Describing COVID-19 pandemic as wake-up call, dress rehearsal for future challenges, Secretary-General opens annual General Assembly debate with vision for solidarity

Describing COVID-19 pandemic as wake-up call, dress rehearsal for future challenges, Secretary-General opens annual General Assembly debate with vision for solidarity


Calls for Openness, Inclusion Contrast with Protectionist Approaches, as World Leaders Outline Strategies to Contain Virus, Provide Medical Treatment

World leaders gathered in pre-recorded videos for an unprecedented opening of the General Assembly’s annual general debate today, as the United Nations Secretary-General described the epic upheaval wreaked by COVID-19 across the globe, wiping out decades of development gains and laying down an ultimatum for nations to stand united in weathering the human and economic onslaught.

“We are at a foundational moment,” said Secretary-General António Guterres, as he addressed an Assembly Hall sparsely populated due to restrictions imposed by the pandemic. “Our world is struggling.” For the first time in 30 years, poverty is rising, nuclear non-proliferation efforts are slipping away and countries are failing to act in emerging areas of danger.

Describing COVID-19 as both a wake-up call and a dress rehearsal for future challenges, he said “we must move forward with humility.” Populist approaches to contain the virus have often made things worse. He described a disconnect between leadership and power, with remarkable examples of the former often not associated with the latter. In an interconnected world, “solidarity is self-interest”, he said. “If we fail to grasp that fact, everyone loses.”

Against that backdrop, he offered a vision for solidarity, led by the United Nations, that avoids a great fracture between the two largest economies. Rather, he pressed Governments to establish a new social contract with their citizens, one that offers a “new generation” of social protections. He likewise called for a “New Global Deal” to ensure that political and economic systems deliver on global public goods, with efforts rooted in fair globalization and on righting historical injustices in global power structures. “We cannot respond to this crisis by going back to what was or withdrawing into national shells,” he asserted.

Newly elected Assembly President Volkan Bozkir (Turkey) similarly called for leaving disagreements aside. It is in the interest of the world — and its economies and peoples — that tensions are managed and do not spiral out of control. Highlighting the critical role of the United Nations in reinforcing cooperation and consensus, he underscored the need to advance its humanitarian agenda and Sustainable Development Goals. Just as its founders chose to trust one another in a time of crisis, “let us draw strength from those who have persevered in the past,” he said.

Throughout the day, leaders of 32 nations outlined their visions, challenges and achievements, contrasting calls for openness and inclusion with other tendencies towards protectionism and control.

Xi Jinping, President of China, said full play should be given to the World Health Organization (WHO) and all resources mobilized to launch a science-based response to COVID-19. China will share its diagnostics and therapeutics, ensure stable supply chains and participate in global research on tracing the virus’ roots. Once ready, drugs will be provided as a global public good to countries on a priority needs basis. He added that “beggar thy neighbour” policies and “burying one’s head in the sand” will do no good and pushed major countries to “act like major countries” by assuming their responsibilities.

In contrast, United States President Donald J. Trump promoted a “peace through strength” approach, lauding his country’s rapid production of medical technologies and three vaccines that have reached advanced clinical trials. He demanded China be held accountable for “unleashing the plague on the world”, also taking issue with Beijing for overfishing in other countries’ waters and emitting twice as much carbon as the United States. To be effective, the United Nations must focus on the real problems of the world: terrorism and the oppression of women, among them. He rejected failed approaches of the past and recommitted himself to placing “America” first.

“Today’s world cannot be left to the rivalry between China and the United States,” stressed France’s President Emmanuel Macron. “We’re not collectively condemned to a two-step dance that reduces others to impotent spectators.” It is up to countries to forge new alliances. He lamented the Security Council’s paralysis on huge issues of consequence, asking nations to ponder how it can have “such trouble agreeing on so little” and rejecting the “hegemonic collision of Powers” that has dominated over collective action.

Several leaders, including Chile’s President Sebastián Piñera Echenique, said the pandemic has forced countries to reflect on important values and brought forth several vital lessons. “We need to learn to be more humble,” he said, noting that the coronavirus has demonstrated how vulnerable human life is. Major powers, instead of squaring off against one another, should be at the frontlines of pandemic response.

Cuba’s President Miguel Díaz Canel Bermúdez highlighted the show of unprecedented overbearance by the United States in withdrawing from WHO and other United Nations bodies. Calling for the democratization of the Organization, he stressed that an unequal, unjust and anti‑democratic international order is unsustainable.

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani likewise agreed that “COVID‑19 is calling us to more humility”, guiding societies towards civil piety in promoting social and individual ethics. Iran is grappling with the harshest sanctions, imposed in violation of Security Council resolution 2231 (2015). The treatment of an African-American by United States police recalls his own country’s experience, he said: “We instantly recognize the feet kneeling on the neck as the feet of arrogance on the neck of independent nations.”

Addressing the issue of injustice, Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa, President of South Africa, spoke for the African Union in stressing that 2020 will be remembered for the pushback against racism under the Black Lives Matter Movement. He expressed South Africa’s support for demands to end that scourge. The international community also must intensify efforts to empower woman and girls. The African Union is working to finalize a convention on violence against women this year.

Iván Duque Márquez, President of Colombia, said that the COVID-19 pandemic has not only heightened social inequality, but also demonstrated that the international community needs to define better mechanisms for cooperation in times of crisis. He also called on the international community to reject human rights violations in Venezuela and call for free elections and not a prefabricated orchestration to perpetuate dictatorship in that country.

Abdel Fattah Al Sisi, President of Egypt, said that the pandemic mandates the world to support developing countries with economic stimulus packages and reducing debt liabilities, especially in Africa. He reiterated Egypt’s support for a two-State solution to the Palestinian question and an end to the “raging war” in Syria. Like several other leaders, he stressed the importance of expanding the Security Council and to reform the Organization in the conviction that “the world has room for us all”.

Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda, commending the exceptional work of the WHO, said the creation of the Access to COVID Tools Accelerator, including the COVAX Global Vaccines Facility, is critically important for Africa to ensure equitable access to vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics that will speed up the end of the pandemic for everyone. He added that in the coming decades, prosperity will be closely linked to digital literacy and access to high-speed connectivity. He cautioned, however, that the global movement for racial justice and equality must be more than “a passing phenomenon”.

Egils Levits, President of Latvia, noting how COVID-19 has disrupted life for an entire generation, said that recovery efforts must be grounded on the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals with a focus on green, digital and inclusive recovery. He called for greater efforts to tackle biodiversity loss, combat marine plastic pollution and promote sustainable consumption. He voiced concern, however, about the rise of misinformation, disinformation and fake news that have characterized the pandemic.

Joko Widodo, President of Indonesia, said that concerns about conflict and poverty have only deepened amid the COVID-19 pandemic. “No one is safe until everyone is,” he stressed, warning that a stable, peaceful and prosperous world is becoming more and more difficult to attain. He called for the United Nations to strengthen collective leadership and promote a spirit of cooperation. Countries must also work together to ensure that everyone has equal access to a COVID-19 vaccine at an affordable price.

Also speaking today were Heads of State and Government of Brazil, Turkey, Russian Federation, Jordan, Republic of Korea, Qatar, Philippines, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Mexico, Uruguay, Seychelles, Angola, Argentina, Lithuania, Nigeria, Costa Rica, Sri Lanka, Peru and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Opening Remarks

ANTÓNIO GUTERRES, Secretary-General of the United Nations, said COVID‑19 has laid bare the world’s fragilities. It has preyed on the most vulnerable and wiped away decades of progress. For the first time in 30 years, poverty is rising, nuclear non‑proliferation efforts are slipping away and countries are failing to act in areas of emerging danger, particularly cyberspace. “Our world is struggling, stressed and seeking real leadership,” he said, emphasizing: “We are at a foundational moment.”

Recalling that those who built the United Nations 75 years ago had lived through a pandemic, a global depression, genocide and world war, he said “they knew the cost of discord and the value of unity” and fashioned a visionary response. “Today, we face our own 1945 moment,” he noted, describing COVID‑19 as a crisis “unlike any we have ever seen.” It is also one that will appear in different forms again and again, he said, adding that COVID‑19 is not only a wake‑up call, it is a dress rehearsal for challenges to come. “We must move forward with humility — recognizing that a microscopic virus has brought the world to its knees.”

He went on to point out that too little assistance has been extended to countries with the fewest capacities to face the challenge. Stressing that leaders must be guided by science and tethered to reality, he declared: “Populism and nationalism have failed.” He continued: “Those approaches to contain the virus have often made things manifestly worse.” There has also been a disconnect between leadership and power, with remarkable examples of leadership that are not associated with power. Noting the interconnected nature of the world, he called for recognition of a simple truth: solidarity is self‑interest. “If we fail to grasp that fact, everyone loses.”

Calling for a new push, led by the Security Council, to forge a global ceasefire by the end of 2020, he pointed to the new peace agreement as one reason for hope. In Afghanistan, the launch of peace negotiations also marks a milestone after years of effort. And in several situations, new ceasefires are holding better than in the past, he said, citing the Idlib ceasefire in Syria, the “calm” in Gaza and the deferred decision to annex parts of the occupied West Bank.

“We will not give up the search for peace,” he said, insisting that everything must also be done to avoid a new cold war. “We are moving in a very dangerous direction” and the world cannot afford a future in which the two largest economies split the globe in a great fracture — each with its own trade and financial rules and Internet and artificial intelligence capacities. A technological and economic divide risks turning into a geostrategic and military one, he said, underlining: “We must avoid this at all costs.”

For its part, the United Nations has mounted a comprehensive response. Led by the World Health Organization (WHO), it has supported Governments in saving lives and containing the spread. The Organization’s global supply chains have provided personal protective equipment and medical supplies to more than 130 countries, he reported, pointing out that it has extended life‑saving assistance through a Global Humanitarian Response Plan and mobilized the full system in development emergency mode. Meanwhile, the “Verified” campaign is fighting online misinformation — a toxic virus shaking the democratic underpinnings of many countries.

He noted that, while the United Nations is working to advance treatments and therapies as a global public good – and backing efforts for a people’s vaccine available and affordable everywhere – some countries are reportedly making side deals exclusively for their own populations. “Such ‘vacci‑nationalism’ is not only unfair, it is self‑defeating,” he said. On the economic front, the United Nations has pushed for a massive rescue package worth at least 10 per cent of the global economy, while developed countries have provided enormous relief to their own societies. The developing world cannot fall into financial ruin, he stressed, noting that in one week, world leaders will gather to find solutions at a Meeting on Financing for Development in the Era of COVID-19 and Beyond.

In all such efforts, he said, the United Nations is prioritizing women, who are disproportionately represented in sectors hit hardest by job losses and do most of the unpaid care work generated by the pandemic. They have fewer economic resources upon which to fall back because their wages are lower and they have less access to benefits. Calling for stamping out the increase in violence against women and girls – a “hidden war on women” – he said that ending it will require the same commitment and resources devoted to other forms of warfare.

More broadly, he said recovery efforts must lead to a better future, pressing Governments to establish a new social contract with their citizens. It would offer a new generation of social protections: universal health coverage and possibly a universal basic income, universal access to education, digital technology, fair tax systems, with human rights at the centre of all aspects. It would also involve a transition towards renewable energy in order to achieve net‑zero emissions by 2050 through a series of climate‑positive actions.

Correspondingly, he called for a “New Global Deal” to ensure that political and economic systems deliver on critical global public goods. Calling attention to huge gaps in governance structures and ethical frameworks, he said, “we need to ensure that power, wealth and opportunities are broadly and fairly shared”. Efforts must be rooted in a fair globalization, with the principles of sustainable development integrated into all decisions, he said, emphasizing that trade must be free and fair. Historical injustices must be addressed in global power structures, he added.

Indeed, more than seven decades on, multilateral institutions need an upgrade to more equitably represent the world’s peoples, rather than giving disproportionate power to some and limiting the voice of others, he continued. “We don’t need new bureaucracies,” he assured. Twenty‑first century multilateralism must be networked — linking global institutions across sectors and geographies, expanding the circle of engagement by drawing on the capacities of civil society, regions and cities, businesses, foundations and academic and scientific institutions.

“We cannot respond to this crisis by going back to what was or withdrawing into national shells,” he stressed. To overcome today’s fragilities, there must be more international cooperation, not less; stronger multilateral institutions and better global governance, not a chaotic free‑for‑all. The pandemic has upended the world, but the upheaval has created space for something new, he said. With ideas once considered impossible suddenly on the table, large‑scale action no longer seems so daunting. He welcomed the opportunity for profound reflection, expressing his intention to report to the General Assembly in 2021 with recommendations for reaching shared aims. “The pandemic has taught us our choices matter,” he said. “As we look to the future, let us make sure we choose wisely.”

VOLKAN BOZKIR (Turkey), President of the General Assembly, noting the new form that the general debate had taken in 2020, with leaders unable to interact with each other personally, said, “Our need for deliberation is higher than ever.” The pandemic has pummeled economies, pushed health‑care systems to their limits, disrupted education and increased the suffering of the vulnerable. Calling on the international community to leave differences and disagreements aside, he stressed the need for a sustainable, inclusive and just recovery from the pandemic. As the main deliberative, policymaking and representative organ of the United Nations, the Assembly is the key platform to provide political guidance to international efforts.

Outlining several priorities for the Organization, he noted that the world is seeing rising levels of mistrust and rivalry between major powers. It is in the interests of the world and its economies and people, he added, that these tensions are managed and do not spiral out of control. Highlighting the critical role of the United Nations in reinforcing cooperation and consensus, he also pointed to the need to advance its humanitarian agenda. Impartial and unhindered delivery of humanitarian aid, and full respect for international law, including international humanitarian law in conflicts, and crises is a priority, he said.

Turning to the Sustainable Development Goals, he called on Member States, international financial organizations, the private sector and civil society, to renew efforts towards achieving them. While the pandemic has affected all States, large and small, North and South, it has hit hardest the countries that are already vulnerable. Noting also that despite enormous gains, gender inequality remains deeply entrenched, he stressed the need to improve the lives of women and girls while building back better. Just as the founders of the Organization chose to trust one another in a time of crisis, he said, “Let us draw strength from those who have persevered in the past.”


JAIR BOLSONARO, President of Brazil, said his country is committed to fighting COVID‑19 and joblessness simultaneously and with the same effort. Despite coordinated and successful efforts to contain the pandemic in Brazil, some local media spread panic in the country’s population. Nevertheless, his Administration put in place economic measures that protected the economy including massive individual payments and health‑care support. The pandemic has revealed the world cannot depend on a few nations for support. In Brazil, even in the face of COVID‑19, agricultural production never stopped, and the country has continued to feed the world.

Brazil has been the victim of a disinformation campaign against the Amazon and Brazilian wetlands, he went on to say, calling his country a leader in the conservation of tropical forests, accounting for only 3 per cent of carbon emissions worldwide. Fire outbreaks occur in the same eastern areas of the forest region where indigenous people burn their own lands, he continued, adding that his Administration has zero tolerance for environmental crime.

Operation Welcome in Brazil has received 400,000 Venezuelans who have been displaced and his country has taken part in 50 peacekeeping operations and contributed troops worldwide, he reported. His Administration is putting behind it a protectionist tradition in favor of trade liberalization. It is undertaking internal reforms including financial regulation, digital security, and pension, tax and administrative reforms. As a result, Brazil is the largest recipient of foreign investment, even during the COVID‑19 pandemic, illustrating the world’s confidence its Government, he said. He welcomed Mr. Trump’s peace plan in the Middle East to resolve the Israeli‑Palestinian conflict and said Brazil continues to pursue close relationships with both Israel and Arab countries.

DONALD J. TRUMP, President of the United States, said the world is engaged in a great struggle against the “China virus”, while lauding his country’s capacities to rapidly produce medical technologies that have been shared with global partners. Ongoing efforts in the United States have resulted in three vaccines reaching advanced clinical trials, he said, noting that these vaccines are being produced in advance to allow for mass release. “We will end the pandemic and enter a new era of unprecedented prosperity and peace,” he asserted, while denouncing China and demanding that Beijing be held accountable for “unleashing the plague on the world”. He said that, at the outset of the pandemic, China placed restrictions on national travel while refusing to lock down international travel – allowing the virus to infect the world – and that Beijing falsely claimed there were no signs of human‑to‑human transmission.

Every year China dumps millions of tons of trash into the oceans, overfishes the waters of other countries, destroys vast swaths of coral reef, and emits twice as much carbon into the atmosphere as the United States, he continued. Reaffirming his Administration’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement on climate change, he noted that since its withdrawal, the United States has markedly reduced its emission levels. “Those who attack America’s exceptional environmental record while ignoring China’s rampant pollution are not interested in the environment.”

He said that if the United Nations is to be effective, it must focus on the real problems of the world – terrorism, the oppression of women, forced labour, drug trafficking, human and sex trafficking, religious persecution, and the ethnic cleansing of religious minorities. Describing the United States as a global leader in the defence of human rights, he said that throughout his presidency, the country has built the greatest economy in history, the most powerful military in the world, stood up to China’s trade abuses, revitalized the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and forged historic partnerships in Central America to mitigate human trafficking.

“We obliterated ISIS,” he said, referring to Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh), also known as Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. He added that he had heralded a landmark peace agreement mong Israel, United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, bringing an end to decades of bloodshed. Turning to the Afghan peace process, Mr. Trump said the United States is fulfilling its destiny as a peacemaker and pursuing “peace through strength”.

“Our weapons are at an advanced level like we have never had before, like, frankly, we’ve never even thought of having before, and I pray to God we never have to use them,” he said, urging all countries to pursue policies that place their own citizens first. He concluded by rejecting failed approaches of the past and recommitting himself to placing “America first”.

RECEP TAYYİP ERDOĞAN, President of Turkey, said the COVID‑19 pandemic caught the world at a time when it was having difficulties in coping with various challenges. The pandemic revealed how ineffective the existing global mechanisms have been during the crisis, including the amount of time it took for the Security Council to include the pandemic on its agenda, confirming “the world is bigger than five” thesis. The international community must rapidly implement comprehensive and meaningful reforms, starting with the restructuring of the Council and strengthening of the General Assembly, he said. Turkey has been at the forefront of international efforts to combat the pandemic and has actively participated in aid and repatriation efforts, he said, calling for the supply of medical equipment, drugs and vaccine development to not become competitive. The pandemic adversely affected conflict dynamics around the world and increased vulnerabilities, he went on to say, regretting that the Secretary‑General’s call for a ceasefire has not produced results.

Turning to the crisis in Syria and recalling Turkey’s efforts to host and protect Syrian refugees, he called on Member States to prioritize finding a resolution there based on Security Council resolution 2254 (2015). While Turkey treats refugees with dignity, some States violate the rights of refugees and asylum seekers, he said, calling on the United Nations to take a firm stance against those violations. Likewise, it is the international community’s responsibility to find a permanent solution in Libya through an inclusive dialogue, stop the bloodshed in Yemen and ensure Iraq does not become an area of conflict. He went on to call for adherence to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action and said Turkey would not support any plan in the Israeli‑Palestinian matter that was not consented to by the Palestinian people.

While Turkey has no designs on anyone’s rights or legitimate interests in the Eastern Mediterranean, it cannot ignore the violation of rights of the Turkish Cypriots, he said. In that regard, he proposed the convening of a regional conference, including Turkish Cypriots, to establish dialogue and cooperation among all stakeholders. On the issues of racism, xenophobia, Islamophobia and hate speech, exacerbated by the pandemic, he said politicians who turn to populist rhetoric for the sake of votes are primarily responsible and called on international organizations to take more concrete steps against those mentalities. Returning to the COVID‑19 pandemic, he pointed out that developing and low‑income countries are disproportionately affected by this crisis and this illustrates how important the Sustainable Development Goals are in combating all kinds of global crises. The transformative power of digitalization in preparing economic prescriptions should be harnessed to survive the crisis, he said.

XI JINPING, President of China, said that, as COVID‑19 ravages the world, the battle reveals the dedication of medical workers and the perseverance of the public. People from different countries came together with courage, resolve and compassion and the international community confronted the disaster head‑on. “The virus will be defeated,” he said, declaring: “Humanity will win this battle.” All resources must be mobilized to launch a science‑based, targeted response, he emphasized, calling for enhanced solidarity in confronting the virus, notably by following the science and giving full play to WHO. Countries should adopt long‑term control measures and reopen businesses and schools in an orderly way so as to create jobs and restore social order, he said. Major economies must step up by restarting their own economies, contributing to global recovery and accommodating the needs of developing countries, especially in Africa, in the areas of debt relief and international assistance.

Having helped the world win the anti‑fascist war 75 years ago, he said, his country is today involved in the international fight against COVID‑19, playing its part to foster global public health security. China will share its diagnostics and therapeutics, ensure stable global supply chains and participate in global research on tracing the virus roots, he pledged. Noting that several drugs are in phase‑three trials, he said that, when ready, they will be made a global public good and provided to countries on a priority needs basis. With the world experiencing profound change, people everywhere crave peace and win‑win cooperation, he noted, emphasizing: “We must join hands and be prepared.” Describing the world as an interconnected village with a shared common future, he added: “No one can maintain stability by taking advantage of others’ troubles.” He went on to denounce “beggar‑thy‑neighbour” policies, zero‑sum approaches and ideological disputes, urging instead respect for independent national choices on development paths and models. “This will ensure human civilizations remain colourful.”

Describing globalization as an indisputable reality, he said that “burying one’s head in the sand” or fighting it with “Don Quixote‑like lances” will do no good, stressing that the world will never return to isolation. He rallied countries to face the major issues and to strike a proper balance between government and market, while underscoring China’s preference for full and balanced development that delivers equality to all. Countries should pursue open and inclusive development and “say no” to unilateralism and protectionism, he said. Outlining global priorities, he called for the launch of a green revolution, noting that China aims to achieve carbon neutrality by 2060. The global governance system should also be reformed on the basis of extensive consultations and shared benefits to ensure that all countries follow the same rules. Competition must be positive in nature and comply with international norms, he said.

“Major countries should act like major countries,” by taking up their responsibilities and living up to people’s expectations, he said. Undaunted by COVID‑19, China’s 1.4 billion people have made “all‑out” efforts to control the virus, he said. Underlining that China will not seek hegemony, he said it has no intention of fighting a cold war – or a hot war. It will continue to narrow and resolve its differences through dialogue and negotiation. It will not pursue development behind closed doors. China will aim to foster a new development paradigm, continuing to work as a builder of global peace and a defender of the international order, he said. In that context, he announced that China will provide $50 million to the COVID‑19 Global Humanitarian Response Plan, $15 million to phase three of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) South‑South Cooperation Trust Fund, and expand the Peace and Development Trust Fund after its expiration in 2025. China will also establish a United Nations global special knowledge centre and an international research centre for Big Data to facilitate implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, he announced. “The baton of history has been passed to our generation,” he asserted. “We must make the right choices.”

SEBASTIÁN PIÑERA ECHENIQUE, President of Chile, said the current world generation has a unique combination of challenges to face, from those that arose without warning such as the pandemic and others that manifested in the past but emerged in more virulent forms now, such as climate change. The international community is engaged in the “mother of all battles” to ensure its survival, he said. Turning to his country’s pandemic response, he said the Government rolled out a health protection plan, tripling the capacity of its health‑care system, while also protecting jobs and incomes. “For the Chilean people, these have been hard and harrowing months,” he said, and in recognition, the Government was providing aid to 14 million of its citizens.

At the global level, he continued, only collaborative, multilateral solutions would put the international community back on its feet. Major powers, instead of squaring off against one another, should be at the forefront of the fight against the pandemic and the accompanying recession. Cautioning against allowing a leadership vacuum to fester, he noted that the current trade war has led to a stagnation of international commerce. It is also vital to prevent the crisis from playing into the hands of authoritarian forces, he said, noting that the pandemic has brought forth vital lessons. “We need to learn to be more humble,” he stressed, noting that the coronavirus has proved how vulnerable human life is. The international community also needs to listen better to scientists and prepare to change course in the face of evidence, he said.

Science, he said, has spoken clearly and categorically and technology has furnished the tools the international community needs. From rising sea levels to raging wildfires, changes that took place over millions of years are now happening in decades. Outlining measures taken by his country to become carbon neutral before 2050, he said that 44 per cent of the current sources of its energy are clean and renewable. The Government is speeding up the roll‑out of electric transport and moving from a linear economy to a circular economy. Also reflecting on the dangers of populism, he said “freedom demands responsibility”. Chile’s Government is listening carefully to the demands of the social movements and protests that arose in the country in 2019, and its people are actively engaged in creating an ideal nation in which to grow up and grow old, he said.

MATAMELA CYRIL RAMAPHOSA, President of South Africa, spoke on behalf of the African Union, saying that, while the COVID‑19 pandemic presents a grave threat to the world, it also inspires global solidarity. Partnerships have formed to ensure equitable access to medical equipment and supplies and many social support systems have been created, he noted. The global response to the pandemic has demonstrated the heights that can be attained when working in the spirit of friendship and solidarity and that must endure after the pandemic, he emphasized. Turning to the continental strategy, he said the African Union established a COVID‑19 Response Fund and medical supplies platform to ensure that all nations have access to equipment and supplies. Nevertheless, the effects of the virus will inevitably set development efforts back on the continent, he cautioned.

Citing the Secretary‑General’s call for a more inclusive and balanced multilateral trading system, he asked the international community to support the roll‑out of a comprehensive stimulus package for African countries. Such a package would help to mitigate the health implications of COVID‑19 and help rebuild shuttered economies while ensuring that no country is left behind. He went on to call for the lifting of economic sanctions against Zimbabwe and Sudan to allow those countries to deal with the pandemic, and for a suspension of payments on African debt. The pandemic has highlighted the urgency of the Sustainable Development Goals, primarily Goal number one, because no goals will be achievable until poverty is eradicated, he noted.

He went on to state that 2020 will be remembered for the pushback against racism under the Black Lives Matter Movement, expressing South Africa’s support for the demands for the eradication of racism and calling upon the United Nations to enhance its efforts to battle injustice on that front. The international community must intensify efforts to empower woman and girls, he said, reporting that the African Union is working to finalize a convention on violence against women this year. While the African Union continues its conflict‑resolution and peacekeeping efforts, it is imperative to institutionalize the African Union‑United Nations cooperation and resolve the payment issues, he stressed. He went on to point out that the composition of the Security Council does not reflect the current world, calling upon the Organization to take up the issue with urgency.

Noting that Palestine and Western Sahara continue to live under occupation, he also called for the lifting of the blockade on Cuba. The climate crisis requires global collaboration, he added. As the world rebuilds after the pandemic, it has an opportunity to put the global economy on a green, low‑carbon path, he said, underlining that the global recovery effort must place climate change at its centre. The world order must be rooted in solidarity and unity of purpose, he noted, adding that COVID‑19 has presented a choice between global cooperation or the pursuit of narrow self‑interest. The path chosen will determine the collective destiny of the world, he said.

MIGUEL DÍAZ CANEL BERMÚDEZ, President of Cuba, highlighting the many ways in which the pandemic has affected the world, noted the unexpected death toll, drastic quarantines, closed borders and shrinking economies. “Uncertainty is replacing certainty. Even close friends cannot recognize each other due to the masks that protect us from the contagion,” he said. While the need to find a solution to the pandemic is urgent, equally vital is the need to democratize the United Nations so that it effectively meets the needs and aspirations of all peoples, he said.

Condemning the “aggressive and morally corrupt regime” which, in a show of unprecedented overbearance, has withdrawn from WHO, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the Human Rights Council, he noted that the country is promoting trade wars, militarizing cyberspace and expanding unilateral sanctions against those who do not bend to its designs. Calling for the democratization of the Organization, he stressed that an unequal, unjust and anti‑democratic international order is unsustainable. The international community cannot face COVID‑19, hunger, unemployment and the growing economic and social inequalities as unrelated phenomena, he cautioned.

Turning to his country’s experience of the pandemic, he highlighted Cuba’s strengths as a well‑structured socialist State that cares for the health of its citizens. As a result, the Government was able to implement knowledge accrued over 60 years of public health, scientific research and development, despite the harsh restrictions of the blockade imposed by the United States Government. Cuba’s scientific community is working non‑stop on one of the first vaccines that is going through clinical trials in the world, he said, highlighting their motto, “Doctors and not bombs.”

VLADIMIR PUTIN, President of the Russian Federation, said the Security Council should be more inclusive of the interests of all countries, as well as the diversity of their positions, while continuing to serve as the cornerstone of global governance. That cannot be achieved unless the permanent members of the Council retain their veto power, he said. Such a right pertaining to the five nuclear powers remains indicative of the actual military and political balance today and prevents unilateral actions that could result in direct military confrontation between States, he said, calling the 15‑member organ an effective instrument.

Turning to the COVID‑19 pandemic, he said the crisis has revealed the need for new, innovative anti‑crisis solutions. Broad international cooperation will be the only way forward, he continued, saying the Russian Federation’s initiative to form a Greater Eurasian Partnership would unite all Asian and European countries without exception. Freeing the world of trade from barriers, bans, restrictions and illegitimate sanctions would help revitalize global growth and reduce unemployment. While digital technologies helped in the initial response to the pandemic, they tend to spread uncontrollably and fall into the hands of radicals and extremists worldwide. It follows that the issue deserves serious deliberation within the United Nations. Collective global efforts are also needed to coordinate health‑care responses to the pandemic, he went on, calling it essential to strengthen WHO capacity. For its part, his nation is ready to share experience and continue cooperating with all States and international entities, including in supplying the Russian vaccine — which has proven reliable, safe and effective — to other countries.

Emphasizing the importance of extending the soon to expire Treaty between the United States of America and the Russian Federation on Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms, Moscow is engaged in negotiations with United States partners on the matter, he said. While he expects mutual restraint in deploying new missile systems, the Russian Federation has not received any reaction from the United States to its proposal for a moratorium on such actions. In the current challenging environment, it is important for all countries to show political will, wisdom and foresight. The permanent members of the Security Council should take the lead there, he said, reporting that his country suggested convening a G5 summit aimed at reaffirming the principles of behaviour in international affairs and elaborating ways to address today’s most pressing issues.

ABDULLAH II IBN AL HUSSEIN, King of Jordan, said it is incredible that a virus that infected a single person in one corner of the globe has grown and expanded to hit the very foundation of the international system and economy. The COVID‑19 pandemic puts on display the extent to which the world is interconnected, he said, assuring the Assembly that the virus will not be defeated through inward focused policies. “We can only overcome COVID‑19, and what comes beyond it, through a renewed integration of our world,” he said, calling for a new approach to globalization that capitalizes on each country’s potential and strength.

He pointed to hunger as one of the main challenges facing people around the world. Countries like Lebanon are suffering from food insecurity. Hunger threatens the lives of refugees in the Middle East just as it does the lives of poor communities across the world. Jordan is positioning itself as a regional hub for food security, and adheres to the belief that maintaining food security is of vital importance to future generations. Voicing his commitment to safeguarding the environment, he said Jordan drafted a charter, to be submitted to the General Assembly, that grants selected ecosystems and all species of flora and fauna the legal right to exist. He added that such a text ensures humanity itself continues to exist.

On peace, he said it is unattainable as long as injustice persists anywhere in the world. The Palestinian‑Israeli conflict has persisted throughout the history of the United Nations and the only way to end the conflict is through a two‑State solution, in accordance with international law and United Nations resolutions. He closed by saying the conflict will not be resolved without preserving Jerusalem for all humanity, as a unifying city of peace.

MOON JAE-IN, President of the Republic of Korea, said the COVID‑19 crisis is upending human lives and agitating both the world economy and the international order. “It is high time that we pool our wisdom again to find our guiding star in this time of great transformation,” he said, spotlighting the three main principles guiding his country’s infectious disease prevention — openness, transparency and democracy. During the pandemic, the Republic of Korea’s people protected their own safety by protecting that of their neighbours and engaging in multilateralism, sharing equipment without closing borders. The answer to overcoming COVID‑19 lies in returning to the spirit of the Charter of the United Nations.

Turning to the post‑COVID‑19 era, he said the Organization should be tasked with spreading its universal values even further to resolve complex global challenges — including cooperation in health care, sustainable development and climate action — which cannot be overcome by any country alone. That also means reducing inequality at the domestic level, he said, noting that the United Nations idea of inclusive multilateralism will soon be tested by whether it can distribute COVID‑19 vaccines to all nations. Stronger cooperation is needed not only in developing those vaccines and treatments but in guaranteeing their equitable access for all countries through global funding. To that end, he said, the Republic of Korea is actively participating in the COVAX Facility led by WHO and the Gavi vaccine alliance and hosts the International Vaccine Institute. Such support — as well as a commitment to sharing its experience with other countries — will continue amid a possible second or third wave of COVID‑19, he said. “Although it is indeed an extraordinarily difficult task, we must make the best of both worlds — preventing infectious disease and reviving the economy,” he said, spotlighting the tsunami of economic destruction that followed the earthquake of the pandemic. Stronger multilateralism is also needed in that arena, characterized by solidarity, cooperation and a bolstered free trade system.

Outlining his country’s transformative “Korean New Deal”, which stands on the pillars of a digital new deal and a green new deal, he said the nation faithfully implements the Paris Agreement on climate change and will submit new 2030 greenhouse gas emission reduction targets by the end of 2020. Noting that it is impossible for developing countries still in the process of industrialization to instantly catch up with advanced economies, he said developed nations must start by recognizing those “glaring gaps” and make greater efforts to find an optimal solution.

He went on describe the Korean Peninsula as the region in most urgent need of the spirit of the United Nations, outlining his country’s long‑standing efforts to seek peace and achieve denuclearization. Those efforts are guided by three principles: zero tolerance for war, a mutual security guarantee and co‑prosperity. Pledging to stay committed to dialogue, he welcomed inter‑Korean dialogue in disease prevention and control and proposed the launch of a North‑East Asia Cooperation Initiative for Infectious Disease Control and Public Health.

TAMIM BIN HAMAD AL‑THANI, Emir of Qatar, said the outbreak of the COVID‑19 pandemic is a reminder that multilateral cooperation is the only way to address the challenges posed by epidemics, climate and environment, and poverty. His Government has been actively implementing preventive actions to protect its citizens and residents, as well as providing aid to more than 60 countries and five international organizations. Despite more than three years of the blockade on his State, he said, Qatar has strengthened its participation in the multilateral international action and reaffirmed the value of dialogue.

Calling on the international community, especially the Security Council, to assume its legal responsibilities to obligate Israel to lift the siege on the Gaza Strip and put the peace process back on track through credible negotiations, he noted that Qatar’s mediation efforts have culminated in a peace agreement between the United States and the Taliban movement, signed in February 2020. Also affirming that his country will continue to support efforts towards accountability for the perpetrators of atrocities, war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Syria, he added that the only way to resolve the crisis in Yemen is through negotiation between the Yemenis in accordance with the outcomes of the National Dialogue, the Gulf initiative and the relevant Security Council resolutions.

Terrorism, he continued, remains one of the most prominent challenges facing the world, threatening international peace and security, while impeding sustainable development. Qatar is strengthening its strategic partnership with the relevant United Nations agencies, he said, adding that it has also fulfilled its pledge to provide a contribution of $100 million to support least developed countries and small island developing States to deal with climate change. His country, he stressed, will continue to work with the United Nations to achieve its goals and the common good of humanity.

RODRIGO ROA DUTERTE, President of the Philippines, said the COVID‑19 pandemic is the biggest test the international community has faced since the Second World War. “While the United Nations has brought relief and hope to so many countries and peoples around the world, it now finds itself saddled by a virus that has taken many lives and wrecked economies and social order,” he said, adding that the pandemic forces Member States to ask what the vision and mission of the United Nations must be. COVID‑19 knows no border, nationality, race, gender, age or creed, he noted, assuring the Assembly that the Philippines values the role of the United Nations in the fight against the pandemic.

As a middle-income country, the Philippines welcomes the launch of the United Nations COVID‑19 Response and Recovery Fund, he said, noting that universal access to relevant medical technologies and products is pivotal to global pandemic recovery. He urged a COVID‑19 vaccine be made available to all nations, echoing calls by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the Non‑Aligned Movement for a vaccine to be considered a global public good. At a moment when the world needs stability and confidence, geopolitical tensions continue to rise, he warned the Assembly. The size and military might of geopolitical foes means rising tensions will take a terrible toll on human life and property. As a result, he called for agreements to resolve disputes across the world.

He said Filipino migrant workers have been devastated by the COVID‑19 pandemic and the Government is working to repatriate over 345,000 Filipino workers, calling on Member States to adhere to the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration. He voiced concern over efforts by interest groups to weaponize human rights, noting that such efforts discredit democratic institutions. Human rights discussions must be open and constructive while respecting the principles of objectivity, non‑interference and non‑selectivity. On the South China Sea, he affirmed his commitment to the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and the 2016 arbitral award. He urged Member States to pursue nuclear non‑proliferation, noting that the Senate of the Philippines is set to ratify the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

HASSAN ROUHANI, President of Iran, said COVID‑19 has challenged global management and national governance so seriously that the Assembly is convening virtually. The virus is now a “common pain”, demonstrating that humanity’s ignorance far outweighs its knowledge. “COVID‑19 is calling us to more humility,” he said, guiding societies towards civil piety in promoting social and individual ethics and preventing environmental degradation. It has crossed fabricated boundaries of power and wealth, underscoring the impossibility of confronting global issues without global participation. And yet, Iran is grappling with the harshest sanctions, imposed in violation of resolution 2231 (2015). Stressing that the treatment of an African American by United States police recalls Iran’s experience, he said: “We instantly recognize the feet kneeling on the neck as the feet of arrogance on the neck of independent nations.”

Describing Iran’s solidarity with Afghanistan against Soviet occupiers, its 1980s call for collective security arrangements in the Persian Gulf, its solidarity with Kuwait against occupation by Iraq President Saddam Hussein, with Syria against terrorist Takfiri groups and with Lebanon against “Zionist occupiers”, he said that in 2015, his country then achieved the Joint Comprehensive Programme of Action — one of the biggest accomplishments in the history of diplomacy. Iran has remained faithful to it, despite persistent violations by the United States. “Such a nation does not deserve sanctions,” he stressed.

Detailing various actions, he said “they” claimed to fight Saddam Hussein — the monster they created — to fight ISIL/Da’esh, a terror network they created, and accuse Iran — without foundation — of building nuclear weapons, while they are the sole user of atomic bombs. “They” speak of human rights and yet target — through “maximum pressure” — the life of Iranians. Thanking the Russian Federation and China for twice voting against the unlawful United States attempt to exploit resolution 2231 (2015), he asked whether there was a precedent for a Government that reneges, without reason, on the outcome of 13 years of multilateral talks. “The United States can impose neither negotiations, nor war on us,” he said, emphasizing that democracy is the sovereign right of a nation — not interference from a terrorist, interventionist outsider that remains captive to the illusions of 19 August 1953. After the upcoming elections, any United States Administration will have no choice but to surrender to the resilience of Iran. It is “time to say no to bullying and arrogance,” he said. The era of hegemony is long over.

EMMANUEL MACRON, President of France, said global health care and humanitarian workers expect the world to respond to COVID‑19 together. “This demands that we cooperate, that we invent new international solutions,” he said. Until a cure is found, the world must learn to live with the virus — and a new reality that reveals the dizzying level of global vulnerability. After years of progress in fighting HIV and AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis, there are now 37 million people who have fallen into abject poverty and more than 1 billion students affected by school closings. Women are too often the victims of sexual, domestic and gender‑based violence, and greater collective action is needed to address it.

The World Health Assembly — a needed international forum — is among the now many accused of being complacent and “used by others”, he said. Scientific experts, who were so important in understanding the crisis, have been called into question by the epidemic of misinformation. The Security Council meanwhile has had great difficulty in agreeing on a humanitarian truce. “Imagine that: To have so much trouble in agreeing on so little.” Several have chosen to showcase their rivalries over collective effectiveness, which has led to a “hegemonic collision of powers” that call multilateralism into question and trample on international law. “We do not have the right to close our eyes,” he said. For the United Nations, the pandemic should serve as an electric shock.

Working beyond its divisions, the European Union has partnered with African countries to lighten the debt burden of the most vulnerable, he continued. It is also working within the World Health Assembly to improve early warning alert systems. “We need to count on the strength of goodwill because today’s world cannot be left to the rivalry between China and the United States,” he assured. “We’re not collectively condemned to a two‑step dance that reduces others to impotent spectators. It is up to us to define our priorities … and forge new alliances.” Outlining priorities, he said France will work with all “powers of goodwill” to create a new world order. The fight against weapons of mass destruction and terrorism will be a central goal. Along with Germany and the United Kingdom, France will not accept Iran’s breaches of the nuclear accord nor compromise on the activation of a mechanism that one country was unable to trigger upon its departure from it. Highlighting other priorities related to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, chemical weapons use — including the assassination attempt against a political opponent using Novichok — Iraq, the Sahel, the Levant, Mali, Libya and elsewhere, he called for a rethinking of collective commitments to peace and security. He advocated for the protection of ecosystems, species, oceans and forests, with other priorities broadly centred around free expression and education — a common good to which France will contribute, particularly for girls. He cautioned against giving in to a “logic of power”, underscoring the vital importance of respecting international humanitarian law and expressing his firm belief in determined, methodical work to build an international order that affirms human rights, equality among nations and social progress in greater freedom.

IVÁN DUQUE MÁRQUEZ, President of Colombia, said that his country has a long tradition of participation on the multilateral stage. In 2020, it became member number 37 of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Colombia is committed to multilateralism and has a regional commitment in the search for joint solutions. The rapid loss of biodiversity is currently one of the great global problems, he said, noting that there is a close relationship between human health and ecosystem health. Colombia has the second highest biodiversity in the world per square kilometre and has fought against deforestation because defence of the environment is a national security objective. As part of the Leticia Declaration and Proposals for Action, Colombia has joined seven States in an action plan for the sustainable development and conservation of the Amazon region.

Colombia has experienced violence and poverty and is committed to building a sustainable future, he said. It “is one country that moves forward, whether the wind is behind us or not,” he said. All the efforts it is making have a common threat, that of drug trafficking and the illicit economy it generates. Trafficking breeds all kinds of corruption, and feeds trafficking in persons, illegal mining and deforestation. It breaks families and destroys social values. He called for the joint action of all States with a sentiment of co‑responsibility. The situation created by the COVID‑19 pandemic has become a threat that heightens social inequality. This world crisis has shown that the international community still needs to define better mechanisms for cooperation in crises.

Threats to democracy are threats to the freedom of nations, he said, noting that ongoing violations of human rights by the Nicolás Maduro dictatorship have recently been confirmed by the United Nations organization. “In Venezuela, what they seek to do with crimes against humanity is to perpetuate tyranny,” he said. The international community must reject this situation. There should be a call for free elections, not a prefabricated orchestration to perpetuate the dictatorship. This process seeks to legitimize Maduro’s dictatorship, he warned.

GURBANGULY BERDIMUHAMEDOW, President of Turkmenistan, said the eyes of the world are focused on the scientists and researchers working on COVID‑19 vaccines and treatments. The pandemic does not recognize borders, races or nationalities, and negatively affects all spheres of life. While it has made the world more vulnerable, it is also an opportunity for improvement. “It is our highest and political and moral duty not to miss this chance, to show dignity, solidarity and true humanism,” he said. Noting that Turkmenistan is undertaking protective measures and a national strategy to counter the virus, he said it also engages closely with bilateral and multilateral partners — including through the United Nations and WHO — and called for comprehensive, systematic and purposeful cooperation as well as the launch of scientific diplomacy channels. In that vein, WHO should establish a special programme to research the coronavirus genome; develop a multilateral mechanism for pneumonia control; and establish a Methodological Centre for the Treatment and Prevention of Acute Infections.

Turning to the economic effects of COVID‑19, he said the pandemic is seriously undermining the global community’s efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. More cooperation is needed to restore economic and trade relations, including platforms that put the global economy on a sustainable growth trajectory by focusing on energy, transport, industry and trade. He also called for intensified work during the Assembly’s current session on elaborating an international legal instrument in the area of stable and reliable energy transit, noting that his delegation has drafted a resolution to that effect. The World Trade Organization (WTO) ‑ in which Turkmenistan recently obtained observer status ‑ should also play a proactive role in restoring the global economy and promoting trade and investment.

He went on to spotlight challenges in the Aral Sea and Aral Sea region, calling for concrete and practical international assistance and the creation of a United Nations special programme for the Aral Sea basin, and noted that Turkmenistan will soon present a draft of that concept. Turning to broader issues of escalating global military and political rivalries, he cautioned that those tensions will only further erode global security foundations and impede economic, trade and humanitarian relations. Voicing deep concern about the disregard for international law witnessed recently, he called instead for more multilateralism and strict compliance by all States with the generally accepted norms deriving from the United Nations Charter.

Citing neutrality as one of Turkmenistan’s founding principles, he said it helps guide the country’s pursuit of equitable, respectful and mutually beneficial international partnerships — from the fields of politics and economy to environmental protection, food security, fair and effective distribution of natural resources and support for refugees and migrants. Turkmenistan supports preventive diplomacy and hosts the United Nations Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy for Central Asia, created in 2007. The principle of neutrality also guides the country’s position on the conflict in Afghanistan, including its belief that there are no alternatives to peaceful dialogue and negotiation, he said.

ABDEL FATTAH AL SISI, President of Egypt, noted the African, Arab, Islamic and Mediterranean affiliations of the country give it a clear vision on enhancing the multilateral system and the United Nations itself. In order to maintain peace and security, it is imperative to implement resolutions of the multilateral system and the well‑established rules and principles of international law enshrined in Charter of the United Nations. It is important to assist States in carrying out their obligations while considering the principle of national ownership, he said, while also holding accountable those States that deliberately breach international law. He expressed regret that the international community turns a blind eye to States that provide varied support and facilitation to terrorists, especially Libya and Syria. He noted that in Libya, Egypt adheres to the United Nations‑led resolution process based on the Libyan Political Agreement, the Berlin International Conference and Cairo Declaration. As Egypt is bent on supporting Libyans in ridding their country of armed militias and terrorists, he specified a fierce defence of the red line between the towns of Sirte and Gifra.

Turning to the issue of Palestine, he pointed to a multitude of lapsed resolutions addressing the human rights of its people in a free and fulfilment of an independent State with East Jerusalem as its capital. It is likewise necessary to find a comprehensive political solution to the raging war in Syria, implementing all components of Security Council resolution 2254 (2015), and time for a firm stand in Yemen to end that ongoing crisis in accordance with Council resolution 2216 (2015). Referring to “the better part of a decade in tiresome negotiations with our brothers in the Sudan and Ethiopia” on the Renaissance Dam matter, he stated the Nile River and Basin is an existential matter for Egypt.

Fostering international sustainable development efforts is paramount in preventing extremism, armed conflicts and humanitarian crises, he said, adding: “These efforts have to be followed by additional steps that help the countries to lessen the socioeconomic gap between the developed and developing States, and to cure the problem of financing for development”. Amid the COVID‑19 crisis, developing countries require economic stimulus packages and debt reduction, especially in Africa. Domestically, he noted Egypt has embarked on strengthening human rights at the political, economic and social levels. At least 25 per cent of the Egyptian House of Representatives is allocated for women, while strides are being made to combat all forms of violence against them. He also pointed to calls for reform of religious discourse and promoting citizenship without differentiating between “Muslim and Christian compatriots.” The success of reform has helped Egypt become one of the few countries to achieve positive growth rates during the pandemic, and the country has never failed nearly 5 million immigrants and refugees, extending to them all the State services enjoyed by citizens. He stressed the importance of expanding the Security Council in both permanent and non-permanent categories, and renewal and reform based on the conviction that “the world has room for us all.”

EMOMALI RAHMON, President of Tajikistan, said the pandemic and its resulting socioeconomic and financial crises necessitate more active global coordination. Applauding States’ efforts to develop a COVID‑19 vaccine, he expressed hope that it will be made available to all nations and provided as a humanitarian measure to the most vulnerable. Noting the pandemic’s significant impact on Tajikistan, he described massive efforts to scale up medical supplies in cooperation with WHO, partner countries and donors. However, the virus has also disrupted the country’s development efforts and resulted in a recession, a drop of foreign direct investment and a reduction in trade, tourism and services. The country is expected to sustain $2 billion in economic losses this year and that number will likely increase in the future, he said, pointing to Government measures to maintain operations in all socioeconomic sectors.

On par with the unprecedented wave of COVID‑19, he spotlighted as another significant challenge the expanding scale and intensity of terrorism and extremism, armed conflicts and wars and transnational organized crime — including trafficking in narcotics. Attention to the root causes of those phenomena and a common global definition of terrorism are needed, he said, calling for bold and drastic measures undertaken in line international law. “Tajikistan is convinced that the response to the growing threat of terrorism must be all‑embracing and the United Nations should play a key coordinating role in this process,” he said. Double standards must be avoided. Tajikistan is on the front line of addressing those security challenges, and fosters productive cooperation with its partners as well as international and regional organizations.

Having experienced past horrors of imposed civil war, he said, Tajikistan strongly values peace. It currently deploys peacekeepers to United Nations operations in Darfur, South Sudan and the border city of Abyei, and is now seeking its first term as a non‑permanent member of the Security Council, in 2028‑2029. Noting that the country also shares a 1,400‑kilometre border with Afghanistan, he called for extra efforts by the international community to combat terrorism, cope with drug production and trafficking, and deliver timely assistance to the Afghan Government and people. “We stand ready to further advance cooperation which would help activate involvement of Afghanistan into the regional integration processes and facilitate its socioeconomic recovery,” he said. He went on to underline Tajikistan’s commitment to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, address the increase in natural disasters and help tackle climate change. The country — which suffers from water insecurity — already generates 99 per cent of its electricity through green hydroelectric power stations, he said, also detailing proposals for sustainable water management.

ANDRÉS MANUEL LÓPEZ OBRADOR, President of Mexico, described his country’s history as an extraordinary story of struggle for freedom, justice, equality and national sovereignty, marked by three phases: independence, reform and revolution. Perhaps due to a lack of democracy, however, Mexico’s public life began to deteriorate. Political corruption started to prevail, becoming for many years the nation’s greatest problem. Mexico has great natural resources — including good agricultural land, abundant water, oil and hard‑working people — but due to corruption, it could not make progress. He explained that upon his election, he set as his goal a fourth transformation aimed at eradicating corruption in a peaceful and non‑violent fashion.

Despite the COVID‑19 pandemic and the ensuing economic crisis, Mexico is making progress, he said. The lethal impact of the coronavirus is decreasing as the country benefits from the help of scientists, doctors, health-care workers and other experts. In tackling the economic crisis, Mexico is not following the same old strategy of indebtedness or favouring the rich in hopes that prosperity will trickle down. Instead, it is taking a bottom-up approach, using savings resulting from republican austerity. He said that, having put the country’s Presidential aircraft — an 80‑seat “flying palace” that represents a slap in the face of the Mexican people — up for sale, he travels the country by road or commercial flights, while Government officials no longer fly in private aircraft or helicopters. He added that he also disbanded the 8,000‑member elite presidential security service.

“You can’t have a rich Government when the people are poor,” he said, explaining how practicing austerity and disallowing corruption can free up money for development. Participating in grassroots investment in Mexico are the 38 million Mexicans and descendants of Mexicans in the United States, who despite the pandemic are expected to send back a record $4 billion in remittances. Month after month, those funds reach 10 million poor families. Little by little, Mexico’s economy is recovering, he said, with the trade agreement recently signed with Canada and the United States already creating jobs and luring investment. “I have great faith in Mexico’s future, but I also have great faith in the future of the world,” he said, describing his credo as universal brotherhood and sending warm greetings from Mexico City.

LUIS LACALLE POU, President of Uruguay, said the scope of the pandemic and the resulting loss of life focus the world’s attention on finding solutions to a range of challenges. The path to solutions, including for trade and migration challenges, should always be multilateral. Uruguay supports WHO and the power the United Nations system has in coordinating the pandemic response. For its part, Uruguay has a multidisciplinary approach, making it possible to resume daily activities, he said, appealing to the international community to avoid scenarios dominated by nationalism and protectionism that could impede the delivery of urgently needed medical equipment.

To advance realization of the Sustainable Development Goals, solidarity is needed, he continued. Uruguay has worked tirelessly for effective compliance, including by focusing on decent work supported by investment and economic growth. However, it is paradoxical that countries like Uruguay would not have access to finances or credit lines, he said, adding that multidimensional criteria should be used to assess the development level of countries. Turning to the environment, he said countries cannot face related challenges alone. Expressing support for the Paris Agreement, he said responsible approaches must be taken to mitigate climate change. Voicing support for the Secretary‑General’s road map for digital cooperation, he said this effort is among others that can help countries to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

Regarding the Secretary‑General’s call for a global ceasefire, he said peace is a prerequisite for defeating the COVID‑19 pandemic. Uruguay is among the largest per capita troop contributors and is working to improve COVID‑19 diagnostic capacities in peacekeeping operations. Special efforts must be adopted to ensure that the COVID‑19 response reaches the most vulnerable populations. Reiterating his commitment to the international justice system, he said fighting impunity is essential. Raising concerns about non‑compliance with disarmament agreements, he said such a trend could lead to an arms race. The future the world wants is rooted in peace, sustainability and a United Nations that will act more efficiently to ensure that all aspects of development are covered. As such, the Organization needs to increase its transparency, including in the Security Council. World leaders must rise to the occasion and meet the needs of their people by thinking beyond the current crisis and being responsible.

DANNY FAURE, President of Seychelles, said the painful lessons learned since the outbreak of the COVID‑19 pandemic underscore the need for a revitalized and more inclusive multilateral system comprising the voices of all stakeholders. Despite the lessons of previous virus outbreaks, the existing setup failed to respond adequately, with devastating consequences. However, he said that Seychelles stepped up to the challenge despite the collapse of its primary industry, tourism, introducing unprecedented measures to save its people. It took just 4 months for the pandemic to wipe out gains in quality of life the country had built up in the 44 years since its independence. Facing a predicted 14 per cent budgetary deficit instead of a four per cent surplus, and a growth forecast growth of 3.9 per cent instead turning into a 15.2 per cent deficit, he said: “We estimate it will take at least five years for Seychelles to return to where we were before COVID‑19, assuming the world gets a vaccine”.

Small island developing States have made heroic efforts to shore up jobs, but these efforts cannot be maintained in the long term, he said. As the ultimate test of multilateralism is in how it assists vulnerable economies, he called on all relevant stakeholders to take action that addresses the crisis, maintains developmental achievements and reinforces resilience to future shocks. International financial institutions must reexamine eligibility criteria for concessional financing, given the particular risks faced by small island developing States. To that end, Seychelles backs the Alliance of Small Island States in its call for a small island developing States compact to guide their economies through crisis and reinforce resistance to climate change.

The massive global economic restructuring underway provides a unique opportunity, he said, with economic recovery depending on environmental health. To that end, the country enlisted those employees made redundant by the COVID‑19 pandemic in planting hundreds of thousands of trees throughout the country. Addressing its two main economic pillars of tourism and fishing, Seychelles delivered on its commitment to protect 30 per cent of its giant exclusive economic zone of 1.34 million square kilometres in 2020. “Achieving the 1.5°C goal remains critical if we are to leave no country behind,” he said, as climate change, not COVID‑19 is the number one threat to humanity. The future of multilateralism nonetheless depends on a transformative global response to the pandemic, a transformation that will bring all including the most vulnerable countries and fragile economies into a world better equipped to meet the goals of the 2030 Agenda and Paris Agreement.

PAUL KAGAME, President of Rwanda, recalled milestones along decades of trying to make the world greener, safer and more resilient, saying that progress demonstrates the achievements of multilateral action, while serving as a reminder of how much remains to be done. Commending the exceptional work of WHO, he said the creation of the Access to COVID Tools Accelerator, including the COVAX Global Vaccines Facility, is of critical importance for Africa, as ensuring equitable access to vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics will speed up the end of the pandemic for everyone. Indeed, the pandemic has highlighted the importance of resilient national health systems and strong domestic health financing. The African Union is championing this agenda among its member States, with an emphasis on not just spending more, but spending better. The goal is for Africa to leverage its own resources to reinforce the impact of global health partnerships.

Highlighting areas needing attention, he said that in the coming decades, prosperity will be closely linked to digital literacy and access to high-speed connectivity. He also cautioned that the global movement for racial justice and equality is not “a passing phenomenon”. What is required is action that builds public trust in the equal dignity of all citizens, as demonstrated in the treatment of those who have historically been most marginalized, and who continue to suffer mistreatment disproportionately. Success depends on strengthening institutions, both national and international.

“Our descendants will look back and judge how this generation responded to these challenges, especially the leaders,” he said, wondering if the collective accomplishment of three generations over 75 years in building a stronger international order would disintegrate into recrimination and resentment, or if the world would come together to once again secure global progress on a foundation of cooperation and mutual respect. “The choice is ours.”

JOÃO MANUEL GONÇALVES LOURENÇO, President of Angola, commended world leaders and the United Nations system for an exemplary response to the COVID‑19 pandemic, a crisis that has displayed many weaknesses in global health mechanisms. Despite these weaknesses, international cooperation has set the world on the path towards alleviating the effects of the pandemic. Still, the pandemic has put an end to global economic gains made following the 2008 crisis, particularly the encouraging signs of recovery in developing countries like Angola, he said.

“Our hopes of starting to yield positive results following our endeavour for domestic economy reform, conducted in a context where we had to apply harsh measures, with very tough impact on the lives of people, will not come true soon due to the current constraints that have disrupted the production chain,” he said. The disruption has affected main export commodity prices and paralyzed services and vital economic sectors, fuelling high unemployment and social problems. Angola is redirecting funds away from the production sector towards urgent programmes aimed at addressing the effects of the pandemic. These programmes include quarantine centres, distribution of COVID‑19‑related medical equipment, and the construction of healthcare facilities. He identified direct investment in the economies of developing countries as key to future economic growth and development and called on developed countries to establish investment funds in Africa.

He said responses to the COVID‑19 pandemic have demonstrated the power of multilateralism, adding that the spirit of cooperation must be harnessed to find fair and lasting solutions to problems in the Middle East and Africa, such as Libya and the Sahel region. Attributing a number of security issues in Africa to international terrorism, the expansion of religious fundamentalism and post-election conflicts, he called for increased action by the United Nations that accounts for the needs of countries affected by ongoing threats. The Organization should also seek to establish internal structures that reflect current geopolitical realities, he said, calling for urgent reform of the Security Council.

ALBERTO FERNÁNDEZ, President of Argentina, said that as the world faces a health crisis of global dimensions, all Member States should make a new beginning. “It is not time to globalize indifference, but rather to make solidarity global in many dimensions,” he said. If the international community is pulling together the efforts of doctors and researchers across the planet to discover a vaccine, it should also build a vaccine against social injustice and discrimination in all its forms. Since the beginning of the pandemic, Argentina has prioritized the lives of the most vulnerable, he said. In this spirit of solidarity, the vaccine must be a global public good, accessible to all nations in an equitable fashion.

Before the pandemic, the need for Security Council reform was raised, along with agreements on rehabilitating the WTO, he said. Over 60 per cent of poor people live in middle-income countries and if the international community does not respond to them with solidarity, it will be difficult to make progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals. “We need a United Nations 4.0 with intact foundational values and with intelligence to incorporate the immense technological changes that are under way, to make them more humane, more democratic, and more socially inclusive,” he said. On climate change, he said collective commitment is needed to promptly implement the Paris Agreement. “Nobody can emerge safely from a planet which sets itself on fire, floods itself or poisons itself,” he said. Human rights should be accorded priority above all else. His Government has given constitutional weight to all international human rights instruments currently in force. The post-pandemic world has exacerbated the plight of refugees and displaced people. The international response must be to promote and guarantee the human rights of migrants. The fight against all forms of discrimination and the commitment to the rights of vulnerable or historically discriminated against people and groups is part of governmental policy in Argentina.

Twenty-six years after the bombing of the AMIA Jewish community centre headquarters in Buenos Aires, he called on the authorities of Iran to cooperate with the Argentine legal authorities to make progress in investigating this attack. He referred to General Assembly resolution 2065 (XX) of 1965 on the question of the Malvinas Islands, South Georgia Islands and South Sandwich Islands and the surrounding maritime areas, which called on all parties to reach a peaceful and permanent solution. This request is current and was renewed in a new resolution on the matter by the Special Committee on Decolonization on 5 August. In addition, the United Kingdom insists on an unjustified massive military presence in the Malvinas Islands that brings tension to a region characterized as peaceful.

EGILS LEVITS, President of Latvia, said the COVID‑19 pandemic has disrupted life for an entire generation and no country can overcome the pandemic alone. For its part, Latvia responded to calls by the Secretary‑General and is contributing to the work of the WHO and Latvian scientists are actively participating in the global search for an effective vaccine against the virus. Maintenance of the international rules‑based order hinges on effective multilateralism and the main purpose of international law is to ensure respect for fundamental human rights and state sovereignty. The United Nations must make every effort to ensure that this order is respected, both by large and small States. To that end, he called on the United Nations to use all instruments at its disposal to find just political solutions to ongoing conflicts and strongly supported a key role for women in effective peace and security processes.

In the face of the COVID‑19 pandemic, Latvia is committed to the Secretary‑General’s call to “build back better” and will continue to promote the “recover better” agenda within the Economic and Social Council, he said. He said recovery efforts must be grounded on the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals and focus on green, digital and inclusive recovery. Stronger efforts are urgently needed to tackle biodiversity loss and promote sustainable consumption and production patterns. Latvia has joined the Group of Friends to combat marine plastic pollution. Recovering better also involves greater digitalization, as Latvia has done to continue education and develop mobile applications to track the spread of the virus. However, care must be taken to ensure data collection is carried out responsibly and privacy is respected. Member States must develop legal frameworks and invest in technologies that factor in respect for privacy, he said, adding that Latvia is poised to become a global leader in a human-centred multilingual digital economy.

He voiced concern about the rise of misinformation, disinformation and fake news that have characterized the COVID‑19 pandemic and urged States to provide access to reliable and science‑based information through free media. “Free, objective and pluralistic media plays an indispensable role in informing the public during the ongoing pandemic,” he said, calling on the private sector to be held accountable for addressing online misinformation. On that point, he said the Russian Federation’s increasingly revisionist approach to events of the Second World War is unacceptable, as are its continued restrictions on democracy and free speech. He called for an independent, international investigation into the recent poisoning of opposition leader Alexei Navalny and holding the perpetrators to account. He also called for democratic and transparent elections to be held in Belarus and an end to the repression of peaceful demonstrators there, adding that Latvia is providing medical treatment to several victims. Further, he called on the Russian Federation to desist from further interference in Belarus.

GITANAS NAUSĖDA, President of Lithuania, said no one could have imagined that the United Nations seventy‑fifth anniversary would be marked by a global challenge such as the COVID‑19 pandemic, which has swept through every part of the globe and left devastation in its wake. Describing the situation as a “colossal wake‑up call for multilateralism”, he said countering the virus requires better international cooperation and solidarity. Peace should remain the top priority, with full respect for international law, effective human rights protections and the promotion of global economic and social cohesion. Recalling his country’s history after the terrors of the Second World War, he said the moment one totalitarian regime fell another rose up, with several Baltic States forcefully annexed by the Soviet Union.

“This experience helped to create our special relationship with the Charter of the United Nations,” he said, stressing that as a result Lithuania cherishes the fundamental principles of the international order. Warning against repeating the mistakes of the past, he declared: “We must defend objective historical narratives that are increasingly under attack by revisionist forces.” History should not be a tool for manipulation, disinformation and propaganda, nor be used to whitewash past crimes. Rejecting the outdated view that the powerful can divide the world into spheres of interest, he said secret agreements like those in Moscow in 1939 or in Yalta in 1945 must never be signed again.

In that vein, he cited with regret recent attempts to undermine the values of the United Nations — including violations of international law and human rights and abuse of power by nations against their own citizens. The ongoing crisis in Belarus is one example of that worrying trend, with fraudulent elections in August leading to unprecedented peaceful protests and reports of the beating of civilians by special police teams. “We should treat this offense against justice and the rule of law with aversion and contempt,” he said, calling on the United Nations to closely monitor the situation and call on the authorities to refrain from the use of force, protect human rights and begin a peaceful transition of power.

He went on to express concern about the global deterioration of security, worsening media climates and the shrinking space for civil society and human rights defenders. A candidate for membership in the Human Rights Council beginning in 2022, Lithuania, if elected, would pay close attention to fundamental freedoms as well as the safety of journalists, the protection of human rights defenders and the rights of women and girls, children and persons with disabilities. In its own neighbourhood, the recent poisoning of Alexei Navalny shows that pressure against opposition voices can quickly turn deadly. Maintaining international order means being prepared to investigate such crimes and hold perpetrators to account, he stressed, also spotlighting the continued occupation of Georgian territory by Russian Federation forces, its military actions in eastern Ukraine and its occupation of Ukrainian Crimea for a sixth year.

MUHAMMADU BUHARI, President of Nigeria, said that if the United Nations system cannot mobilize the world to marshal an effective and inclusive response to the coronavirus pandemic, it will have failed in its core mission to give expression, direction and solution to the international community. “The future we want must guarantee human rights, human dignity, human prospects and prosperity,” he said, calling for accountability, strategic growth initiatives and the elimination of all kinds of threats in order to leave no one behind. In the aftermath of the COVID‑19 outbreak, Nigeria prioritized vulnerable groups in efforts to provide medical and social assistance to cushion the socioeconomic effects of the disease, including an expansion of the National Social Register to include an additional 1 million Nigerians while the National Social Investment Programmes has reached out to poor, vulnerable communities and provides cover for 22 million households.

In order to mitigate the effects of poverty on Nigerians, his Administration commenced the disbursement of funds to households and micro, small and medium enterprises as well as stimulus packages for individuals and industries. Nigeria will continue to partner with other nations and WHO to ensure expedited development of a COVID‑19 vaccine. On global terrorism, he said Nigeria is still facing violent extremism from Boko Haram and counts on the strong cooperation of the United Nations counter‑terrorism bodies to overcome the terrorists in the Lake Chad Basin and wider Sahel region. Turning to climate change, he said Nigeria has intensified action to reach its Nationally Determined Contributions targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The revitalization of Lake Chad will assist in addressing environmental and security challenges in the region. As such, he called for international support to raise the $50 billion required for that initiative.

He went on to emphasize the importance of migration management and prevention of irregular migration and human trafficking and reported that Nigeria has passed several human rights‑related bills into law. Achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals depends largely on the empowerment of women and Nigeria will sustain its affirmative stance toward that end through related initiatives. Noting that quality education is the cornerstone of sustainable development, he said Nigeria will host the International Conference on Safe Schools in 2021. In conclusion, he expressed support for the expansion of the Security Council and said Africa deserves to have permanent seats there.

CARLOS ALVARADO QUESADA, President of Costa Rica, said that the COVID‑19 pandemic has brought widespread suffering, death, unemployment. However powerful the pandemic is, it seems just to be an early warning of what humankind is facing now and will face in decades to come. Solidarity and multilateralism today take on even greater meaning, he said, underscoring that altruism and lofty values must guide the international community. There can be no individual or national wellbeing if there is not shared and global wellbeing. This is the reality of combatting the pandemic.

The international community must also combat poverty, ensure security, advance the rights of women and take action against the threat of climate change, he said. It must see that even the most selfish people understand this fact. Since the outset of the pandemic, Costa Rica has insisted that health is a global public good and that the WHO be called upon to lead the multilateral response. On 29 May, Costa Rica, the WHO and 40 States launched a platform to exchange information, know-how and intellectual property, so that treatment and technology to combat the pandemic would be accessible to anyone in the world. Vaccines must be given to the most vulnerable — the elderly, women, children, people deprived of their freedom and healthcare workers on the frontline. Participation in this platform is voluntary and all States are invited to join it. He highlighted the equine plasma treatment that has been developed in Costa Rica, an innovative treatment in anti‑viral plasma to combat the virus in its early stages.

If the global community has learned anything from the pandemic, it is that it cannot speak about security without speaking about human security, he said. However, global military spending continues to increase. The International Peace Institute calculates that for the price of one war tank, 26,000 people could be treated for malaria. For the price of a single airplane carrier, an area larger than the state of Florida in the United States could be reforested. “If at least a fraction of these resources were used to combat the pandemic and address climate change, our generation could say proudly that we were able to redefine our priorities when circumstances warranted it”, he said. The Security Council should change its name and become the “Human Security Council”. Resources and priorities must focus on the Sustainable Development Goals and 2030 Agenda, which is a model to overcome the current crisis and prepare the international community to meet future crises. Fairer societies will be more resilient to inequalities. Reform in the collective security architecture can no longer be deferred. The Security Council must be made more democratic, representative and transparent; it must delve into the causes of conflicts and not just the symptoms.

GOTABAYA RAJAPAKSA, President of Sri Lanka, said the current theme for the General Assembly debate — “The future we want, the United Nations we need: reaffirming our commitment to multilateralism” — echoes the importance of solidarity across national borders in alleviating the effects of the COVID‑19 pandemic. He commended the work of the Organization and the creation of the United Nations COVID‑19 Response and Recovery Fund and voiced continued support for the work of WHO.

He said Sri Lanka has a long‑standing democratic tradition evidenced in two recent free and fair elections through which he and his Government were elected with overwhelming majorities. The “resounding mandates” received at both the presidential and parliamentary elections have enabled the formation of a strong Government, dedicated to building a prosperous nation. Sri Lanka has successfully faced the COVID‑19 crisis, he said, attributing the success to preventive measures at the national level and to a robust local health‑care system. Sri Lanka responded to the crisis through a series of inclusive and holistic measures that include financial support to vulnerable sectors of the population.

He assured the Assembly that Sri Lanka remains committed to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and to environmental protection mechanisms. As such, Sri Lanka is taking all possible measures to find a balance between environmental conservation and development efforts. Noting his country’s experience in dealing with terrorism and separatist movements, he called on all States to condemn international terror networks. He said Sri Lanka is fully committed to United Nations peacekeeping operations and has contributed 20,000 troops to those efforts. The United Nations system must ensure equity, inclusivity and transparency while being responsive to emerging crises. He stressed that ongoing “witch hunts” against Member States hurt the Organization’s credibility. He concluded by calling for the Indian Ocean to be maintained as a zone of peace.

JOKO WIDODO, President of Indonesia, said war benefits no one and “there is no point in becoming the largest economic power in the midst of a sinking world”. Conflicts still happen all over the globe, poverty and hunger afflict many and the principles of the Charter of the United Nations and international law are often neglected. Those concerns have only deepened amid the COVID‑19 pandemic, as divisions and rivalries have grown at a time when people ought instead to unite. “No one is safe until everyone is,” he stressed, warning that a stable, peaceful and prosperous world is becoming more and more difficult to attain.

Pledging that Indonesia will continue to play the role of bridge builder — including during the remainder of its term on the Security Council — he spotlighted the country’s longstanding Bandung Principles, which include the peaceful settlement of disputes, the promotion of cooperation and respect for international law. Meanwhile, ASEAN member States continue to work together to maintain South-East Asia as a peaceful, stable and prosperous region. For its part, the United Nations should further improve itself through reforms, revitalization and enhanced efficiency. “The United Nations needs to prove that multilateralism delivers, especially during a time of crisis,” he stressed. All countries must bear the responsibility of strengthening the Organization, and, while all States seek to protect their own interests, they must also not forget their obligation to contribute to global peace, stability and prosperity.

The United Nations should play a role in strengthening collective leadership and promoting a spirit of cooperation — in particular in tackling the many effects of the pandemic. In that vein, he described the development of a vaccine as a “game‑changer” in the war against COVID‑19. Countries must work together to ensure everyone has equal access to it at an affordable price. Meanwhile, Governments should work to render health systems more resilient, and activities aimed at economic revitalization should expand the limits of today’s global supply chains.

MARTÍN VIZCARRA CORNEJO, President of Peru, said the seriousness, magnitude and contagiousness of the COVID-19 pandemic mean “no one is safe unless all are safe”. A vaccine and treatment are global public goods requiring fair access global agreements on that basic goal. Comparing the pandemic to the persistence of corruption in the country, he noted his Government is abiding by law and fundamental rules in waging all-out war against that scourge with a series of national reforms. Given the cross-cutting nature of the problem, Governments in the Western Hemisphere adopted the Lima Commitment “Democratic Governance against Corruption” in 2018 to cooperate against it.

He said his Government is working to arrive at consensus among politicians and citizens on five points: establishing unified health care, improving education, driving economic growth, reforming justice administration and combating poverty. Facing social gaps and historic weaknesses in health care, Peru was one of the first States in the region to adopt strong measures to fight the pandemic, saving thousands of lives. Contagion and death figures there are beginning to drop, but the pandemic has highlighted inequalities and exposed structural weaknesses. In response, the Government is investing 20 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP), benefiting 8.5 million households, aiming to recover 1 million jobs and expediting infrastructure projects. He forecasted an increase of 10 per cent in GDP in 2021 and achieving pre-pandemic economic levels in 2022. Regionally, Peru is committed to the peaceful restoration of democracy and rule of law in Venezuela, and the United Nations can contribute to a political solution to the regional crisis before it becomes a chronic issue.

As Peru is particularly vulnerable to climate change, the preservation and sustainable use of the Amazon region is a priority, protecting its vast biological diversity. His Government collaborated on a regional plan of action drafted to combat deforestation and illegal activities and involve indigenous peoples. Noting that Peru’s Javier Pérez de Cuéllar’s two terms as Secretary-General witnessed a thaw in the cold war, he reiterated that diplomat’s call to “do our duty” under the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.

FÉLIX ANTOINE TSHILOMBO TSHISEKEDI, President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, said that when the first case of COVID-19 emerged in Kinshasa on 10 March, the Government took swift and decisive measures to contain the spread of the virus, building upon lessons learned from the Ebola outbreak. Expressing gratitude for the assistance provided by international partners, he said that the mortality rate in his country has come down from 10 per cent in the first days of the pandemic to 2.5 per cent today. To help developing countries to emerge from the pandemic and to build better, international efforts should include debt cancellation and no-strings-attached financing. Acknowledging the role of the United Nations, including the WHO, in responding to the pandemic, he also appealed for greater efforts in the areas of capacity-building and technical assistance.

Climate change threatens human beings and their fundamental rights, and its effects are increasingly visible throughout the world, he said. Climate action and building a green economy is not merely a necessity, but an urgent duty. He underscored the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s commitment to reduce carbon emissions and mitigate the effects of climate change, including through the preservation of its forests through a system of school gardens that aims to plant 1 billion trees in the coming years. The country expects its partners to respect the financial commitments they have made regarding the protection of rain forests, including through support for the Green Climate Fund.

Expressing concern about the security situation in the east of the country, he said that residual elements of armed groups continue to spread death and desolation, attacking not only civilians and national armed forces but also peacekeepers serving with the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO). The funding of such groups through the illicit exploitation of natural resources which are then sold abroad must be neutralized through international sanctions. Pending the outcome of the strategic review of MONUSCO, he said that the Democratic Republic of the Congo wants to see more cooperation on the ground between MONUSCO units and the national armed forces, particularly in those areas where armed groups are present. “My determination is to put smiles on the faces of those living in the east of the country as soon as possible,” he said. While highlighting the Government’s efforts to improve human rights, he acknowledged that much remains to be done to combat sexual and gender-based violence. He also called for the Security Council to be reformed to make it more transparent, democratic and representative of the Organization’s make-up.

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Describing COVID-19 pandemic as wake-up call, dress rehearsal for future challenges, Secretary-General opens annual General Assembly debate with vision for solidarity

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