UN - United Nations

09/25/2020 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 09/25/2020 12:34

General Assembly: General Debate

Note: A complete summary of today's General Assembly meetings will be made available after their conclusion.


DAVID W. PANUELO, President of the Federated States of Micronesia, said empathy is courage and that through empathy the international community can overcome any challenge. In times of peace and calamity, world leaders must stand together, he said, calling on the international community to embrace the spirit of solidarity. Noting that his country holds an enduring partnership with the United States, he said such bilateral partnerships with several States have helped it advance its development causes.

Micronesia is a peace‑loving country, he said, calling for consistent cooperation among all nations and peoples to successfully tackle issues such as illegal fishing, including improved relations between the United States and China to reinforce their cooperation to improve the international landscape. He said illicit practices on regional waters run counter to regional security and stability and called on Pacific island leaders to remain focused and true to the region's collective interests.

He said Micronesia simultaneously faces the COVID‑19 pandemic and the long‑term implications of climate change. 'COVID‑19 is an immediate security threat,' he said, adding that while the country remains virus‑free, it faces challenges in repatriation efforts. Through global cooperation the coronavirus can be defeated and Sustainable Development Goal 17 on 'Partnerships for the Goals' is the bedrock on which all other Goals can be met. 'Once effective vaccines are developed, they must be shared widely and immediately,' he stressed. Still, climate change is Micronesia's single largest security threat and all countries are in a global war against the phenomenon. To win that war the world must transition to sustainable and renewable energy sources, he said, calling on the Secretary‑General to appoint a Special Envoy for Climate Change within the Security Council. He stressed that sea‑level rise must not affect Micronesia's territorial boundaries.

POPE FRANCIS of the Holy See, noting the many ways in which the COVID‑19 crisis is exposing human fragility, called on humanity to choose between what really matters and what doesn't. The crisis represents a genuine opportunity for transformation of lifestyles and ecosystems, enhancing multilateralism and accepting shared global responsibility. Nationalism, protectionism and individualism exclude the poorest and most vulnerable, he reminded delegates, stressing that the pandemic has thrown light on the urgent need for universal access to basic health care. Political stakeholders and the private sector must guarantee access to the vaccine and the technologies needed to care for the sick. 'If anyone is to be given priority, let it be the poorest,' he said.

Solidarity cannot be an empty promise, he said, adding that human freedom must be able to direct its methods to a healthier and kinder progress, including in the complex issue of artificial intelligence. Reflecting on the effects of the current health crisis on the labour market, he said the international community must find new ways of work that satisfy the human potential and reaffirm dignity, discarding the dominant economic paradigm that aims at profit. Also calling on the international community to build the ethical framework needed to go beyond the culture of waste and a reductionist vision of the human being, he lamented that fundamental rights continue to be violated with impunity while humanitarian crises have become the status quo.

Encouraging economic and financial institutions to reduce or write off the debt that weighs so heavy on the budgets of the poorest countries, he stressed that all multilateral lending institutions must bear in mind fiscal justice and responsible public budgeting. Also calling for the closure of tax havens, he highlighted the importance of international agreements such as the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement on climate change, and said, 'we must avoid every temptation to fall into declarative nominalism.' The environmental crisis is intimately linked to a social crisis, he noted, also pointing to the devastating consequences of the COVID‑19 crisis on children. Child abuse and pornography have dramatically increased, and with thousands of children unable to go back to school, child labour and malnutrition are on the rise. Also noting 'the unfortunate promotion of abortion as an essential service' in humanitarian responses, he called on authorities to respect the rights to life and education.

MAHMOUD ABBAS, President of the State of Palestine, said his people have been present in their homeland for over 6,000 years and will remain steadfast there until the fulfillment of their rights. The Israeli occupying Power, with the support of Washington, D.C., wants to substitute international law and United Nations resolutions with the United States 'Deal of the Century' and the planned annexation of over 33 per cent of the land of the State of Palestine, in addition to the annexation of occupied East Jerusalem, including Al‑Aqsa Mosque and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The State of Palestine and the international community rejected that deal, he said.

While the State of Palestine has agreed to all initiatives presented, including the Arab Peace Initiative, Israel violated all the agreements it signed, undermined the two‑State solution and sought to alter the character of occupied Jerusalem, he said. Now Israel has announced normalization agreements with both the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, in violation of the Arab Peace Initiative, and in violation of the terms of reference of a comprehensive, lasting and just solution in accordance with international law. He stressed that the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) had not asked anyone to speak on behalf of the Palestinian people. As such, he called on the Secretary‑General, in cooperation with the Quartet and the Security Council, to convene an international conference with the participation of all concerned parties to engage in a genuine peace process leading to an end of the occupation and an independent Palestinian State.

There will be no peace, security, stability or coexistence in the region while the occupation continues and a just, comprehensive solution to the question of Palestine remains denied, he said. Despite their prolonged suffering, the Palestinian people continue to create vibrant life and hope in the spirit of national unity and democracy and will continue to resist attempts to erase their existence, a right in accordance with international law.

CHARLES MICHEL, President of the European Council, European Union, recalling that 142,000 people on his continent have lost their lives to COVID‑19, said the bloc has raised €16 billion to finance the research and deployment of vaccines, tests and treatments, and mobilized to ensure these resources are universally accessible and affordable. Quoting former United Nations Secretary‑General Kofi Annan, who remarked that 'to become a good citizen, start in your own community', he said it is in this vein that the Union aims to become stronger and strategically autonomous, alongside an open market.

The pandemic has increased the bloc's determination to transform its economies and societies tenfold, he said, noting that €540 billion was mobilized for urgent measures at the outset, and in July, an unprecedented €1.8 trillion for the coming years, including €750 billion raised by issuing European Union bonds. 'With this historic decision, we have come together, united and strong, to better assume our responsibilities,' he assured. More than ever, the Union is defending the rules‑based international order based on universal values. 'We have faith in the virtues of free and open economies, never in protectionism,' he said, insisting that access to the Union's large market will no longer be sold off: from now on, it will better enforce the level playing field, in a market open to those who respect its standards. It is also committed to advancing tax fairness, particularly in the digital sector.

More broadly, he said the European Union aims to use its influence to make others more robust as well, noting that it supports the six Western Balkan partners in their integration, and recently opened accession talks with Albania and North Macedonia. Describing the presidential election in Belarus as falsified and likewise demanding an independent inquiry into the assassination attempt against Russian Federation opposition leader Alexei Navalny, he said the region is also on the side of Venezuela's people. On its relationship with Africa - the backbone of a stronger world - he advocated settling the debts of the poorest countries, while in the Eastern Mediterranean, he called for an end to unilateral actions. He expressed the Union's commitment to a two‑State solution between Palestinians and Israelis, clarifying that while it shares ideals, values and mutual affection with the United States, this does not prevent it from having divergent approaches or interests at times. The Union does not share the values on which China's political and economic system is based, and it will not stop promoting respect for universal human rights - including those of Uighurs or in Hong Kong. While China is a crucial partner - notably in addressing global warming, COVID‑19 and debt relief in Africa - the European Union is determined to rebalance this relationship towards greater reciprocity and fairer competition.

MARK RUTTE, Prime Minster of the Netherlands, said the COVID‑19 pandemic has enormous impact on the health, economies and societies of every country, taking an especially hard toll on poor nations. The United Nations is setting the right example in fostering increased cooperation to address the pandemic, including through the establishment of the COVID‑19 Response and Recovery Fund. The Netherlands is the Fund's largest donor, he said, calling for enhanced international cooperation and support for the World Health Organization (WHO).

Acknowledging that WHO has attracted criticism for its response to the pandemic, he called for critical evaluation and continuous efforts to improve multilateral cooperation. The spirit of multilateralism is under great pressure, he said, noting that responsibility for the proper functioning of the multilateral systems rests with all countries. 'Stand up for your own interests, but don't lose sight of the common interest,' he told Member States, also calling on them to honour agreements, international law and human rights.

'We can't tackle today's challenges with yesterday's structures,' he stressed, pointing to the relevance of improving, reforming and modernizing the United Nations. The Netherlands supports the Secretary‑General's reform agenda as part of efforts to make the Organization fit for purpose. Future generations must be able to count on a solid global system of cooperation. The Netherlands will continue to be among the top donors to the multilateral system and will continue to focus on climate adaptation initiatives, he said, noting the country is set to host the 2021 Climate Adaptation Summit. He said the Netherlands proudly hosts the International Court of Justice and International Criminal Court and will continue to work to ensure those responsible for atrocities in Syria are held accountable.