Countries of the world are plagued by the enduring threat and effects of COVID-19, climate change and other entrenched inequalities and President Dr. Irfaan Ali has lamented that countries’ selfish national interests drive the world order.
While addressing the 76th Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) on Thursday, President Ali reminded fellow world leaders that people look towards them to make decisions and create conditions that will alleviate their fears and challenges while inspiring hope.
He contended that this is an important consideration since the enduring COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in the loss of lives and livelihoods and has challenged even crippling economies. Moreover, he said that climate change is yet another real, existential threat that has an increased capacity to inflict greater destruction.
Yet, instead of uniting and working towards solutions that will result in the common good of all people, President Ali stressed that countries have simply failed in this regard.
“…it is not the collective well-being of our one planet and our one humanity which motivates us. It is selfish national interests that drive us.
“And, in pursuit of that selfish nationalism, we overlook the truth of our shared cohabitation on one planet, one Earth, and we ignore the reality that what affects one, affects all,” President Ali said.
He underscored too that the pandemic illuminated the shortcomings of the world. Throughout his address, the Head of State pointed out global challenges including: unequal access to much-needed resources (such as the life-saving COVID-19 vaccines), debt, the unequal impact of climate change (such as countries being affected by increasingly worse disasters like flooding), discrimination and poverty.
Additionally, he drew attention to the unbalanced challenges experienced by smaller or developing countries like Guyana and other Caribbean nations. These states are often worst-affected by global shocks since their economies are not as diversified and because they are largely unable to adequately recover from disasters.
In the education sphere, too, children in these countries have been adversely affected because of the limited access to avenues for online learning while schools were closed to lessen the spread of COVID-19.
Cognisant of these challenges, Dr. Ali said that the world would not progress without greed or war unless all leaders – from large or small countries – actually work together and pursue meaningful solutions.
Importantly, he posited: “… recovery will be painfully elongated and slow unless there is international support in the form of debt rescheduling, debt service moratoriums, provision of soft resources to reboot economies.”
Building on this, he advocated for resources to be provided to countries based on their vulnerabilities and not only based on their per capita income.
It was only on Wednesday at the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) Leaders’ Summit that President Ali and Prime Minister of Barbados Mia Mottley both underscored that island developing states and low-lying coastal states like Guyana are among the countries most affected by the harmful effects of climate change. As such, they contended that these states need the necessary finance to aid their development.