Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern urged world leaders to tackle rising inequalities and make international trade “more open and inclusive” in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.
She addressed the United Nations General Assembly in New York today via video link.
Ardern had previously announced that she would not be attending the General Assembly meeting due to the Covid-19 situation.
“As I deliver this address to the General Assembly from here in New Zealand, it seems to me that even when world events threaten to disconnect and divide us, a shared instinct to connect with each other still prevails. “she said.
âI have often described New Zealand as being remote, but connected. The Covid-19 pandemic has made both parts of this statement more true than ever. In some ways, we now feel this estrangement more deeply.
âThe vast ocean surrounding our islands has assumed even greater significance at a time when our border controls are our first line of defense against a highly contagious global virus. “
She cited New Zealand’s approach to tackling the pandemic with high vaccination and a focus on the “5 million team”.
âIt has been a privilege for me as a leader to witness the practical application of New Zealand values ââto these challenges.
âValues ââlike manaakitanga and whanaungatanga, which in the Maori language mean kindness, and a shared sense of humanity and connection. Values ââlike kotahitanga, or a shared aspiration and unity towards a common goal.
âThese values ââhave enabled New Zealanders to take care of each other and work together to limit the transmission of Covid-19 in our communities. “
Ardern said New Zealand is working with countries like Australia and the global COVAX initiative to support vaccination in the Pacific Islands.
“Without equitable access for all, we risk developing new variations that could undermine or reverse our progress,” she said.
Prime Minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern delivers a pre-recorded speech to the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly at the United Nations headquarters on September 24, 2021, in New York City. Prime Minister of New Zealand Jacinda Ardern delivers a pre-recorded speech to the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters on September 24, 2021, in New York City. Photo: AFP
Ardern said more than 120 million people have been pushed into extreme poverty as a result of the pandemic, and inequalities within and between countries have worsened.
âAs we turn to the challenges we face in the world, we have to turn to the most important thing of all – il tangata, il tangata, il tangata – these are the people, the people, the people.
“These consequences have never been inevitable, and we can take steps to reverse these trends and improve the lives of those affected,” she said.
She said leaders must be committed to ensuring the flow of essential goods and services and reject any temptation to turn in on themselves and focus on protectionism.
âWe know that poverty and inequality are at the root of conflict and instability, and we also see it in the worsening of civil unrest and conflict. Humanitarian crises have worsened. We see it in Afghanistan and there are many more.
Ardern also said the UN’s work on climate change continues to be of the utmost importance and New Zealand will continue to work to improve its response.
âClimate change affects all of our lives, but the countries of the Pacific are among the most affected, although they have contributed the least to the problem.
“New Zealand has made the 1.5 degree limit the heart of its national climate change legislation. We are committed to a 2050 target and we are reviewing our nationally determined contribution.”