The deepening of inequalities and lack of fair representation in multilateral financial and economic institutions is impeding the international community’s effective response to global challenges, the General Assembly heard Thursday as it continued its annual general debate, with speakers echoing calls for vaccine equity, climate justice and institutional reform.
Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, President of Somalia, said the COVID-19 pandemic painfully illustrated how far apart the world was in its ability to respond to crisis, with rich nations able to invest in life-saving vaccines more rapidly for their citizens while developing countries, like his own, waited for whatever was available and they could afford, or what they were gifted by international partners. Noting the annual floods and droughts in his country, he said the people of Somalia have long lived harmoniously with nature and barely contribute to greenhouse gas emissions but are the ones paying with their lives today. He urged joint, quick and effective global action to address the climate crisis.
Mokgweetsi Eric Keabetswe Masisi, President of Botswana, said many countries in the Global South, especially in Africa, had not met the World Health Organization’s (WHO) 70 per cent vaccination rate by mid-2022, stressing the urgent need for vaccine equity. In a sign of promise, he said 60 per cent of Botswana’s population was now fully vaccinated. Moreover, his Government has approved the manufacturing of the patent-free COVID-19 vaccine Corbevax and construction of a vaccine manufacturing plant has already commenced. He said the facility would produce cancer treatment and next-generation cell-based immunotherapy, in partnership with health institutions.
Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa, President of Zimbabwe, voiced concern about inadequate financing that could threaten the effective and just transition to renewable energy among developing countries. Underscoring that the international trade architecture under the World Trade Organization (WTO) remained indifferent to the needs of developing countries, he said an increasingly unsustainable debt burden, the prohibitive cost of borrowing, illicit financial flows, and the exploitation of natural resources from developing States “have all combined to relegate developing countries to the periphery of the global financial system”. He called for a just and more inclusive global financial system responsive to those challenges.
Echoing that sentiment, Mia Amor Mottley, Prime Minister, Minister for National Security and the Public Service, and Minister for Finance, Economic Affairs and Investment of Barbados, asked whether the time has come for a review of the settlement of the Bretton Woods institutions, stressing the need to not only eradicate poverty but also equally to protect global public goods. She also called for reform of the Group of Seven (G7) and Group of 20 (G20) countries, noting their exclusion of the people of Africa. “Fairness will mean something only when it is reflected in the international community,” she stressed.
Addressing calls for climate justice, Jonas Gahr Støre, Prime Minister of Norway, said his country has listened to the concerns of developing countries and has decided to double its climate finance to those countries by 2026. Within that target, Norway aims to at least triple its funding for climate adaptation and resilience. Stressing that the fight against climate change requires new, innovative approaches, he pointed out that the Global Energy Alliance for People and Planet brings together private and public resources. As co-chair, Norway will work with partners across the global South to support renewable energy transitions, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, increase clean power, and create green jobs.
During the Assembly’s afternoon session, David W. Panuelo, President of the Federated States of Micronesia, said anthropogenic climate change is the most enduring security threat facing his Pacific island country, urging developed countries in particular to provide adequate, accessible and concessional finance for climate mitigation and adaptation, as well as for loss and damage. Speaking to the leaders of the United States and China, who have a special responsibility, he stressed: “Your capacity to cooperate on climate change is necessary towards ensuring our world is habitable for future generations, and does not suffer from civilizational collapse”.
Micheál Martin, Taoiseach of Ireland, voiced concern over the threat of widespread global hunger and food insecurity and the devastating impacts of climate change. Those who bear no responsibility for the causes of climate change are being most affected. Noting the blatant disregard for international law, he said it is not the international community’s systems or structures, nor its Treaties or Charters, that are fundamentally failing humanity but the lack of political will to implement and uphold them. As an elected member of the Security Council, Ireland has seen first-hand that political will and a commitment to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations can deliver results. Yet he voiced his deep frustration at the Council’s failure to adopt a resolution on climate and security, a text supported by 113 countries and vetoed by the Russian Federation.
José Gabriel Carrizo, Vice-President of Panama, said the current development model needs to be transformed and he called for considering the value of biodiversity while seeking healthy and sustainable ecosystems. In acknowledging the harsh criticism from young people over the climate summits against the backdrop of rising emissions, deforestation and water pollution, he asked the international community “how can we gain the trust of new generations while the planet on which we live and on which our descendants will have to live is being decimated before their eyes? How many more lives must be lost? How many more natural disasters unfurl?” Wondering when the ecocide will end, he called out the large emitters of gasses, promoters of deforestation and chemical polluters and called for the establishment of an international body which demands accountability from those who damage the planet.
Echoing many speakers alarm about the conflict in Ukraine, Marcelo Luis Ebrard Casaubón, Secretary for Foreign Affairs of Mexico, said just as the world was recovering from COVID-19, the war in Ukraine created suffering and the loss of human lives, impacting access to food and fuel and disrupting the world economy. With the Council unable to implement measures to halt the armed aggression or launch a diplomatic process for a solution, Mexico has stepped in, presenting the Assembly with a proposal to create a caucus of Heads of State and Government to support the Secretary-General’s efforts to build trust and move the Russian Federation and Ukraine towards a peaceful resolution within the Charter’s framework.
Abdullatif Bin Rashid Alzayani, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Bahrain, said that armed conflicts and shared economic challenges, if left unresolved, along with the increased threat of terrorist organizations in various parts of the world, would lead to wider conflict with greater destruction, killing, misery, human deprivation and displacement of innocents. “In order for us to avoid or prevent future conflicts, we must do everything in our power to resolve disputes or disagreements before they turn violent,” he said, emphasizing the role of the Organization in that regard.
Also speaking Thursday were Heads of State and Government, as well as Vice-Presidents and Ministers of Niger, Gambia, Yemen, Kiribati, Guinea-Bissau, Comoros, Liberia, Burundi, Sudan, Israel, Papua New Guinea, Georgia, Malawi, South Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Portugal, Armenia, Malta, Kuwait, Spain, Jamaica, Austria and Denmark.