CAIRO – 27 September 2017: President of the 72nd United Nations
Lajack wrapped up on Monday the General Debate of the UNGA at the U.N. headquarters in New York. The theme was “Focusing on People – Striving for Peace and a Decent Life for All on a Sustainable Planet”. Lajack underscored the priorities raised by the GA member states as prevention of conflicts, countering terrorism, support for peacekeeping, sustainable development, respect for human rights and gender equality.
"Most of you probably deserve a break. But the people we all represent –the people I've talked about today – need us to do the opposite. They need us to focus on action – now more than ever. So, let's get to work," said Lajack in his closing speech.
The GA president cited several upcoming milestone events for the 72nd GA, including a high-level meeting on human trafficking, a high-level event on Sustaining Peace in April 2018 and the adoption of global frameworks for migrants and refugees next September.
In this article, Egypt Today summarizes the most important highlights of the 2017 session.
U.N. Secretary General António Guterres said, “We are a world in pieces.” He outlined several grave challenges facing humanity, emphasizing that “our world is in trouble; people are hurting and angry.” Guterres referred to rising insecurity and terrorism, growing inequality, conflict spreading and climate change. He added that the sense of global community is disintegrating, as societies are fragmented and the political discourse is polarized.
The SG highlighted additional threats, including the “dark side” of technology that is able to disrupt the structures and systems of modern life. He also referred to the importance of having a global vision on migrants’ and refugees’ issues, stressing that all actions must protect the rights and dignity of people on the move.
He voiced his commitment to reform the U.N. and to support states in bettering peoples’ lives, reinforcing the ability to safeguard peace, security and human rights.
President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi said that the GA session presents an opportunity for self-reflection and to discuss deficiencies hindering the international system from delivering on the noble objectives it had been created to realize. He explained that Egypt has a long-standing involvement with the U.N. as a founding member, serving six times on the Security Council and as the seventh-largest contributor to peacekeeping operations.
He referred to
development strategy that includes reform efforts targeting youth. Furthermore, he explained that only political solutions can solve several ongoing crises in the region, including Syria, Libya, Iraq and Yemen. He also commented on the tragedy facing Myanmar’s Rohingya community and said that the international community must meet its moral obligations and legal responsibilities, as outlined in the U.N. Charter. “Let us be true to ourselves and dispel the mentality of polarizing policies. It is incumbent upon all states to strive to further relations with all partners, with malice to none,” he said.
Sisi also said that the question of Palestine must be addressed promptly through a just, comprehensive and final settlement. He stated that peace in this region would eliminate one of the main pretexts used by terrorists, emphasizing that double standards should not be supported. During the session, Sisi and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met to discuss the revival of the Middle East peace process.
Egypt also brokered a deal with Hamas to dissolve its ¬administration in Gaza and seek Palestinian unity with Fatah in the West Bank, which would remove one of the roadblocks to the peace talks.
Egypt’s president also highlighted that there is a need to narrow the economic and social gaps between developed and developing countries by involving developing nations in global economic governance structures and facilitating their access to financing, markets and technology transfers.
Speaking in exercise of the right of reply at the GA, the
of Egypt said that Egypt and others decided to take legal action, in accordance with international law, to prevent Qatar from interfering in the affairs of regional states. He added that the Qatari regime has been financing terrorism and providing terrorists with a safe haven for years.
Saudi Minister for Foreign Affairs Adel Ahmed Al-Jubeir said that the threat of terrorism is among the most serious challenges facing the international community. He stressed that the kingdom will continue to work to counter the scourge, as well as extremism, in all forms and manifestations.
On Qatar, he said that the crisis jeopardized his country’s policy of cutting off funding to terrorists and extremists. He added that Doha’s financial support of terrorism and dissemination of violent hate speech was unacceptable, as was its policy of providing safe haven to those who violated the law. The position taken by the four states at odds with Qatar was meant to demand that Qatar follow the principles of international law in fighting terrorism, he explained.
The Kingdom urged the government of Myanmar to protect its population from discrimination and pledged to continue providing aid to members of the Rohingya minority fleeing Myanmar.
Bahraini Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Khalid Bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa said to the GA that Bahrain supports a strong Middle East, underscoring the need for strong and common political will to guarantee positive relations with other countries. He added that Bahrain also supports the principles of non-interference in others’ internal affairs and a reaffirmation of the fight against terrorism and its sponsors.
“As partners, we can work together to preserve the security of the Gulf region, to combat terrorism, and to provide protection for international navigation and commerce routes,” said the Bahraini FM.
President Donald Trump said that despite the breakthroughs in technology and other important areas, the world is witnessing growing dangers, including from terrorists and extremists. He added that some U.N. member states support terrorists.
Trump added that the world was safer when states were strong, independent and free, noting that the success of the U.N. depends on the independent strength of its member states.
Trump attacked North Korea, explaining that its government is responsible for the deprivation of its own people and for threatening the whole world by pursuing nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles. He warned to destroy North Korea, adding that “hopefully this will not be necessary.” He also thanked all member states that voted in favor of Security Council resolutions imposing sanctions on North Korea.
On Iran, he said that it is time to address the threat posed by its government. He was also accusing the Iranian government of using its oil profits to fund Hezbullah and other terrorist groups. Furthermore, he noted that the U.S. would not lift its sanctions on Cuba until it carries out reforms. He also explained that the U.S. also imposed sanctions on the regime in Venezuela.
He called on governments to end the support for terrorist groups and hold those who had done so responsible, referring to the Assad regime in Syria, who Trump said had shocked the world by using chemical weapons.
Trump voiced support for reforming the U.N. and said that the organization had failed to focus on results, while some states “hijacked” its systems. He said, “It was a massive source of embarrassment for the U.N. that countries with egregious human rights records sat on the Human Rights Council.” He added, “The true question for the U.N. member states is whether they are ‘still patriots’ and loved their nations enough to protect their sovereignty and take ownership of their own respective futures.”
The Foreign Minister of North Korea denounced Trump’s “reckless and violent words,” saying that the U.S. leader himself is on a “suicide mission”, referring to Trump’s statement to the GA. The FM called the U.N. sanctions imposed upon it for its nuclear and missile tests “unprecedented acts of injustice.”
He said that the reason North Korea has to possess nuclear weapons is because U.S. hostility and nuclear threats have continued for over 70 years. “The possession of nuclear deterrence by the DPRK is a righteous self-defensive measure taken as an ultimate option,” he added.
“Unless true international justice is realized, the only valid philosophical principle is that force must be dealt with force and nuclear weapons of tyranny must be dealt with the nuclear hammer of justice,” added the Foreign Minister of North Korea in the GA.
He stressed that the U.N. failure in fulfilling its role in realizing genuine international justice is primarily related to the undemocratic practices of the 15-member Security Council, whose decisions alone have the force of law, where the five permanent members – China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States – are all nuclear powers with a common interest in maintaining their monopolistic nuclear status.
President of France Emmanuel Macron said that the international community should acknowledge its collective failure and find methods to build a durable peace and to act against Islamic terrorism in Syria and Iraq. He added that forced migration had demonstrated that there is a need to secure humanitarian aid and to re-establish the rule of law to protect the refugees.
Macron also called for the creation of a Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the protection of journalists across the world.
On climate change, he said the planet was “taking its revenge for the folly of mankind,” noting that the universal Paris agreement, signed in the GA, was not up for renegotiation, as taking it apart would demolish the existing pact between states and between generations. Macron added that France will allocate €5 billion ($5.9B) to climate action until 2020.
The French president also said that North Korea should be brought to the negotiation table for a political settlement, noting that France rejected escalation. He expressed support for the nuclear agreement with Iran and said that France will stand with the U.N. to carry out organizational reform, calling on the Security Council to not use its veto when atrocities were carried out.
The fifth largest donor to the U.N. system confirmed its commitment to strengthen multilateralism and the rules-based international order, championing diversity and inclusion, and advancing human rights, including gender equality, women’s empowerment, and reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau outlined Canada’s efforts on climate change and the importance of forging progressive trade agreements that emphasize fairness and real benefits for everyone.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas addressed the GA and said that states should end their involvement and support to the illegal Israeli colonial regime in the occupied State of Palestine. He also called on countries that had not yet recognized the State of Palestine to do so, in fulfillment of the principle of equality.
Abbas added that the Security Council should approve the State of Palestine’s application for full U.N. membership, while the broader international community should continue providing economic and financial support to Palestinians to achieve self-reliance, as well as support the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).
On the margins of the UNGA, the member states met to discuss issues of mutual interest. Furthermore, during the session, the Circle of Leadership on the prevention and response to sexual exploitation and abuse in the U.N. operations met to discuss supporting the Special Coordinator on Sexual Exploitation and Abuse.
Other events included an event that spoke to thousands of young people, “WE Day U.N.”, to mobilize youth action on the U.N.’s Sustainable Development goals to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all. Another event was the “Bloomberg Global Business Forum”, where leaders discussed creating a more transparent, equitable, and sustainable global economy, and the “Bill and Melinda Gates Inaugural Goalkeepers” event, where feminist international policy was discussed as a means to support women and grassroots women’s organizations.