SIAOSI ‘OFAKIVAHAFOLAU SOVALENI, Prime Minister and Minister for Education and Training, Minister for Police, Fire Services and Emergency Services, and Minister for His Majesty's Armed Forces of the Kingdom of Tonga, offering his condolence to the Governments and peoples of Lahaina, Hawaii, Morocco and Libya for their recent natural disasters, noted that the Assembly convenes “at a time where people, countries, regions, and our world confront a quick succession of multiple challenges”. He spotlighted the existential threats of climate change, spelling out its related consequences, including a rise in non-communicable diseases, declining living conditions, human trafficking, cross-border criminal activities and mounting violence against women and girls, among others. “Our responsibility is to act. The means of retaining people’s trust and inspiring hope is through taking action and achieving results,” he advised. He therefore pointed out the imperatives of rebuilding the trust upon which the United Nations was founded, which, beyond dialogue, must involve “concrete actions that demonstrate our commitment to shared values”.
On sustainable development, he cautioned about the risk of its being relegated to “another unattainable goal”, urging that the international community must act to prevent this from happening. Acknowledging the difficulty of this task, he said: “It is imperative that we investigate the root causes of our significant lag in attaining our development targets.” He further lamented the fact that the SDG progress report reveals that over half of the world is left behind. Finance for development is a critical issue germane to the attainment of the Global Goals. Therefore, a review of the international financial architecture is well supported by Tonga, along with the call for debt relief for countries in “dire circumstances, particularly those that have been severely affected by natural disasters or other external shocks”. Stating that his country’s goal is to decrease reliance on fossil fuel by 70 per cent before 2025, he urged a concerted effort on ensuring emissions do not exceed 1.5°C, strongly encouraging completion of the first global stock-take.
He further called for the establishment of a Pacific Fund “to offer direct assistance to Pacific small island developing States (SIDS) in their endeavours to tackle climate change impacts”, stating that, having been appointed champion on climate financing for the Pacific, Tonga “is determined to take a lead on the issue”. He also affirmed his country’s commitment to the implementation of the Secretary-General’s Early Warning for All initiative announced at COP27 last year, and he spotlighted the UN chief’s report that the “ocean remains under significant threat from human activities”. He therefore called for urgent remedial actions to address imminent threats.
Describing today’s young people as the planet’s future custodians, he said: “Children and youth under 30 years of age represent about 40 per cent of the world’s population. Their voices must be heard in decision-making bodies.” He called for the empowerment of this category of the world’s inhabitants. He also reminded the Assembly of its founding, urging Member States to “do our utmost to rebuild trust in multilateralism through action”.
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