ROCH MARC CHRISTIAN KABORÉ, President of Burkina Faso, said the Assembly was meeting amid the challenges of preserving peace and security, combating extremism and terrorism, eradicating poverty, achieving sustainable development, and creating fairer international order. Just two years ago, the world had adopted the Sustainable Development Goals, and while the subsequent entry into force of the Paris Agreement had been welcomed, there were still obstacles to creating peace and prosperity. Every day, men and women died from a lack of care, children did not receive basic education and young people faced the rage of the seas in search of a better future. There must be a move from rhetoric to action to ensure better results for the world’s people.
For its part, Burkina Faso was committed to economic development, he said, carrying out major structural reforms with a view to attracting investments that strengthened participative democracy. Citizens were at the heart of the State’s work, while an open Government partnership and the first national action plan were being prepared. Burkina Faso was working to strengthen its democratic institutions and a draft constitution would soon be submitted to a referendum. Terrorists had targeted Burkina Faso country and he was fully aware of their desire to destabilize the country and the region. Combating terrorism was a national priority, although doing so would require a subregional approach, with a focus on economic development in the most vulnerable areas, especially in the north. Terrorism was a global scourge that struck indiscriminately and it must be clearly condemned by all.
There were a number of hotbeds of tension in Africa, he said, welcoming recent political progress in Mali, although the situation in the north of that country was still volatile. The international community must work to ensure that settlements were found to conflicts in Libya, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Somalia, southern Sudan and Burundi. Greater international efforts were needed in Iraq, Syria and Yemen to ensure those countries did not sink into further conflict. He condemned the nuclear test carried out by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, which was a threat to the world. The proliferation of small arms and light weapons was one of the major risks to international peace and security.
Stressing that multilateralism was the best possible tool for dialogue and solidarity, he called for a complete lifting of the embargo against Cuba so that Havana and Washington, D.C., could enjoy a mutually beneficial partnership. Reform of the United Nations was still a central issue that must be tackled with conviction and calmness, particularly with regard to fairer representation of Africa on the Security Council. It was incumbent on all States to offer citizens hope for a better future so they could leave subsequent generations with a safer world.
NANA ADDO DANKWA AKUFO-ADDO, President of Ghana, said Africa had come of age to hold its rightful place on the world stage. The continent was ready to work to put in place a stable democratic system with the aim of achieving sustainable economic progress.
For its part, Ghana was determined to transform itself into a prosperous nation. It had worked hard to achieve political stability and strengthen its institutions. The country had also grown its economy with the aim of providing better job opportunities for its citizens. To ensure that Ghanaians had the requisite skills, the Government had introduced a programme to offer free secondary education. “This has already led to an increase of over 90,000 children, who had entered this academic year, who otherwise would have dropped out,” he said.
He said such efforts to transform Ghana’s political, social and economic systems would allow the country to depend on itself for growth, rather than relying on handouts from other countries. While Ghana did not disclaim aid, the country also did not “want to be a scar on anybody’s conscience”, he said.
Building a country which did not depend solely on aid for growth would allow Ghana to establish sustainable relationships with other countries. On that issue, he stressed the importance of ensuring a nuclear-free Africa, noting that highly enriched uranium had been flown out of Ghana back to China three weeks ago.
Turning to Africa, he said cooperation with regional and continental groups such as the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the African Union was vital for achieving peace and security on the continent. Conflicts plaguing countries including Libya, South Sudan and Mali would be more effectively resolved if the international community supported the efforts of Africa’s regional and continental organizations. On the topic of United Nations reform, he stressed the need to modernize the Security Council to ensure that Africa was represented. “We cannot insist on peace and justice around the world, when our global organization is not seen by the majority of its members as having a structure that is just and fair,” he asserted.
ALI BONGO ONDIMBA, President of Gabon, said peace at the international and national levels was essential to ensuring development and the participation of all in democratic debate. For its part, Gabon had convened a political dialogue in which leaders had candidly discussed national issues and needed reforms, notably for elections, voting systems and electoral procedures. Importantly, “we have worked to implement the conclusions of this political dialogue”, he said, recalling that Gabon had recently formed a new Government with representatives from the opposition and civil society.
On the issue of sustainable development, he stressed that predictable and long-term financing was essential. With that in mind, his Government had introduced policies that sought to diversify the national economy, and thereby reduce the country’s dependence on extractive industries and commodities. Policies would also aim to accelerate industrialization and create jobs.
Noting that Gabon had felt the impact of the global economic slowdown, and in particular, experienced increased youth unemployment, he said that to address those challenges, the Government had introduced an economic recovery plan and budgetary adjustments to develop infrastructure and promote the private sector. At the same time, efforts to integrate African economies should continue, as they would allow countries to better handle vacillations of the global economy. Amid such challenges, Gabon was committed to ensuring that every citizen had equal opportunities and resources, and a better quality of life. Measures had been introduced to reduce the prices of basic goods, build new university hospitals and ensure women’s empowerment.
Gabon was also committed to protecting the environment, given the urgency of climate change, he said, noting that the country had 20 marine protected areas and 30 national parks. It also had introduced measures to protect its forests and prevent poaching. Turning to peace and security in Africa, he said no efforts should be spared in the fight against terrorism. Military responses alone were not enough; cooperation between States and solidarity with victims was needed, he said. In a similar context, he stressed the importance of including Africa as a permanent member of the Security Council which would boost efforts to ensure peace on the continent.
DANNY FAURE, President of Seychelles, said the Assembly’s theme of “Focusing on People” could not be achieved without effective implementation of the principles of democracy and a concerted demonstration of will. Such efforts also called for good governance, transparency and accountability, which were the foundations for prosperity and security. Space must be created within societies where diverging views and ideas could flourish and be respected, he said, adding that, by doing so, unity, tolerance and respect would all be promoted.
He said that, for the first time in its history, Seychelles was experiencing a system of political cohabitation, whereby he served as President and head of the Government’s executive branch, and worked with a legislature dominated by the opposition. That dynamic, characterized by dialogue and consultation, worked well. Most importantly, the relationship was based on mutual respect. The Government was being reshaped to be more inclusive, with an emphasis on the empowerment of citizens, especially youth. The environment for free media was being improved and legislation related to institutions, authorities and agencies was being amended. With greater transparency, good governance and accountability, the independence of institutions and authorities would continue to increase.
He said the goals of peace and a decent life for all on a sustainable planet would not be met solely by increasing financial, human or other resources for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda or the Paris Agreement. Those processes should be democratically governed, underpinned by transparency and accountability, with respect for the natural environment. In Seychelles, the private sector, civil society, non-governmental organizations and parliamentarians had joined with the public sector in a national effort to integrate the global development agenda into the national budget and development plans. Further efforts were under way to integrate the 2030 Agenda with the African Union Agenda 2063 and the Samoa Pathway for small island developing States.
A similar inclusive approach was required for implementation of the Paris Agreement, he said, stressing that all stakeholders must be involved if the international community was to drastically scale up its climate action. The world could not afford to renege on the collective commitment to “travel the moral path” for the sake of humanity. From small islands came big ideas, he said, citing the agreement Seychelles had reached with the Paris Club of creditor countries on a first-of-its-kind $21 million debt-for-adaptation swap to protect 30 per cent of its exclusive economic zone. The country also aimed to launch the world’s first “blue bonds” by the end of the year to raise another $15 million for sustainable fishing practices. Both those measures sought to establish innovative sources of financing to implement Goal 14 on oceans and seas.
MOKGWEETSI E.K. MASISI, Vice-President of Botswana, said the United Nations was the only universal organization with the moral authority to seek solutions to the world’s challenges. Recognizing the importance of the 2030 Agenda and the Paris Agreement, he said Botswana had held several multi-stakeholder consultations in the formulation of both its national development plan for 2017‑2023, and “Vision 2036” plan for 2017‑2036, from a belief that national priorities must reflect people’s needs. Those frameworks sought to accelerate development by addressing education, health care, housing, poverty, income inequality, gender inequality and unemployment.
Citing gains, he said the number of people living in abject poverty or below $1.25 per day had fallen from 24.5 per cent in 2002 and 2003 to 6.4 per cent in 2009 and 2010. Over two decades, Botswana had invested 25 per cent of its annual budget in education and skills development, and implemented an economic stimulus programme, achievements it had shared this year during its high-level political forum voluntary national review. On climate change, he urged all countries, including the United States, to protect the integrity of the Paris Agreement, and welcomed the convening of the first-ever Ocean Conference, reiterating that, although landlocked, Botswana had interest in the ocean environment and marine resources.
On the humanitarian front, he said Botswana had responded to numerous humanitarian calamities, including the famine in Somalia. Citing reports of conflict, human rights violations, extra-judicial killings, sexual violence, arbitrary arrest and detentions, he said the situation in South Sudan was a grave concern. He appealed to the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) to ensure implementation of the 2015 Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan. The political, security and humanitarian situation in Syria was catastrophic, and he expressed disappointment in the Security Council’s failure to take decisive action, suggesting that the General Assembly use its moral power amid such paralysis. He supported referral of the situation to the International Criminal Court to ensure those responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity be held accountable.
He expressed concern that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had contravened international law and United Nations resolutions, and called for swift enforcement of the United Nations Charter. “Regime change must be brought about in order to remove once and for all this everlasting threat to peace in that region,” he declared. Further, it was “reprehensible” that Western Sahara remained the only Non-Self-Governing Territory in Africa and it was time for an independent, impartial plebiscite to be held under United Nations supervision. He similarly supported Palestinians in their struggle for sovereignty and independent statehood, announcing that Botswana established diplomatic relations with Palestine on 8 March. Strongly condemning terrorism, violent extremism and racial intolerance, he reaffirmed Botswana’s commitment to international instruments banning weapons of mass destruction. Botswana valued the opportunity to contribute to the promotion and protection of human rights through its membership to the Human Rights Council over two consecutive terms.
Source: ECOWAS BUSINESS NEWS