President Sirleaf Addresses the 71st UN General Assembly Debate on Thursday

29 Sep, 2016

(NEW YORK, U.S.A., Wednesday, September 21, 2016) President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf addresses the 71st session of the United Nations General Assembly today.

According to a Foreign Ministry release, the Liberian leader will address the world body at about 7:00 p.m. local time.

President Sirleaf is expected to highlight Liberia’s long road to recovery after years of conflict; the social and economic progress the country has made so far; as well as the challenges associated with transitioning from a period of recovery to sustainable development through the diversification of the economy.

Also, the Liberian leader is expected to touch on the consolidation of peace and security by the handover of full security to the Government of Liberia by the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) and as chair of the sub-regional organization, ECOWAS, President Sirleaf is expected to highlight regional issues including the just concluded agreed peace plan for Guinea Bissau.

On Tuesday, September 20, the General Debate of the 71st UN General Assembly commenced with the UN Secretary-General, Mr. Ban Ki-moon, presenting his report to the world body, his final as Secretary-General following two-terms.

Mr. Ban expressed his deep concern amid the gulfs of mistrust that had divided citizens from their leaders, extremists pushing people into camps of “us” and “them”, assailed by rising seas, and with 130 million people needing life-saving assistance.

Yet, after 10 years in office, he said, he was more convinced than ever that “we have the power to end war, poverty and persecution”.  With the Sustainable Development Goals, States had the manifesto for a better future, and with the Paris Agreement on climate change, they were tackling “the defining challenge of our time”.  He urged the Paris Agreement’s entry into force in what remained of 2016, an effort that required a mere 26 countries representing only 15 per cent of greenhouse-gas emissions.

He indicated that what gains had been made were threatened by grave security threats, pointing out that conflicts had grown more protracted and that failures of governance had pushed societies over the brink.  “Their tragic consequences were on brutal display from Yemen to Libya and Iraq, from Afghanistan to the Sahel and to the Lake Chad Basin, he said, adding, “today, the Syrian conflict was taking the greatest number of lives and had sown the widest instability and that there could be no military solution.  Many groups had killed innocent people, yet none more so than the Government of Syria, which continued to barrel-bomb neighborhoods and systematically torture thousands of detainees.  Powerful patrons feeding that war machine had blood on their hands, and present in the hall today were representatives of Governments that had ignored, facilitated, funded, participated in or even planned and carried out atrocities inflicted by all sides of the Syrian conflict — against Syrian civilians.

Regarding the Korean Peninsula, he said the fifth nuclear test by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had threatened international security, and urged that country’s Government to change course and fulfill its obligations to its own people.  In Ukraine, violence had caused internal upheaval, while in South Sudan, leaders had betrayed their people.  In too many places, leaders were rewriting constitutions, manipulating elections and taking desperate steps to cling to power, he said.  “My message to all is clear:  serve your people.”

For his part, the President of the General Assembly, His Excellency Peter Thomas said during the seventy-first session, he is committed to a universal push for the implementation of all 17 [Sustainable Development Goals], stressing that he would push for a United Nations development system that would work seamlessly as one.  He promised that in collaboration with Member States, he would work to strengthen the Organization’s peace and security pillar, advance the “sustaining peace” agenda, combat discrimination, strengthen the United Nations counter-terrorism architecture and strive for greater consensus on disarmament and non-proliferation.

Millions of people around the globe were suffering the brutal effects of war, he said, noting that the crisis in Syria continued to generate immense human suffering.

In order to produce the results that the world so desperately needed, Mr. Thomas noted that the international community must do better to accelerate implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.  He noted that it was essential to teach young people about the Goals, allocate greater public resources, create better regulatory environments, and support greater access for poor and marginalized communities.  Among other things, it was critical to advance collective action by Member States and to forge strategic and inclusive partnerships around issues from climate change to conflict, violent extremism to contagious diseases.

Also making his last appearance at the UN General Assembly, the President of the United States, His Excellency Barack Obama said after two terms as President, steps had been taken to return the global economy to growth, remove terrorist safe havens and strengthen the nuclear non-proliferation regime.  Assistance had helped power communities across Africa and promoted models of development, rather than dependence.  Yet, the forces of globalization had also exposed deep fault lines in the international order:  refugees flowed across borders fleeing conflict, while financial disruptions weighed on workers and communities; basic security and order had broken down in vast swaths of the Middle East; and too many Governments had muzzled journalists, while terrorist networks used social media to foment anger.  That was the paradox defining the world today.  Twenty-five years after the end of cold war, the world was less violent and more prosperous by many measures, yet societies were filled with uncertainty, unease and strife.  People had lost trust in institutions and governing had grown more difficult.  “At this moment, we all face a choice” — to press forward with a better model of cooperation and integration, or retreat into a world sharply divided along age-old lines of nation, race and religion.  “We must go forward and not backward,” he emphasized.

The General Debate at the 71st Session of the UN General Assembly continues until September 26, 2016.

Member States