President Paul Kagame joined other heads of state to address the world during the first day of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) on Tuesday, which was this year held virtually due to Covid-19.
The pandemic disrupted the movement of leaders and made it impossible for world leaders to physically meet in New York for what is considered the world’s largest diplomatic gathering.
The COVID-19 outbreak has already claimed nearly one million lives and pushed hundreds of millions into unexpected hardship.
“This is not a time for doubt or hesitation. We have the tools to meet this test and prevail,” Kagame told UNGA in a pre-recorded speech.
The Head of State commended the work of the World Health Organisation and its head Dr Tedros Adhanom, saying Rwanda will continue to work to reinforce the organisation to make it more effective.
He mentioned key initiatives such as the creation of the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A), including the COVAX Global Vaccines Facility, saying it is of critical importance for Africa.
“Ensuring equitable access to vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics will speed up the end of the pandemic for everyone,” Kagame noted.
The President indicated that the pandemic has highlighted the importance of resilient national health systems and strong domestic health financing, which the African Union is championing.
“The goal is for Africa to leverage its own resources to reinforce the impact of global health partnerships, such as the Global Fund and Gavi,” he noted.
President Kagame’s address to the UNGA also focused on the importance of empowering women, saying true gender has not yet been attained despite decades-long efforts to change the status quo.
“Twenty-five years ago, the World Conference on Women in Beijing charted a transformative agenda on gender equality, which continues to guide us,” he said.
“The empowerment of women has made all of us safer and wealthier. But true gender equality has still not been attained in any country,” he added.
Kagame also urged his counterparts to take concrete action on climate change, an issue that appeared more times in most of the world leaders’ speeches throughout the day.
He said implementing the Paris Agreement on Climate Change which was signed five years ago will slow the pace of global warming and give economies time to adapt to new technologies.
Similarly, the President highlighted that the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol, adopted four years ago, will play a major role, by reducing the consumption of hydrofluorocarbons.
“Just over half of Member States have ratified the Kigali Amendment, which is now in force, and I call upon the remainder to ratify, as soon as possible,” he told leaders on Tuesday.
The agreement seeks to eliminate hydrofluorocarbons, the greenhouse chemicals better known as HFCs—that usually used in refrigerators and air conditioners, among other coolants—which are blamed for heating up the planet.
The Sustainable Development Goals – the global agenda to achieve transformation by 2030 – also took centre stage with Kagame insisting that “let’s not deceive ourselves about how difficult it will be to meet the targets on time.”
“Most countries, especially in Africa, were already off-track, before 2020. The pandemic has disrupted growth and revenue collection around the world, most likely for several years to come,” he said.
“These milestones on gender, climate, and development demonstrate the achievements of multilateral action, while also reminding us how much remains to be done,” he added.
Kagame challenged leaders, asking whether the collective accomplishment of three generations of the UN existence in building a stronger international order has disintegrated into recrimination and resentment.
“Or did we come together to once again secure global progress on a foundation of cooperation and mutual respect?” he asked his colleagues, before adding; “The choice is ours.”