Continuing General Debate, World Leaders Call on United Nations to Help Resolve Longstanding Disputes, Human Displacement, Climate Disaster

NEW YORK, Sept 24 – World leaders appealed to the United Nations to facilitate resolutions to long-standing disputes, human displacement and climate disaster as the General Assembly continued its general debate today.

Underscoring the economic, social and security impact of regional conflicts and the influx of displaced Syrian refugees on his country, Lebanese President Michel Aoun urged the international community to ensure a safe return of the displaced and rejected the idea of their integration in Lebanon. Likewise, he rejected “any form of settlement of the Palestinian refugees” and called for “finding a solution to the Palestinian issue in accordance with international resolutions, which guarantee the right of return.” Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas echoed that call, urging the Secretary-General to take the necessary steps towards developing an international mechanism for the protection of the Palestinian people and to activate that mechanism.

However, some leaders pointed to the Organization’s weaknesses in the face of the myriad of global challenges, with Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades declaring: “Selfish interests hinder the founding principles of the United Nations, in which humanity has vested its hopes for a prosperous and peaceful future.” Recalling that his own country still endures the consequences of a “blatant violation of the fundamental principles of the United Nations”, he said a compromise becomes very difficult to reach when new ideas put forward at the request of the Secretary-General to move the process forward are rejected.

Climate change is another issue that requires more comprehensive global action, many leaders stressed. Mia Amor Mottley, President of Barbados, wondered how much global temperature rise there must be before countries end the burning of fossil fuels, or how much more must sea levels climb in small island developing States before those who profited from the stockpiling of greenhouse gases contribute to the loss and damage that they occasioned, rather than ask others to crowd out the fiscal space they have for development. “The answer is that we are waiting for urgent, global, moral strategic leadership,” she said. Political will must be summoned to confront what must be confronted, she said, asking who will stand up in the name of those who have died during the pandemic, or because of the climate crisis, or on behalf of the small island developing States who need 1.5°C to survive as countries prepare for COP26.

Rebecca Nyandeng de Mabior, Vice-President of South Sudan, said climate change has affected some 800,000 people across the country in addition to torrential rains having triggered the worst flooding in 60 years, submerging villages, towns and livestock. While South Sudan contributes more than its fair share to climate security, it remains among nations suffering the worst climate consequences. Partnerships are critical, from providing humanitarian assistance to help in nation-building. Indeed, South Sudan’s independence could not have been won without support from friends, allies and partners around the world, she said, assuring them that the nation is determined never to go back to war. “We must make the Revitalized Peace Agreement succeed, and we can only do that with the support of our regional and international partners,” she said. “Simply stated, South Sudan desires and is ready to turn a new page.”

Echoing other world leaders’ concerns about the current situation in Afghanistan, Imran Khan, Prime Minister of Pakistan, urged the Secretary-General to move the international community to swiftly deliver humanitarian assistance. Emphasizing that the United States was wrong to try to force a military solution in Afghanistan, he said if the world wonders why the Taliban are back in power, it has only to analyse why a well-equipped Afghan army gave up without a fight. The international community must now strengthen and stabilize the current Government for the sake of Afghanistan’s people. Incentivizing the Taliban to fulfil promises on human rights, inclusive Government, amnesty and denying a safe haven to terrorists will be a win-win situation for everyone, he said.

Also speaking today were Heads of State and Heads of Government of Nigeria, Senegal, Germany, Slovenia, Paraguay, Gambia, Benin, Armenia, Mauritius, Sweden, Bangladesh, Netherlands, Greece, Japan, Malta, Ireland, Albania, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Luxembourg, Georgia, Australia, Kuwait, Serbia, Denmark, Jamaica, Belize, Belgium and Saint Kitts and Nevis, as well as the European Union.

The representatives of India and Pakistan spoke in exercise of the right of reply.

The General Assembly will reconvene at 9 a.m. on Saturday, 25 September, to resume its general debate.

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