Note: A complete summary of today’s General Assembly general debate will be made available after its conclusion.
CYRIL RAMAPHOSA, President of South Africa, said COVID-19 has changed forever the nature of multilateral engagement, diplomacy, business and basic human interaction. While it was indeed through solidarity and cooperation that countries were able to access medical equipment and supplies, the global community has not sustained these principles in securing equitable access to vaccines. With more than 82 per cent of doses acquired by wealthy countries, and less than 1 per cent sent to low-income ones, he urgently supported the proposal for a temporary waiver of some provisions of the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights, which would allow low-income nations to produce vaccines.
“We need to prepare now for future pandemics and work with greater determination towards the goal of universal health coverage,” he stressed. In addition, he called for providing them with the means of implementation to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, describing the $650 billion allocation of special drawing rights as insufficient and thus calling for 25 per cent of the total allocation — $162 billion — to be made available to Africa. On climate, he said the twenty-sixth Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP26) must launch a formal work programme on the implementation of the Global Goal on Adaptation.
He went on to call for an enhanced relationship between the United Nations and the African Union in maintaining peace, financing peacebuilding and advancing post-conflict reconstruction. He drew attention to the right of Palestinians to self-determination, urging all nations to help find a just, lasting and peaceful solution based on internationally agreed parameters enshrined in relevant resolutions. The people of Western Sahara have the same right, in line with relevant African Union decisions, he said, calling also for a lifting of the embargo on Cuba.
Noting that it has been 12 years since the start of intergovernmental negotiations on reform of the Security Council, he said: “We have not honoured this undertaking.” He reiterated the call for urgent reform and a move to text‑based talks. “We must address the underrepresentation of the African continent in the United Nations system,” he insisted. He said the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action remain the international blueprint for fighting racism, stressing that “racism, like sexism, xenophobia and homophobia, demeans us all”. Above all, nations must close the wounds of poverty, inequality and underdevelopment that prevent societies from realizing their potential. This can only be done within the framework of a revitalized and reformed multilateral system, with a strong United Nations at its centre.
MOHAMED IRFAAN ALI, President of Guyana, said that the COVID-19 “pandemic had exposed the shortcomings of our international system” and that nationalism still prevailed. The past two years have taught the world that nations are interconnected, and he regretted that the pandemic had “wrecked the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development” by reversing developmental gains and expanding poverty.
Underlining that economic recovery is essential to bringing developing countries back on track towards attaining the Sustainable Development Goals, he requested the international community to allocate more resources to these States through debt rescheduling, debt service moratorium and the provision of soft resources. Failing to do so will not only impact poor and vulnerable nations but also developed ones. The pandemic underscored the need for global collaboration, he said, thanking United States President Joseph R. Biden for hosting a COVID-19 summit which resulted in commitments for joint global action and additional resources. He also welcomed the recent meeting between representatives from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank, the World Health Organization (WHO) and vaccine manufacturing companies to improve access to COVID-19 vaccines in developing countries.
On climate change, he deplored that “the promises of COP15 had not been delivered” and that recent studies have drawn a grim picture for the future of humanity. The consequences of climate change will result in political instability and will likely fuel regional and international conflicts. He added that while Guyana was one of the lowest emitters of greenhouse gas emissions, it would be among the first countries to suffer from climate-change-related disasters. The burden of emission reduction was not shared equitably. Innovative ways to collaborate must be found to address the fight against climate change and COP26 in Glasgow would be the right place to do so. Guyana would expect binding commitments and contributions to the most vulnerable economies to build up resilience against climate events.
On Guyana’s territorial integrity, he drew attention to continued threats from Venezuela, which recently issued a statement claiming two thirds of his country’s territory. Guyana “cannot be used as an altar of sacrifice for the settlement of Venezuela’s internal political differences”, he said, noting that the territorial dispute was settled by the International Court of Justice in 1966.
Commenting on other international issues, he expressed his nation’s “solidarity with the Palestinian people and its desire for a dignified existence in their own homeland in accordance with a two-State solution” and called on the international community to support that cause. Turning to Cuba, he invited the United States to normalize relations with the island State for the benefit of the region. Concluding, he said that Guyana’s diverse population is representative of the world, and that the country has been pursuing peace and prosperity by respecting human rights, and upholding democracy and the rule of law. These values are deeply rooted in Guyana, and they will continue to drive its willingness to work together with other nations.