Statement of His Majesty King Tupou VI on the occasion of the General Debate at the Seventy-fourth Session of the United Nations General Assembly

“Mr President,

I congratulate you on the assumption of your presidency of the 74th Session of the UN GA. I assure you that the Delegation of the Kingdom of Tonga will fully support your able leadership

I express our gratitude to your predecessor, HE Maria Fernanda Espinosa Garces, for her successful Presidency of the 73rd Session making the United Nations relevant to all peoples through global leadership and shared responsibilities for peaceful, equitable and sustainable societies.

I also commend HE Mr Antonio Guterres for his inaugural visit to the Pacific Islands region in May of this year and his continued stewardship of the Secretariat. Tonga fully supports the ongoing work he is undertaking on reform of the United Nations to ensure its relevance and utility for all member states.

Mr President,

My delegation and I congratulate you on your 4 priorities to guide our work this session.

Promoting international peace and security, in particular conflict prevention: Strengthening global action to tackle climate change which is integral to the effective implementation of SDGs: Accentuating inclusion, human rights and the empowerment of youth and women respectively: and Promoting partnerships for advancing the achievement of the SDGs which are interlinked, very timely and relevant to addressing the challenges of our time during your tenure which we support fully.

We welcome your recognition of the challenges faced by small delegations such as ours, to ensure we are able to contribute equitably and effectively to the many important high-level meetings that you will convene during this Session. With the 5 Summits this week alone in addition to our General Debate, we are grateful for your particular attention to enabling smaller delegations to participate fully

Mr President,

Tonga continues its commitment to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its SDGs, including the SAMOA Pathway. We are pleased to participate at the high-level midterm review of the SAMOA Pathway tomorrow to ensure its goals are being met at this half-way point of its implementation. The 2 government’s sustainable development priorities remain aligned with 13 of the 17 SDGs namely goals 1 to 4, 6 to 9 and 13 to 17. Tonga’s first voluntary national review report presented at the High Level Political Forum in July this year, spoke to the localization of the SDGs and the SAMOA Pathway, through the Tonga Strategic Development Framework. A whole-of-government approach for coordinated and coherent service delivery, continues to be a priority.

We again recognize the important contribution to our efforts by the United Nations Office of the High Representative for Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing countries and Small Island Developing States, the United Nations Department for Economic and Social Affairs and the United Nations ESCAP office. We are also grateful for the enhanced engagement of the United Nations Office for Project Services in Tonga through our recently concluded host country agreement.

Mr President,

Tonga welcomed the convening of the Climate Change Summit earlier this week. My country engaged fully in the seminal gathering of Leaders to again give prominence to the threats posed by climate change with its direct links to international peace and security and thereby to our sustainable development aspirations in support of SDG 13 and its targets.

The 1.5 degree limit is the heart of the Paris Agreement and although my country with our Pacific small island developing states neighbours as a whole contributes not even close to 1% of global warming, we remain committed to the Agreement. For Tonga, securing climate finance is the main priority as without it no action on our national determined contributions (or NDCs) is possible. We welcome the announcement by the United Kingdom of its intention to double its contribution to the Green Climate Fund.

Pacific Leaders in Tuvalu last month endorsed the strongest statement to-date on climate change. The Kainaki II Declaration (as it is known) declared a “climate change crisis” in the Pacific Islands region and called for urgent action to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions and prevent catastrophic global warming and disasters. Extreme events like cyclones and typhoons, flooding, drought and king tides are frequently more intense, inflicting damage and destruction to our communities and ecosystems and putting the health of our peoples at risk. We think at this time of our fellow islanders in the Bahamas as they work to recover after the devastating impacts and destruction in the wake of Hurricane Dorian

Climate change is not only a political issue for us but also one of survival. The fact that climate change is an existential threat and a matter of international peace and security was again endorsed by Pacific Leaders through their decision to develop the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent. We continue to support the work of the Group of Friends on Climate and Security

We continue to recognise the important nexus between the climate and the ocean, and further continue to note with concern the devastating impacts of climate change on our marine environment. We look forward to deliberations on this link in Chile at the 25th Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change later this year.

The important issues of baselines that determine our maritime boundaries, once established under the UN Convention of the Law of the Sea, should not be affected and should remain unchanged despite the effects of sea level rise. Our Sovereignty must not be compromised by the effects of climate change and we continue to welcome and support the work of the International Law Commission on this critically important and timely issue for consideration of the Sixth Committee for the General Assembly.

Mr President,

Tonga has continued its engagement in this year’s second and third intergovernmental conferences on the conservation and sustainable use of the biological diversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction. We look forward to the next revision of the zero draft of the treaty with hope that the ongoing convergence of understandings by member states engaging in the process will find completion at the 4th and final conference early next year. We also welcome the establishment of the Group of Friends on Capacity Building – the crosscutting issue tying all elements together in the treaty.

Tonga also continues its engagement at the International Seabed Authority. Tonga remains committed with other members of the Authority, including its capacity as an elected member of the Council, to continue to work towards the finalization of the important draft exploitation regulations ensuring an appropriate balance between the need to conserve and protect the marine environment and the sustainable use of the deep-sea mineral resources. Importantly, we must ensure our work is properly informed and properly concluded and in support of SDG 14. The Presidency of the Council will rotate to the Asia Pacific Group for the 26th Session in 2020 and Tonga has presented its candidature for election to this important position.

As Tonga was also privileged to host the first International Seabed Authority regional workshop for the Pacific in February this year, Tonga had also remained engaged with the Authority’s Blue Abyssal Initiative and attended related workshops for sponsoring states in Nauru and Kiribati last month. We look forward to continuing our collective work in the Cook Islands as well as in Tonga in the coming months, before the Second United Nations Ocean Conference mid-next year.

Tonga commends the work of the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf. We are grateful for the recommendations provided to us by the Commission on our first partial submission last month. We look forward to its eventual consideration of our second partial submission in good time.

Tonga acknowledges Italy’s ongoing partnership with it through the Joint Committee in strengthening Tonga’s capacity in the field of the environment and ocean. We also acknowledge the work of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community, the Commonwealth Secretariat and the Pew Charitable Trust on the regional deep-sea minerals Treaty.

Mr President,

Tonga’s priority NDC is to achieve 50% renewable energy by 2020. We have been able to negotiate the funding required to achieve this and we would like to thank partners alike that assist Tonga through public and public/private financing as well, to accelerate my country’s transition to renewable energy and resilient infrastructure in support of SDG 7 and its targets. Tonga is also pleased to continue in its capacity as an elected Vice President of the SIDS DOCK Assembly on behalf of the Pacific small island developing States’ members.

Madame President,

Finally, sustainable development whether it be, inter alia through good health and well-being, climate action, life below water, or affordable and clean energy, can only be realized through the achievement and maintenance of international peace and security. We continue to look to the Security Council to protect the innocent from threats to international peace and security in whatever form, be they traditional threats such as armed conflict, or newer threats like climate change and sea level rise and health epidemics, to ensure no one is left behind.

May Almighty God guide and bless you and all the member states of the United Nations, their respective Governments and our peoples.

Thank you.”

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