Sun | Sep 24, 2017

Small countries struggle to be heard at the UN

Published:Thursday | October 2, 2014 | 10:00 AM
Frederick A. Mitchell, minister for foreign affairs of the Bahamas, speaks during the 69th session of the United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters, Tuesday, September 30, 2014.
Juan Orlando Hernández, president of Honduras, addresses the 69th session of the United Nations General Assembly, at the UN headquarters.
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UNITED NATIONS (AP): Honduras, terrorised by drug gangs, railed against the world for ignoring the violence and lack of jobs that sends thousands of young Central Americans fleeing north to the United States.

Nepal, a poor, landlocked country, called for bridging the "digital divide" along with a global code of conduct to regulate the flow of information.

These are just a few of the concerns of small countries whose voices and pleas at the UN General Assembly's annual ministerial meeting are almost always drowned out by the agendas of the big powers. This year's top item was the fight against Islamic extremist groups whose tentacles have spread from the Mideast to Europe and Africa. Other hot topics were combating Ebola and climate change.

While most of the 191 countries that spoke touched on these issues, the concerns of smaller nations, some impacted by global warming, others by refugees, many by persistent poverty, rarely made headlines, and were often delivered in a near-empty assembly hall.

At the conclusion of six long days of speechmaking Tuesday, General Assembly President Sam Kutesa tried to change the focus from terrorism to achieving UN goals to combat poverty by a 2015 deadline, and setting new targets for 2030. He also raised the problem of high unemployment, especially among the young, and its destabilising effects.

By the time he had wrapped up the ministerial meeting, only a few dozen diplomats were sitting in the newly renovated assembly chamber that seats more than 1,800 people.