President Sisi arrived in New York City on Friday 21 September 2018 to attend the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA 73) held at the United Nations headquarter in New York City. He was warmly received by Egyptians gathering in the vicinity of his hotel and holding flags and balloons, and chanting “tahia masr”, long live Egypt.
The first day of the high-level General Debate was Tuesday, 25 September 2018, and runs for nine working days. The theme of the general debate, as announced by María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés, President-elect of UNGA 73, is ‘Making the United Nations Relevant to All People: Global Leadership and Shared Responsibilities for Peaceful, Equitable and Sustainable Development.’ Since President Sisi was scheduled to address the assembly on 25 September, the days following his arrival and leading to his address at the General Assembly were full of activities including meetings with world leaders, heads of international financial institutions, and business leaders.
In his quest to expand the financial and economic prospect of Egypt , President Sisi met Christine Lagarde, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund who lauded Egypt’s economic reform efforts over the last period and the bold steps and reforms the Egyptian government has made to push the development process forward, redress the budget deficit and reduce inflation rates in addition to other positive economic indicators which were achieved over record time.
During a meeting with World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, Egypt’s President discussed cooperation projects between Egypt and the bank in the fields of health and education, especially technical education and vocational training; also assisting the government’s efforts to attract foreign investments to the Egyptian market.
President Sisi also delivered a speech during a working dinner banquet hosted by the American Chamber of Commerce and the Egyptian-American Business Council, and attended by a number of presidents and senior officials of major American companies operating in various sectors. He expressed Egypt’s keenness to further develop the country’s economic partnership with the United States to serve the interests of both countries.
The President met Bertrand-Marc Allen, president of Boeing International, to explore avenues for continuing cooperation with Boeing International to facilitate transfer of technical expertise and advanced technology.
President Sisi attended a dinner banquet hosted by the New York-based Business Council for International Understanding (BCIU), which is a not-for-profit, non-governmental, non-partisan organization that encourages dialogue between political leaders and business communities around the world.
He also met with the President of the European Council Donald Tusk and Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz to affirm Egypt’s keenness on fostering various cooperation in various fields with the European Union, in line with the close ties and common interest in confronting challenges facing the Mediterranean region.
With regard to the Middle East ongoing events, President Sisi held bilateral meetings with his Lebanese counterpart Michel Aoun, Jordanian King Abdullah II, and UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan. These meetings provided a forum to discuss joint Arab action and face attempts to interfere into the Arab countries’ internal affairs as well as options to end regional crises and alleviate the suffering of the peoples of affected countries.
When President Sisi met with Norwegian Prime Minister, Erna Solberg, he briefed him on the latest developments in Libya, stressing that Egypt has an unshakable stance towards the Libyan crisis.
In his meeting with the Bulgarian Prime Minister, Boyko Borisov, the President addressed ways of boosting bilateral relations and promoting cooperation in the economic and security fields.
US President, Israeli PM, and the Nelson Mandela Peace Summit
President Sisi met US President Donald Trump who warmly received him saying: “it’s a great honour to be with President Sisi, our great friend of Egypt.
“We have very special things happening, as our relationship has never been stronger. And we’re working with Egypt on many different fronts, including military and trade, and whatever else we can work on.”
President Sisi expressed his appreciation for America’s dedicated support to Egypt, “We have a longstanding relationship for 40 years now. And during your term, Mr. President, our relationship has led us to even more support. Thank you.”
Trump further congratulated President Sisi’s efforts in eliminating terrorism, calling it an “outstanding job” and thanked him for his hard work in doing so, affirming that the US will stand by Egypt in putting an end to terrorism completely.
The two presidents discussed the Palestinian cause, in hope for reaching a comprehensive political settlement.
President Sisi also met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to discuss the peace plan between Palestine and Israel.
Sisi also delivered a speech at the Nelson Mandela Peace Summit, highlighting that Mandela represents the hope of African people for dignity and independence.
Given that the theme of the general debate of UNGA 73 is: Making the United Nations Relevant to All People: Global Leadership and Shared Responsibilities for Peaceful, Equitable and Sustainable Societies’, President Sisi outlined Egypt’s vision and aspirations regarding the role of the United Nations in solving humanitarian conflicts in the world, especially the Middle East today,
He acknowledged the relevance of the title theme and the dire need to strengthen the commitment and contributions by all countries to fortify “the United Nations role as a foundation for a just and effective international order.” The world order that nations aspire to is one that respects the sovereignty of individual states and is void of extreme violence while promoting sustainable development. This world order , President Sisi said, is one that does not condone “attempts by some to dominate it and impose their will on the members of the international community”.
The President outlined “Egypt’s vision in three key principles to which we ought to renew our commitment, and three causes to which we must accord priority, for the United Nations to regain its effectiveness”.
The First Principle was to preserve and reform the foundations of the nation state.
Speaking out of “Egypt’s unique experience, where its people have exerted tremendous efforts to restore their state and save their identity” thereby avoiding falling victims to civil strife or regression to sectarian loyalties that are “responsible for the most dangerous phenomena in our contemporary world, including armed conflict, human trafficking, irregular migration, organised crime and Illicit trade in arms and drug trafficking”.
“There can be no way out of the crisis in Syria and the plight of Yemen, except by restoring failed nation state, preserving its sovereignty and state institutions, as well as realising the legitimate aspirations of its people.” President Sisi reiterated Egypt’s commitment to a “UN-led political solution in these two countries” to avoid “any exploitation of the these crises to create footholds for regional interventions, or enable an environment for terrorism, extremism and sectarianism.”
Egypt has been committed, President Sisi said, to preserving the nation state with regards to the Libyan crisis by supporting a policy targeting rebuilding the state as well as a unified Libyan armed force that is capable of defending the nation state, Libya, and fending off terrorism. He pointed out that the United Nations comprehensive action plan to address the Libyan crisis failed to make any progress for a year, which is a fact attesting to the need of member countries to commit to contribute to a stronger United Nations to enable it to carry out its missions.
The Second Principle, the President said, was the commitment to peaceful and sustainable solutions to international conflicts.
Even though this second principle is a founding principle of the United Nations, the organisation has so far fallen short of finding permanent settlements to several conflicts including South Sudan, the Central African Republic and Mali despite the United Nations’ tremendous efforts in this regards. Sisi explained that: “The fundamental issue here is to translate this principle into tangible support for national efforts” to succeed in rebuilding the nation state based on the individual country’s priorities and without imposition of alien forms of governance and foreign political influence.
Talking about peaceful and sustainable solutions to international conflicts, President Sisi cited the Palestinian conflict “as a perfect example of the failure of the international system to find a just solution to the conflict, based on international legitimacy and United Nations resolutions, that guarantees the establishment of a Palestinian State with East Jerusalem as its capital.” He emphasized the urgency to resolve this long-standing conflict equitably through negotiations that are backed by the political will to reach a final settlement based on well-established parameters.
The Third Principle, the President said, was the commitment to achieving sustainable development as a necessary precondition for a stable world order.
Sustainable development and a stable world order, he said, are requisite conditions to preventing armed conflicts that result in humanitarian, financial, and environmental disaster. He suggested that the United Nations serve as a platform to achieve global economic and financial systems reform to enable sustainable development environment that allows for the free flow of resources necessary for development, without imposing any conditional ties, and supporting national efforts to mobilise financing for development.
President Sisi prioritised three plans of action to support these three principles.
First: strengthening the partnership between the United Nations and regional organisations.
Such partnerships, the President said, provide means to share the burden of operation and leverage the comparative advantages of each organisation to address current complex challenges particularly in the fields of peacekeeping, humanitarian and developmental assistance. Egypt would seize on the opportunity of assuming the presidency of the African Union in 2019 as well as hosting of the African Union Center for Post-Conflict, Reconstruction and Development and the Community of Sahel-Saharan States Counter-terrorism Center to further enhance the successful partnership that exists between the United Nations and the African Union.
Second: Establishing a comprehensive international framework to develop policies and bolster cooperation, in order to counter terrorism and terrorist narratives.
Egypt has already launched, President Sisi said, an initiative to establish such framework during its membership of the UN Security Council and welcomes “the Secretary-General’s initiative to convene the United Nations Conference on Counter Terrorism,’’
President Sisi pointed out the fact that Egypt has been engaged, since the beginning of this year, in the comprehensive operation “Sinai 2018″ to combat and decisively eradicate terrorism. This is taking place through a comprehensive strategy that integrates security, ideological and developmental dimensions. “Based on this experience,” he said, “and on Egypt’s overall experience in supporting counter-terrorism efforts in the Middle East and North Africa, I can assure you that the level of finance, the sophistication of arms and training, as well as the means of communication obtained by these extremist groups, and the facilitation of movement and travel of foreign terrorist fighters, point to the inevitable need to develop a global system to combat terrorism wherever it exists, and to counter whoever provides it with support in any possible way.”
Third: Address the major shortcomings in the international community’s handling of human rights issues.
President Sisi remarked that “The protection of human rights will not be realised through media defamation or the politicisation of Human Rights mechanisms, while ignoring the need to tackle all human rights in an equitable manner, including economic, social and cultural rights on equal footing. Egypt has a solid constitutional foundation for the protection of human rights. Major strides have been achieved in the field of women and youth empowerment. Women hold per cent of ministerial posts and more than 15 percent parliamentary seats.” As a measure towards youth empowerment, International youth conferences are held annually in Egypt in November and provide a forum for the youth to communicate and raise their concerns.
President Sisi explained that “as a practical example of our commitment to the promotion of human rights in a comprehensive manner”, Egypt “will continue to place high priority to “the issues of women economic empowerment, and the causes of the youth, science, technology and innovation during Egypt’s presidency of the Group of 77 and China”.
Relevance and credibility
In conclusion, Al-Sisi reiterated his confidence that the United Nations can restore its credibility and relevance by implementing his proposed principles and action plan representing the aspiration of peoples and thereby fulfill the interest of nations in a relevant United Nations and “ their confidence in a future of peace, cooperation and respect of one another. Thank you for listening. May God help us and you for the good of all our peoples.”
The President Sisi ended his speech with his customary refrain Tahya Masr Tahya Masr Tahya Masr (long live Egypt).
29 September 2018