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GA/12270
24 September 2020
Seventy-fifth Session, 8th & 9th Meetings (AM & PM)

Africa Needs Fiscal Space, More Representation in Security Council as COVID-19 Erases Hard-Won Development Gains Across Continent, Speakers Tell General Assembly

Region to Enter First Recession in 25 Years, African Leaders Warn, Calling for Appropriate Response from Multilateral Financial Institutions

Fears that the COVID‑19 pandemic is reversing hard‑fought development gains, particularly in Africa, were conveyed today with 33 Heads of State and Government taking the digital stage as the General Assembly continued its seventy‑fifth session under unprecedented conditions.

Conflict, poverty, hunger, inequality, and sexual- and gender‑based violence are on the rise, leaders warned the Assembly, as they called for unity and solidarity in efforts to ensure the United Nations can effectively respond to global crises.  The focus was largely on the security and development situation in Africa, with 20 of its Heads of State and Government urging immediate action to end conflict across the continent and for greater assistance from multilateral financial institutions, while advocating for an end to the injustice of an unrepresentative Security Council.

Faiez Mustafa Serraj, President of the Presidency Council of the Government of National Accord of the State of Libya, said the COVID‑19 pandemic is taking a severe toll on countries also ravaged by armed conflict.  Again, he said, he comes to the General Assembly with the message that certain actors continue to undermine peace in Libya and pursue destructive means to seize power.  He called for an agreement on a constitutional convention and long-awaited elections.

Roch Marc Christian Kaboré, President of Burkina Faso, said settling the crisis in Libya is a prerequisite for establishing peace in the region and called the appointment of a new Special Envoy of the Secretary‑General to lead negotiations there.  He said the COVID‑19 pandemic threatens to bring to naught all development efforts in poorer countries and called for the cancellation of developing countries’ debt.

Evaristo Do Espirito Santo Carvalho, President of Sao Tome and Principe, said that aside from the pandemic, persistent violent tension spots continue to have major humanitarian repercussions throughout the continent, including in the Central African Republic, the eastern provinces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Sudan, Libya and the Sahel.  Pointing to activity by terrorist groups Al-Shabaab in East Africa and Boko Haram in Central and West Africa, he also called for greater involvement by the international community against similar flare‑ups in Mozambique, and noted the perennial issue of Western Sahara remains a cause of concern.

Echoing that concern, Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa, President of Zimbabwe, asked the Security Council to bolster efforts toward ending the occupation in the Western Sahara, and on the Secretary‑General to appoint his Special Envoy for the matter without delay.  More broadly, he said the international community must push for greater collaboration between the African Union and United Nations in maintaining sustainable peace in Africa, particularly by implementing the African Union’s “Silencing the Guns” campaign.

Several speakers highlighted the pandemic’s toll on Africa’s already fragile economies, including their own countries.

Alassane Ouattara, President of Côte d’Ivoire, cautioned that the pandemic could wipe out more than a decade’s worth of economic progress in Africa.  African countries must be given the fiscal space to continue their social investments and address security needs, he underscored.  Reminding the Assembly that other diseases are still wreaking havoc across the continent, he stressed that the international community should not delay action on tackling poverty.

Ismaël Omar Guelleh, President of Djibouti, said that with the World Bank reporting the crisis will plunge Africa into its first recession in over 25 years — with worrisome deficits —  an appropriate response from international financial institutions to developing countries is essential.

Faustin Archange Touadera, President of the Central African Republic, said his country’s economy would contract by between 0.8 per cent and 1.2 per cent, calling on the international community to find common solutions to eradicate the virus.  Úmaro Sissoco Embaló, President of Guinea‑Bissau, said fragile States like his face unique economic problems exacerbated by the pandemic, including a serious impact on its cashew nut exports.

Edgar Chagwa Lungu, President of Zambia, called on world leaders to take this opportunity to share knowledge and expertise to improve the livelihood of all.  “The post‑coronavirus landscape will require urgent action to guarantee and to lay a solid foundation for a better world,” he said, voicing support for debt relief and cancellation for developing countries, enhanced collaboration in the search for a vaccine, and the mobilization of local and international resources.

Likewise, Mahamadou Issoufou, President of Niger, emphasized that the pandemic has impacted efforts to combat malaria, tuberculosis and other tropical diseases and called for better treatments and vaccines for all the illnesses threatening the African continent.  Africa only receives 1 per cent of global healthcare spending and 40 per cent of medical products sold on the continent are counterfeit or of poor quality, he observed. 

Lazarus McCarthy Chakwera, President of Malawi, said the effects of the pandemic disproportionately impact least developed landlocked States.  As Chair of the Group of Least Developed Countries, he said Malawi issued a statement highlighting the high risk of debt defaults and supply chain disruptions created by the pandemic.  He also joined several of his African counterparts in voicing concern about continued underrepresentation for Africa in the Security Council, calling for two permanent seats and five non‑permanent seats for countries in the region.

Similarly, Denis Sassou Nguesso, President of Congo, warned the Assembly that this historic injustice remains to be redressed.  Reaffirming the urgency of making African representation in the Council a reality, he said that would strengthen the values of solidarity and equity.

Echoing that call, Mohamed Juldeh Jalloh, Vice‑President of Sierra Leone, said that as Coordinator of the African Union Committee of Ten on the reform of the United Nations, he is aware that Africans are more convinced than ever that geopolitical realities and the pandemic warrant greater representation for them in the 15‑member body.

The security situation in the Middle East also featured prominently today as speakers addressed conflict in Yemen and developments in Israeli‑Palestinian relations.

Abdrabuh Mansour Hadi Mansour, President of Yemen, said violence is resulting in the worst poverty ever witnessed as Yeminis continue to suffer from a war imposed on them by those acting with Iran’s assistance.  He called on the international community to support his Government’s fiscal and monetary policy to empower Yemeni households and to reject Houthi strategies of blackmail.

Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, King of Bahrain, said the Kingdom established relations with Israel to preserve the region’s security and stability, a step also taken by the United Arab Emirates, he noted.  The peace agreement with Israel, in exchange for the cessation of that country’s annexation of Palestinian lands, represents an opportunity for peace and reduced tension while preserving the firm position of Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates on the Palestinian issue, he said.

Speakers also voiced concern about unexpected consequences of the COVID‑19 pandemic, with Albert II, Prince of Monaco, observing that the outbreak is having devastating effects on women and young people, including an intolerable increase in domestic violence.  “This is deplorable,” he said, adding that Monaco will fight such discrimination and violence.

Also speaking were Heads of State and Government of Albania, Slovenia, Estonia, Botswana, Guinea, Gambia, Gabon, Cyprus, Azerbaijan, Equatorial Guinea, Haiti, Viet Nam, Timor‑Leste, Comoros, Nauru, Somalia and Burundi.

Statements

MAHAMADOU ISSOUFOU, President of Niger, remarked that the upcoming elections will represent the first democratic transfer of power in the nation’s history.  He recalled various accomplishments of his two mandates, including road construction, and enhanced electricity and telecommunications infrastructure.  Multilateralism must become more inclusive of developing countries, he went on to say, emphasizing trust‑building and transparency, in that regard.

Turning to COVID‑19, he said Niger was able to control the spread of the virus with an immediate health response and broader measures for economic and social mitigation including food distribution, free social services and tax breaks.  However, the pandemic also has an impact on malaria, tuberculosis and other tropical diseases in Niger, he said, calling for better treatments and vaccines for all the illnesses threatening the African continent.  Africa only receives 1 per cent of global health­care spending and 40 per cent of medical products sold on the continent are counterfeit or of poor quality.  While he expressed support for a debt moratorium for African countries during the pandemic, he said a full cancellation of debt and new paradigm that meets the needs of the poorest countries is actually needed.

In an effort to create a more integrated African paradigm, Niger supports an African Continental Free Trade zone to create a single market that will support growth and create prosperity, he said.  Before the pandemic, Africa would need $600 billion per year to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, and the need for aid will only increase.  Turning to the security situation in the region, he welcomed peacekeeping missions and called for a coordination and joint command with other security actors in the area including the African Union.  Multilateralism will be required to combat terrorism in the region, which feeds on poverty.  Calling the security threat in the area is an issue of global concern, he said that local efforts to address the issue must be supported both globally and multilaterally.  On the environment, he reported that Niger loses 10,000 hectares of usable land every year and called on the international community to create a new social contract for nature that protects land and ecosystems, with strategies aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals.  For its part, Africa is working with the Climate Commission for the Sahel on the implementation of the Paris Agreement on climate change.  Further, the Great Green Wall Initiative has allowed Africa to protect its land and prioritize nature‑based solutions.

ALASSANE OUATTARA, President of Côte d’Ivoire, said the unprecedented format of this session is an opportunity to contemplate on how best the United Nations can discharge its mission in the service of humanity.  The world has been plunged into a serious socioeconomic crisis, he said, noting that despite scientific progress, “we seem powerless to halt the progress of the virus”.  Countries are now hunkered down behind their borders and daily life has been upended.  The pandemic could wipe down more than a decade’s worth of economic progress in Africa, he cautioned, while noting the adoption of bold response plans all over the continent.

Turning to his country’s pandemic response, he reported that his Government adopted a health response plan and a massive unprecedented stimulus package amounting to 5 per cent of the economy.  Praising Côte d’Ivoire’s competent medical corps, he also voiced gratitude for the international solidarity extended to the country.  Côte d’Ivoire’s rapid and effective response is the fruit of major reforms in the health sectors, including universal health coverage.  However, the world has shown a disunited front to combating the coronavirus, he said, noting that the international community neglected the frameworks and instruments that would have enabled a better response.  African countries should be given the fiscal space to continue their social investments and address security needs, he underscored.

Reminding the Assembly that other diseases such as malaria and AIDS are still wreaking havoc on his continent, he stressed that the international community should not delay action on tackling poverty.  Côte d’Ivoire’s poverty index has dropped in recent years with 1.6 million Ivorian men and women emerging from poverty as a result of strict governance which enabled the country to achieve an annual growth rate of 8 per cent annum.  His Government is also implementing social impact programmes such as distribution of electricity and safe drinking water.  The challenges of climate change, poverty and terrorism should give credence to a new multilateral ambition, he stressed, also calling for the full and effective entry of Africa into the permanent membership of the Security Council.

ILIR META, President of Albania, said the United Nations has prevented major military conflict and reduced human suffering and called for the seventy‑fifth anniversary of its founding to be used as a time to reflect on ways to strengthen the Organization.  A stronger United Nations is needed to address the consequences of the COVID‑19 pandemic, a crisis that is likely to reverse progress towards the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its Sustainable Development Goals.  Global responses to the pandemic have exposed the limitations of international institutions and highlighted the alarming consequences of ineffective global cooperation, he said, stressing that containing the virus requires collective action and unity and solidarity among States.

He said 2019 was a difficult year for Albania, noting the country was hit by two powerful earthquakes and recovery efforts were hindered by the onset of the COVID‑19 pandemic.  However, the World Health Organization (WHO) has been working with Albania to contain the virus.  Albania has adopted a strategy and action plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 45 per cent within the next decade and its national priorities are fully aligned with the 2030 Agenda.

He said Albania’s chairmanship of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) for 2020 is a clear indication of its commitment to multilateralism.  In that capacity, Albania is championing the Secretary‑General’s call for a global ceasefire.  Small countries like Albania can enrich the world through their identity, history, culture and traditions, he said, pointing to interreligious harmony as a hallmark of Albanian culture.  Accession to the European Union remains Albania’s main strategic objective, he assured the Assembly, adding that the Government is fully committed to achieving the required benchmarks.  Another main focus for Albania is ensuring lasting peace and stability in the Western Balkans, he said, welcoming the United States‑brokered agreement between Kosovo and Serbia.  He closed by saying Kosovo’s membership in all international organizations will benefit the international community as a whole.

BORUT PAHOR, President of Slovenia, stressing the need to address cybersecurity, said that cyberspace should be secure, global, open and inclusive.  Voicing support for the International Criminal Court as a central institution to fight impunity, he noted that his country is especially active in landmines clearance efforts.  During its European Union Presidency in the second half of 2021, Slovenia will put environmental protection very high on the agenda, he said, noting that the country recently contributed €1 million to the United Nations Green Climate Fund.  The loss of biodiversity is an urgent global challenge, he said, adding that the preservation of water resources is a key element of biodiversity protection.

The COVID‑19 crisis, he continued, brought about a stark realization of the importance of solidarity and cooperation within multilateral organizations, such as WHO.  Emphasizing the importance of a full exercise of the rights to freedom of expression, access to public information and the protection of journalists as key to well‑being of societies, he noted that his country came into being, inspired by the quest for democracy and fundamental rights.  “Human rights can never be taken for granted,” he stressed, adding that there is no place for discrimination based on any personal status in modern societies.

“I, as well as many of you, grew up in peace and prosperity, in a world built on the values and ideas of the United Nations founders,” he said.  While the Organization has failed to prevent all conflicts, the world has clearly been a better place since 24 October 1945 because of the United Nations.  Congratulating “the generation of our parents and our own generation” for keeping it going despite obstacles and wishing today’s youth, who are slowly taking over, “the courage and wisdom to do better than us”, he quoted the eminent Slovenian novelist Boris Pahor, the oldest known survivor of the Nazi concentration camps, who said that humanity has enough wisdom and power to find a path to lead itself out of its crises.

ALBERT II, Prince of Monaco, cited a succession of recent crises, from the rise in terrorism and increase in migration to climate upheavals, the 2008 financial crisis and now COVID‑19, to stress that the world responded with the 2020 Agenda, the Paris Agreement and the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration.  At the same time, the multilateral system is being called into question, amid a surge in national and protectionist trends.  Underscoring Monaco’s commitment to multilateralism, and support for a system networked from global to local levels that signals “we’re ready to listen to everyone”, he said women and girls should no longer be on the side‑lines of this movement.  Gender equality has been on agenda for 25 years, yet women and girls are most affected by inequality.

“The situation is evolving extremely slowly,” he said, pointing to an intolerable increase in domestic violence during the pandemic.  “This is deplorable” and Monaco will fight such discrimination and violence.  Political inclusion is a central demand of young people, with millions demonstrating for climate action and suffering the full force of the crisis.  Many are concerned about not receiving social protections and being cut off from education.  He called for measures to ensure that young people do not fall into the poverty trap.  On the security front, he cited a spike in cyberattacks and questioned what becomes of sovereignty when law is called into question in the tech era.  He recommended joint rules for good conduct, which could guarantee the improved functioning of institutions and ensure individual freedoms.

Drawing attention to the wave of disinformation that has intensified in social networks, he welcomed the United Nations campaign to tackle the “infodemic”.  The new context of insecurity also includes the climate crisis as the pandemic has exposed people’s vulnerability when global ecosystems are destroyed.  There will be an increased risk of epidemics if countries do not curb such behaviour.  “We need to step up our efforts,” he said, welcoming that the upcoming Biodiversity Summit will place the issue at the heart of the political agenda.  Monaco has placed its consumption and production modes at the heart of its plans to achieve a sustainable development society, he said, urging countries to use the COVID‑19 pandemic as an opportunity to rethink economic and social models and ensure they are underpinned by environmentally friendly principles.

ABDRABUH MANSOUR HADI MANSOUR, President of Yemen, said the United Nations has spared no effort to establish sustainable peace his country and address ongoing humanitarian challenges.  For six years Yemen has suffered from war imposed on it by those acting with the support of Iran.  He said Houthi militias refuse to take part in peace talks, instead they have supported coup efforts and invaded the capital.  State institutions were taken hostage and liberties were smothered, he said, adding that Houthi militias transformed Sana’a into a prison.

The aim of the Government’s transition process is to bring together all of Yemeni society and write a new constitution and hold elections in line with that new constitution.  However, the Houthi‑led coup disrupted the process and destroyed society.  Violence is resulting in the worst case of poverty ever witnessed, he said, adding that his Government is working to stop bloodletting and establish safe and lasting peace.  People in Yemen are rejecting the Iranian model, he said, and called for support of the Saudi Arabia‑led coalition to achieve a lasting ceasefire that will allow for a resumption of the political process.

Iranian‑sponsored terrorists mobilized to attack cities across the country, he said, pointing to a “savage escalation” of violence with no concern for the well‑being of civilians.  These actions demonstrate the true nature of militias.  The international community must exert active and determined pressure on militias and their sponsors to ensure respect for relevant United Nations resolutions.  He called on the international community to support his Government’s fiscal and monetary policy to empower Yemeni households and to reject Houthi strategies of blackmail.  Tireless support from Saudi Arabia has allowed the Government to begin addressing the crisis.  “We need to pool our efforts to ensure construction and development under the aegis of the State,” he said.

ROCH MARC CHRISTIAN KABORÉ, President of Burkina Faso, called the COVID‑19 pandemic the fifth horseman of the apocalypse and noted that it has and will underpin all United Nations activities in 2020.  The crisis reminds the international community of the fragility of the world and its interdependence.  It also threatens to bring to naught all development efforts in poorer countries.  In that context, he welcomed the Secretary‑General’s debt alleviation measures for developing countries but called, instead, for the cancellation of their debt altogether.

On the issue of organized crime and terrorism, he expressed appreciation for the review of the technical agreement of the Group of Five for the Sahel (G5 Sahel) joint force and called on the Security Council to ensure the force is placed under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations so they may benefit from sustainable financing.  Defence and security forces must carry out their missions with respect for human rights.  Regarding accusations of violations of those principles, inquiries were opened to bring perpetrators to justice, he said, reassuring partners that Burkina Faso’s defence and security forces have been fighting terrorism with professionalism.

On the environment, he said the tragic floods experienced over the past few weeks in Burkina Faso are a reminder of the need for a multilateral approach to climate change.  Noting the lingering security crisis in the Sahel and Lake Chad Basin, he stressed that settling the crisis in Libya would be a prerequisite for establishing peace in the region and called for the appointment of a new Special Envoy to lead negotiations there.  On Western Sahara, the gains that followed the round‑table discussions in Geneva should be solidified.  In closing, he emphasized that Africa should be fully represented in all decision‑making bodies of the United Nations, including the Security Council.

KERSTI KALJULAID, President of Estonia, said the COVID‑19 pandemic offers several lessons — first and foremost about the reality that climate change requires constant hard work by multilateral organizations to ensure that the world avoids global fights over limited resources.  It also offers lessons about restrictions on human rights, the importance of technology, fair burden‑sharing in fighting climate change and fair access to technology in promoting equal opportunities for all peoples.  Describing Estonia as the world’s first digitally transformed State, where all public services run online, she said disruption caused by the pandemic was limited to upscaling education and distant working.  “We saw less scramble than any other country to move everything online which previously ran on paper,” she explained.  High penetration rates of digital technologies in society, equal access to digital services — promoted by both public and private sector — and strong, legally protected digital ID has “helped a lot”.

“We want the same for the rest of the world,” she said:  equal opportunities for people to work from distance, for people with special needs and homebound women to work through digital means — intermittently as their schedule allows.  Estonia envisions a global free labour market, which does not require people to migrate, but stay where they want.  As a late industrializer, Estonia is a role model for countries looking to leapfrog with the help of technologies.  In Africa, Estonia is helping to develop e‑services through a digital memorandum with the African Union.  Its small- and medium‑sized enterprises meanwhile are building e‑services to other nations, cooperating with local partners to achieve tailor‑made solutions — “because we know — every digital State will preserve its identity and culture also online.”

She cautioned that this expertise is an advantage, but also a catch:  digital services do not by themselves rid any country from fat bureaucracy, corruption or inefficiency.  “By digitalizing these problems, we can only make things worse,” she warned, unless efforts are made to simultaneously raise transparency and straighten out processes.  In the fight against climate change, smart grids, matching power supply and demand, and developing digital solutions is a big part of the carbon‑neutral economy to come.  Indeed, COVID‑19 offers a chance for a great global technological leap.  In its seventy‑fifth year, the United Nations remains the best possible forum to address these issues.  “I can promise you that we shall continue standing for multilateralism and international law, imperfect as it feels,” she said.

LAZARUS MCCARTHY CHAKWERA, President of Malawi, said presidential elections and peaceful transition of power in 2020 were a clear display of his country’s commitment to democratic processes.  Still, Malawi is facing immense hardships, as a least developed and landlocked country it is among the hardest hit by the economic repercussions of the COVID‑19 pandemic.  Geographic isolation and the associated high transit and transport costs impose constraints that negatively affect Malawi’s trade competitiveness and overall economic development.  As Chair of the Group of Least Developed Countries, he said Malawi issued a statement highlighting the high risk of debt defaults and supply chain disruptions created by the pandemic.

On debt defaults, he acknowledged moratoriums on debt payments that have been granted by key development partners.  However, the protracted nature of the pandemic requires debt cancellations so that least developed countries can recover sustainably.  He said achieving the Sustainable Development Goals is the best approach to foster inclusive wealth creation, adding that Malawi is working with the United Nations to accelerate projects related to the 2030 Agenda.  To that end, the country integrated the Goals into its national planning framework.

Taking note of United Nations reform efforts, he voiced concern over the nature of Security Council reform efforts and called for the full representation of Africa in such plans.  “We call for two permanent seats with veto power and five non‑permanent seats for Africa,” he said, referring to the Council’s makeup.  As Member States reflect on the past seventy‑five years of United Nations action, they must understand that unity is paramount towards the realization of a healthy, equitable, peaceful and sustainable world.

DENIS SASSOU NGUESSO, President of Congo, said that the unprecedented health crisis posed by the COVID‑19 virus has revealed the gap between the health systems of developed and developing countries, in terms of their capacities to respond to major pandemics.  The situation must compel bilateral and multilateral stakeholders to provide appropriate resources and step up international solidarity geared towards harmoniously organized strategies to eradicate this pandemic.  The real challenge facing the international community, he said, given the scale and impact of the pandemic, is how to strengthen multilateral cooperation mechanisms.  “Let no one be deceived,” he emphasized, “there will be no development in isolation.”

The United Nations, he added, remains the main forum for mobilizing States to reach a compromise or consensus around collective action to address inequalities.  Given the difficult global economic situation, ensuring access to universal health coverage and protection of the environment are collective responsibilities while eradicating poverty remains an international priority.  Voicing concern at the resurgence of terrorism and violent extremism and the predominance of armed conflicts around the world, he said that the Libyan crisis has ramifications that are increasingly affecting the countries of the Sahel.  Reaffirming the primacy of a political solution conducive to holding an inclusive inter‑Libyan conference, he called on all parties to engage in dialogue.

Noting the threat of armed groups in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, he expressed concern at conflicts in other parts of the world, including the ongoing crisis and civil war in Syria, as well as the Israel‑Palestine issue.  The seventy‑fifth anniversary of the United Nations coincides with the anniversary of the first nuclear test, he pointed out.  Further, a historic injustice remains to be redressed, he said, calling on the international community to guarantee Africa a place on the Security Council.  Reaffirming the urgency of making African representation in this organ a reality, he said that would strengthen the values of solidarity and equity.

HAMAD BIN ISA AL KHALIFA, King of Bahrain, said the emerging challenge of COVID‑19 has proven that the international community needs to put aside its differences and strengthen human solidarity.  To combat the pandemic, Bahrain formed a national team to develop and implement State measures to preserve the health and safety of citizens and residents and address the urgent need to mitigate the economic and social impacts.

Bahrain established relations with Israel to preserve security and stability of the region, a step also taken by the United Arab Emirates, he noted.  The peace agreement with Israel, in exchange for the cessation of Israel’s annexation of Palestinian lands, represents an opportunity for peace and reduced tension while preserving the firm position of Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates on the Palestinian issue.

Expressing appreciation for Saudi Arabia for laying the foundations of peace and security in the region and worldwide, he commended the Kingdom on efforts made during its presidency of the Group of 20 (G20).  He also expressed support for Egypt in its efforts to consolidate regional security and stability, including in Libya, where its efforts provided hope and encouraged the Libyan people to resist foreign interference.

MOKGWEETSI ERIC KEABETSWE MASISI, President of Botswana, said collective action is urgently needed to respond to COVID‑19, repair devastated economies and restore livelihoods.  Redoubled efforts must be made to attain the Sustainable Development Goals, a pursuit to which Botswana is committed, having introduced economic reforms to fast‑track transformation in several sectors.  These actions aim to create an enabling environment for private sector development in pursuit of Goal 8 (decent work, economic growth).  He outlined efforts to tackle other health challenges, including non‑communicable diseases, stressing that the long‑standing battle with HIV and AIDS remains a priority.

He said the country is well on track to achieve the “90‑90‑90” treatment target set by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS).  Citing World Bank data indicating that COVID‑19 could push 71 million people into extreme poverty in 2020, he said Botswana will also work to empower the poor, notably by helping them to start micro- and small‑scale enterprises.  On other fronts, Botswana has intensified implementation of its national strategy to end gender‑based violence, enacted an economic relief package to complement COVID‑19 containment measures and started work on an economic recovery and transformation plan.

At the global level, he called for accelerated implementation of the Vienna Programme of Action for Landlocked Developing Countries for the Decade 2014‑2024, the Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries for the Decade 2011‑2020 and the Small Island Developing States Accelerated Modalities of Action (Samoa Pathway).  As a semi‑arid country with erratic rainfall and frequent drought, Botswana is developing a climate change response policy and a national adaptation plan.  In the area of peace and security, he said that as Chair of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation, Botswana is committed to ensuring that regional efforts focus on combating terrorism.  It is also strengthening its anti‑money‑laundering and counter‑terrorism financing regime.

ALPHA CONDÉ, President of Guinea, said the world needs more than ever a reformed, strong United Nations working on the basis of the Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  Likewise, a renewed international governance structure should better consider developing country needs, notably in implementing the Sustainable Development Goals and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda.  Guinea has integrated such values into its development plans, allowing it to become an emerging country.  Describing achievements, he said the Government established a national collective financing agency, a national agency for economic and social inclusion and a fund for local development.

To address the COVID‑19 health crisis, it enacted a plan outlining a robust response and declared a state of emergency.  Further, a $350 million scientific response council devised measures to end the spread of the virus, which people have strictly upheld, given the country’s experience with the Ebola crisis.  Thanking Guinea’s technical and financial partners, as well as others that provided decisive support, he expressed hope of soon seeing a universal health coverage declaration and better access for all to public health.

ADAMA BARROW, President of the Gambia, reaffirmed his country’s commitment to the Charter of the United Nations, which has empowered institutions to deal with COVID‑19, a pandemic that compelled the Government to adopt unusual measures that require “huge and varied resources”.  National efforts have been significantly boosted by those of the Organization, World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF), European Union and bilateral friends, as the Gambia’s economy has shrunk to 2 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) and continues to contract.

“Our tourism sector, which is a major employer and foreign exchange earner, is devastated, and unemployment is increasing rapidly,” he stressed.  The Gambia instituted social protection programmes, but implementation of national development plans has been hampered.  It will continue to require bailouts from the United Nations and the international community in order to survive.  He thus called for debt relief or cancellation, greater access to global finance, reduced transaction costs on remittances and stronger global solidarity.  COVID‑19 also provides an opportunity to overhaul national health‑care systems, he said, requesting support to develop recovery strategies and programmes, post‑pandemic.

On the security front, he said conditions in the Sahel are marked by random attacks on communities, mass killings of innocent people and terrorist acts that displace populations, noting that the Gambia will continue to meet its commitments under the Secretary‑General’s Action for Peacekeeping initiative.  The international community must not relent in efforts to restore peace in Mali, Somalia, South Sudan and the Central African Republic, and he pressed both the United Nations and regional organizations to do more to disrupt the activities of all armed terrorist and criminal networks.  On the Israeli‑Palestinian conflict, he urged taking into account the Arab Peace Initiative, and more broadly, pressed the United States to revoke sanctions imposed on the International Criminal Court.  He likewise renewed the Gambia’s interest in the International Court of Justice case concerning the plight of the Rohingya in Myanmar, and in this endeavour, counts on support from the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).  He also advocated normalizing relations between Cuba and the United States, underscoring the Gambia’s interest in stronger, mutually beneficial cooperation with China.

ALI BONGO ONDIMBA, President of Gabon, said the COVID‑19 crisis had forced the international community to acknowledge that the world is interdependent.  As such, the only pathway forward is increased international solidarity, he said.  However, a legal framework is not enough to face the global challenges, he went on, calling for more effective action to contain cross‑border threats.  In terms of the role of the United Nations, Africa must be equitably represented on the Security Council, the work of the General Assembly must be revitalized and reforms of the Economic and Social Council must be undertaken.  Further, more equitable balance in the commodities market would allow countries to be paid a fair price for their natural resources.

He emphasized the importance of keeping the commitments made to developing countries, including the transfer of clean technology and access to sustainable energy sources.  For Gabon, such an energy transition would improve living standards, enhance climate change projects and help preserve biodiversity.  Highlighting the interdependency of peace and security and development, he said response to terrorist threats must be based on multilateral coordination.  The cost of instability arising from terrorism is particularly high for many African countries, as they are obliged to dedicate huge resources to combat those challenges.  Fighting those sources of instability across the continent requires support from the international community, he stressed.

At a regional level, Gabon is spearheading the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to make it more efficient and effective, he said.  That body adopted a new institutional framework that is more dynamic and better able to meet its goals and a revised treaty entered into force in August 2020.  Domestically, Gabon continued with reforms already under way before the pandemic to correct imbalances with budgetary adjustments, infrastructure development and private sector investment.  Highlighting the principle of inclusion as a major priority for his country, he said he had appointed a woman as the Prime Minister of Government.

FAIEZ MUSTAFA SERRAJ, President of the Presidency Council of the Government of National Accord of the State of Libya, said the COVID‑19 pandemic is taking a severe toll on countries also ravaged by armed conflict.  Again, he said, he comes to the General Assembly with the message that certain actors continue to undermine peace in Libya and pursue destructive means to seize power.  “The heroes of our armed forces are the bedrock that will defeat all those seeking to return our country into a dictatorship,” he said, noting that the Government thwarted attacks on the capital in 2019.  Militias receive support from nations “known to everyone” and that continue to flout Security Council resolutions, he said, calling on States supporting militants to establish relationships with Libya based on common interests.

The Government is engaging with the United Nations‑led peace process and continues to offer initiatives in goodwill to solve the political and security crisis faced by all Libyans, he said.  Libya possesses the force and faith to defeat aggressors and mitigate COVID‑19, he said, adding that the Government announced a ceasefire and called for elections by March 2021.  For the ceasefire to be effective militias must withdraw from territories in which they are active.  “Militias must return to their home countries and ports must reopen.”  He welcomed leaders in eastern Libya that called for a ceasefire, however, militias in the region are not abiding and are therefore responsible for any casualties.

External intervention and support for militias hinders Government and United Nations efforts to establish sustainable peace, he said, reiterating calls for an agreement on a constitutional convention and long‑awaited elections.  Achieving these goals requires resumed political talks with all relevant stakeholders, only excluding those found guilty of crimes against Libya’s people.  “Aggression against Tripoli represents a grave violation of human rights,” he said, noting that mass graves have been uncovered showing the extent of crimes by aggressor forces.  On migration, he said Libya is a transit country facing serious economic repercussions that it cannot surmount without international assistance and rejected unilateral reports on the situation of migrants in his country.  “Libya is a victim of migration, not its reason.”  He closed by calling for an end to the “historic injustice” inflicted on Africa through its underrepresentation within the Security Council.

NICOS ANASTASIADES, President of Cyprus, noting the scepticism and disappointment about the effectiveness of multilateralism, said that the pandemic has underscored the world’s vulnerability and fragilities.  The way forward must collectively demonstrate solidarity and that should include the sharing of a vaccine for COVID‑19 in an equitable manner, he stressed.  Voicing concern about Turkey’s interventions in the Middle East which affect the territorial integrity and stability of Libya, Syria and Iraq, he said that country is also violating the sovereign rights of both Greece and Cyprus.

This combination of violations, he continued, has created a climate of increasing instability, with negative repercussions not only for the region but also beyond.  His country, despite its small size, acts as a facilitator for synergies and cooperation by promoting a web of partnerships, including trilateral and multilateral schemes, along with Greece, Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel, Armenia and the State of Palestine.  Founded on the principle of international law and good neighbourly relations, these partnerships do not exclude any country which shares the vision of lasting peace and stability in the region.

The people of his country, he said, still suffer from the 1974 illegal military invasion and the consequent military occupation of 37 per cent of the country.  Calling on Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to accept his proposal for a sincere bilateral dialogue or to refer the whole issue to the International Court of Justice, he added that international law cannot be applied unilaterally, on the basis of one country’s whims.  The numerous United Nations resolutions, the decisions of the Security Council and the judgements of the European Court of Human Rights speak for themselves, he said, reaffirming his vision of a Cyprus free from foreign troops and led by Cypriots.

ILHAM ALIYEV, President of Azerbaijan, said that to achieve sustainable international peace and security, there must be an end to occupation.  Almost 20 per cent of the territory of his country remains under occupation by Armenia for almost 30 years.  That country used military force against Azerbaijan, and occupied Nagorno-Karabakh and seven other regions, he said, adding that Azerbaijanis have been forcibly expelled from the occupied territories.  Armenia also committed a number of war crimes and crimes against humanity against Azerbaijani civilians, he said, adding that a criminal, terrorist puppet regime was established in these territories to hide the responsibility for occupation.  Four Security Council resolutions demand immediate, complete, and unconditional withdrawal of the Armenian armed forces from Azerbaijan's occupied territories, however, he said, these have not been implemented. “Illegal presence of the armed forces of Armenia in the occupied lands of Azerbaijan remains a major threat to regional peace and security,” he said.

Despite the enormous difficulties caused by Armenian occupation, he continued, his country is stable, modern, democratic and multicultural.  Development of democracy and human rights protection are among top priorities of the Government and all fundamental freedoms are fully provided, including freedom of expression, media freedom, freedom of assembly, religious freedoms, as well as development of civil society.  Further, the economy has developed rapidly, and gross domestic product (GDP) tripled in the last 17 years while poverty decreased from 49 per cent to 5 per cent.  Noting that the country’s literacy rate is close to 100 per cent, he pointed out that Azerbaijan ranks 54th among 166 countries in the Sustainable Development Goals Index, according to the “Sustainable Development Report 2020”.

Turning to regional cooperation, he noted the country’s participation in regional connectivity projects, such as East‑West, North‑South, North‑West transportation corridors, thereby becoming one of Eurasia's reliable transport and logistics hubs.  The Government has also commissioned the Baku‑Tbilisi‑Kars railroad and the Baku International Trade Seaport with the potential of handling capacity of 25 million tons.  With two telecommunications and one earth observation satellite in space, Azerbaijan is also a member of the international space club, he said, adding that the country took timely measures to stop the spread of the virus.  With almost 700 hospitals and health‑care facilities built or completely renovated in the past 17 years, the country's situation with COVID‑19 has remained under control, he reported.

EDGAR CHAGWA LUNGU, President of Zambia, said the COVID‑19 pandemic has decimated economies and exacerbated poverty, and demonstrated how interconnected the world is.  He called on world leaders to take this opportunity to maximize their comparative advantages and share knowledge and expertise to improve the livelihood of all.  “The post‑coronavirus landscape will require urgent action to guarantee and to lay a solid foundation for a better world,” he said.  He voiced support for debt relief and cancellation for developing countries, enhanced collaboration in the search for a vaccine, and the mobilization of resources from the local to international community.

He said the pandemic shows how vulnerable young populations are to economic crises, noting that even before the onset of the pandemic young people were three times as likely to be unemployed than their adult counterparts.  In response to this phenomenon, Zambia launched a multisectoral youth employment programme to support young entrepreneurs and ensure opportunities for them across all sectors.

Referencing the pledge to leave no one behind that underpins the 2030 Agenda, he called for unwavering support to initiatives that accelerate the Agenda’s implementation.  For its part, Zambia and its international partners are working closely with the private sector and civil society to implement its Sustainable Development Goal coordination framework and to fully integrate the Goals into national development plans.  Zambia supports international efforts to peacefully resolve conflicts and remains an active participant in peacekeeping missions and peacebuilding operations in Africa.  “We urge the United Nations to remain resolute in its duty in protecting these vulnerable persons, and to redouble its efforts to bring about a more peaceful world,” he said.

TEODORO OBIANG NGUEMA MBASOGO, President and Head of State of Equatorial Guinea, called for solidarity in tackling COVID‑19, stressing that it is not enough to eradicate it but efforts must hasten recovery through measures that accelerate growth, with a view to quickly returning to normalcy.  This will require joint efforts.  Unity and solidarity were decisive factors when the United Nations was created 75 years ago in the wake of the Second World War, whose victors had conflicting interests yet were able to unite for the sake of global wellbeing.  The Charter lays the foundation for multilateralism and a just, prosperous, peaceful planet.  “There are no viable alternatives,” he emphasized.

While the United Nations was decisive in the fight for decolonization and has tackled humanitarian crises across the globe, it must now adapt to current realities and reform based on justice, equality and solidarity.  “The world needs a revitalized General Assembly,” he said, one with greater influence on Member States.  He likewise expressed support for the Ezulwini Consensus and the Sirte Declaration in reforming the Security Council, as the historic injustice to the continent must be repaired.  Africa’s issues comprise 75 per cent of the Council’s agenda, yet the continent lacks a full voice in the forum.

Expressing support for the Organization’s development, human rights and peace and security pillars, he defended the supremacy of international law, based on the Charter — which itself was the fruit of jointly agreed rules — and rooted in the principles of sovereignty, non-interference and respect for territorial integrity.  Misinterpretation of these values leads to confrontation, which must be resolved peacefully.  He called for unity around the 2030 Agenda and the African Union Agenda 2063, and issues related to health, education, the economy, trade, youth, women, refugees and employment, with a view to improving development in African countries.  The Security Council must better coordinate with the African Union Peace and Security Council, creating mechanisms for sharing information and making decisions.  Pointing to conflicts in Syria, Libya, Yemen, Afghanistan, the Middle East, Central African Republic and Somalia — which are all exacerbated by illicit flows of small arms and light weapons — he expressed concern over the situation in the Sahel, as joint efforts have not stabilized the region.  The use of force is an unacceptable means to achieve political objectives, he said, calling also for an end to the blockade against Cuba and attention to climate change.

JOVENEL MOÏSE, President of Haiti, noting the multidimensional consequences of COVID‑19, said that today, more than ever, the world needs a multilateral system that performs better through greater solidarity.  Eliminating poverty is the number‑one goal of the 2030 Agenda, but unfortunately, global efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals are far from meeting outstanding needs.  It will be impossible to reverse that trend without a huge mobilisation of financial resources.

In recent year, Haiti has received several billion dollars in international assistance, yet the living conditions of its people have not really improved.  Nor has that assistance taken the country’s needs and priorities into account.  He called on all donors from all friendly countries to rethink their assistance.  Projects should be adapted to Haiti’s requirements and strengthen its capacities and institutions, with a positive impact on alleviating poverty.  He acknowledged that some donors are starting to understand the need to align their assistance with Government priorities “and we welcome this”.

While many countries have made significant efforts towards implementing the Sustainable Development Goals, others are still lagging behind, he said.  Haiti’s needs are immense and require coherent investment in several areas, including — among others — transportation and electrical infrastructure, affordable housing, renewable energy and access to credit for all, including farmers and young people.  Despite a socioeconomic crisis and deep polarization of its political class, “we will get back on our feet” with international help.  He went on to thank all of Haiti’s partners for helping to keep the COVID‑19 pandemic at bay, including the Republic of China (Taiwan), which he said should be granted its proper place in international institutions, including the United Nations.

NGUYEN PHU TRONG, President of Viet Nam, said that the international community needs a United Nations that is truly cohesive and inclusive, where every member can have a voice in deciding matters of common concern.  Further reforms should be undertaken to transform the Organization, making it stronger so that it can fulfil its role in the face of the monumental changes of the present time.  The United Nations Charter and the principles of international law must be upheld and advanced as the norms of behaviour for all countries in contemporary international relations.  “We must choose dialogue over confrontation, and peaceful settlement of disputes over unilateral acts of imposition,” he said.  In this spirit, Viet Nam calls for the removal of unilateral sanctions that adversely affect countries’ socioeconomic development and people’s livelihoods, especially the embargo imposed upon Cuba.

Viet Nam was once a poor and backward country ravaged by war and strangled by an embargo, he said.  After 35 years of “Doi Moi” reform, Viet Nam has emerged as a middle‑income developing country and is aiming to be a high-income industrial nation by 2045.  In the fight against COVID‑19, difficulties notwithstanding, Viet Nam has recorded positive and noteworthy outcomes.  It has successfully contained the pandemic while promoting social and economic development.  In international solidarity and with the understanding that the pandemic is only defeated when everyone is safe, his country has engaged in experience-sharing with many countries, including by providing support to those most affected.

As a non‑permanent member of the Security Council for 2020‑2021, Viet Nam promotes dialogue, de‑escalation of tension and confrontation, and fair and reasonable solutions to regional and global peace and security issues, he said.  As the 2020 Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) Chair, Viet Nam is working with fellow Member States to build a region of peace, friendship and cooperation.  Together with countries within and outside the region, Viet Nam is committed to the maintenance and promotion of peace, stability, maritime security and safety and freedom of navigation in the East Sea (South China Sea), in accordance with international law, particularly the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.  “We call on all concerned parties to exercise restraint, avoid unilateral acts that would complicate the situation, and settle disputes and differences through peaceful means with due respect for diplomatic and legal processes,” he said.

EMMERSON DAMBUDZO MNANGAGWA, President of Zimbabwe, said his country was facing humanitarian challenges which are compounded by illegal sanctions, the negative impact of climate change, and the COVID‑19 pandemic.  “However, my Administration continues to record notable achievements towards sustainable development which leaves no one behind,” he said, noting that Zimbabwe has seen its macroeconomic stabilization reforms reduce the budget deficit to a single digit, with a positive balance on the current account coupled with foreign exchange rate and price stability.  Major infrastructure projects continue, as well as investments in mining, agriculture, tourism, energy and manufacturing sectors.  His Administration is actively promoting constitutionalism, democracy and the rule of law, he said, adding that the alignment of the country’s laws with the Constitution was nearly complete.

Noting that recently the United Nations Secretary‑General, High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food had acknowledged the deleterious effects of illegal economic sanctions on Zimbabwe, he said.  These are a breach of international law and compromise Zimbabwe’s capacity to achieve sustainable development, he said, calling on the General Assembly to “strongly pronounce itself against these unilateral illegal sanctions”.  Turning to COVID‑19, he said Zimbabwe continues to implement measures to battle the pandemic, including phased lockdowns, adherence to WHO guidelines and a $720 million economic stimulus package.  He welcomed calls by the Secretary‑General and WHO Director General for the COVID‑19 vaccine to be treated as a global public good with guaranteed fair distribution and mechanisms for equal access.  He added that the country is implementing the Beijing Declaration with measures such as the adoption of a gender responsive Constitution, establishment of the Zimbabwe Gender Commission and enacting legislation that outlaws practices that violate the rights of women and girls.

Turning to equitable representation in the Security Council, he expressed regret that the Ezulwini Consensus had yet to be implemented.  With the aim of ensuring greater peace and stability on the continent, he called on the international community to strengthen its support to the African Union-led peace efforts and push for greater collaboration between the African Union and United Nations in maintaining sustainable peace there, particularly through implementation of the African Union’s “Silencing the Guns” campaign.  Further, he called on the Security Council to increase its efforts toward ending the occupation in the Western Sahara, and on the Secretary‑General to appoint his Special Envoy for Western Sahara without delay.

FRANCISCO GUTERRES LÚ‑OLO, President of Timor-Leste, emphasized the important support that his country received from China, Australia, Cuba, the United States and the European Union to combat COVID‑19.  Of the 27 positive cases recorded in Timor‑Leste since the first one was confirmed on 21 March, all but one has recovered.  Taking advantage of the pandemic’s impact, the Government has drawn up a people‑centred economic recovery plan aimed at curbing the loss of income and jobs.  Hopefully, any coronavirus vaccine will be produced for the global public good, he added, describing the pandemic as an opportunity to become more aware of the Sustainable Development Goals and the 2030 Agenda.  To ensure that no one is left behind, attention must be given to the least developed countries, including small island developing States, he said, also underscoring Timor-Leste’s commitment to join ASEAN.

The destruction of ecosystems and biodiversity is linked to new diseases such as COVID‑19, he said, emphasizing that the Paris Agreement on climate change and the Sustainable Development Goals are essential for rebuilding the nations of the world.  Family farming, rational use of natural resources and intelligent environmental protection policies are crucial issues that must be respected for life to exist on Earth.  To reduce plastic waste, Timor‑Leste has introduced a recycling policy and launched a facility to turn used plastic bottles into building bricks and domestic chairs.

Noting the United Nations role in Timor‑Leste’s independence, he said that reconciliation between his country and Indonesia sets an example for good neighbourliness and cooperation.  He expressed concern about increased tension in the South China Sea and called on all parties involved to overcome their differences through dialogue and negotiations.  He also voiced concern about terrorist violence in Mozambique, called for an end to the embargo on Cuba and condemned racism as unacceptable and “absolutely abominable”.  Recalling that 2020 marks the end of the Third International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism, he stressed the importance of appointing a Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Western Sahara to speed up negotiations and find a solution that guarantees the Saharawi people the right to self-determination, as per the Charter of the United Nations.

EVARISTO DO ESPIRITO SANTO CARVALHO, President of Sao Tome and Principe, said he is convinced that multilateralism is the best way to combine efforts in international solidarity to mitigate the effects of the economic and financial crisis that COVID‑19 has imposed on the world.  However, aside from the pandemic, persistent violent tension spots continue to have major humanitarian repercussions worldwide, including in the Central African Republic, the eastern provinces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Sudan, Libya and the Sahel.  He also pointed to the actions of terrorist groups Al‑Shabaab in East Africa and Boko Haram in Central and West Africa, calling for greater involvement from the international community against terrorist flare‑ups in the Mozambique province of Cabo Delgado.  The perennial issue of Western Sahara remains a cause of concern, requiring resumed negotiations by the parties involved.

In the Middle East, he noted the constant hostility between Israel and Palestine, as well as the situations in Syria and Yemen, which need compromise to end hostilities and pave the way for open dialogue toward a lasting political solution and peace in the region.  He also reiterated a call to lift sanctions and the economic, trade and financial embargo on Cuba, so that nation can take better advantage of trade opportunities on an equal footing with other Member States.

While poverty, climate change and sea piracy remain important challenges, he pointed to the high mortality rate and devastating effects of the pandemic on the economies of fragile countries such as Sao Tome and Principe, a small island developing State.  While a wave of bilateral and multilateral solidarity has benefitted the country, he renewed a call for a continued spirit of solidarity in a post‑COVID economic recovery, likely to be very challenging.  As Sao Tome and Principe prepares to graduate to the category of middle‑income country in December 2024, he expressed pride in that progress but appealed for support from the international community in facing the challenges of that new stage.

AZALI ASSOUMANI, President of Comoros, said the pandemic has awoken a collective conscience which crosses borders between continents and has galvanized international solidarity.  The virulence of the disease caught the world off guard, but the unwavering mobilization of the international community has helped Comoros confront it.  He noted various measures established, including closing borders and suspension of gatherings, and in the economic and banking fields to bolster delivery of fuel and availability of basic commodities.  However, he said it is regrettable that some countries place others on “red” lists while ignoring official published data, a decision that should be the preserve of WHO.  Comoros currently holds the Presidency of the Indian Ocean Commission and is thereby monitoring that regional situation.

Under the shadow of the pandemic, environmental challenges have become even more marked, along with other crises, he said.  Therefore, reform of United Nations is central and always on the Organization’s agenda, he said, calling for effective representation of all continents to combat against exclusion.  In human rights, in line with the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, Comoros established a supreme council of the judiciary to protect the weakest from arbitrary actions and violations of human rights.  In that sphere, he pointed to oppression of the Palestinian people, underlining the necessity of an independent Palestinian State with East Jerusalem as its capital, living side by side in peace with Israel.

Despite the severity of the health crisis, he noted it does not overshadow issues of national sovereignty.  In December 2019 in Paris, Comoros organized a conference on the status of emerging countries, raising more funds than expected including from the World Bank.  Referring to issues between Comoros and France over the nearby island of Mayotte, he expressed the hope that dialogue between the two States and other francophone countries will continue.

LIONEL ROUWEN AINGIMEA, President of Nauru, said that by using the borders of other countries as its bulwark, Nauru has been able to remain free of COVID‑19.  However, while WHO has played a leading role in managing the Pacific region’s response to the pandemic, the Pacific Humanitarian Pathway for COVID‑19 has proven to be onerous, confusing and ineffective.  “At the height of any crisis, we should not alienate further the people we are supposed to help,” he said.  He added that the pandemic exposed the weakness of the United Nations development system and the disconnect between a coordinated regional response and meeting national needs and priorities.  It has also demonstrated the need to be better prepared for future outbreaks.

Economic sustainability is a core pillar of Nauru’s development strategy, but the country holds the dubious distinction as the only State denied access to World Bank concessional financing because its gross national income exceeds the current threshold for small island economies, he said.  Nor can Nauru get World Bank loans because, according to that institution, its economy cannot generate sufficient revenue to service them.  Nauru may be an extreme case, but it is in line with the experience of many developing countries, he said, adding that this state of affairs was shameful even before the pandemic.  “We need a global financial system that is more responsive to the urgent needs of developing countries and I strongly urge you to take on this issue as part of your effort to reaffirm multilateralism,” he said.

Turning to climate change, he said that addressing its security implications requires a multilateral response, ideally through the establishment of an Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary‑General for Climate and Security.  The United Nations must take urgent action on climate change to prevent economic regression that would further exacerbate the existing inequalities among nations.  Underscoring Nauru’s high dependence on marine resources for its sustenance and economic development, he encouraged the International Seabed Authority to keep working towards a regulatory regime for the collection of seafloor minerals.  He went on to acknowledge the valuable support of Nauru’s genuine friends — Australia, Republic of China (Taiwan), New Zealand, India, Japan and the United States — in responding to and containing the coronavirus.  He also asked the United States not to forget the people of Cuba who are also struggling under the pandemic.

ÚMARO SISSOCO EMBALÓ, President of Guinea‑Bissau, said tackling the pandemic serves as a global wake‑up call, demonstrating that collective approaches are needed.  With the seventy‑fifth anniversary of the founding of the United Nations, States must now work to revive its values to realize an Organization fit to face global challenges, including achieving the 2030 Agenda objectives.  Guinea‑Bissau’s independence 46 years ago was one with great sacrifice, and it has since worked with partners to address national challenges.  However, as the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Guinea‑Bissau (UNIOGBIS) mandate is coming to an end, he said ongoing support is essential to continue to advance achievements for the population’s benefit.

For its part, the Government is working to rebuild a new Guinea‑Bissau to guarantee a better future for the next generations, he said.  Yet, fragile States like his face unique problems that the pandemic has exacerbated.  As a reflection of the global trade landscape, he said Guinea‑Bissau’s economy has felt the effects, including its cashew nut exports being seriously affected.  Highlighting other national concerns and achievements, he said Guinea‑Bissau is working to reduce greenhouse gases and is an active partner in addressing climate change issues.  Efforts are also underway to tackle gender inequality, with many women now playing a key role in peacebuilding.  Youth are also involved in the peace process and are benefiting from investments in education.

Turning to global concerns, he said embargoes on certain countries are not helpful.  Citing Cuba’s many international efforts to provide assistance during the pandemic, he called on the United States to lift its embargo against the country.  In the Middle East, he expressed hope that the question of Palestine could be resolved peacefully, with the Palestinian people having their own State, based on agreed upon borders.  In terms of multilateralism, he said States must work together to advance the well-being and progress of all nations and all people, he said, aligning his delegation with the position of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China.

MOHAMED ABDULLAHI MOHAMED FARMAJO, President of Somalia, said consensus, cooperation and targeted common action have never been more important than now, when the pandemic is challenging the world politically, socially and economically.  In assessing the way forward to achieving the agreed Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, the world must re‑examine “the future we all want and the United Nations we need to attain it”.  Like most nations, Somalia has worked during the pandemic to save lives and keep the population safe, due to effective partnerships among the Government, citizens and the global community and with help from international financial institutions.  The success of this common effort does not mean Somalia is unscathed, with vulnerable populations and overstretched health systems and infrastructure, but with collective efforts, nations can permanently reverse the deadly impact of the virus for every human being on the planet.

Turning to the future Somalia wants, he highlighted promoting greater partnership for international trade and enhanced foreign direct investment in key productive sectors which has the potential to feed the world, with the United Nations being an inclusive global multilateral platform for propelling not just the ideas and aspirations of change but their realization too.  Global crises like the pandemic provide both an opportunity for renewal and a challenge to overcome, however, he expressed fear that COVID‑19 has, and will continue to, exacerbate the already existing gulf between the developed, developing and fragile States that comprise the United Nations family.  This is something that must be avoided at all costs, he said, as tackling today’s major global challenges, including insecurity, climate change, poverty and the increasing inequality which is the driver of much division and discontent across the world, depends on effective cooperation and multilateral actions to bring the Sustainable Development Goals to fruition.

Somalia is working through, and with, the United Nations to create a better future, he said.  Taking the lead in delivering development to its people, Somalia is working with valuable international partners to ensure it rebuilds a democratic, inclusive and economically prosperous country.  Somalia is also successfully defeating the menace of global terrorism with the efforts of brave armed forces in collaboration with the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and other international partners.  Looking forward, he said, realizing the Sustainable Development Goals is essential, and to do so, the United Nations must improve further, innovate faster and deliver better for the most fragile nations and vulnerable communities through assisting and strengthening national institutional frameworks, systematic knowledge transfers and investment in human capital.  The Organization and its family of nations must work together through renewed partnership to confront COVID‑19, continuing to engage with each other positively to create the inclusive and prosperous common future.

FAUSTIN ARCHANGE TOUADERA, President of the Central African Republic, said that since the onset of the COVID‑19 crisis, his country has not been spared.  An assessment of the socioeconomic impact of the pandemic indicates that economic growth will contract by between 0.8 per cent and 1.2 per cent in the Central African Republic.  He asked the international community to find common solutions to eradicate the virus.  Humankind is confronted by various challenges and in light of all these challenges, the theme of the current General Assembly session reaffirms a collective commitment to multilateralism, which has always been the best instrument to combat certain scourges.

At this seventy‑fifth anniversary, it is essential to keep in mind the goals and principles that have guided the Organization as outlined in its Charter, he said.  The United Nations remains the ideal framework and forum for multilateralism.  No human creation is perfect, and it is a good idea to take stock of some of the weaknesses of the past 75 years and to try and find lasting solutions.  He joined other States and the African Union in supporting Security Council reform.  It is necessary to transcend narrow interests and it is also important for Africa to be better represented in the various organs of the Organization.  Through multilateralism, it can be ensured that there is a more secure and stable future.  Humankind merely aspires to peace, justice and sustainable development.

On the situation in the Central African Republic, he said that a political agreement on peace and reconciliation was signed between the Government and 14 armed groups on 6 February 2019.  Since then, his Government, as well as the guarantors and facilitators of the agreement, have spared no effort to uphold it.  Despite the Government’s good faith, massive violations of international humanitarian law and human rights continue to be perpetrated against civilians by armed groups that are signatories to the agreement.  Despite progress achieved in security sector reform in his country, many challenges remain.  Lasting support by the international community is essential to implement the peace and reconciliation agreement.  In order to comply with the constitutional timeframe, the national elections authority is working to ensure that the elections are held on the established timetable.  The Government, with the support of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA), continues to make progress, including with the redeployment of defence and security forces.  He called for the full lifting of the arms embargo against his country.

ISMAËL OMAR GUELLEH, President of Djibouti, said 2020 is nothing like previous years, and will be remembered for the world suffering shockingly violent disruptions.  The pandemic has significantly affected tourism and the informal sector in less prosperous countries, with lockdowns driving job losses and financial insecurity.  Noting that the World Bank reports the crisis will plunge Africa into its first recession in over 25 years, with worrisome deficits, he called for an appropriate response from international financial institutions to developing countries.  The disproportionate effect of the pandemic and its economic shocks on women underscores the critical importance of expediting efforts to implement Sustainable Development Goal Five and achieve gender equality.

Noting that Djibouti had worked quickly to contain the crisis with border closures and lockdown policies, he also pointed to the spread of false information or “infodemic” referred to by WHO.  Despite success in combatting this, his Government is still working to overcome complacency.  Given Djibouti has been hard hit like other African countries, the country implemented measures including a special fund to support employment and society and fight the virus, with contributions from the World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF) and friendly countries.

Despite the close link seen by scientists between the pandemic and climate change, he said implementation of Paris Agreement has not been as widespread as had been hoped.  Climate change has been deprioritized.  “We must remain vigilant,” he said, as resources directed in that direction will help prevent future pandemics.  Unfortunately, some terrorist groups have benefitted from the security vacuum that emerged under the pandemic.  He welcomed progress in Somalia despite the disease, locust invasions and devastating floods and voiced support for the work of AMISOM against Al‑Shabaab.  Similarly, the South Sudan Transitional Government of National Unity offers hope, as the people of that country are sick and tired of war.  He voiced support for an eventual lasting peace in Yemen and reaffirmed the importance of its territorial integrity.

EVARISTE NDAYISHIMIYE, President of Burundi, said the pandemic’s indiscriminate consequences puts into stark relief the importance of multilateralism and how the world handles global challenges and contradictions.  Commending the Secretary‑General for his reform efforts, he said the United Nations must be strong to face current challenges.  Turning to domestic affairs, he said Burundi’s electoral process has been funded nationally and foundations have been established for a strong democracy.  Development being the backbone of progress, he said broad efforts are being made to foster achievements.  With stability across the country, he said initiatives are now focused on citizens returning home, with 92,000 refugees having been repatriated.

On global challenges, he warned of a trend that has seen States imposing coercive unilateral measures, a practice that must cease.  Instead, multilateralism must drive forward the world’s efforts to overcome massive obstacles.  He strongly rejected diplomatic aggression against Burundi by foreign Governments.  Further, relations between African countries and those with a colonial past must be addressed, he said, adding that “shaking off the colonial yoke” has cost millions of lives and left wounds that are difficult to heal.  Political forces are behind Burundi’s inclusion on the Security Council’s agenda, which has destabilized instead of helped the country, he said, calling for its prompt removal.  On the 2030 Agenda, he said Burundi’s priorities include fighting against poverty and protecting the environment.  The Government has also designed a policy of zero tolerance of corruption.  Despite its national sustainable development plan, he said more action and resources are needed to realize the Sustainable Development Goals.

He said this General Assembly session is an excellent opportunity for Member States to reflect on how the United Nations must address these challenges, adopting a consensus‑based approach to tackle global issues, from migration to climate change.  This planet is facing a climate crisis, worsening daily and threatening decades of progress.  The clock is ticking, he said, emphasizing that Burundi launched a national project to reduce deforestation.  Burundi is also fighting against terrorism, which should never be linked to religion or ethnic origin.  Instead, the root causes must be addressed, he said, adding that Burundi has deployed 5,000 troops to the peacekeeping mission in Somalia.  Welcoming the creation of the African Continental Free Trade Area, he said such efforts boost growth, reduce poverty and broaden economic inclusion.  Echoing the common African position on Security Council reform, he called for permanent seats to be allocated to the continent’s countries.  While the pandemic has highlighted fragilities in the world, he said Burundi believes in international solidarity and will play its full role in building a global order that respects the United Nations Charter.

MOHAMED JULDEH JALLOH, Vice‑President, Sierra Leone, said that his country supports the call for global solidarity for COVID‑19 prevention and treatment.  He encouraged the Secretary‑General to work with the General Assembly and all stakeholders to expedite the implementation of all COVID‑19 resolutions.  The theme for this General Assembly session, which reaffirms the collective commitment to multilateralism, is appropriate, relevant and timely.  As a global family it is only through the collective commitment to multilateralism that the pandemic can be tackled, as well as the problems of hunger, disease, natural disasters, terrorism, human rights violations and transnational organized crime.  At a time when isolationist sentiment, geopolitical tensions and economic uncertainties are escalating, the multilateral rules‑based system is being severely tested.  In view of this, he reaffirmed Sierra Leone’s commitment to multilateralism and promoting international cooperation to address ongoing challenges, including the prevent of conflict and advancing the peaceful settlement of disputes.

The pandemic continues to disrupt and destroy lives and threatens international peace, he said.  This is especially so in countries undergoing conflict or emerging from conflicts, those experiencing humanitarian crises and those with fragile economies where peacebuilding and post‑war State‑building could be undermined or reversed.  The current political crisis in Mali and related insurgencies in the Sahel are of grave concern.  They required an urgent response and unambiguous support for ongoing efforts initiated by Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

At the 2005 World Summit, a commitment was made to an early reform of the Security Council in order to make it more broadly representative, efficient and transparent and thus to further enhance its effectiveness and the legitimacy and implementation of its decisions, he noted.  As Coordinator of the African Union Committee of Ten on the reform of the United Nations, he said that the people of Africa are now more convinced than ever that the present geopolitical realities and the current global health pandemic are compelling reasons for comprehensive Council reform.  This would make way for African representation in permanent Council seats and address its under-representation in non‑permanent seats.

For information media. Not an official record.