General Assembly: general debate

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


PAUL BIYA, President of Cameroon, said peace was a prerequisite for sustainable development, yet it was under threat from terrorism, conflict, poverty and climate change.  No country had been spared by the scourge of terrorism.  Frequent attacks in places such as Barcelona, Ouagadougou, Baghdad and Paris had unfortunately made terrorism part and parcel of daily life.  Cameroon and its neighbouring countries had borne the brunt of terrorist group Boko Haram’s constantly changing methods and tactics.

“It is killing our people, our communities, our independence and our democracy,” he explained.  “It spells the end of peace.”  Cameroon therefore looked forward to the arrival of a United Nations high-level mission to the Lake Chad region.  He went on to condemn conflicts in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East which had wreaked pain and hardship and led to an outpouring of refugees and displaced persons.  Cameroon would continue to host refugees from the Central African Republic and Nigeria as it “understands how much they feel hurt, victimized and threatened”.

He said the numerous declarations and resolutions on development adopted by the United Nations had not been fully effective in reducing poverty.  “The result is clear:  poverty persists and the gap between rich and poor countries is ever widening,” he said.  “The situation has been exacerbated by the decline in commodity prices.”  There was a need for countries to work in solidarity to reduce poverty and help people lead a decent life.

Damage to the environment was also a serious threat.  He said Africa faced two major environmental challenges:  forest degradation in Central Africa and the desertification affecting Lake Chad, which had lost already 90 per cent of its surface.  Those issues could be better heard with greater representation of Africa on the Security Council, he said.  “Is it not high time we restructured the United Nations to give more weight to Africa’s voice within a revitalized General Assembly and a Security Council that is more receptive and equitable to us?”, he asked.

TANETI MAAMAU, President of Kiribati, said the Assembly’s theme was central to ensuring that human lives and dignity prevailed “over the value of a dollar”.  “As leaders of our sovereign nations, we are responsible to our people who are at the heart of the sustainable development agenda,” he stressed.  As the international community addressed the loss of lives and devastation in the Caribbean, Mexico and the United States due to the onslaught of hurricanes and earthquakes — and typhoons and monsoons in Asia — he urged it not to forget the plights of countries such as Kiribati.  The country, along with other small island developing States including Tuvalu, Marshall Islands and Maldives, suffered daily from the onset of climate disaster.  “This may not capture the attention of the global community due to its slow impact and limited media attention, but it is causing pain and suffering in our communities,” he said.

Calling for simplified and streamlined international processes that enabled the participation of such nations, he said easier access to the Green Climate Fund was also needed.  Kiribati had embarked on an ambitious “20‑year Vision” strategy towards a wealthy, healthy and secure nation based on accelerated growth and strategic investment in human, natural and cultural capital.  That plan aimed to empower people at the household and community levels, he said, also outlining national policies to ensure good governance and transparency.

Noting that the United Nations could not speak about a focus on people if its own family remained incomplete, he said its pledges of consolidation and concerted action continued to ignore the 23 million people in Taiwan, depriving them of the right to participate in its work.  Calling for reforms that would see Taiwan included in the global community and its drive to achieve the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, he went on to note that unsustainable production and consumption patterns “will push our planet’s life support system to the brink of collapse”, and urged collective action to reverse them.  Efforts were also needed to conserve the ocean.  He welcomed the inclusion on the Assembly’s agenda of action to formulate a legally binding instrument for the management and sustainable use of biological marine diversity areas beyond national jurisdiction, noting that a single management failure in those important areas could have devastating consequences on fisheries and the ocean itself.

For its part, he said, Kiribati had declared 11 per cent of its exclusive economic zone as a marine protected area, a non-commercial zone and a world heritage entity under the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), with the aim to foster a restocking of its fisheries.  “If a small, resource-constrained nation like mine is willing to make a profound sacrifice […] this global family has a far greater capacity to do more” to ensure that future generations could build a decent life in a sustainable environment.  Calling for support to help countries mitigate and alleviate the effects of climate change, he announced his Government’s decision to leverage its sovereign wealth fund as collateral for concessional debt financing.  That non-traditional move demonstrated Kiribati’s willingness to drive its own aspirations rather than wait for financial assistance “that may come at a moment far too late,” he said.

Cautioning against diverting the United Nations focus away from people to countries’ individual quests for power, dominance and greed, he said compassion could transform global challenges by focusing on the most vulnerable members of societies.  “We come to this gathering to listen and converse,” he said, adding:  “Let us do so with greater compassion, understanding, love, respect and kindness.”  It was never too late to begin.

Statement by the Central African Republic to come.

PAVEL FILIP, Prime Minister of the Republic of Moldova, reiterated support for the Secretary-General’s reform agenda, noting that his Government, after signing the June 2014 Association Agreement with the European Union, had engaged in structural reforms to build a modern society based on the European development model.  Efforts sought to consolidate the rule of law and create a market economy, as well as modernize infrastructure, manage resources efficiently, promote a green economy, update agriculture technology and reform public administration.  While the Republic of Moldova had the political will to implement those reforms, and it would continue to rely on support from its development partners, he said.

The lack of progress on ending conflicts should prompt more direct involvement from the United Nations, he said, irrespective of a situation’s inclusion on the Security Council agenda.  He welcomed the Assembly’s agenda item of “protracted conflicts in the GUAM [Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and the Republic of Moldova] area and their implications for international peace, security and development”, as proactive monitoring could prevent or counter attempts to change the political boarders of the GUAM States.  He expressed deep concern over the armed conflict in Ukraine, reiterating full support for that country’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.

He recalled that since 1992, the Republic of Moldova had informed the Assembly about the unresolved conflict in his country’s east, where “illegal” foreign military forces were stationed.  If all parties displayed the political will, the conflict could be resolved, however it persisted, despite 25 years of international efforts.  The Republic of Moldova would seek a solution regarding its sovereignty and territorial integrity, and provide special status for the Transnistria region, as stipulated in Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) documents.  The settlement process could be underpinned by transforming the trilateral peacekeeping force into a multinational civilian mission with an international mandate.  To that end, the trilateral disengagement force, established by the Moldovan-Russian ceasefire agreement of 21 July 1992, had fulfilled its scope.

“This obsolete mechanism has turned into a factor of conflict preservation and has failed to ensure the full demilitarization of the security zone and to eliminate the obstacles to the free movement of people, goods and services,” he said.  The Russian Federation had not withdrawn its military forces from the Republic of Moldova, despite numerous international commitments and agreements.  Military forces conducted regular exercises in the Transnistria region with participation of paramilitary forces from the separatist regime in Tiraspol, posing a constant security threat to the Republic of Moldova.  The military drills were a flagrant violation of the 1992 ceasefire agreement.

He said OSCE reports indicated that the Operative Group of Russian Troops had more than 21,000 metric tons of weapons and ammunition, he said, which the Republic of Moldova did not control or supervise.  The lack of access to those stockpiles had prevented an assessment of the technical conditions, and monitoring of transfers within the territory and abroad.  As a result, the Republic of Moldova had been unable to fulfil its obligations under international disarmament conventions.  He firmly reiterated the request for the “complete and unconditional withdrawal” of the Operative Group  “illegally” stationed in the Republic of Moldova.  Invoking the 21 July declaration by the Republic of Moldova’s Parliament, which called on the Russian Federation to resume and finalize troop and munitions withdrawal, he similarly requested the Assembly to include the item titled, “the withdrawal of foreign military forces from the territory of the Republic of Moldova” on its agenda, and called on all States to support that “legitimate” request.


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