilateralism remains an effective tool to respond to needs and priorities shared by all, he said, including peace, human rights, non‑proliferation of nuclear weapons, the environment and international trade based on principles and rules.  Landlocked developing countries have specific needs, he said, highlighting the importance of implementing the Vienna Programme of Action for Landlocked Developing Countries for the Decade 2014‑2024, particularly by transit countries.  He further called for the signing of an agreement between the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR) and the European Union and European Free Trade Association.

Turning to terrorism, he particularly condemned those who use children as human shields and train them to carry weapons, as well as committing crimes and trafficking in drugs.  Paraguay suffers from these criminal groups, thinly camouflaging their illicit behaviour in ideologies and propaganda.  He called for reform of the Security Council to make it more inclusive and fit to address threats to international security.  Regionally, he expressed solidarity with the Venezuelan people, whose diaspora, the world’s second largest, has forced more than 5 million to emigrate.  He supported Taiwan’s request to be included in the United Nations system and pointed to the restoration of diplomatic ties between the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Israel, under the auspices of the United States.

MOHAMMAD ASHRAF GHANI, President of Afghanistan, said his country is at the centre of a region both full of opportunity and afflicted by global problems.  Asia cannot integrate without Afghanistan, he said, pointing to South Asia’s need for energy and Central Asia’s abundance of resources as a clear example of the country’s relevance.  “We are right at the heart of untapped potential that could bring prosperity and peace to our region,” he said, adding that to reach that potential it is imperative to clearly identify and address existing challenges.

He said the COVID‑19 pandemic laid bare the international community’s vulnerabilities, and much like the Second World War has forced all countries to take unprecedented action.  The pandemic exacerbates drivers of inequality, like the fourth industrial revolution which is forcing States to adapt to a new digital age of consumption, employment and government.  Violence and warfare have also evolved, he said, stressing that the Afghan people are suffering at the hands of global terrorist networks.  Afghanistan is committed to direct peace talks with the Taliban, however, the root causes of terrorism must be addressed in order to bring sustained peace to the region.  Further destabilizing the country is the onslaught of climate-related disasters, a driving force in Government efforts to pursue the creation of a green economy.  Intersecting all these destabilizing factors is an explosion of inequality, he noted.

To face all these challenges, the international community must uphold the founding principles of the United Nations, he said.  The values enshrined in human rights texts must not be seen as unachievable ideals and aspirations, rather, they must be actualized.  Achieving the promises of peace, dignity, justice, and freedom calls for unprecedented cooperation, frameworks that present pragmatic solutions, and a United Nations capable of fulfilling its goals.  He said Afghanistan is poised to strengthen State governance structures and create an environment conducive to growth by combating corruption.  The role of the United Nations as the Government proceeds with peace talks is important, he said, adding that an urgent end to violence will allow Afghanistan to progress.

ANDRZEJ DUDA, President of Poland, underscored the importance of respect for international law, multilateral cooperation, the protection of human rights and caring for the environment.  He said that during his first term as Head of State, Poland intensified its presence in the United Nations, including serving a two‑year term on the Security Council; hosting the 2018 Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change; and deploying peacekeepers to the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL).  Emphasizing the importance of solidarity in addressing today’s challenges, he spotlighted as particularly acute the current global socioeconomic crisis, the re‑emergence of rivalries between States — including in Poland’s own neighbourhood — and the tension between continued economic growth and environmental sustainability.

“I believe these crises will remain unsolved unless we focus on the idea of solidarity,” he said, stressing that the fight against the COVID‑19 pandemic must not result in deeper economic divisions among States and societies.  Nor should it assume the form of a ruthless economic rivalry — resulting in wealthier people getting richer at the expense of the poor — or lead to a situation where access to medical care “depend on the size of the wallet”.  At the height of the pandemic, Poland deployed several military medical missions to Italy and the United States, among other places, in order to provide support and share knowledge on fighting COVID-19.  Poland fully respects international law, undertaking all interactions with other nations under its slogan “peace through law”.

He went on to note that it is particularly crucial to ensure cooperation among States in situations where the fundamental norms of international law are violated, for instance in case of the Russian Federation’s aggression against Georgia or Ukraine.  “It is only through the enforcement of the fundamental principles and norms of international law … that we will succeed in building lasting peace and a safe world of equal states and free nations with no spheres of influence,” he said, warning that letting violations of State sovereignty or territorial integrity go unanswered by the international community will only lead to more violations.  He recalled his appeal through the Human Rights Council to pay attention to violations of human rights in Belarus, welcoming the Security Council’s decision to hold a dedicated meeting on that issue, and went on to outline Poland’s transition to a green and low‑carbon economy.

LUIS ABINADER CORONA, President of the Dominican Republic, said the world is in better shape than it was in 1945 due in large part to United Nations efforts.  Multilateralism is more essential now than ever as the COVID‑19 and climate change crises could usher in a range of other conflicts.  A collaborative spirit and more equitable system must prevail when it comes to stopping the pandemic, extending treatment and vaccination, and rebuilding what the pandemic has damaged.  COVID‑19 hit the Dominican Republic particularly hard because of its precarious social protection system.  Social spending in the country is $604 per capita, versus the $941 in the region on average.  The country’s equity gap will only be fixed by investing in health and education, he said, reporting that his Government is launching an ambitious public health programme and plans to promote quality education by providing students and teachers with electronic devices.

Supporting the youth of the Dominican Republic is one of the country’s main priorities, he said, adding that the best education is a comprehensive one that encourages students to participate in areas that affect them.  Highlighting the link between peace. security and development, he said achieving the Sustainable Development Goals would require developed countries to commit to accelerated implementation.  Most developing countries are falling behind and middle-income nations like the Dominican Republic face particular challenges due to institutional weaknesses, he pointed out, saying the 2030 Agenda should be modified so it responds to the problems facing each country.

The COVID‑19 crisis puts the Organization’s founding ideals to the test, he said.  In order to succeed, the international community must create the conditions for universal access to the vaccine, he stressed, calling the role of WHO essential, in that regard.  The United Nations must also share the most positive education experiences and address the digital divide.  Turning to the environment, he said the Security Council should study security factors within the climate change context more deeply.  Extreme and frequent climactic events are forcing the Organization to consider such phenomena as common and recurrent realities that require preparedness.

NICOLÁS MADURO MOROS, President of Venezuela, said the COVID‑19 pandemic has triggered a stellar opportunity to reflect on and promote a paradigm change.  Recognizing the United Nations contributions to humanity, he demanded more will and effort to preserve these achievements and advance new goals, including by strengthening South‑South cooperation and creating alternative financing and technical support mechanisms.  Calling for a collective will to address climate change to save the planet, he highlighted other urgent global challenges, including the claim of great Powers to lead humanity into a military sphere, with the United States conducting itself erratically and openly disregarding multilateralism.  Even before the pandemic, he said the collapse of the international geopolitical and geoeconomic order was already in motion, with health becoming a luxury in some States.  Moreover, WHO is a model of multilateralism and its role must be strengthened, not attacked or threatened.

Venezuela proposes creating a revolving public purchasing fund within the United Nations system to guarantee access to food and health products, financed with public resources, with a view to make it possible to face discrimination and economic blockades, he said, also calling for strengthening policies aimed at developing local production chains.  Further, Caracas advocates the adoption of an international instrument on the right to development to help people overcome poverty and social inequalities.  Venezuela’s election to the Human Rights Council, despite incessant attacks by Washington, D.C. and its satellites, reaffirmed its commitment to promote respect for human rights, he said, demanding recognition for the Palestinian people’ historic territories, and the end of the United States embargo on Cuba.  Drawing attention to the United States attacks against Venezuela, he said there is still time for Washington, D.C. to change course to avoid isolation and condemnation, even from its own people, who have taken to the streets to protest against racism, police brutality and abuse.

For its part, Venezuela is undertaking a revolution of innovation against aggression, he said.  Highlighting such efforts as free COVID‑19 testing including house‑to‑house visits that could save lives in other countries, he said a strong health‑care system and a national plan has averted an exponential expansion of the pandemic.  With billions of dollars frozen in United States and European banks, Venezuela is resisting this offensive of criminal, inhumane aggression, coercive measures and an attempted incursion by the United States, the most dangerous empire in history that has become the most serious threat to world peace.  Caracas is also welcoming thousands of Venezuelan migrants returning home from countries with high levels of COVID‑19 infections, he said, highlighting the systemic violation of their human rights by some States’ xenophobic policies.  Efforts have also included dialogue and measures benefiting and guaranteeing democracy on a path of national reconciliation ahead of the 6 December elections.  Meanwhile, the United States, which has led its own people to collapse amid the pandemic in blatant violation of international law, has illegally imposed new coercive measures against Venezuela’s democratic institutions.  As such, he reiterated the need to vindicate the principles of the Charter, whose violation by some Member States intends to lead Venezuela to violence in conflict.  “We will not allow it,” he said.  “The Venezuelan path is of peace, democracy, freedom and participation of the people.  That is how it has been, and that is how it will be.”

LAURENTINO CORTIZO COHEN, President of Panama, said decisions made during a crisis mark the world for decades, and the current pandemic forces all to imagine a new world.  In the short, medium and long term, COVID‑19 puts societies’ paradigms to the test, requiring changes in economic systems and governance.  It has shone a spotlight on societal contradictions and demonstrated that more of the same is simply unsustainable.  The crisis is alarming for its new and unprecedented characteristics, but he noted that while the pandemic affects all, it does not affect everyone equally.  A different post‑pandemic world will be impossible unless States immediately begin generating deep structural transformations to create a just society.

As one of the main lessons taken from the pandemic, he pointed to the importance of science, technology and innovation in closing existing social divides.  This is particularly true in the digital economy, telecommuting and use of online delivery services, the online educational platforms of the first world, which the developing world is now adapting, and telemedicine helping those hundreds of kilometres away.  Job loss also presents its own opportunities to make changes in public policy towards entrepreneurship.  Shared prosperity is the potential result of a vision of global solidarity in a post‑pandemic world, he said, as “We are without a doubt stronger united than divided.”  The pandemic has reproduced the de facto solidarity of the post‑Second World War era, with such examples as scientists in Asia, Europe and America sharing data.

Panama has the greatest maritime and air connectivity in Latin America and the Caribbean, he noted, with its ports and airports kept open during the crisis to supply food and medicine.  Humanitarian assistance has been offered through the Panama Canal, including to cruise ships, with aid further provided to over 30 countries.  However, if the international community fails to respond appropriately to the crisis, the 2030 Agenda may be fatally derailed.  The planet has been dealt a heavy blow as the international community wages a daily battle, locked down against the invisible and uncertain, but never surrendering.  Governments and world leaders have the obligation to recognize mistakes and be prepared, he said, but rather than rebuilding, they must construct a new more equitable and just society, with multilateralism as the right path to follow.

KHALTMAA BATTULGA, President of Mongolia, said that in today's interdependent world, infectious diseases are spreading exponentially, adversely affecting the economy, social welfare, humanitarian causes, security and human rights.  It is a huge lesson for humankind, which has been caught off guard by the pandemic.  In this time of hardship, multilateralism has taken on an even more significant role.  Upon the release of a safe and effective COVID‑19 vaccine, the United Nations and its system organizations will play a major role in ensuring equal access to the vaccine for developing and least developed countries, as well as vulnerable groups, such as children, women, the elderly and indigenous peoples.  He called upon international financial organizations and developed countries to continue their support and assistance to developing countries with limited resources and weak social protection systems.

This year ushered in the Decade of Action to deliver the Sustainable Development Goals, he said.  However, the pandemic has not only aggravated the existing challenges, but also reversed some of the hard‑won gains made since 2015.  All Governments need to act decisively to fight the pandemic and step up their efforts to achieve the 2030 Agenda.  As the result of a timely containment strategy and due to taking into account the lessons learned from others, Mongolia has had no local transmission and no pandemic‑related deaths.  “The pandemic, climate change and other threats that have raised alarm worldwide keep reminding humankind of the overriding need to cherish the Earth and live in harmony with nature,” he said, noting that Mongolia is one of the few countries with no local transmission of COVID‑19.

The international community needs to unite to live in concord with nature, rather than dominate it with the help of technological progress, he said.  Nations around the world owe a duty to future generations to protect the earth and ensure that every individual leads an eco‑friendly life.  For the past 75 years, the United Nations has fulfilled its responsibility of uniting the world's nations and steering them towards growth and development.  However, the Organization needs to enhance its work and change its working methods if it is to rise to the emerging challenges of international relations.  He urged Member States to combine efforts to build a reinvigorated United Nations.

DAVID KABUA, President of the Republic of the Marshall Islands, said that his country is among the few with no confirmed cases of COVID‑19.  However, having taken prompt steps to prevent exposing its people to the coronavirus, it also finds itself in deep isolation.  “We are fragile, and cutbacks are throwing us backwards in our basic development, at the very time we must be moving forward.”  While joining others in endorsing a “build back better” approach that includes green resilience, he warned that without better leadership and multilateral cooperation, “we place in doubt the prospect of building back at all”.  As a new member of the Human Rights Council, the Marshall Islands is frustrated by the gap between ideals and realities, he added. Persistent efforts to rewrite basic human dignity into an alleged “win‑win” language which devalues individual rights is unacceptable.  “Even if we are in a minority, we will not be silent on his matter,” he said.

Underscoring the complex security environment in the Pacific region, he said it is vital for small island developing States to work with democratic partners to maintain and strengthen regional security.  He also called for tangible efforts to reform the Security Council.  Describing fisheries as the economic lifeline of the Pacific, and underscoring the key role that tuna plays in the Marshall Islands’ economy, he appealed for targeted fisheries strategies as well as more coordinated efforts through the United Nations to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and related activities.

Turning to climate change, he said that “small island and atoll nations like mine do not have time for paper promises”.  However, the worst impacts of climate change can be averted if the world keeps its promise to limit the rise in global temperatures to 1.5 degrees Celsius.  Recalling the legacy of the 67 nuclear weapons tests which took place in the Marshall Islands between 1946 and 1958, he expressed ongoing alarm over recent events in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and called for full implementation of relevant Security Council resolutions.  He went on to say that Taiwan should be allowed to participate in United Nations entities, and in activities related to the Sustainable Development Goals, “in an equal and dignified manner”.

For information media. Not an official record.