Pahor points to Covid-19, climate change and security in UN address

New York – President Borut Pahor addressed on Friday the general debate at the 76th UN General Assembly session, saying that “all challenges we face, are global” and that solutions to them could be found only in working together. He pointed to the Covid-19 pandemic, climate change, and peace and security as the main topics.

Pahor welcomed the intention of UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres to hold a wide debate about common future, saying that people needed to “engage in meaningful discussion and dialogue … even with those we do not agree with”.

“The culture of dialogue has dangerously deteriorated with the widespread intolerant, offensive, even exclusionary and hate speech,” the president added.

Pahor expressed deepest sympathies to all those who have suffered from the Covid-19 pandemic, which he said was proving to be a demanding and divisive challenge for societies.

“And I pay respect to new heroes, among them medical and care workers, scientists, teachers, and the young generations, who struggled with limited access to education,” the president added.

Science has once again proved its decisive role and the pandemic has presented the greatest test in global solidarity in generations, he said, noting that Slovenia had pledged half a million euros to COVAX, which is one of the highest relative shares.

As for climate change, he said that the “environment is in worse condition than expected” and that Slovenia as the EU presiding country was committed to the objective of Climate Neutral European Union by 2050.

Pahor said that the recent report of the International Panel on Climate Change was alarming, labelling it as the final urgent call for immediate climate action.

He added that Slovenia would do its utmost to contribute to the success of the COP26 conference in Glasgow, and that acting on climate change mitigation, adaptation and financing was a must in order to meet the objectives of the Paris Agreement.

The president pointed to the effects of climate change that greatly impact water, both through droughts and floods, and said that competition for scarce water resources would intensify, which is why innovation, governance, and collaboration on all levels is needed.

Pahor also noted that climate change profoundly affected food security, pointing to the example of Madagascar, and noting that since 2014, Slovenia had doubled its contribution for food security, especially through the World Food Programme for South Sudan and for Yemen.

However, efforts to fight famine need to go beyond humanitarian aid, as the transition to sustainable and resilient food systems needs to be accelerated. “That is why Slovenia welcomes the holding of the very first UN Summit on Food Systems.”

Pahor sees this as an opportunity to raise awareness of the importance of responsible investments in environmentally friendly agriculture, prevention of food losses and waste and responsible use of new and emerging technologies.

For this reason the president was happy to be able to, together with UNESCO Director General Audrey Azoulay, officially launch the International Research Centre on Artificial Intelligence in March in Ljubljana.

“The pandemic has only increased our dependence on the digital space, while at the same time revealed its vulnerabilities to the spread of hate speech. It is important to keep in mind that fundamental freedoms apply both online and offline”, he added.

As for peace and security, Pahor said that dependence on digital space had revealed vulnerability to security threats and to cyberattacks, highlighting the extent of damage caused by such attacks to critical infrastructure, the economy and society.

“To enable peace and security in all domains, we should collectively and more effectively respond to different crises, which exceed the capacities of individual states to react,” Pahor said, calling for reconciliation processes to be promoted.

The president said that full realisation of human rights for all had proven to be key to resilience and must be an integral part of recovery, noting that the situation in Afghanistan had exposed the fragility of the human rights system.

He concluded by calling for cooperation, promotion of dialogue and peaceful settlement of disputes, saying that “this is about effective multilateralism, which Slovenia is passionately advocating”.