MANASSEH SOGAVARE, Prime Minister of Solomon Islands, said effectively tackling global challenges — from COVID-19 to rising sea levels — calls for a strong multilateral system of genuine, durable partnerships and cooperation between countries. The Assembly’s timely theme aptly summarizes these challenges, with the battle against the pandemic being of utmost importance, requiring concerted collective action by all Member States using all forms of bilateral and multilateral partnerships. For its part, Solomon Islands has so far successfully controlled the pandemic’s spread, with no reports of active cases in five months, and its two-pronged approach has kept citizens safe and the economy afloat. The pandemic highlighted health system gaps and response capacities, allowing the Government to improve services and facilities nationwide, he said, thanking partners and the COVAX facility for their support. The Government introduced recovery measures and forged bilateral partnerships to address the pandemic’s economic impact amid a rising $96 million trade deficit, a 13 per cent drop in exports and travel restrictions that are choking the tourism sector.
Turning to the existential threat posed by climate change, he said this global issue needs a global solution. As the world falls behind in its commitments, he said the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report delivered the starkest warning yet about a deepening emergency. Strongly calling on all major greenhouse gas emitting countries to cut emissions and take more ambitious action, he said COP26 presents an opportunity to operationalize the Paris Agreement and conclude negotiations on the Paris Rulebook, including a common timeframe for nationally determined contributions.
As a large ocean State, he said, Solomon Islands’ exclusive economic zone covers 1.5 million square kilometres, with a $60 million tuna industry generating 2,000 jobs. Calling on the global community to take stronger action to protect oceans, he called for such steps as drafting a binding agreement to combat the devastating impact of plastic pollution on fragile marine ecosystems. As an ocean-locked State, Solomon Islands remains committed to negotiating a legally binding instrument on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction under the Convention on the Law of the Sea. It also supports the International Law Commission’s ongoing work on the question of sea level rise and sovereignty. Once national maritime zones are deposited with the United Nations, they should never be challenged, and rights must be respected irrespective of sea level rise, he said, anticipating the consideration of four continental shelf claims Solomon Islands submitted 12 years ago to the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf.
Highlighting other priorities, he said Solomon Islands became a party to the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty in 1985 and works with partners to ensure the region remains free from militarization. In its transition phase of graduating from the least developing countries category by 2024, Solomon Islands has concluded several regional and bilateral trade agreements. However, its graduation should be delayed, as the Government must analyse its pandemic-affected economy, he said, calling on partners to align support and priority programmes with the national development strategy.
Raising other concerns, he said Solomon Islands aligns itself with calls for the Security Council to adapt to today’s realities, with an expanded membership that includes a dedicated seat for small island developing States. Having submitted its national universal periodic review report on human rights, Solomon Islands reiterates its commitment to strengthening measures, including establishing national reporting mechanisms. On the domestic front, his country continues to work to protect the human rights of its most vulnerable populations. Thanking Cuba for training doctors and health workers, he called for lifting the decades-long embargo. Decolonization remains an ongoing issue, he said, emphasizing that the process of self-determination must continue in line with relevant United Nations resolutions. The theme of the session comes at a critical time during a deadly pandemic, which will shape the world’s legacy as leaders, as the response will be remembered by billions who lost loved ones and who thought the world could have done better. “There is more that binds us together than divides us, and we should embrace multilateralism as an important tool,” he said.
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