António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations, opened the General Debate.
He warned of rising “geopolitical tensions” and the dangers of AI as well as the need for “global compromise”, renewed efforts around nuclear disarmament, the reformation of the Security Council and the redesign of international finance. He argued that G20 countries must “break their addiction to fossil fuels” and stressed the importance of advancing the Sustainable Development Goals stimulus of $500 billion per year.
Is the UN is a force for good?
The President of the 78th session of the General Assembly, Dennis Francis (Trinidad and Tobago), followed the UN Secretary General with his speech arguing that the UN is a force for good and the world is fortunate to have such an organisation.
Morning session speeches (including the USA)
The morning session continued with speeches from Heads of State from Brazil, USA, Colombia, Jordan, Poland, Cuba, Qatar, South Africa, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, Guatemala, Hungary, Switzerland, Slovenia, Uzbekistan.
President Biden (USA) made a 28-minute speech. He supported the expansion of the Security Council, the scaling up of the World Bank and the reformation of the World Trade Organisation. He recognised the “potential and perils” of AI.
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy (Ukraine) focused on Russia and the dangers of nuclear weapons and encouraged countries to continue to stand by Ukraine.
Afternoon session speeches
During the afternoon session, a further 18 Member Nations were represented by their respective Heads of State: Bolivia, Kazakhstan, Iran, Algeria, Argentina, El Salvador, Kyrgyzstan, Paraguay, Peru, Mozambique, Panama, Nigeria, Uruguay, Czech Republic, Palau, Senegal, Germany, with Japan closing out the day.
Support for the Sustainable Development Goals
The vast majority of the 35 countries represented at the General Debate mentioned the climate “crisis” and all those that did were supportive of the Sustainable Development Goals and argued the need for renewed effort in reaching them. Many of the countries expressed their support for Ukraine and the belief in the value of the United Nations. Several of the countries mentioned the importance of the Summit of the Future (to take place in 2024).
Of the five permanent members of the United Nations (the People’s Republic of China, the USA, France, the Russian Federation and the UK), only the USA was represented at the General Debate.
Quotes from Member Nations
Below some quotes from a few of the Member Nations of the UN attending the General Debate on 19th September, 2023:
“The world is increasingly unequal. The 10 richest billionaires have more wealth than the poorest 40 per cent of humanity.” (Luiz Inacio Lula Da Silva, President of Brazil).
“We cannot differentiate the struggle of the Ukrainian people from the struggle for the respect of the United Nations Charter.” (Marcelo Rebelo De Sousa, President of Portugal).
“We call on our partners from wealthier countries to meet the financial commitments they have made. It is a great concern that these wealthier countries have failed to meet their undertakings to mobilize $100 billion a year for developing economies to take climate action.” (Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa, President of South Africa).
“If there is no child, there will be no future,” she said, asking, “What is the point of looking after the Earth if we don’t have children and grandchildren to pass it on to?” (Katalin Novak, President of Hungary).
“Everyone should invest in an environmentally sustainable world but I want to be clear, not everyone equally. Global solidarity is a matter of climate justice. Intergovernmental solidarity – with richer states contributing more than the poorer ones, and with the richest private companies also contributing their fair share – must be guided by the understanding that climate change is a result of human activities – past and present.” (Nataša Pirc Musar, President of Slovenia).
“Today humanity faces enormous shifts unseen in a century and has entered yet another period of geopolitical confrontation. The essence of the threat comes from the simultaneous erosion of fundamental principles of international law embodied in the Charter of the United Nations.” (Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, President of Kazakhstan).
“Climate change constitutes the main crisis of mankind of this century. This is not a new discovery therefore many speeches around this subject almost repeat themselves. For a number of decades ago that scientific evidences show that our planet is at the eve of climate catastrophe.” (Filipe Jacinto Nyusi, President of Moazmbique).
“Failures in good governance have hindered Africa. But broken promises, unfair treatment and outright exploitation from abroad have also exacted a heavy toll on our ability to progress.
Second, we must affirm democratic governance as the best guarantor of the sovereign will and well-being of the people.
African nations will fight climate change but must do so on our own terms. To achieve the needed popular consensus, this campaign must accord with overall economic efforts.” (Bola Ahmed Tinubu, President of Nigeria).
“We urgently call on the G20 nations, responsible for 80% of global carbon emissions, to uphold their commitments to the Paris Agreement and limit warming to 1.5 degrees. This is crucial to mitigate climate change impacts like disappearing islands and unhatched turtle eggs. As major emitters, G20 nations have a crucial role to play in emission reduction and leading the path towards sustainable development.” (Surangel Whipps, President of Palau).
“The dignity of the individual must not be neglected as states and the international community tackle global challenges. To overcome inequalities and achieve the SDGs, “Quality Growth” and “Sustainable Growth” are essential. The key is to “invest in people”, which is my political credo.” (Kishida Fumio, Prime Minister of Japan)