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21 September 2016 – Massive displacement across borders has highlighted the power of fear and conflict more clearly than any other challenge, but the European Union’s actions have always been driven by empathy and a readiness to help those in need, its President told the United Nations General Assembly, which also heard several EU member States speak individually.
The Union has always promoted a free world governed by the rule of law and peace, rather than one beset by conflict, mistrust and fear, said the President of the European Council of the European Union, Donald Tusk, during the Assembly’s annual general debate.
Having spent billions of euros in humanitarian assistance, it would spend much more in years to come, he said.
The Union’s main goal has always been peace, he said, whether such peace is being threatened by civil wars in Africa or by nuclear testing in Asia. Peace on Europe’s own borders has been compromised when the “Ukraine [was attacked] by Russia.” Libya, Syria and Afghanistan are also in danger. In a few weeks, the European Union, together with the Afghan Government, will host an international conference on Afghanistan in Brussels, where the world can show support for stability in the country and region as a whole.
Building a global strategy to fight terrorism is key to both preventing attacks and undermining terrorist financing, he said, noting the Union’s efforts in that regard. He urged the international community to make better use of the UN to fight the scourge together. The Union is among the largest donors of development aid that addressed various problems, including insecurity, poverty, climate change and uncontrolled migration. In addition, with a policy in place for four years, the Union is fully committed to fighting climate change.
In his address, Sauli Niinistö, the President of Finland, said that for a number of years, his country and Turkey have taken the lead in efforts to strengthen UN-based mediation.
“There is a need to foster closer cooperation between different actors, such as traditional and religious leaders, and to draw more participation from the civil society,” he said, welcoming the progress made, as evidenced by adoption of the Assembly resolution on mediation two weeks ago.
He noted that this year marked the 60th anniversary of Finland’s participation in UN peacekeeping, to which the Nordic country contributed 50,000 men and women to serve in those operations. Warning against the illicit flow of conventional weapons, he called for universal adoption of the Arms Trade Treaty, which has already entered into force. “Two tasks remain: it needs to be adopted by all and implemented effectively,” he said.
On the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted a year ago, by 193 UN Member States, he said the true test will implementation. For its part, Finland is focusing on partnerships between government, the private sector, universities and civil society. He said he is personally committed to lowering his carbon footprint by half within a decade by signing up to the “Citizens Climate Pledge” initiative just made global by the UN Climate Change Secretariat.