International community must come together to assist Afghan people: UNGA president-elect


The international community must come together to assist the people of Afghanistan in realising their aspirations, president-elect of the UN General Assembly Abdulla Shahid said on Friday, amid growing global concern over the deteriorating security situation in the conflict-ridden country. Shahid, the foreign minister of the Maldives, also said at a leading think-tank that the United Nations has a “very clear role” to play in Afghanistan as maintenance of international peace and security is a mandate of the UN Security Council.

The Maldivian leader arrived in India on Wednesday on a three-day visit. India is the first country that Shahid is visiting in his official capacity as president-elect of the UN General Assembly after he was elected to the post on June 7.

“Afghan people are resilient people. Their leadership is strong, their government is a democratic government elected by the people,” he said at an interactive session at the Indian Council of World Affairs.

“I think the international community needs to come together and assist the Afghan people in whatever way they so desire so that they could have the way forward that is being charted out by their government,” Shahid added.

The Taliban has been making rapid advances across Afghanistan in the last few weeks seizing control of large parts of the country as the US pulled out the majority of its forces and aims to complete the withdrawal by August 31.

In his address, Shahid said his immediate priority as president of the UN General Assembly will be to focus on helping the world recover from COVID-19.

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“The impacts have been immense, and yet still, this pandemic seems to be far from over. New variants are emerging. And we are still unclear about the longer-term health consequences. The United Nations can, and must do more to address this,” he said.

“Building on existing initiatives and approaches, I will be looking to address the health of our people and our economies. And work to ensure vaccine equity. We need to vaccinate the world. No one is safe until everyone is safe,” the Maldivian foreign minister added.

At the same time, he said the coronavirus pandemic has not replaced the challenges of climate change, ocean health, desertification and land degradation, and loss of biodiversity.

“In fact, it (COVID-19) has limited the scope for addressing these challenges, as limited resources have been diverted towards the pandemic. But the impacts of climate change are worsening,” he said.

Shahid said that addressing the needs of the people in various spheres is equally important.

“Especially given that humanity, human rights, have taken a back seat during this pandemic — as more and more people lived through lockdowns and extreme measures had to be taken around the world,” he added.

The UNGA president-elect also called for the participation of young people in decision-making processes that affect their future, noting that gender equality will a priority for him.

“In considering the role of the United Nations in addressing global issues, we need to consider the strengths of the United Nations. I believe that the strength of the United Nations lies in its ability to shape norms, change discourse, forge consensus,” he said.

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Shahid also said that trust can be built by bringing the UN closer to the people.

“By increasing its efficiency, its effectiveness. By making the United Nations deliver. Deliver for people, for the planet, and for prosperity,” he said.

“The COVID-19 pandemic may have put the world in crisis. But I believe this could also be an opportunity. To build a stronger, resilient world. A more sustainable world. This could be an opportunity to enhance multilateralism, strengthen cooperation,” he said.



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