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Statement by Kazakhstan President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev at the General Debate of the 75th session of the UNGA

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The Future We Want, The UN We Need: Reaffirming our collective commitment to multilateralism (23 September 2020).

Mr. President,

Mr. Secretary-General,

Excellencies,

Distinguished delegates,

This year we commemorate the 75th anniversary of the United Nations in both dramatic and critical time.

The greatest challenge of our age – COVID-19 pandemic – continues to cause deep suffering among the people around the world and has seriously affected the global economy.

In the wake of this unprecedented human tragedy, on behalf of my country-fellows I extend the profound gratitude to all medical professionals and frontline staff-members who work very hard to protect us.

The current global emergency is a stress test for all of us that has triggered health, humanitarian and socio-economic turbulence. COVID-19 has exposed our past mistakes and failures.

We have witnessed a critical collapse of global cooperation in response to this crisis, trade protectionism and political nationalism, coming close to what some have already called a state of “global disfunction”.

The whole world is on the verge of dramatic upheavals that may lead to irreversible consequences. Lack of mutual confidence, misunderstanding of international competition, trade wars and sanctions really undermine the prospects and hopes for a better world.

Let us be frank – in the post-Cold War world we largely missed the chance to build a truly just, people-centered international system. The fate of our future generations depends on the understanding of this reality, primarily by us, the leaders of states.

Therefore it is our moral obligation to reflect on the paradigm of building a "New World". Now we are in a make-or-break moment for the humankind.

Born a century before the UN establishment, a great Kazakh poet and philosopher Abai proposed his own formula on global interaction: «Адамзатқа не керек: сүймек, сезбек, кейімек, қарекет қылмақ, жүгірмек, ақылмен ойлап сөйлемек». Which means: all that the humanity needs – love, compassion, bold actions, deeds and thoughtfulness.

In this context, allow me to share some points on our collective response to current challenges.

Mr. President,

Right after the coronavirus outbreak, the UN’s various funds, programmes and agencies have stepped forward to combat the crisis.

However, the international community obviously needs to do more.

Firstly, to build a strong global health system priority must be given to upgrading national health institutions through timely and coordinated support from developed countries and UN agencies.

Secondly, we must take the politics out of the vaccine. It is not too late for reaching a COVID-19 vaccine trade and investment agreement that would protect global production and supply chains.

Thirdly, it may be necessary to revise the International Health Regulations to increase the World Health Organization’s capacity, and to develop national capabilities in preventing and responding to diseases.

Fourthly, we suggest that the idea of a network of Regional Centers for Disease Control and Biosafety under the UN auspices be closely examined. Kazakhstan stands ready to host such a regional center.

Last but not least, in light of the global pandemic, launching of a biological weapons control system is becoming more acute than ever.

Kazakhstan proposes to establish a special multilateral body – the International Agency for Biological Safety – based on the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention and accountable to the UN Security Council.

Distinguished delegates,

We need urgent concerted efforts for a truly global economic recovery.

I join the Secretary-General’s call on rescue package amounting to 10% of the world economy and share his view that the response to the pandemic should be based on a New Global Deal to create equal and broader opportunities for all.

We believe that the suspension of debt repayments by the poorest countries will help reduce uncertainty. International financial institutions need to implement innovative solutions like debt-to-health system swaps.

I hope that the upcoming High-Level Meeting on Financing for Development will produce concrete measures.

Landlocked developing countries have been particularly hard-hit by COVID-19 which has severely damaged trade and supply chains.

As the current Chair of the LLDC Group, Kazakhstan has proposed a UN Roadmap to reinvigorate implementation of the Vienna Programme of Action.

The highest expectation of our people is practical deliverables within Agenda 2030.

We need prompt and well-coordinated steps to get back on track for an accelerated SDG Decade of Action – probably the most critical decade of our generation.

The very basic target, zero hunger is to be provided unconditionally.

In this context, we note the importance of convening a Food Systems Summit in 2021.

The Islamic Organization for Food Security, initiated by Kazakhstan is ready to assist the international humanitarian campaign through the creation of food reserves.

We should renew our commitment to leave no one behind, especially women, youth, children, elders, persons with disabilities, disproportionately affected by the crisis.

The largest disruption of education systems in history should be stopped from becoming a generational catastrophe.

Civic engagement and private sector involvement are also critical for solving current pressing problems.

During past months we have witnessed strong solidarity all over the world through volunteering.

To acknowledge the role of volunteers, I propose the United Nations to proclaim an International Year of Mobilizing Volunteers for Development. In Kazakhstan I announced the current year as a Year of Volunteers.

Mr. President,

There are two more crises that are looming right behind the pandemic.

One of them is the nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament crisis.

Kazakhstan has been the role model of a responsible state by willingly abandoning its nuclear arsenal and shutting down world’s biggest nuclear test site.

However, continuous erosion of the non-proliferation regime leaves us in a dangerous position.

Kazakhstan, therefore, expects all Member States to join its appeal to nuclear powers to take necessary and urgent measures to save the humankind from a nuclear disaster.

In this respect we appreciate an active role played by relevant UN institutions including the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization.

We believe that legally-binding negative security assurances should be given to every non-nuclear-weapon state. That is why we urge all P5 countries to ratify the respective Protocols to the Nuclear-Weapon-Free-Zone Treaties, including Semipalatinsk Treaty.

Another existential crisis for our civilization is the climate change. It is not only a dangerous problem in itself, but is also a “threat multiplier”.

The climate emergency is a race we are losing. But the post-COVID recovery gives us unique opportunity to put environmental protection at the forefront of international agenda. We must unite around the UN’s six climate positive actions.

Kazakhstan is very vulnerable to the various effects of the climate change. The tragedies of Aral Sea and Semipalatinsk Nuclear Test Site, the rapid melting of glaciers, and desertification threaten not only Kazakhstan and Central Asian region, but also the entire world.

Although Kazakhstan is highly dependent on fossil fuels and has a long way to go to meet Paris 2030 targets, our commitment to develop a decarbonized economy has no alternative.

We will reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by 15% by 2030 through economic overhaul and industrial modernization.

And yet, in next five years we will plant more than two billion trees.

To address these global crises we need to restore an atmosphere of trust between member states and strengthen multilateral institutions.

Lack of trust between nations has become toxic for international relations.

It is a moral duty to demonstrate our commitment to the basic purposes and principles of the UN Charter.

Due to the immensely growing demand for confidence-building, Kazakhstan aims to transform Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia into a full-fledged organization for security and development in Asia.

The world community should increasingly promote an ideology of tolerance, mutual understanding and cultural diversity. It is a key to countering hatred and intolerance.

We once again stress the need for creating a unified coalition to counter another global challenge – international terrorism.

We invite all countries to join the Code of Conduct for Achieving a World Free of Terrorism.

Kazakhstan was among the first to repatriate our women and children from war-torn Syria and Iraq. It was not an easy decision, but absolutely necessary one.

It is our strong belief that the United Nations must lead the global effort to overcome the pandemic, accelerate recovery and improve prospects for global governance.

Therefore, each and every UN agency should reinstate its efficiency and relevance to the tasks ahead of us.

We have no alternative but to live up to the great challenge of building a more robust and forward-oriented UN.

The criticism of the United Nations is not always fair. The UN does exactly as much as the political will of the Member States allows.

Excellencies,

Though different, each of these three crises is in fact a governance challenge. To achieve truly just and people-centered world, measures at the international stage should be accompanied by the dedicated efforts at the national level.

Kazakhstan is determined to build an economically strong, democratically advanced and human-oriented “Listening State”.

Therefore, we conduct political and economic reforms that are expected to give a boost to the development of our society to meet up the expectations of our people.

We have decriminalized defamation, adopted new laws on political parties and on the peaceful mass meetings.

To fulfill a fundamental right to life and human dignity we decided to join the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights on the abolition of the death penalty.

Another priority is ensuring equal opportunities for women and youth, protection of children.

We have reduced our Gender Inequality Index value by two times and have introduced a mandatory 30% quota for women and youth in election party lists.

We have helped 4.5 million fellow-citizens who temporarily lost their income during pandemic having allocated for this goal 1.1 billion dollars. Over a million people have received food and household packages. It was an unprecedented measure in our part of the world.

Regional cooperation has always been our main focus and commitment. Central Asia is undergoing rapid transformation through significant expansion of regional cooperation in various fields.

No doubt that a prosperous, strong and united Central Asia is beneficial both for regional and global stakeholders.

As to regional stability, the rational use of transboundary water resources is instrumental. We thus propose the establishment of a Regional water and energy consortium.

To co-ordinate development agenda in the region we intend to institutionalize a UN-led regional SDGs Center in Almaty.

Mr. President,

We must remember that in crisis comes an opportunity. We can build back for a better, greener, more efficient, fair and inclusive world.

The emphasis must be shifted on the root causes, preventive measures, and increasing the efficiency of our limited resources.

All the efforts should be guided by the moral imperative – to Put People First.

Kazakhstan will always remain a strong supporter of the UN and will actively participate in fulfilling our collective aspiration for a better and happier future.

Thank you for your attention.

Economy

EU approves €2.9 billion in state aid for battery project attracting €9 billion

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The Commission has approved, state aid of up to €2.9 billion in funding for an ‘Important Project of Common European Interest’ (IPCEI) to support research and innovation in the battery value chain. The twelve EU countries involved will provide public funding expected to unlock an additional €9 billion in private investments.

The project, called “European Battery Innovation” was jointly prepared and notified by Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Poland, Slovakia, Spain and Sweden.

Executive Vice-President Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said: “For those massive innovation challenges for the European economy, the risks can be too big for just one member state or one company to take alone. Today's project is an example of how competition policy works hand in hand with innovation and competitiveness. With significant support also comes responsibility: the public has to benefit from its investment, which is why companies receiving aid have to generate positive spillover effects across the EU.”

When Vestager was asked if companies from outside the EU, such as Tesla, could benefit from this funding she said that this was possible and showed that the EU was committed to open strategic autonomy and welcomes non-EU firms when they have the right projects.

The Vice-President for Foresight, Maroš Šefčovič, said: “The Commission has given its green light to a second important project of the common European interest in the field of batteries. Technology is vital for our transition to climate neutrality. The figures show what an enormous undertaking this is. It involves twelve member states from North, South, East and West, injecting up to €2.9 billion euros in state aid in support of 46 projects designed by 42 companies, which in turn will generate three times as much private investment. "

The project will cover the entire battery value chain: extraction of raw materials, design and manufacturing of battery cells, recycling and disposal. It is expected to contribute to the development of a whole set of new technological breakthroughs, including different cell chemistries and novel production processes, and other innovations in the battery value chain, in addition to what will be achieved thanks to the first battery IPCEI.

 

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coronavirus

EU urges AstraZeneca to speed up vaccine deliveries amid 'supply shock'

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The European Union has urged AstraZeneca to find ways to swiftly deliver vaccines after the company announced a large cut in supplies of its COVID-19 shot to the bloc, as news emerged the drugmaker also faced supply problems elsewhere, write and

In a sign of the EU’s frustration - after Pfizer also announced supply delays earlier in January - a senior EU official told Reuters the bloc would in the coming days require pharmaceutical companies to register COVID-19 vaccine exports.

AstraZeneca, which developed its shot with Oxford University, told the EU on Friday it could not meet agreed supply targets up to the end of March, with an EU official involved in the talks telling Reuters that meant a 60% cut to 31 million doses.

“We expect the company to find solutions and to exploit all possible flexibilities to deliver swiftly,” an EU Commission spokesman said, adding the head of the EU executive Ursula von der Leyen had a call earlier on Monday with AstraZeneca’s chief Pascal Soriot to remind him of the firm’s commitments.

A spokesman for AstraZeneca said Soriot told von der Leyen the company was doing everything it could to bring its vaccine to millions of Europeans as soon as possible.

News emerged on Monday that the company faces wider supply problems.

Australia’s Health Minister Greg Hunt told reporters AstraZeneca had advised the country it had experienced “a significant supply shock”, which would cut supplies in March below what was agreed. He did not provide figures.

Thailand’s Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul said AstraZeneca would be supplying 150,000 doses instead of the 200,000 planned, and far less than the 1 million shots the country had initially requested.

AstraZeneca declined to comment on global supply issues.

The senior EU official said the bloc had a contractual right to check the company’s books to assess production and deliveries, a move that could imply the EU fears doses being diverted from Europe to other buyers outside the bloc.

AstraZeneca has received an upfront payment of 336 million euros ($409 million) from the EU, another official told Reuters when the 27-nation bloc sealed a supply deal with the company in August for at least 300 million doses - the first signed by the EU to secure COVID-19 shots..

Under advance purchase deals sealed during the pandemic, the EU makes down-payments to companies to secure doses, with the money expected to be mostly used to expand production capacity.

“Initial volumes will be lower than originally anticipated due to reduced yields at a manufacturing site within our European supply chain,” AstraZeneca said on Friday.

The site is a viral vectors factory in Belgium run by the drugmaker’s partner Novasep.

Viral vectors are produced in genetically modified living cells that have to be nurtured in bioreactors. The complex procedure requires fine-tuning of various inputs and variables to arrive at consistently high yields.

“The flimsy justification that there are difficulties in the EU supply chain but not elsewhere does not hold water, as it is of course no problem to get the vaccine from the UK to the continent,” said EU lawmaker Peter Liese, who is from the same party as German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The EU called a meeting with AstraZeneca after Friday’s (22 January) announcement to seek further clarification. The meeting started at 1230 CET on Monday.

The EU official involved in the talks with AstraZeneca said expectations were not high for the meeting, in which the company will be asked to better explain the delays.

Earlier in January, Pfizer, which is currently the largest supplier of COVID-19 vaccines to the EU, announced delays of nearly a month to its shipments, but hours later revised this to say the delays would last only a week.

EU contracts with vaccine makers are confidential, but the EU official involved in the talks did not rule out penalties for AstraZeneca, given the large revision to its commitments. However, the source did not elaborate on what could trigger the penalties. “We are not there yet,” the official added.

“AstraZeneca has been contractually obligated to produce since as early as October and they are apparently delivering to other parts of the world, including the UK without delay,” Liese said.

AstraZeneca’s vaccine is expected to be approved for use in the EU on Jan. 29, with first deliveries expected from 15 February.

($1 = €0.8214)

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EU

Chemicals: EU protects wildlife from negative effects of lead in the environment

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On 25 January, the Commission took firm steps to ensure that wildlife is protected from the negative effects of lead in the environment, by restricting its use in gunshot in or around wetlands. Adopted under the framework of the EU's chemicals regulation, the measure will help to protect the environment by significantly reducing lead pollution while preventing the avoidable death by lead poisoning of around 1 million waterbirds every year. Lead is a highly toxic substance, which released to the environment contaminates both the soil and water.

Every year, 4,000 to 5,000 tonnes of lead are released into wetlands from lead gunshot.  There are affordable alternatives, for example steel gunshots, which currently cost about the same as lead gunshots. The measure adopted today will harmonise and enhance the effectiveness of national legislation limiting the use of lead gunshot in wetlands already in place in 24 member states.

It will start applying in two years' time. The restriction supports the goals of the Chemical Strategy for Sustainability and the Green Deal. It also supports the objectives of the Birds Directive, and is a first concrete deliverable under the new EU 2030 Biodiversity Strategy. More info here.

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