Azerbaijan's initiatives were instrumental in revitalization of Non-Aligned Movement - UNGA President (Interview)

Politics Materials 1 March 2023 08:00 (UTC +04:00)
Azerbaijan's initiatives were instrumental in revitalization of Non-Aligned Movement - UNGA President (Interview)
Laman Zeynalova
Laman Zeynalova
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BAKU, Azerbaijan, March 1. Trend's exclusive interview with Csaba Kőrösi, President of the UN General Assembly, on the occasion of the Non-Aligned Movement's Contact Group Summit, which will take place on March 2 in Baku.

- The world has changed over the last year, facing with multiple crises simultaneously. Your motto of Presidency is “Solutions through Solidarity, Sustainability and Science”, which well matches the efforts to tackle the existing challenges. How can the UN increase its role to address the global problems?

- The international community is facing very complex, intertwined crises. Picture yourself standing at the bottom of a snowy mountain, with an avalanche coming at you. And then turn around and you see another avalanche starting to come down. We are in a very difficult position.

Around the world, there are dozens of conflicts right now, of which the war in Ukraine is only one. That war, however, has great implications globally, for example on food supplies and energy. Global inflation is surging in the aftermath of COVID, even as a debt crisis and an economic slowdown are looming. While we are still reeling from COVID, scientists predict about a 25% chance of another pandemic or epidemic that will be just as deadly within 10 years.

In such an uncertain world, we are seeing mass displacement, huge impacts to human rights. And just because we are dealing with a lot of crises, it doesn’t mean that the world stops. Türkiye and Syria just had a terrible earthquake that killed more than 40,000 people and left many more homeless, without jobs.

So what do we do? We need to make sure that the United Nations is at the forefront of leadership, and that it is bringing solutions.

The United Nations General Assembly is the main body to create those solutions. It is the only place within the United Nations that gives a voice and a vote to every Member State. And Azerbaijan is an active member of the General Assembly.

I have been encouraging Member States to work towards solutions, by which I mean taking real action. We have many treaties, many agreements, targets, plans. But implementation is much harder. Now is the time to take transformative actions that will make life better for the 8 billion people who are counting on the UN.

Those solutions have to be inspired by the sense of solidarity. Member States must honour the commitments made and they have to bridge inequalities between themselves and within their own communities. We stand together or we fall together.

Sustainability means taking an integrated view on very complex issues. Now, as we are faced with climate change, a worsening water crisis and ongoing biodiversity loss, we are fighting for our very existence. The planet will survive under climate change, there will still be oceans, some plants and animals will most likely adapt. This planet will make it without us. But whether humans survive is another question.

The crux of the solutions is science. I want to inject verified science and date into all the work of the General Assembly, so that Member States can make accurate decisions.

I have been bringing scientists and researchers together with Member States so they can discuss and ask questions and understand the issues that we need to solve together.

This is a priority for me in New York, as well as when I travel. I have made science a priority in India, China and Japan, and I will also do so here in Azerbaijan and then in Qatar, the last stop of my tour. To learn from scientists and bring those lessons back to the UN.

- Over the period of Azerbaijan’s NAM presidency, the organization has been really active in addressing global issues and has become more visible on the international arena. As a NAM chair, Azerbaijan also initiated a Special Session of the UN General Assembly in response to COVID 19. How do you asses Azerbaijan’s contribution to the revival of the organization?

- Azerbaijan assumed the NAM chairmanship in a critical time.

The first year of Azerbaijan’s chairmanship, back in 2020, coincided with the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the greatest health crisis in recent history. First, at the initiative of the Azerbaijani Government, NAM held an extraordinary summit of its member states on 4 May 2020. It was a critically important event contributing to the consolidation of global efforts to fight against COVID-19 through greater solidarity and unity.

As you noted in your question, Azerbaijan then initiated the UNGA Special Session in response to COVID-19, which led to the adoption of a resolution on ensuring equitable, affordable, timely and universal access for all countries to vaccines. This was a crucial decision that enhanced transparency in all matters relating to the production, distribution and fair pricing of vaccines.

In year 2022, we witnessed new institutional developments in NAM. The creation of the NAM Parliamentary Network was a significant decision. I know very well how important parliamentary diplomacy and interparliamentary relations are. The General Assembly recently adopted a resolution that gave more attention to parliaments as a key partner in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. Parliaments are a way for the General Assembly to reach the people in various countries, and for their ideas and suggestions to reach the international level. So I highly commend this new partnership.

A recently established NAM Youth Organization provides the necessary platform for youth development through model simulation exercises and intercultural exchange events. As President of the UN General Assembly, I have had the opportunity to engage with young people on every topic that we have discussed at the multilateral level. I have learned a great deal, but my main takeaway is that young people want and need to be part of the process.

Throughout its chairmanship of NAM, Azerbaijan put forward several concrete initiatives to coordinate cooperation amongst the Member States, strengthen the values of multilateralism, and enhance international cooperation. These concrete initiatives were instrumental in the revitalization of the Movement.

Today’s NAM Summit focusing on post COVID-19 recovery is equally important, as the world is struggling with interlinked crises and cooperation through solidarity, sustainability and science has never been timelier, And I look forward to continuing to work with all NAM Member States.

- The SDG Summit will be convened on 18-19 September, during the UN General Assembly’s high-level week. What is your assessment of the implementation of the SDGs so far? How do you assess the level of the SDGs attainment in Azerbaijan?

- Is the world doing well to implement the Sustainable Development Goals? The short answer is no, it is not.

Earlier this month, I organized discussions between members of the General Assembly and scientists and researchers. One of the panel discussions was about the Sustainable Development Goals. Members of the Independent Group of Scientists gave us a preview of the 2023 Sustainable Development Report that will be launched at the SDG Summit that you mentioned. The report shows that the situation is very dire.

We are experiencing the effects of the Anthropocene era, an era in which humans are having the biggest impact on our world. This includes the accumulation of greenhouse gases, the loss of biodiversity, and our over-consumption of natural resources.

People all over the world have profound choices to make about the sort of future we want. We are at a crossroads, where we could continue with business as usual, or we can transform into the sort of world that was envisioned when we created the Sustainable Development Goals less than a decade ago.

Those 17 Goals are interlinked. So it is not surprising that we are doing poorly on all the Goals, because they support each other. For example, we cannot fight poverty unless we have educated girls and boys, and come up with how to feed families and how to ensure that they have enough clean water.

To achieve the SDGs, to achieve peace and prosperity for all people on the planet, we have to have real transformation. But let me add that it is not a matter of choice: unless we reach these goals, we cannot be sure of the survival of our human civilization.

From the day that I took office, I have been asking Member States to view our work through the lenses of crisis management – to strive for action now, not later, and through transformation – where we take action to make real changes on a level much higher than what we have seen until now.

Transformation is hard and it takes an immense investment of time, of planning, of resources.

When it comes to Azerbaijan, in the past 30 years, the country has achieved remarkable economic growth and welfare gains, transforming from a low-income to an upper-middle-income country and an emerging donor.

Azerbaijan has been one of the first countries to undertake a MAPS (Mainstreaming, Acceleration and Policy Support for the 2030 Agenda) mission which outlined concrete policy and programming steps that could be taken to accelerate the goals nationally. To support the SDGs’ implementation, the National Coordination Council on Sustainable Development was established.

I commend the transformative change led by the Government of Azerbaijan towards building a strong, more resilient and greener model of economy. The implementation of the green agenda will enable your country to meet its international environmental commitments and its pledge to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as set in its pledge under the Paris Agreement.

By advancing the Sustainable Development Goals at the national levels, we all can – and must – make contributions to the much-needed global progress towards the SDGs, as the world approaches the 2030 deadline.

Such efforts matter since only transformative solutions will make our world safer, more equal, and more sustainable. And the international system of trade and finance should support these solutions and work for the developing countries.

- Conflicts, climate crisis and other global problems are challenging the multilateralism and the world security architecture. Uncertainty is dominating with divided collective security. Does the UN have any roadmap to strengthen global cooperation and reinvigorate multilateralism?

- There is no doubt that geopolitical tensions and multiple crises have spawned the now commonly used catchphrase “the crisis of multilateralism”. This reflects many concerns that UN may lose its relevance and that it is not living up to its ideals and principles enshrined in the Charter. This is partly due to the Security Council which is often paralyzed by geopolitical tensions and criticized as not being representative of the world in the 21st century.

But let’s not forget that the UN is so much bigger than the Security Council. It is a norm-setting organization, primarily through the General Assembly, but also through the many subsidiary bodies that work on human rights, economic development, peacekeeping, disarmament, population development, and so much more.

The UN delivers aid and support to local communities across the world – often far away from the spotlight of the international media attention. UNICEF, UNHCR and the World Food Programme are just some of the UN organizations that save lives every single day. The United Nations continues to be relevant to the people – even if it is far from perfect. And it is relevant to governments, as all of them participate in the daily work in the UN.

The UN is taking strong decisions every day: mandating peacekeeping missions, castigating Human Rights violations, and condemning breaches of international law. Just last week, the overwhelming majority of the General Assembly voted in favor of the principles of a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in Ukraine. The message has been clear in favor of the UN Charter which is the linchpin of multilateralism and our international system that is based on international law.

I believe that the UN is not just our plan A, it is the only plan that matters. We must do everything to strengthen its institutions, rebuild understanding between its Member States, foster cooperation and work out transformative solutions. The people of the world – 8 billion of them – have placed their trust in us, and we must deliver for them.

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