Like many others who are travelling to New York for the general debate of the United Nations right now, I would have liked nothing more than for this summit of the international community to be taking place under different, more peaceful circumstances. These days, we need the United Nations more than ever. And we need it for what it truly stands for: listening to each other with respect and understanding, united in our belief in the fundamental values of the UN Charter, such as the renunciation of violence, the sovereign equality of all states and international cooperation. And we need the United Nations in order to find common solutions to global problems – so that no country must live in fear that a stronger neighbour will attack it.
The brutality of Russia’s war of aggression and its threat to Europe’s peaceful order do not obscure our view of the fact that its dramatic impacts are even more severe in many regions of the world. Its impacts are running up against problems and crises that, all too often, don’t make it onto the front pages or into the news. That’s why I will use the numerous events and meetings in the coming week to focus on the issues and concerns of our partners in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Arab world – to talk about concrete solutions with those who are most affected by climate change and the food crisis. After all, we have a responsibility not only for Europe, but together for the whole world.
This General Assembly is not like the previous ones. Since 24 February, Russia has been blatantly infringing international law and – as one of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council – trampling the very foundations of our international peaceful order underfoot. We stand firmly by Ukraine and we will continue to support it – with everything it needs – so that the war and the immeasurable suffering of the people in Ukraine will come to an end. In New York, the focus will also be on how the horrific crimes committed in Ukraine in the name of Russia can be investigated and prosecuted. And we will also talk about the situation of Ukraine’s nuclear power plants, which Russia is using as a bargaining chip in this war, thus putting millions of people at risk of disaster every day.
One of the UN’s most important principles is the sovereign equality of states. Each country counts – and it counts in equal measure. No matter how small or how large, how rich or poor, how strong or vulnerable – and no matter where it is on this planet. That’s why the UN General Assembly, with its 193 member states, is also the right place to talk to as many colleagues as possible from all parts of the world – about their concerns, their needs, their hopes and plans. And to forge alliances to solve common problems that are too big for any of us to tackle by ourselves.