Statement at the 74th UNGA Debate by President Danny Faure
25 September 2019 | Foreign Affairs
STATEMENT AT THE 74TH UNGA DEBATE BY PRESIDENT DANNY FAURE
25 SEPTEMBER 2019
Your Excellency, President of the General Assembly,
Your Excellency, Secretary General of the United Nations,
Distinguished Heads of State and Government,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I would like to begin by congratulating H.E. María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés on her successful tenure during the 73rd Session of the General Assembly. Her leadership has been one marked by a willingness to promote discourse and action on a number of issues seeking to bring the United Nations closer to the people it seeks to represent.
I also take this opportunity to congratulate H.E. Mr. Tijjani Muhammad-Bande; a distinguished son from our sisterly country, Nigeria, on his election to preside over this session of the General Assembly. The Republic of Seychelles has faith in your vision and leadership to guide us, and catalyse multilateral support to help in the fight for poverty alleviation, climate action and quality education for all our people. I wish you the very best as you discharge your important responsibilities.
This session of the General Assembly sits on the cusp of the 75th year of the foundation of our organisation, forged from the ashes of a devastating world war. Our forebears sought to build a more just and equitable world order based on the rule of law and guaranteeing fundamental freedoms. The United Nations was charged with upholding the idea that, as a collective, our differences could be resolved through dialogue and international diplomacy.
Over the last decades, we have maintained the longest period of prosperity in our collective memory. However, as we approach our 75th year, we also need to be conscious that many of our people have been left behind. Because of our shortcomings and inaction, humanity is today threatened by conflict, economic hardship, and climate action.
We cannot afford to have disillusioned people who have lost sight of the visions of hope and security that were promised when our Organisation was founded.
Equality is for everyone, regardless of gender, creed or race. In Seychelles, my Government believes in placing people at the centre of development. We continue to invest in them so that they can live in dignity, realise their full potential and contribute to our vibrant democracy. Inclusivity is the key which will drive our nations further towards the goal of a secure and sustainable future.
I believe in the human spirit and its unyielding capacity for good. I believe in the founding principles of the United Nations; that multilateralism is key in bringing nations and people together and ensuring mutual prosperity and a lasting peace.
More than most, island nations must have faith in the multilateral international order. We are by nature isolated and by design, our livelihoods are tied to the rest of the world. We rely heavily on this premise as well as on the actions or inactions of others for our very survival.
Climate change has become an existential threat not only to the lives of people in island states, but the world as a whole. It is clear that we are no longer in a position to indiscriminately plunder under the guise of development for the sake of short term profits. I am aware that development has lifted our people from poverty, but through exploitation we are dooming future generations to a planet beyond their ability to repair.
Fortunately, young people around the world have taken a stand to secure their future. In Seychelles, we are seeing youth led NGOs partnering with Government to prioritise the fight against climate change, pollution and other threats to the environment. Youth-led grassroots movement led to a ban on many single-use plastics, and continue to advocate for ocean protection.
To us islanders, the ocean represents not only our livelihood but also a way of life. The Seychellois people are bound to the sea and are cognisant of the untapped opportunities that it presents. Our pioneering development of the Blue Economy has the potential to unlock multiplier effects which will increase economic opportunities whilst equally protecting the ocean for generations to come. In our view, the ocean is the last frontier- if used responsibly it will lead to shared prosperity, food security and innovation.
In part, we are harnessing the potential of the oceans through the Blue Economy to meet our sustainable development goals and climate obligations as dictated by the 2030 Agenda, the SAMOA Pathway and the Paris Agreement. Seychelles is also championing the development of the Blue Economy in Africa and we are working with willing partners towards the international deployment of the Blue Economy.
Seychelles will remain at the forefront of the discourse on climate change. We will fight – with a passionate sense of urgency – against inequalities which directly impact us. It is unacceptable that fifty percent of greenhouse gas emissions are produced by ten percent of the planet’s wealthiest inhabitants living in the richest nations.
We will continue to voice our concerns as our people demand it. The Seychellois people do not have the luxury of a ‘what if’, they require action now. Islanders can no longer afford to see ourselves as dots lost in a sea of blue – we are sentinels, guardians of two-thirds of our common blue planet.
The deep ocean is the beating heart of the planet, yet we have better maps of Mars than we do of the ocean floor. This needs to change, as we gather the information available to identify priority areas for protection. This information should be used to take concrete action to preserve our oceans, extending beyond national jurisdictions. This is a global issue, and so it needs a global approach.
We must translate the political will of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement into decisive action. Bringing law and good governance to the ocean is the only way we can ensure our collective survival.
Seychelles is 100% committed to the ongoing work by the United Nations to develop a legally binding framework to conserve our oceans, in areas outside national borders. If we want to survive, this is the only way forward. We anticipate a transparent and inclusive instrument that offers due recognition of our special circumstance as a SIDS and an adjacent coastal state. This implies including appropriate mechanisms for benefit sharing, capacity building and the transfer of marine technology.
Seychelles has challenged the established model of a donor recipient relationship through innovative financing that promotes ocean conservation and climate action. Through the use of this type of financing we have pioneered the world’s first debt for adaptation swap, established the world’s first sovereign blue bonds and protected ocean space in our EEZ that is roughly the size of Germany. Seychelles is on track to conserve thirty percent of its 1.4-million-square-kilometre maritime territory by 2020, thereby achieving the 30-by-30 target a decade early.
Suffice to say that today, big ideas come from small islands. For too long, we have been relegated to the sidelines of international discourse. We seek to change this dynamic by highlighting what is most important.
Earlier this year, Seychelles partnered with the Nekton Mission and University of Oxford to conduct research in a bid to conserve our maritime spaces and the Indian Ocean. In April this year, I was proud to deliver a speech broadcasted live from 407 feet below ocean surface, calling for greater worldwide effort to protect the beating blue heart of our planet: our oceans. But the novelty of the event should not overshadow the message: safeguarding the oceans and marine life from climate change, overfishing, plastic pollution and other threats is an urgent, global responsibility.
We are the guardians of two-thirds of this blue planet’s surface. We must act accordingly. This issue is bigger than all of us, and we cannot wait for the next generation to solve it. We are running out of excuses to not take action, and running out of time.
We are heartened that the tides are starting to turn in global conversations around this issue. I would like to commend Secretary General Guterres for his staunch advocacy of Small Island Developing States, highlighting the impacts of climate change facing island nations as frontline line states in this fight. Furthermore, by organising the first Climate Action Summit in the margins of the General Debate, the Secretary General is again demonstrating that he is a champion for SIDS.