The president at the UN General Assembly: We cannot afford to do nothing

The president at the UN General Assembly: We cannot afford to do nothing

President Zuzana Čaputová addressed the 76th UN General Assembly in a video on 21 September 2021. 

In her video address, the president emphasised that we urgently need to adopt effective solutions of the climate crisis, and to prevent further undermining of the international order and the principles of the rule of law so that we can face the greatest challenges that confront us today. “We are a generation of political leaders that cannot afford not to act.”   

Regarding the timely issue of the pandemic, the president noted in her speech that 50 countries in the world had vaccinated no more than 5% of their population.  She sees this as a failure of politics projected onto the world stage in real-time. “Solidarity should be our binding principle, not an option. Vaccines must be accessible to all and Slovakia will continue supporting the COVAX effort.”

According to the president, Slovakia fully subscribes to the priorities laid out in the report by Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and she emphasised our common duty to save our planet: “Saving the planet is not a promise we make today for our successors to implement it later. We have hesitated for so long that we have run out of generations of political leaders who can talk the talk but do nothing. This task is upon us today.”  

In the president’s view, it is important to uphold a rules-based international order and the rule of law, at home and abroad. Violation of these rules endangers everyone, not only those directly affected in Ukraine, Syria, Myanmar, or the Sahel region. “It is the UN Security Council’s main responsibility to maintain international peace and security. Too often, we see it unable to act. Stopping violence and providing humanitarian access is not something to bargain about – it must be our utmost priority.”

In connection with the current situation in Afghanistan, the president emphasised primarily the rights and status of the local women. “Over the past two decades, girls and women in Afghanistan could exercise their legitimate rights. These must not be taken away.” The president also invited the delegates to the General Assembly to back the call to support Afghan women and girls that she had launched together with other women political leaders and turn it into concrete steps.

The president spoke right at the start of the general debate. She was the first woman to speak and also the first European leader. Whereas last year the pandemic caused general debate of the UN General Assembly to move entirely online for the first time, this year it took place in a hybrid format.

The full speech is available at the speeches section.