President Wavel Ramkalawan addresses the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly |21 September 2023
‘Dedication to global peace
and security essential to
enhance human existence’
Unwavering commitment to meaningful cooperation and dedication to global peace and security are essential to enhance human existence and prevent the recurrence of past tragedies, President Wavel Ramkalawan told the78th session of the United Nations General Assembly yesterday.
Speaking in New York, United States of America (USA) and addressing the theme ‘Rebuilding trust and reigniting global solidarity: Accelerating action on the 2030 Agenda and its sustainable development goals towards peace, prosperity, progress and sustainability for all’, President Ramkalawan told the global body that “as the challenge to global peace, security and prosperity takes on new dimensions, the lessons of the past become even more relevant. The world stands at the brink, facing conflicts and wars, and human-induced disasters while countless people continue to struggle for a decent existence.
“Disunity and distrust threaten to paint a bleak future, void of hope and possibilities. Overcoming this predicament demands that we find common ground amid division.”
President Ramkalawan added that we are confronted with the urgent need to rebuild trust and reignite global solidarity in order to accelerate action on the 2030 Agenda and its sustainable development goals (SDGs).
“Only through collective action can we achieve the vision of a better world for all,” he said, adding that at the heart of our discussion lies the 2030 Agenda, a transformative blueprint for sustainable development.
This, he emphasised “serves as a roadmap to eradicate poverty, promote human rights, protect our planet, and ensure that no one is left behind. Yet, as we review our progress, it is evident that we are falling short of our targets, and the global pandemic has further exacerbated the challenges before us. Now, more than ever, we must renew our commitment to the SDGs and take decisive action to fulfil our promises”.
This year’s week-long high-level United Nations (UN) gathering, the first full-on meeting of world leaders since the Covid-19 pandemic disrupted travel, has 145 leaders scheduled to speak. But for the first time in years, US President Joe Biden, who spoke soon after UN secretary general Antonio Guterres, is the only leader from the five powerful veto-wielding nations on the UN Security Council to address the 193-member assembly.
China’s Xi Jinping, Russia’s Vladimir Putin, France’s Emmanuel Macron and Britain’s Rishi Sunak are all skipping the UN this year.
The full text of President Ramkalawan’s speech reads:
“Mr President of the United Nations General Assembly,
“Mr Secretary-General of the United Nations,
“Ladies and Gentlemen,
“I wish to congratulate Ambassador Dennis Francis on his election as president of the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly and extend our best wishes of success in his tenure of office. We also thank his predecessor, Ambassador Csaba Kőrösi, for his steadfast leadership over the preceding session.
“Trust and solidarity form the bedrock of a functional multilateral order.
“Seventy-eight years ago, the United Nations was founded with the aim of preventing future global conflicts, promoting international cooperation and maintaining peace and security among nations. The lessons of history are clear: unwavering commitment to meaningful cooperation and dedication to global peace and security are essential to enhance human existence and prevent the recurrence of past tragedies.
“As the challenge to global peace, security and prosperity takes on new dimensions, the lessons of the past become even more relevant. The world stands at the brink, facing conflicts and wars, and human-induced disasters while countless people continue to struggle for a decent existence.
“Disunity and distrust threaten to paint a bleak future, void of hope and possibilities. Overcoming this predicament demands that we find common ground amid division.
“As we gather here today at the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly, we are confronted with the urgent need to rebuild trust and reignite global solidarity in order to accelerate action on the 2030 Agenda and its sustainable development goals (SDGs). Only through collective action can we achieve the vision of a better world for all.
“At the heart of our discussion lies the 2030 Agenda, a transformative blueprint for sustainable development. It serves as a roadmap to eradicate poverty, promote human rights, protect our planet, and ensure that no one is left behind. Yet, as we review our progress, it is evident that we are falling short of our targets, and the global pandemic has further exacerbated the challenges before us. Now, more than ever, we must renew our commitment to the SDGs and take decisive action to fulfil our promises.
“We are lagging behind.
“At the midway point of Agenda 2030 for sustainable development, it is crucial that we accelerate our joint efforts to make transformative advancements on the sustainable development goals (SDGs). The latest SDG report paints a sombre picture of lost progress or regression on over thirty percent of the targets, with vulnerable countries facing inequality, poverty, hunger, and environmental degradation. Addressing these imbalances and advancing the SDGs can only be achieved through collective action.
“To accelerate action on the SDGs, we must prioritise implementation at all levels. This necessitates the alignment of national policies, plans, and strategies with the objectives of the 2030 Agenda. It requires robust institutions, capable of driving progress and delivering results. It demands innovative financing mechanisms, as well as increased investment in sustainable infrastructure, technology transfer, and capacity-building. We must foster an enabling environment for entrepreneurship, innovation, and inclusive economic growth, while also addressing the root causes of inequality, poverty, and environmental degradation.
“Furthermore, we must harness the power of partnerships. The achievement of the SDGs requires collaboration between governments, civil society, the private sector, and international organisations. By forging strategic alliances, we can leverage resources, expertise, and influence to catalyse change. South-South cooperation, in particular, holds great potential for knowledge exchange and mutually beneficial development. We must also reaffirm our commitment to multilateralism, as the United Nations serves as the cornerstone of our collective efforts towards peace, prosperity, progress, and sustainability.
“Seychelles, through processes like the African Peer Review Mechanism and the Voluntary National Review, seeks to consolidate gains from prevailing political and socioeconomic successes. We stand ready to share our experiences and strengthen cooperation with other countries. However, rebuilding confidence in the SDGs requires transforming words into concrete actions.
“Firstly, development partners must deliver on the Addis Ababa Action Agenda by scaling up financing and means of implementing the SDGs.
“Secondly, international financial institutions should embrace reform to ensure that the unique needs of vulnerable countries are considered in access to development financing. Seychelles firmly believes in the critical importance of adopting a Multidimensional Vulnerability Index that fully responds to the needs of small island developing states (Sids).
“Thirdly, we need to leverage effective financing mechanisms such as impact investments, public-private partnerships, and debt relief to yield greater results for development agendas like Agenda 2063 and the forthcoming outcome of the Fourth SIDS Conference in 2024.
“The secretary-general's SDG Stimulus, aimed at transforming the global financial system, is commendable, and international financial institutions must collaborate to support our collective ambition for a sustainable future.
“Redressing these imbalances and advancing on the SDGs will only be achieved if we work together.
“If we are to make progress on our development agenda, we can no longer call what we are facing, climate change. The point at which lives and livelihoods are lost with frightening frequency due to environmental disasters means that we are living through a climate crisis.
“Addressing the climate crisis is no longer optional. It is an immediate necessity. To quote the secretary general, the era of global warming has transitioned into an era of global boiling, and leaders must lead to limit the rise in global temperatures to 1.5 degrees.
“Seychelles is committed to renewable energy and energy efficiency, but as a small island developing state, we lack the capacity and infrastructure to develop these solutions fully.
“OECD and G20 countries, as major emitters, must take decisive actions to lead in combating climate change. The establishment of the Loss and Damage Fund is a positive step, but its operationalisation is crucial to compensate those most at risk.
“Nature-based solutions, exemplified by Seychelles’ pioneering of blue bonds and the blue economy, showcase the potential for sustainable development. Transparent ocean governance offers opportunities for development and environmental protection. In this context, I pay tribute to the bold actions of Sids such as Bermuda and Tonga, which have purposefully moved to harnessing wave energy as feasible solutions to independent and clean energy futures. Seychelles will continue the same ambitious approach as we assume the presidency of the Sids Dock from Tonga.
“Furthermore, the Sids coalition for nature, launched by Seychelles, Belize, Cabo Verde and Samoa, is mobilising support for ambitious biodiversity targets.
“This is clear evidence that Sids continue to lead by example – doing more than our fair share to alleviate the pressure being exerted on our planet.
“It is through such trust-building cooperation that we will obtain impactful outcomes as demonstrated by the recent adoption of the High Seas Treaty.
“To achieve the SDGs and ensure peace, prosperity, progress, and sustainability for all, we must embrace the interconnectedness of our world. Climate change knows no boundaries, poverty respects no borders, and the quest for peace requires a collective effort. Seychelles, as a nation uniquely positioned amid the vast Indian Ocean, knows firsthand the significance of global cooperation in addressing climate change, ocean conservation, sustainable development and maritime security.
“Seychelles remains committed to its pioneering role in marine conservation, protecting vast areas of our ocean and marine ecosystems. But we cannot succeed alone. We call upon the global community to prioritise sustainability, transition to clean energy, and preserve our ecosystems for the prosperity of all.
“Last but not least, as we rebuild from the pandemic, we must do so with an unwavering commitment to inclusivity. No one should be left behind. We must invest in healthcare systems, education, and social safety nets that guarantee the wellbeing of every citizen. We must promote gender equality, empower youth, and create opportunities for marginalised communities. Inclusivity is not just a goal; it is the cornerstone of a just and equitable world.
To conclude, rebuilding trust is paramount. Trust is the foundation on which nations cooperate, and it is through trust that we foster meaningful partnerships and collaborations. We must rekindle trust amongst nations, between governments and citizens, and across various sectors of society. This requires transparent and accountable governance, bolstered by an unwavering dedication to the principles of democracy, human rights, and the rule of law. By doing so, we can restore the faith of our people and mobilise their active participation in the pursuit of sustainable development.
“Our success hinges on global solidarity. The challenges we face are interconnected and transcend national boundaries. No nation can solve them in isolation. Therefore, we must strengthen our bonds of solidarity, cooperation, and mutual support. This includes sharing experiences, knowledge, and best practices, as well as providing assistance to those most in need. The principle of leaving no one behind should guide our actions, ensuring that the most vulnerable among us receive the support they require.
“Let us rise above our differences and work together for a better world. Rebuilding trust and reigniting global solidarity is not just an option; it is the only way forward. Together, we can accelerate action on the 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals, creating a world that embraces diversity, respects nature, and ensures a future of peace, prosperity, progress, and sustainability for all.
Compiled by Gerard Govinden