13 October 2012
The United Nations General Assembly began its 67th annual session overshadowed by the global economic crisis, rising tensions over Iran’s nuclear program, and a war in Syria that has sharply divided members of the Security Council.
Ban Ki-moon, the UN’s eighth Secretary-General, opened with a stark warning about the challenges facing the world today. “This year, I am here to sound the alarm about our direction as a human family,” Ban said. “This is a time of turmoil, transition and transformation—a time when time itself is not on our side.”
Vuk Jeremić, the 193-member assembly’s new president, said that “the next 12 months are probably not going to be remembered as the easiest 12 months in the history of mankind.” The international community is “faced with a deteriorating security situation in a number of corners of the world,” he added, even as it continues to struggle with the global economic crisis. The peaceful resolution of international disputes, he said, would be the Assembly’s guiding theme for the next 12 months.
During Ministerial Week (September 24th to 30th), more than 120 presidents, prime ministers, and monarchs gathered in New York for meetings and high-level sideline discussions to address issues ranging from global security to the rule of law, human rights, sustainable development, and economic governance. The ministerial session turned out to be one of the busiest in the UN’s history. The following is a sampling of the best and, in some cases, perhaps the worst of what was said.
“And as we meet here, we again declare that the regime of Bashar al-Assad must come to an end so that the suffering of the Syrian people can stop and a new dawn can begin.” — Barack Obama, President of the United States.
“Until the last syllable of recorded time, the world will remember and history will judge Member States that are allowing the atrocities [in Syria] to continue." — John Baird, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Canada.
“It is due to the absence of this [international] unanimity [against genocide] that humanity witnesses new attempts of crimes against humanity.” — Edward Nalbandian, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Armenia.
“Under the pretext of humanitarian intervention these countries interfere in the domestic affairs of States and impose unilateral sanctions that lack a moral and legal basis.” — Walid Al-Moualem, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Expatriates of Syria.
“We’ve seen a divided Security Council unable to muster the collective courage to say ‘no more’ to the warring parties [in Syria] in the interest of peace.” — Jacob Zuma, President of South Africa.
“Russia consistently supports the peoples [in the Middle East and North Africa] in their aspiration to determine their destiny by themselves, and to pave the way to more effective models of public governance. We believe it is particularly important to carry out those transformations in a non-violent way and without outside interference.” — Sergey Lavrov, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia.
“China is open towards any political plan that is acceptable to all parties in Syria.” — Yang Jiechi, Foreign Minister of China.
“The blood of these young children [killed in Syria] is a terrible stain on the reputation of this United Nations. And in particular, a stain on those who have failed to stand up to these atrocities and in some cases aided and abetted Assad’s regime of terror. If the United Nations Charter is to have any value in the 21st Century we must now join together to support a rapid political transition. And at the same time no-one of conscience can turn a deaf ear to the voices of suffering. Security Council Members have a particular responsibility to support for the UN appeal for Syria.” — David Cameron, Prime Minister of Great Britain.
“The Syrian people have lost enough in lives, blood and suffering. It is down to us not to let them lose all hope too.” — William Hague, UK Foreign Secretary.
On Iran’s Nuclear Program:
“At this late hour, there is only one way to peacefully prevent Iran from getting atomic bombs. That’s by placing a clear red line on Iran’s nuclear weapons program.” — Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister of Israel.
“We respect the right of nations to access peaceful nuclear power, but one of the purposes of the United Nations is to see that we harness that power for peace. Make no mistake: a nuclear-armed Iran is not a challenge that can be contained.” — Barack Obama, President of the United States.
“Arms race and intimidation by nuclear weapons and weapons of mass-destruction by the hegemonic powers have become prevalent: Testing new generations of ultra-modern weaponry and the pledge to disclose these armaments in due time is now being used as a new language of threat against nations to coerce them into accepting a new era of hegemony. Continued threat by the uncivilized Zionists to resort to military action against our great nation is a clear example of this bitter reality.” — Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, President of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
“The relevant parties should remain committed to a diplomatic solution and begin a new round of dialogue as soon as possible.” — Yang Jiechi, Foreign Minister of China.
“Iran has still not produced evidence of the exclusively peaceful nature of its nuclear programme. It has also failed to date to provide the transparency which the International Atomic Energy Agency has long since demanded. So far, the talks during the last few months have not made enough progress towards reaching a solution.” — Guido Westerwelle, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Federal Republic of Germany.
“Israel's overall policy is ultimately leading to the weakening of the Palestinian National Authority, undermining its ability to carry out its functions and to implement its obligations, which threatens to undermine its very existence and threatens its collapse.” — Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Palestinian National Authority.
“Our Brothers and Sisters in Palestine must also taste the fruits of freedom and dignity. It is shameful that the free world accepts, regardless of the justifications provided, that a member of the international community continues to deny the rights of a nation that has been longing for decades for independence. It is also disgraceful that settlement activities continue on the territories of these people, along with the delay in implementing the decisions of international legitimacy...I assure you of Egypt’s full support to any course of action Palestine decides to follow in the United Nations.” — Mohamed Morsy, President of the Arab Republic of Egypt.
“We believe that the role of the United Nations in relation to the question of Palestine should change from managing the crisis to seriously searching for a just and lasting comprehensive political solution, that would take into account the interests of the Palestinians and the Israelis, leading to the establishment of the State of Palestine and the State of Israel living side by side.” — Yusuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah, Minister Responsible for Foreign Affairs of Oman.
“The transformations in the Middle East should not marginalize the Palestinian problem. The achievement of a comprehensive, just, and durable Arab-Israeli settlement that should lead, among other results, to the establishment of an independent, viable and contiguous Palestinian state, coexisting in peace and security with Israel, would become a major contribution to normalization of the overall regional situation.” — Sergey Lavrov, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia.
“China supports the Palestinian people in establishing, on the basis of the 1967 borders, an independent Palestinian state that enjoys full sovereignty with East Jerusalem as its capital.” — Yang Jiechi, Foreign Minister of China.
“Egypt’s young men and women did not revolt only because of the internal situation, but they also expressed the aspirations they had at the regional and international levels. This youth representing the majority of the Egyptians believes that real legitimacy is the one derived from the people’s will, not the one imposed by an assertive authority that lacks any legal or moral basis.” — Mohamed Morsy, President of the Arab Republic of Egypt.
“Today I am announcing a new British Task Force to work with the Egyptian government to gather evidence, trace assets, work to change EU law, and pursue the legal cases that will return this [money stolen from Egypt during the Mubarak regime] to its rightful owners the Egyptian people.” — David Cameron, Prime Minister of Great Britain.
“Sudan has made great sacrifices in its quest for peace and stability...But let me be frank: it has not received the support it deserves. The time has come for international efforts to rally to support it and work on settling differences between Sudan and its neighboring South Sudan to resolve all outstanding issues.” — Mohamed Morsy, President of the Arab Republic of Egypt.
“I call upon all Members of this Assembly to support the efforts of the Somali Government in fending off those seeking to hinder the efforts exerted to achieve stability, reconstruct public institutions, and realize the aspirations of the Somali people for a better future.” — Mohamed Morsy, President of the Arab Republic of Egypt.
“As we look to the future, a new partnership between Somalia and the international community is now required...In our view this should include agreeing the Joint Financial Management Board as an important tool to tackle corruption. It is also crucial that International Financial Institutions re-engage as soon as possible to support Somalia in the next phase of state building.” — William Hague, UK Foreign Secretary.
“I am well aware of the fact that Myanmar’s democratic transformation process would be a complex and delicate one that requires patience. To complete this process, we certainly need the understanding and support from the United Nations and its member states, the international community as a whole and, last but not least, the people of Myanmar.” — U Thein Sein, President of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar.
On the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands Conflict:
“After the Second World War, the Diaoyu Dao islands and other Chinese territories occupied by Japan were returned to China in accordance with the Cairo Declaration, the Potsdam Proclamation and other international documents. By taking such unilateral actions as the so-called ‘island purchase,’ the Japanese government has grossly violated China’s sovereignty. This is an outright denial of the outcomes of the victory of the world anti-fascist war and poses a grave challenge to the post-war international order and the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations.” — Yang Jiechi, Foreign Minister of China.
“For many years, the trade and economic, and financial restrictions imposed by the United States against Cuba have remained an illustration of negative impact of unilateral sanctions. Russia, together with the overwhelming majority of members of the international community, calls for an earliest lift of this blockade, as a relic of the Cold War.” — Sergey Lavrov, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia.
On the Financial and Economic Crisis:
“What we are experiencing is not a recurrent cyclical imbalance: it is the deepest and worst crisis in the history of the European Union...We cannot overlook the importance of the measures being taken at the EU level to strengthen governance and fiscal integration. It is also essential that European Governments deliver at the national level. Italy will continue to do its part to further strengthen fiscal sustainability and enhance potential growth.” — Mario Monti, Prime Minister of Italy.
“We should tap the potential for cooperation in all countries, expand and enrich cooperation, improve cooperation mechanisms, and work together to make economic globalization balanced, inclusive, and beneficial to all. We should accelerate the development of developing countries and narrow the North-South gap.” — Yang Jiechi, Foreign Minister of China.
“It is important to advance the building of a global system of economic governance with a focus on reforming the international financial system, speedily implement the quota and governance reform plans of the IMF [International Monetary Fund] and other financial institutions and increase the representation and voice of emerging markets and developing countries.” — Yang Jiechi, Foreign Minister of China.
On Human Rights:
“The truth is this: you can not build strong economies, open societies, and inclusive political systems if you lock out women. The eyes of the world may be on the brothers, but the future is as much in the hands of their mothers, sisters, and daughters.” — David Cameron, Prime Minister of Great Britain.
“True democracy demands that citizens cannot be thrown in jail because of what they believe, and that businesses can be opened without paying a bribe. It depends on the freedom of citizens to speak their minds and assemble without fear, and on the rule of law and due process that guarantees the rights of all people.” — Barack Obama, President of the United States.
“It is because of Article 19 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights that WikiLeaks is able to ‘receive and impart information...through any media, and any medium and regardless of frontiers.’ And it is because of Article 14.1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which enshrines the right to seek asylum from persecution, and the 1951 Refugee Convention and other conventions produced by the United Nations that I am able to be protected along with others from political persecution.” — Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks.
“Human and ethical values are sacrificed in order to win votes and the willingness to listen to the demands of the people has become only a tool at the time of election.” — Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, President of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
“What Muslims and migrants are going through in a number of regions worldwide, in terms of discrimination and violation of their human rights, and vicious campaigns against what they hold sacred, is unacceptable. It is opposed to the most basic principles of the Charter of the Organization where we meet today. These practices have become pervasive enough that they now carry a name: Islamophobia.” — Mohamed Morsy, President of the Arab Republic of Egypt.
“The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that everyone is entitled to an international order in which their rights can be fully realized. Those who use military force and sanctions bypassing the UN Charter or engage in illicit supplies of arms, or whitewash terrorists grossly violate this right.” — Sergey Lavrov, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia.
“Islam teaches us to honor all human beings, promote tolerance and show mercy.” — King Abdullah II of Jordan.
On Global Terrorism:
“No country and no people have suffered more in the epic struggle against terrorism than Pakistan...To those who say we have not done enough, I say in all humility: Please do not insult the memory of our dead, and the pain of our living. Do not ask of my people what no one has ever asked of any other peoples. Do not demonize the innocent women and children of Pakistan. And please, stop this refrain to do more. The simplest question of all is: How much more suffering can Pakistan endure?’” — Asif Ali Zardari, President of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.
“Pakistan cannot impart lessons to us on democracy and human rights. If, however, Pakistan were to live up to its commitment not to allow use of its soil by terrorists acting against India, this would significantly help reduce the trust deficit that impedes the development of better bilateral relations between our two countries.” — S.M. Krishna, Minister for External Affairs of India.
“India is a party to all major international conventions against terrorism and fully supports implementation of the UN Global Counter-Terrorism strategy. However, there remain considerable gaps in the international legal framework against terrorism." — S.M. Krishna, Minister for External Affairs of India.
“For some time, al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb and other groups have launched attacks and kidnappings from northern Mali into neighboring countries. Now, with a larger safe haven and increased freedom to maneuver, terrorists are seeking to extend their reach and their networks in multiple directions. And they are working with other violent extremists to undermine the democratic transitions underway in North Africa, as we tragically saw in Benghazi.” — Hillary Clinton, U.S. Secretary of State.
On Global Security and the Role of the United Nations:
“Sustainable development is the key to our hopes for the future. It is my top priority as secretary-general.” — Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary-General.
“The mission of the United Nations is to tackle [fanaticism, the global economic crisis, and climate change] and find strong and just responses to them.” — François Hollande, President of France.
“Our country was destroyed by political exclusion and subsequent genocide.” — Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda.
“Over the past several decades, our debates have been enriched, and quite substantially so, by views of civil society representatives. But with notable exceptions, I believe the General Assembly has not yet found a way to draw upon the tremendous work done by world public policy institutes and think tanks.” — Vuk Jeremić, President, UN General Assembly.
“Facing growing global challenges, the international community should strengthen coordination and cooperation, establish a fair, equitable, flexible and effective system of global governance, properly address various global issues, and promote the common well-being of mankind.” — Yang Jiechi, Foreign Minister of China.
“China does not interfere in the internal affairs of other countries or impose its will on others, and China does not allow outside forces to interfere in its internal affairs.” — Yang Jiechi, Foreign Minister of China.
“The fact is that for decades, too many were prepared to tolerate dictators like Gaddafi and Assad on the basis that they would both keep their people safe at home and promote stability in the region and the wider world. In fact, neither was true. Not only were these dictators repressing their people, ruling by control not by consent, plundering the national wealth, and denying people their basic rights and freedoms, they were funding terrorism overseas as well.” — David Cameron, Prime Minister of Great Britain.
“All our actions should rely on a solid basis of the UN Charter, where nothing provides for the right to change regimes...In general, we are convinced that today when the world lives through a transition period that is characterized by instability in the spheres of economy, politics, or inter-civilizational relations, it is particularly important for the UN member States to be able to rely on accepted rules of conduct, and to agree on a joint response to the threats to global stability. We should not allow irresponsible actions dictated by expedient interests to shatter the system of international law. The world order is threatened by arbitrary interpretation of such essential principles as non-use or threat of force, peaceful settlement of disputes, respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity of States, and non-interference in their domestic affairs.” — Sergey Lavrov, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia.
“Today we find ourselves on the threshold of a multipolar world. This world with its interdependencies needs a cooperative order. It needs strong and representative institutions. We will weaken the Security Council if we fail to adapt it to today’s world.” — Guido Westerwelle, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Federal Republic of Germany.
“The Security Council spends most, if not all of its time, on issues pertaining to the developing world. Developing countries contribute almost all the troops that are part of the UN's peacekeeping presence worldwide. Yet, their voice on the Council's high table on decisions relating to international peace and security is barely audible.” — S.M. Krishna, Minister for External Affairs of India.
“Let us work together to end the cycle of global insecurity...I leave you with the words of Robert Nesta ‘Bob’ Marley, who sang: ‘One Love, One heart...’” — Portia Simpson-Miller, Prime Minister of Jamaica.