Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, one of several leaders from the Latin American and Caribbean region to address the General Assembly today, warned of the urgent need for United Nations Member States to react to the plight of refugees, which she said had become a global crisis affecting peace and security.
“As an international community, we are duty-bound to react with solidarity in order to restore peace and provide a response that will enable us to minimize the suffering of the victims of war and those who are running away from it,” said Ms. Bachelet.
“This is why my Government has decided to take in refugees from the civil war in Syria and it is also why Chile will expand cooperation with Africa. Starting in 2016, we will be participating in United Nations peacekeeping operations in that region,” she added.
She also highlighted the importance of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development for tackling inequality and being an “agenda of change.”
“This is a promising and a binding agenda,” said the Chilean President “It focuses on addressing various aspects of inequality, which is the main challenge in Latin America and of course in Chile, in this new phase of our economic and political development.”
At the same time, she said the primary responsibility for sustainable and more equal development rests with each individual country, adding that: “Only if we can carry out an agenda of change at the global, as well as the national level will it be possible to promote more inclusive and sustainable societies.”
She also touched on her hope for an increased number of permanent members for the Security Council.
“In 2014 and 2015, we have been a non-permanent member of the Security Council. In light of this experience, we wish to reaffirm our belief in the need to reform the Council by increasing the number of its permanent members and reducing the veto, at least in cases of crimes against humanity,” said. Ms Bachelet.
The Chilean President also referred to the resumption of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States.
“This is a historic step,” she said. “Chile applauds the use of dialogue and respect for international law as the civilized way for countries to resolve their differences,” she added.
In her remarks, Cristina Fernandez, President of Argentina, noted that the General Assembly had recently adopted a resolution on the guidelines for the restructuring of countries’ external debt, saying that States enjoy the sovereign right to decide their own macroeconomic policy. That was a logical principle, she said, noting that creditors established timetables for repayment when a company or municipality defaulted.
Argentina had gone bankrupt in the early 2000s, leading to a default in 2001, but it had rebuilt itself. Politicians had retaken control of the Government and decided it was necessary to allow Argentina to grow in order to be able to pay. “That is economic logic,” she said. Argentina then began its inexorable progress, which led to paying off its debt to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in 2005. The State was moving towards sustainable development. “We do not forget that the greatest growth occurred among the emerging countries,” she said.
The recent global financial crisis had begun here, in the United States, “the very heart of international finance,” continued President Fernandez. It had then extended to the Eurozone. It was a euphemism when people spoke of “saving countries;” that really meant saving the banks. It was essential to have regulation to ensure that the flood of resources into the financial sector came back into the real economy, but no such rule was implemented.
In the Eurozone, that had led to historic levels of unemployment and unprecedented financial woes. The collapse of financial institutions had now threatened developing countries, which had previously been growing at a rapid rate. The current refugee crisis was caused by “financial predators.”
According to the IMF, one per cent of the global population held a shockingly large percentage of the world’s wealth. She asked how the world could talk about gender empowerment when resources were so inequitably distributed. It was time to inject resources into the “real economy” – to create jobs in production as engines driving society, she said.
Horacio Manuel Cartes Jara, President of Paraguay, spoke of the importance his country placed on ending extreme poverty and inequality, saying that “the main objective of our Government is to reduce poverty, through public policies to eradicate it in the short term.”
“Therefore, we maintain and increase the scope of the assistance programs, especially those focusing on extreme poverty and through tied aid,” he added. “Generation of opportunities, employment, decent housing, respect, equity and access to education, health and quality basic public services constitute the arsenal of our tireless struggle to eradicate extreme poverty in our country.”
He also spoke about the youth of Paraguay, noting that 70 per cent of its population is under 40 years old, which, he said “represents a valuable human capital.”
“We trust the immense potential of our youth and we firmly believe in the importance of access to high quality education to achieve the full progress of our nation,” he said.
Mr. Cartes Jara said he noted with great concern the exodus of families fleeing conflicts in Syria and other countries.
“We cannot turn our backs on this human tragedy that is currently occurring,” he said. We call upon our Organization to appeal to Member States, in particular those in the region, to adopt the necessary measures in favour of the most vulnerable sectors of civil society.”
He also spoke of what he saw as the need to reform the General Assembly and the Security Council. “If we want democracy to rule within our own republics, it is fair that we would also want it for the United Nations,” he said, calling for democracy, equity and geographical representation within the UN system.
The President of Ecuador, Rafael Correa Delgado, began his address to the General Assembly by making a request that the next Secretary-General of the United Nations should be a woman, before going on to talk about the problems of poverty and extreme poverty.
“It can be said that poverty is the worst form of violence,” said Mr. Correa Delgado. “Poverty and extreme poverty are still waiting for justice, freedom and real democracy.”
He also highlighted the importance of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), saying that common goals should not just be those “seeking the bare minimum, but seeking social maximums,” including the right to live with dignity and in harmony with other human beings of different cultures.
Mr. Correa Delgado said that the absence of any mention of “free human mobility” was “a very regrettable omission” from the SDGs. Free movement of merchandise, he said, for maximum profit was promoted, while the free movement of people seeking decent work was penalized.