Small Island Developing States Urge Rights-Based Approach, Funding for Loss, Damage to Address Existential Threat of Climate Change
Under the shadow of war in Ukraine, world leaders today cast a spotlight on long-standing conflicts in other parts of the world, as the General Assembly continued its annual general debate, with speakers calling for strict adherence to international law and the Charter of the United Nations, while others sounded the alarm on the existential threat of climate change.
Nicos Anastasiades, President of Cyprus, decrying the “dismal lack of effectiveness” of the United Nations, said that if the Organization had been able to implement its decisions and resolutions, then threats to Member States’ sovereignty, as well as unresolved conflicts and crises, could have been addressed. Following the Turkish invasion in 1974, numerous General Assembly and Security Council resolutions describe Cyprus as a single sovereign nation with two communities and zones. Yet Türkiye President Erdoğan insists that there are two distinct States and two distinct peoples on the island today. For peace to prevail, Member States must unwaveringly adhere to international law and the Organization’s Charter.
Mahmoud Abbas, President of the State of Palestine, said more than 5 million of his people have been living under the Israeli military occupation for over 54 years. Israel ignores the resolutions of international legitimacy and imposes a status quo by force and aggression, destroying the two-State solution. Who is protecting Israel from being accountable, he asked, stressing that it is “the United Nations. And on top of the United Nations, the most powerful of the United Nations.” He emphasized that “We have had enough resolutions and enough words,” urging the Israeli Government to return to the negotiation table immediately.
Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif, Prime Minister of Pakistan, said sustainable peace and stability in South Asia remains contingent upon a just and lasting solution to the Jammu and Kashmir dispute — which began in 1947. “India’s illegal and unilateral actions of 5 August 2019 to change the internationally recognized ‘disputed’ status of Jammu and Kashmir and to alter the demographic structure of the occupied territory further undermined the prospects of peace and inflamed regional tensions.” He urged India to take credible steps to create an enabling environment for constructive engagement.
Echoing delegations’ concerns about change-induced threats to territorial integrity, he described first-hand the catastrophe that has pushed one third of his country under water after a 40-day flood. “Pakistan has never seen a more stark and devastating example of the impact of global warming,” he stressed. Hotspots like his country are on the list of the 10 most climate-vulnerable countries yet emit less than 1 per cent of the greenhouse gases that are burning the planet. “What happened in Pakistan will not stay in Pakistan,” he stressed, warning that unless world leaders act now “there will no earth to fight wars over”.
Throughout the day, a large number of small island developing States echoed the alarm on the issue, calling for urgent action before it is too late for them and the entire international community.
Siaosi ‘Ofakivahafolau Sovaleni, Prime Minister of Tonga, underscored that climate change continues to be the single greatest existential threat facing the Blue Pacific, noting that the adverse impacts of climate change make his country the third most vulnerable in the world. Calling for the issue to be a permanent item on the Security Council’s agenda, he said that the consequences of climate change, whether it is sea-level rise, loss of territory, or mass migration, is a trigger for violence and a threat to peace and security.
Kausea Natano, Prime Minister of Tuvalu, warned that at current global warming trends, the international community is destined to miss the Paris Agreement target of limiting global temperature rise to 1.5°C. “This clearly means that Tuvalu will be totally submerged within this century”, he stressed — but the country may well become uninhabitable in the next two to three decades. While other Pacific islands may have a few decades longer, they all face “the near certainty of terminal inundation”, though their carbon emissions combined amount to less than 0.03 per cent of the world’s total. “Tuvalu is an acid test of leadership; because if the international community allow an entire country to disappear from climate change, what hope will be possible for anyone else?” he asked.
Small countries “have talked ourselves hoarse since the 1980s”, stressed Gaston Alphonso Browne, Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda — yet while promises were repeated year after year, on the evidence, they were meant to “placate and divert, but not to perform and deliver” on climate change. The stage now seems set for the upcoming United Nations Climate Change Conference in Egypt to fail, as the Group of 20 (G20) did not produce a joint statement on the issue. This sends an ominous signal that, yet again, the Conference will be “long on words, but very short on deeds”. He underscored, however, that small States would attend the Conference and argue strenuously to establish a new fund for loss and damage response. He stressed that, even if industrialized nations remained reluctant to curb emissions for the sake of the most-vulnerable globally, “they should be motivated by the perils for their own people”.
Abdulla Shahid, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Maldives, warned that for his small island developing State “the difference between 1.5 and 2 degrees is death.” Recalling Maldives’ work on Human Rights Council resolution 7/23 of 2008, he reaffirmed his country’s continued advocacy for and leadership on a rights-based approach to climate action. His delegation also supports the global initiative to protect 30 per cent of the world’s oceans by 2030. Reminding partners of their pledges during the 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen and the agreements of the 2021 Glasgow Climate Pact, he urged them to redouble adaptation finance and make financing assessments fairer by utilizing alternative measures to gross domestic product (GDP).
Turning to another scourge — terrorism — Mustafa Al-Kadhimi, Prime Minister of Iraq, stated that despite the difficult circumstances, his country employed the “spirit of hope” embodied by its people to fight that threat and defeat it on behalf of the world. His people have made enormous sacrifices to liberate their land from Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant/Da’esh (ISIL) and its ideology. Renewing his call to continue confronting international terrorism, he reiterated that the country must not be used “under the pretext of combating terrorism or protecting the national security of other countries in a manner that endangers our security and stability.”
Simeón Oyono Esono Angue, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Equatorial Guinea, cited the Central African concern over maritime piracy activities in the Gulf of Guinea — whose perpetrators are increasingly acquiring more sophisticated methods that allow them greater autonomy in the open sea, threatening the entire subregion. Welcoming the recent resolution adopted by the Council urging the countries of the Gulf of Guinea to criminalize piracy and armed robbery at sea according to their national laws, he further called on them to investigate, prosecute or extradite the perpetrators of such crimes and those who incite, finance or facilitate them.
Also speaking today were Heads of State and Government, as well as Ministers, of Timor-Leste, Burkina Faso, Vanuatu, Fiji, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Solomon Islands, New Zealand, Cambodia, Saint Lucia, Belgium, Andorra, Mauritius, Greece, Malaysia, Bangladesh, Croatia, Samoa, Montenegro, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Belize, Australia, Liechtenstein, Togo and Chad.
The President of the European Council of the European Union also spoke.
The representatives of India, Türkiye and Pakistan spoke in exercise of the right of reply.
Source: UN General Assembly