BY ALEX BALUKU
NEW YORK, September 20, 2023 – In his address to the 78th United Nations General Assembly, President Paul Kagame of Rwanda drew attention to the mounting debt crisis plaguing developing countries, emphasizing the unequal starting point for nations across different regions. As the world battles the ongoing impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, the President called for global cooperation to address the economic disparities that are hindering progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
President Kagame began his speech by acknowledging the World Health Organization’s declaration that the COVID-19 pandemic was no longer a global health emergency and that recovery was well underway. However, he cautioned that the pandemic’s effects had not been uniformly distributed, with developing countries facing unique challenges.
“The starting line was not the same for all of us across different regions,” President Kagame stated, highlighting the inequalities in healthcare access, vaccine distribution, and economic recovery.
The President then turned his attention to the slow pace of SDG implementation, a concern raised during this year’s SDG Summit. He praised Secretary-General’s efforts in bringing attention to this issue, emphasizing that the debt crisis in developing countries was exacerbating the situation.
President Kagame pointed out that high interest rates in developed economies, designed to correct years of quantitative easing, were a primary cause of the debt crisis. Additionally, developing countries were burdened with exaggerated risk premiums for both currency and political risk, which he argued were unjustified.
“We need serious cooperation to address this,” the President urged, emphasizing the importance of bridging the economic gap between developed and developing nations.
The President acknowledged the responsibility of developing countries to be accountable for the quality of their financial governance and the management of natural resources. He stressed the need for reform in global financial institutions to facilitate increased access to finance for developing nations.
In this regard, President Kagame welcomed the proposals of the Bridgetown Initiative and the Paris Summit for a New Global Financing Pact, emphasizing the importance of these initiatives in creating a fairer financial system.
Rwanda, he noted, also supported the second replenishment of the Green Climate Fund, which would create fiscal space for vulnerable nations to tackle climate change. The President emphasized the importance of cooperation in addressing climate issues and referred to the recent Africa Climate Summit held in Nairobi under the leadership of President William Ruto.
However, President Kagame argued that global challenges extended beyond climate change. He lamented that ongoing conflicts showed no signs of ending anytime soon, leaving innocent lives to bear the burden of instability.
“The migration crisis is a case in point,” he noted, emphasizing that Rwanda remained committed to working with partners to find durable solutions, drawing on its own experiences with displacement.
While acknowledging the importance of multilateral engagement, President Kagame emphasized that bilateral interventions, including those Rwanda actively participated in, needed to pave the way for lasting solutions. He stressed the importance of delivering results that served the interests of affected populations.
The President called for a more effective global forum to manage crises, reminding the international community of the United Nations’ founding purpose. He welcomed the Secretary-General’s report on a New Agenda for Peace, emphasizing that addressing governance shortfalls was crucial to addressing the root causes of instability.
President Kagame also highlighted the need for Africa to have a stronger presence in decision-making bodies and to speak with a unified voice on the global stage. He argued that a more effective development cooperation framework should give equal weight to everyone’s needs and priorities, fostering fair and equal partnerships.
In conclusion, President Kagame expressed his gratitude for the international support Rwanda had received on its journey of recovery and reconciliation, as the country prepared to commemorate the Genocide against the Tutsi for the 30th time in April 2024.
Looking ahead, he extended an invitation to world leaders to attend the Third United Nations Conference on Landlocked Developing Countries, which Rwanda would host in June 2024. President Kagame’s address at the UN General Assembly underscored the urgency of addressing the debt crisis and economic disparities facing developing nations, emphasizing the need for global cooperation and equal partnership.