The 78th United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) session currently underway at the UN headquarters in New York, comes at a time of unprecedented setbacks in global progress on multiple fronts. The current UNGA President, Dennis Francis, a diplomat from Trinidad and Tobago, has urged world leaders to use the “unique and truly global platform” of the summit to effectively tackle global challenges.

Stating that the world is confronting multiple challenges ranging from conflicts and climate change to debt, energy and food crises, poverty and famine, the president said these risks were directly impacting the lives, livelihoods and well-being of billions of people around the world. Pointing out that the world has the capacity to tackle the challenges and achieve ‘consequential changes’, President Francis said, “What we lack is the will to act by putting aside our differences and bridging divides.”

Addressing the integrated challenges confronting the world requires coherent, cohesive and coordinated responses. However, in the absence of unanimity among nations, our responses have been largely fragmented. The 78th session of UNGA is looking to reconcile the differences and reach consensus on the various challenges, so as to deliver peace, progress, prosperity, and sustainability to everyone everywhere.

During the ongoing UNGA world leaders have been attempting to reach consensus on how best to confront the polycrises affecting the global community. The delegates have been seeking new and innovative strategies to accelerate action on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and on overcoming issues hampering progress in addressing climate change.

Leaders and their delegates have also been holding high-level meetings aimed at financing development, preventing and preparing for pandemics, introducing universal health coverage, tackling tuberculosis and other health issues, as well as striving to find lasting solutions to some of the most intractable challenges that have so far evaded consensus in the UNGA.

Finding solutions and reaching agreement on the multiple crises facing the global community will also test the legitimacy and credibility of the UNGA, and indicate whether the United Nations continues to remain relevant in an increasingly divided world. In addition, outcomes from the widely watched High Level General Debate segment of UNGA, with its surfeit of speeches by world leaders, will reveal whether countries are prepared to tone down their acerbic rhetoric, defer their strategic interests, and set aside their ideological differences, in order to advance shared global interests.

In his address at the High-Level General Debate on 21 September, His Highness the Prime Minister Sheikh Ahmad Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah called on the international community to redouble efforts to bring about peaceful resolution of conflicts, enhance support for humanitarian assistance around the world, and address climate change and its repercussion, He highlighted Kuwait’s attempts to contribute and help address these issues through bilateral and multilateral cooperation with the UN and other stakeholders.

However, a significant part of the speech by the premier was devoted to the recent political flareup with Iraq. The Federal Supreme Court in Iraq recently rejected the maritime border protocols and agreements on the Khor Abdullah waterway, signed decades ago by Kuwait and Iraq. His Highness emphasized that Kuwait considers the agreement regulating navigation in Khor Abdullah waterway, and the security swap protocol signed between the two countries valid and effective because of its international legality, and its importance in maintaining security and safety of navigation in the Khor Abdullah waterway.

He noted that the State of Kuwait, “out of its belief in the principle of good neighborliness, has stood by the side of Iraq to develop and restore its regional and international status, so as to achieve the hopes and aspirations of its people”. He added that despite this support, “Kuwait was astonished by the Iraqi court’s decision, a few days ago, to invalidate the Khor Abdullah agreement signed between the two countries in 2012, and the security swap protocol inked between the Kuwaiti and Iraqi Naval Forces in 2008.” He also strongly objected to the historical fallacies and language in the Supreme Court’s ruling.

Kuwait’s premier urged the Iraqi government to “take concrete, decisive and urgent measures to address the repercussions of the Court’s ruling and the historical fallacies mentioned therein in a way that preserves good neighborly relations.” He also reiterated Kuwait’s call for mutual respect of the security, independence and territorial integrity of both countries, the signed bilateral agreements, and the relevant UN resolutions,.

In particular, the prime minister referred to UN Security Council Resolution No. 833 of 1993, which delineated the land and sea borders between the two sides up to the marine mark No. 162. “We call on the brotherly Republic of Iraq to prove good intentions and complete the meetings of the relevant technical teams to demarcate the borders beyond mark No. 162, in accordance with international laws and conventions. He stressed that meanwhile, “the State of Kuwait reserves its full right to take whatever measures it deems necessary at the legal and international levels to preserve its established legitimate and legal rights in accordance with international resolutions and the international law provisions”.

In his address to the UNGA, His Highness the Prime Minister also outlined Kuwait’s stance on various global and regional issues, including finding peaceful solutions to the conflicts in Yemen, Sudan and Syria. He renewed Kuwait’s support for initiatives undertaken by the UN to resume the political process in Yemen. The premier also called for a cessation of hostilities in Sudan and for all parties to resort to dialogue, and return to peaceful political path. On Syria, His Highness stressed the need to intensify efforts to reach a political solution in accordance with relevant UN Security Council resolutions.

Kuwait’s prime minister also used the UN platform to rally support for Kuwait’s bid for a seat on the UN Human Rights Council for the 2024-26 period. He noted that Kuwait’s membership would seek to meet the aspirations of the developing world, extend bridges of cooperation, and work in a way that helps reach comprehensive and just solutions to human rights issues in accordance with provisions of international law, international humanitarian law and UN resolutions.

In addition, Sheikh Ahmad Al Nawaf reiterated Kuwait’s full support to the Palestinian people and their rights, as well as stressed Kuwait’s firm and principled stance in support of the Palestinian right to establish an independent state based on the 4th June 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital. He also urged for international synergy to confront hate speech and media misinformation targeting Muslims, and called for boosting global dialogue, and spreading the culture of coexistence, tolerance and peace at all levels.

On the contentious issue with Iran over the offshore Durra oil and gas field, the premier asserted that the natural resources in the submerged area adjacent to the Divided Zone between Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, belonged solely to the State of Kuwait and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Pointing out that only Kuwait and Saudi Arabia have full rights to exploit these resources, he categorically rejected any claim of right by any other party to this field.

Kuwait’s premier also highlighted the ‘New Kuwait’ vision to transform the country into a financial, commercial and cultural hub. He noted that the initiative provided opportunities to attract foreign investment, drive the country’s development, and increase employment for young Kuwaitis. Turning to the issue of climate change, the prime minister reiterated Kuwait’s commitment to cut carbon emissions, and meet its earlier pledge to reach carbon neutrality in the oil sector by 2050.

He added, “In light of the deterioration of the environment worldwide, and based on available capabilities, my country has voluntarily and thoughtfully made clear progress to fulfill its obligations, especially in readapting the oil, industrial, and transportation sectors, with the aim of reducing emissions, diversifying energy sources, improving their efficiency, and using alternative and renewable energy.”

Tackling climate change and reenergizing the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) were key segments during this year’s UNGA. Additionally, the 78th UNGA session prioritized global peace, prosperity, progress, and sustainability as outlined by its ungainly long title — ‘Rebuilding trust and reigniting global solidarity: Accelerating action on the 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals towards peace, prosperity, progress and sustainability for all’.

In line with this theme, the 78th session included a SDG Summit on 18 and 19 September, during which global leaders acknowledged the urgent need to take actions to reverse declines in SDGs. They also committed to accelerate progress to achieve the 2030 Agenda and implement the SDGs by the target year of 2030, as well as revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development.

Alongside the SDG Summit, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres also convened the Climate Ambition Summit on 20 September. In his opening remarks at the Climate Summit, the UN Chief stated: “Climate action is dwarfed by the scale of the challenge. If nothing changes we are heading towards a 2.8 degree temperature rise — towards a dangerous and unstable world.” However, he noted, “the future is not fixed. It is for leaders like you to write it.

“We can still limit the rise in global temperature to 1.5 degrees. We can still build a world of clear air, green jobs, and affordable clean power for all. The path forward is clear, but global leaders need to take action now,” the UN Chief stated. He also urged countries to implement a fair, equitable and just energy transition that ensured renewable energy to all. He called for credible plans to exit coal, end fossil fuel subsidies, and set renewable energy goals in line with the 1.5 degree limit.

Secretary-General Guterres emphasized that achieving the 1.5 degrees goal was fully possible., “We are not talking about a dream. We are talking about something that can be real if we mobilize all our energies to make it happen.” Pointing to the Climate Ambition Summit, where several countries, regions, cities, companies, and financial institutions revealed policies that were fully aligned with the 1.5 degrees goal, the UN Chief said, “if these first-doers and first-movers can do it, everybody can do it. We just need to create the right environment and ecosystem.”

The 78th session of UNGA also highlighted the need for renewed commitment to multilateralism and for UN member states to undertake coordinated purposive action to promote peace, security and human rights, fight climate change, and accelerate efforts to meet the SDGs, all of which are critical in determining not only our future, but that of generations to come.

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