UNGA78: Seeking solutions not sympathy- Tuvalu PM Natano to 78th UN General Assembly

Kausea Natano, Prime Minister of Tuvalu, addresses the general debate of the General Assembly’s seventy-eighth session.

National Statement
Honourable Mr. Kausea Natano
The 78th Session of the United Nations General Assembly
General Debate
September 22, 2023
New York
UNGA78 Theme:
“Rebuilding trust and reigniting global solidarity: Accelerating action on the 2030 Agenda and Sustainable Development Goals towards peace, prosperity, progress and sustainability for all”


Mr. President
Distinguished Members of the General Assembly
Ladies and gentlemen

1. I extend commendations to the President of the General Assembly, His Excellency Denis Francis, Ambassador of Trinidad and Tobago, who takes on the helm of this distinguished body in this 78 th Session. Tuvalu has its full confidence and trust in your leadership to steer canoe through the rough seas ahead of us. At this juncture, I acknowledge the outgoing President, His Excellency Csaba Korosi, for his stellar presidency, dedication, and service to this esteemed body throughout the 77th Session.

Mr President
2. In less than two weeks, my island nation of Tuvalu will be celebrating a momentous occasion- its 45th Anniversary of Independence. This event holds great significance in the history of our nation, symbolizing our journey through self-governance and sovereignty. It is with a deep sense of gratitude that I express my people’s heartfelt appreciation to the United Nations and its membr states for their unwavering support in recognizing Tuvalu as an independent state. This recognition was further solidified 23 years ago when Tuvalu officially became a member of this esteemed organization in September 2000.

3. Tuvalu’s membership in the United Nations serves as more than just a symbolic gesture. It represents a beacon of hope for our country, assuring us of the international community’s commitment to safeguarding our sovereignty, even in the face of multifaceted challenges and existential threats. The United Nations, with its noble values centered around peace, security, and prosperity, radiates hope and assurance to small and vulnerable nations like Tuvalu. Being a member of this esteemed organization gives us confidence in our ability to navigate these uncertain times and reinforces our belief that we are not alone in our pursuit of a prosperous and secure future.

Mr President
4. I would like to take a moment to express Tuvalu’s heartfelt condolences, to all those who have been affected by the recent natural disasters. Our hearts go out to the victims of the earthquake in Morocco and the flash flooding in Libya this month, as well as the wildfire in Hawaii in August this year. We also extend our sympathy to those who have suffered as result of conflicts in Africa and the war in Ukraine. Mr. President
Theme: “Rebuilding trust and reigniting global solidarity: Accelerating action on the 2030Agendaand its Sustainable Development Goals towards peace, prosperity, progress and sustainability for all”
5. Turning now to the theme, Tuvalu wholeheartedly embraces this powerful narrative put forth by the 78 th President of the General Assembly, as it aligns perfectly with our goal of creating a sustainable future for our nation and the world at large. It is imperative that we demonstrate unwavering commitment to the principles set forth in the UN Charter and prioritize the well-being of our planet and all its inhabitants.

6. To fulfill this theme, we must first focus on rebuilding trust among nations and international
institutions. The erosion of trust has impeded global cooperation and stymied progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). We must work towards repairing relationships, promoting transparent and accountable governance, and fostering an environment of collaboration and mutual respect. By doing so, we can restore faith in international institutions and cultivate partnerships that will enable us to effectively address the challenges of our time.

7. Similarly, reigniting global solidarity requires us to prioritize peacebuilding efforts. Peace is a fundamental prerequisite for sustainable development, as conflicts and instability hinder progress towards the SDGs. We must invest in conflict prevention, peacekeeping, and post-conflict reconstruction to ensure that communities can thrive and effectively work towards achieving the goals outlined in the 2030 Agenda.

8. And To Accelerate Action on the 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals, it requires collective effort and collaboration on a global scale. We must recognize that we are all interconnected, and the prosperity and well-being of one nation, ultimately impacts the entire planet. Tuvalu therefore welcomes the theme because it entails rebuilding trust, promoting global solidarity, prioritizing peacebuilding, fostering prosperity, and advancing sustainability, which can make significant strides towards a more equitable, peaceful, and sustainable future for all.

Mr President
High-Level Week Events
SDG Summit
9. Let me now make some reflections on the important events of the High-Level Week that took place concurrently to the General Debate this week.

10. Tuvalu applauds the two-day SDG Summit which served as an important platform for member states to collectively assess the progress made towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It provides an opportunity to recognize and address the specific challenges faced by each country in their pursuit of these goals.

11. Tuvalu, as a small island developing state, faces unique and pressing issues in meeting the targets set forth in the SDGs. Fundamentally, the threat of climate change and rising sea levels poses the greatest challenge to the sustainable development we strive to achieve for our people. As a low-lying island State, Tuvalu is particularly vulnerable to the adverse impacts of climate change, such as extreme weather events, which affects our ability to achieve our SDG targets.

12. In light of these challenges, Tuvalu remains fully committed to the SDGs and acknowledges the importance of forging strong partnerships, particularly through SDG 17 (partnerships forthe goals). Collaborative efforts with other member states, international organizations, and stakeholders are vital in mobilizing support and resources to address Tuvalu’s unique contextual challenges and achieve the shared objectives of sustainable development. By focusing on these central issues and utilizing the SDGs as a guiding framework, Tuvalu aims to build a resilient future while preserving its culture, environment, and ensuring the well-being of its people.

Mr President
SG Climate Ambition Summit 2023:
13. We commend the Secretary-General for convening the Climate Ambition Summit, a pivotal moment for global climate action. We need not call for Sympathy, rather we call for Solutions! In hindsight, climate justice should be at the forefront of our efforts as we address the urgent need for mitigation, adaptation, and support for the most vulnerable nations.

14. We embrace the efforts and collective support for the UN resolution championed by Vanuatu for an Advisory Opinion from the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to reinforce the responsibility of states under international law to safeguard the climate system. It is the hope of Tuvalu that International Law will provide the moral punch to phase out fossil fuels and confront polluters to become responsible.

15. Furthermore, I would like to mention at this juncture that just last week, the Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda and I, had the privilege of appearing before the esteemed judges of the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) in Hamburg, Germany. Our purpose was to present our arguments and submissions regarding an Advisory Opinion, similar to that of Vanuatu, but relating to the obligations of State Parties under Part XII of the United Nations Conventions on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), specifically in terms of protecting and preserving the marine environment in relation to climate change impacts, including ocean warming and sea level rise, and ocean acidification.

16. Tuvalu urges all UN members to support Vanuatu and us, Antigua & Barbuda and Tuvalu, by submitting their endorsements for the Advisory Opinions’ objectives. It is crucial for us to come together in pursuit of climate justice, as the urgency of the matter cannot be overstated. We eagerly anticipate swift action from these judicial branches of this esteemed organization because ‘justice delayed, is justice denied’.

Mr President
Summit for the Future:
17. We applaud the Secretary-General for organizing the Summit for the Future, as it highlights the immense importance of ensuring a prosperous future for everyone. The world is witnessing a rapid and transformative shift towards a digital era, and we believe that
embracing this digital transformation is crucial for the progress of both the global community, particularly small island developing states like Tuvalu. The vision of digital transformation under our “Future Now Project” advocates the idea of creating a digital nation, that maps and preserves Tuvalu’s identity and values for us and our generations to come. This digital revolution ensures that no one is left behind, as it empowers individuals and communities with knowledge, connectivity, and access to essential services.

18. For Tuvalu, the adoption of a ‘digital nation’ approach can have a profound impact on addressing resource and geographical challenges. It will enable Tuvaluans to access education, healthcare, and economic opportunities that were previously out of reach. By embracing digital technologies, Tuvalu will equip itself with the tools to implement innovative solutions that address climate and environmental concerns. Overall, the concept of a digital nation and the digital transformation it entails are pivotal to harness progress, inclusivity, and sustainability of Tuvalu and the world over.

19. Despite our vision of a digital nation, it is crucial to acknowledge that our ultimate future as a recognized sovereign state depends on our ability to strengthen our resilience. In pursuing this goal, Tuvalu has developed a comprehensive long-term adaptation plan, known as the L-TAP. Serving as our flagship survival adaptation project, the L-TAP aims to address the imminent threat of rising sea levels by reclaiming and elevating our land territory. This ambitious endeavor is crucial in ensuring that Tuvalu can provide a sustainable habitat for our population well into the next century and beyond. By prioritizing the L-TAP, Tuvalu is taking proactive steps to secure our nation’s survival and create a resilient future for our people.

Mr President
Tuvalu Initiatives & Aspirations:
20. At this juncture, allow me to highlight our specific aspirations and initiatives. As a country whose physical existence, lives and livelihoods are at stake, Tuvalu cannot afford to take the back seat and spectate while others maneuver their own interest in our multilateral process to address climate change, particularly sea-level rise. On the heels of the successful Rising National Initiative (RNI) that we launched this time last year, we propose to establish a Coalition on Sea-Level Rise and Existential Threat (C-SET) Initiative. This initiative aims to bring together like-minded states and stakeholders to collectively address the pressing issues of protecting statehood, sovereignty, territorial integrity, and livelihoods in the face of rising sea levels.

21. Tuvalu believes that the Coalition has a unique role in highlighting and addressing the impact
of climate change and sea-level rise on vulnerable nations. The aim is to attract greater attention and action from the international community by amplifying the voices of small island developing states (SIDS) and other nations facing similar challenges. Tuvalu expresses gratitude to countries and stakeholders, in particular Germany, who have already shown interest in joining this important endeavor.

22. In addition to the C-SET Initiative, Tuvalu calls for stronger global action on phasing out fossil fuel production and consumption. At the Climate Ambition Summit on Wednesday this week, Tuvalu made a call for countries to join us, alongside Vanuatu and other Pacific nations, to negotiate a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty, a new instrument that would reduce reliance on fossil fuels, promote sustainable development through accelerating the just
transition to renewable energy sources, and curb greenhouse gas emissions.

Mr President
Reaffirming support of the following Conventions:
23. Tuvalu, as an island state surrounded by the ocean, is fully committed to the signing and effective implementation of the Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction (BBNJ)Agreement. Our unison with others to sign the BBNJ Agreement this week is testament to our genuine commitment to the values and purpose of this international legal instrument. Given our heavy reliance on fisheries and marine resources, through signing this Agreement
Tuvalu pays tribute to the importance of preserving the health and diversity of the ocean ecosystems for both its own sustainability and the well-being of the global community.

Mr President
Calls for support of and condemnations:
24. The Preamble of the UN Charter begins with – “We the people…” – is a powerful statement by this august body to underscore human dignity and human rights as equal people –men and women, boys and girls – of all races and colours. It entails inclusivity, non-discrimination, and oneness of humankind that the United Nations must uphold. Sadly, many people and communities have not been given the same treatment. Tuvalu therefore calls for this esteemed body to ensure the participation of everyone worldwide, including the people of Taiwan. We must make the necessary arrangements for Taiwan to meaningfully participate in relevant UN specialized agencies and mechanism. Taiwan must be allowed to participate in key UN organizations because Taiwan is widely known for being an able, trustworthy, and willing partner, greatly contributing to collective efforts that address pressing global issues under the purview of these UN agencies.

25. It is unfortunate that the people of Cuba still endure the economic hardships imposed by long-standing unilateral economic blockades. These blockades not only disregard human rights but also go against the principles of cooperation emphasized in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The decision to maintain these measures has deprived Cuba of much-needed international development assistance and partnerships crucial for its recovery and future development.

Mr. President
26. For Tuvalu, Peace is not merely the absence of conflict, it is the presence of justice, equality, and opportunity. It is giving hope to our people through securing a prosperous future. And prosperity, for us Tuvalu, is not just economic growth, it is the ability to protect the wellbeing of our people and our planet through social and environmental sustainability.

27. To achieve these noble goals, Tuvalu is unyielding its commitment to dialogue that entails representations and coalitions. We look at partnerships through this august body for international cooperation that can establish tangible outcomes for the most vulnerable. By pooling our resources, sharing knowledge, and standing in solidarity, we can overcome obstacles and accelerate meaningful progress.

Mr President
28. I would like to conclude by presenting a compelling challenge to this esteemed organization. It is not enough for us to simply acknowledge our unique role; we must also actively demonstrate our commitment to defending and promoting the core values and principles enshrined in the UN Charter. It is of utmost importance that we remain unwavering in our dedication to collective action and inclusivity, embodying the Tuvalu cultural principles of kaitasi and falepili – the concepts of caring, sharing, being good neighbors, and leave no one behind – all for the sake of the sustainable and secure future we envision to have for our young generation and their children.

29. By embodying these noble concepts in our actions, we have the potential to create a brighter and more promising future for humanity and our planet. Let us always bear in mind that, the choices we make, and the actions we take, today, will echo through countless generations to come.

30. Time is of the essence! The clock is ticking! The sun is setting! It is Now or Never!
Tuvalu mo te Atua. I thank you Mr President. –ENDS


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