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72nd ordinary session of the General Assembly of the United Nations

Published Thursday September 21 2017

Statement by H.E. Mr. Jean Asselborn

Minister of Foreign and European Affairs

New York, 21 September 2017

 

 

Mister President,

Excellencies,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

First, allow me, through you, to congratulate Minister Lajčák on his election to the Presidency of the 72nd General Assembly of the United Nations. He is an old friend of mine and I know that he will greatly master the task that he has been entrusted with.

Today, I send out my thoughts to America, Mexico and the Caribbean who have repeatedly been struck by fate over the last few weeks. My country will do everything in its power to assist in these humanitarian emergencies.

 

Mister President,

My message is simple: in a context of multiplying crisis areas and heightened tensions, multilateralism must prevail. That is; cooperation, dialogue and solution finding in a multilateral framework. In the interest of our common interest and humanity, multilateralism and cooperation must prevail over unilateralism and national egoism.

Faced with numerous crises, the world expects a lot from the UN. The nomination of our new Secretary General, António Guterres, through an unprecedented process characterized by great transparency, has endowed him with new legitimacy. A legitimacy that he will be able to put not only to the service of his own action but also to that of the organisation itself.

This will furthermore allow him to enter three arenas of reform: that of the management of the General Secretariat, that of the reorganisation the Peace and Security pillar and finally that of the repositioning of the United Nations Development System. A rationalisation of the latter, both at the centre and on the ground, is of great interest to my country, as 30% of its public aid for development are channelled through multilateral organisations.

The efforts of reform must bear an effect on each and every aspect of our organisation. We believe that there is still progress to be made on the Security Council. Even though we acknowledge recent improvements, we believe that transparency needs to improve even more. The Security Council needs to become more representative of today’s world. Additionally, we would like to emphasize that the membership to the Security Council comes with as many obligations as it comes with rights. We regret to have witnessed abuses of the veto power throughout these past twelve months.

Luxembourg has been one of the first countries to advocate for the “Accountability, coherence and transparency” (ACT) group’s code of conduct to prevent the crime of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. Luxembourg furthermore strongly supports the Franco-Mexican initiative to prevent the exercise of the veto power in case of a mass atrocity. 

In order for the United Nations to be able to implement its ambitious agenda, it must possess the necessary tools. Nonetheless, its budgetary situation remains difficult, especially, yet not exclusively because of the new American approach. This risks obstructing the agencies to fulfil their basic mission. We clearly have to put this issue back on the table. My country supports the idea of a budgetary compact for development.

Luxembourg contributes 1% of its GNI to public aid for development. Its annual voluntary contributions to the agencies’ budgets exceeds 35 million dollars in 2017.

The financing needs of the Agenda 2030 objectives are enormous. Progress has been made in the financing of the fight against climate change. Luxembourg has created a Green Exchange whose capitalisation reaches 57 billion dollars today. We strive to be inspired by this model in the future to introduce instruments that support the financing of sustainable development, based on a larger palette of development objectives.

This past July, during the High Level Political Forum on sustainable development, Luxembourg has presented its voluntary national review on the implementation of the 2030 Agenda. The preparations of this review have enriched the debate in my country and allowed us to mobilise energies and to reinforce the appropriation of the 2030 Agenda by all the actors concerned. These efforts will be translated into the adoption of a new plan for sustainable development, which will guide the action of the public authorities, civil society actors, and the private sector in the coming century.

 

Mister President,

My country has always framed its actions in a European, multilateral scheme. The context of globalisation does not leave us with any other choice.

This holds true in the field of commerce, even though regional bilateral deals can, in some cases, prove to be a useful supplement to the wider system in place. It also holds true in a series of other domains, most importantly in the domain of climate change. Our attachment to the Paris agreement is as sincere and as strong as ever and we regret to see one of the biggest international actors distancing himself from this instrument. We hope to see the return of this actor as the global framework is incomplete without it. At this point I would like to announce my country’s support of the French initiative of a global pact for the environment, which could, in the future, offer a political framework to endow the ensemble of existing instruments with coherence.

One other subject that is, more than any other phenomenon, a product of globalisation is the movements of populations. The reasons for this are numerous; demographic pressures, climate changes, conflict, humanitarian catastrophes. Economic motivations nourished both by the situation in the country of origin and the country of destination are another reason for these movements.

Whatever the reason, it is an issue to be confronted, especially on the level of this organisation. Next year will witness the consecration of a number of instruments on both refugees and migration. The dividing line between the two will not always be easy to draw.

The current state of migration issues has enabled us to establish a picture that does not always correspond to preconceptions. Today, the bulk of transregional movements are south-south movements. A number of countries furthermore are countries of origin, of transit and of destination all at once. This issue goes beyond a simple North/South logic, even though I do not wish to negate the difficulties and the apprehensions that the refugee crisis has incited in Europe in 2015 and 2016.

Many refugees have had to flee, either because of a legitimate fear for their physical security or because of the humanitarian catastrophes that derive from conflicts.

In this context, the situation in the Middle East continues to prompt worries. Beyond the persisting hurdles in the quest for a political solution between Israel and Palestine, the situation in Syria and Yemen are apocalyptic. Libya is facing violence and civil war and new tensions arise in the Gulf. The international community has to assume its part in diminishing these tensions.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The Israel-Palestine conflict has not lost any of its centrality. The absence of any credible political prospects risks generating new eruptions of violence and fostering a fertile ground for hate and terrorism. The Security Council Resolution 2334, which demands “that Israel immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem”, is not directed against Israel. This resolution is directed against a status quo that has become unbearable and unacceptable. It intends to contribute to the insurance of peace for Israel.

The recent announcement in Palestine on the organisation of general elections offers a mild hope for reconciliation. This opportunity, which engages the responsibility of the Palestinian leaders, must be seized and I trust President Abbas on this matter.

Through the continued colonisation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, the Israeli government directly endangers the two state solution, the only just and equitable solution that will allow for a sustainable settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. After 50 years of Israeli occupation, the situation on the ground continues to be troubling.

This should however not be a reason to abandon the cause. Quite on the contrary – the international community must come together and change the narrative.

In Syria, all actors must realize that peace is only attainable if a general, genuine and inclusive political transition takes place.

As we have entered the 7th year of the conflict, a sustainable political solution is attainable only through the engagement of those countries that can a politically, militarily or economically influence the belligerent actors in Syria.

Everything must be done in order for the negotiations under the auspice of the UN in Geneva to progress. Astana alone will not be enough. Resources that provide a glimmer of hope to those in need must be improved: Humanitarian access must be enhanced and de-escalation zones and cease-fires must be extended.

One word on Iraq. The Iraqi region of Kurdistan has announced a referendum on September 25th of the coming year. Our basic position is to support the unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Iraq. A unified, stable, and democratic Iraq should guarantee the interests of all its citizens. The federal government and the Kurdish regional government have established an excellent cooperation in their military campaign against Daesh. The remaining differences between them must be resolved through a peaceful and constructive dialogue, which should lead to a commonly acceptable solution in the framework of the Iraqi constitution.

We must do everything to calm down the tensions in the region. This includes the maintenance and the rigorous implementation of the nuclear deal with Iran, which contributes to the diminution of the risk of proliferation.

Another crucial issue is the inconsiderate, headlong rush forward of the North Korean regime, which multiplies provocations through an acceleration of its nuclear and ballistic program, nuclear and missile tests. This behaviour is inacceptable and my country strongly condemns the actions of Pyongyang. The Security Council has recently reinforced its sanctions and the European Union will follow its lead in this aspect. It is only through determination and resolution that the international community will be able to reason with the regime and, hopefully, bring it to the negotiating table.

When we call for determination, we also have to prevent an escalation that would lead to a catastrophic scenario. In order to attain an absolute de-escalation we cannot exclude the option of diplomacy and dialogue. The deal with Iran can serve as a source of inspiration in this regard. It demonstrates that an adequate policy, combined with pressure and dialogue, can lead to substantial results.

 

Mister President,

Africa continues to mobilize the efforts of international actors in terms of development, peace keeping and consolidation, conflict prevention and the fight against terrorism. The political and humanitarian situation in South Sudan, in the Lake Chad area, in the Central African Republic and in the Democratic Republic of Congo are extremely worrisome. As it is the case in the Sahel in general and in Mali in particular, these situations are often the result of non-state actors, a fact that renders a number of mechanisms inoperable.

Luxembourg is committed to contribute to these efforts alongside its African partners, including on the regional level. It is in this framework that we back the deployment of the joint force of the Sahel G5.

In this context, it is furthermore indispensable to further develop the various instruments of international criminal law. We must continue to support the ICC, whose area of action should be extended. I would like to state how pleased we are to see that the movement of African States towards disengagement from the court has been refrained. Of course, the International Court’s scope of action is not limited to Africa and any such perception should be avoided. My country has backed the impartial and independent mechanisms of international investigation of the crimes committed in Syria since its inception in March 2011. We call on each member state to participate in the financing of this mechanism, before it will be taken over by the United Nations ordinary budget. We furthermore support the initiative on Daesh’s responsibility in the crimes committed in Iraq, which was endorsed by the Security Council today.

The current session of the General Assembly puts an emphasis on people, their right for peace and for a decent life. Human rights and human dignity must guide each of our actions. Every disruption I have mentioned in this speech can be considered a violation of human rights.

It is cruelly ironic that these violations are at times perpetrated by those from whom we least expect it. I hence congratulate Secretary General António Guterres for bringing the issue of the Rohingya in front of the Security Council. The Burmese authorities must cease military operations and ensure humanitarian access. Ethnic cleansing has no place in the 21st Century, nor in Myanmar, nor anywhere in the world.

Human trafficking, sexual exploitation in conflicts and the violation of children’s rights in armed conflicts are scourges that remain extremely current. It is not enough to simply denounce them. We have to support and enforce the tools, including financial ones, as well as the people and institutions that act against these atrocities.

The right for dignity is furthermore transmitted through the respect of the physical integrity of girls and women. In the past decades, we have succeeded in reducing maternal mortality almost by half. At the same time, it has become more difficult for girls and women to access sexual and reproductive health and rights in certain parts of the world.

Every day, more than 800 women and adolescents die because of pregnancy and maternity related causes. More than 22 million unsafe abortions are registered every year. These are dreadful numbers! This is why my country, alongside our partners such as Belgium, Denmark and the Netherlands has joined the initiative “SHE DECIDES”. An additional 2 million euros of funds have been unlocked for 2017 in order to support United Nations Population Fund. Women’s health is among the priorities of the interventions of the Luxembourgish cooperation and its health strategy. I can assure you that Luxembourg will continue to support girls’ and women’s access to sexual and reproductive health and rights in the future.

Sometimes the defence of Human Rights comes down to its most basic expression: It is concerned with nothing less and nothing more than ensuring the physical survival of populations. I have mentioned a number of catastrophic humanitarian situations in various countries. Luxembourg responded to the calls of the UN in the face of the urgency created by famines in three African countries and in Yemen. For these four countries – Somalia, South Sudan, Nigeria and Yemen – my country has unlocked more than 10 million euros in 2017. Luxembourg is a signatory party to the “Grand Bargain”, which grants greater flexibility, predictability and continuity in the international humanitarian action.

 

Mister President,

I have spoken about our organization and the world. Allow me to say a few words about Europe. Europe is not unscathed by the tensions that mark the international order – or should I say disorder? In Ukraine, the past year was characterized by renewed hostilities and numerous violations of the ceasefire, despite the efforts of the OSCE and the Trilateral Contact Group. Let me express my hope that the peace talks in the Normandy format can continue and lead the parties to fully implement the Minsk accords, guaranteeing territorial integrity, sovereignty and the unity of Ukraine.

Neither is Europe unscathed by the side effects of globalisation. It regularly falls victim to acts of terrorism that hit the population in an arbitrary and indiscriminate way. Europe is furthermore an arena in which nationalist movements nourish anti-immigrant and anti-refugee reflexes. The burden-sharing of refugee relocation was far from exemplary in certain communities and states, including in member states of the European Union. Yet, while it looked as if our worst fears we about to come true one year ago, today the populist movements are retreating, even if they are still often an electoral reality. Like it or not, hundreds of thousands of refugees continue to enter Europe and today we can take note of a rediscovered optimism, inclusive of prospects of economic growth.

I am calling for a Europe that refrains from isolation. A Europe free of conflict, which does not give in to intimidation, including in its neighbourhood, a Europe that puts the individual at the centre of its action and determinately engages in the multilateral system.

 

Mister President,

The tensions running through the international system are the result of global trends towards growing inequalities, migratory fluxes and climate changes. These tendencies highlight two opposing visions: one that is based on force, the law of the fittest, unilateralism and national, even nationalistic, egoism. The other vision is based on the primacy of multilateralism, solidarity, universal values, human rights and the rule of law.  

Luxembourg supports this second vision. The challenges I have mentioned previously have to be tackled within a multilateral framework with strong institutions; a multilateral system that is inspired by the United Nations and devoted to human dignity and the sovereign equality of each nation. This is the safest option for the great majority of the states of the international community and for the people of the United Nations that we represent here.

Multilateralism is the foundation of the United Nations. Questioning this principle would mean questioning the inspiration that forms the very basis of the United Nations: the creation of an international order based on the rule of law, at the service of peace and freedom.

Thank you.

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