This week, the United Nations kicked off the 72nd Session of the UN General Assembly where leaders from across the globe came to New York City to address global issues. We are bringing you key quotes — from the most benign to the most fiery ones — by these prominent heads of state or government, some of whom were there for their very first time.
Brazil always gets to speak first every year even though they are neither a permanent Security Council member, the host nation nor first in alphabetical order. As it turns out, “in very early times, when no one wanted to speak first, Brazil always…offered to speak first. And so they have earned the right to speak first at the General Assembly,” Desmond Parker, the UN’s protocol chief, told NPR in 2010. The host nation, which is the United States, is second and then the speaking order is based on the level of representation, preference and other criteria such as geographic balance.
Here are some of the headline grabbing quotes from this year’s event, which runs September 19-25. You're welcome!
“Excellencies, we are here to serve, to relieve the suffering of we the people, and to help fulfill their dreams. We come from different corners of the world. Our cultures, religions and traditions vary widely, and I would say wonderfully. At times, there are competing interests among us. At others, there is even open conflict. That is exactly why we need the United Nations and that is exactly why multilateralism is today more important than ever. We call ourselves the international community and we must act as one, because only together, as united nations, can we fulfill the promise of the charter and advance human dignity for all.”
“The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea. Rocket man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime. The United States is ready, willing, and able, but hopefully this will not be necessary. That's what the United Nations is all about. That's what the United Nations is for. Let's see how they do.”
“To put it simply, we meet at a time of both immense promise and great peril. It is entirely up to us whether we lift the world to new heights or let it fall into a valley of disrepair. We have it in our power, should we so choose, to lift millions from poverty, to help our citizens realize their dreams, and to ensure that new generations of children are raised free from violence, hatred, and fear.”
“Denouncing it (the Iran deal) would be a grave error, not respecting it would be irresponsible—because it is a good agreement that is essential to keeping peace at an hour where the risk of a hellish spiral can’t be discounted.”
“The future of the world is that of our planet, which is on course to take vengeance on the foolishness of men. The planet will not negotiate with us.”
“This time I stand here, while my country and my people are subjected to a continuing and unjust blockade imposed since June 5 by neighboring countries. The blockade involves all aspects of life, including the intervention by these countries to rip off family ties. Qatar is currently managing successively its living, economy, development plans, and its outreach to the outside world, with the availability of sea and air routes which these countries have no control over. The blockade was imposed abruptly and without warning, prompting the Qataris to consider it as a kind of treachery.”
“Mr. President, esteemed Delegates, the humanitarian crisis in Syria has reached its sixth year. Until today, 600,000 have reportedly lost their lives, and because of this, 12 million people have had to leave their countries, leave their motherlands. Five million of those found refuge in other countries. Two point seven million of those refugees are currently in my country. They were forced to leave behind their homes and those Syrians were welcome in our homes. We never ask why they ended up in Turkey. Our doors are wide open… we have to assume our responsibilities and serve what was expected of us. The West may not, the rest of the world may not, but we will keep on admitting them in because we are human beings and in the face of such an atrocity, we are obliged to keep our doors open to all those fleeing tyranny and oppression. We have opened our doors. We keep our doors open, and we will keep on opening our doors in the future.”
“The Syrians are our neighbors, are our brothers and sisters, and we couldn’t remain silent in the face of such a tragedy and such carnage, and we have never remained silent, and we shall never remain silent.”
“I haven’t yet visited Antarctica, but one day, I hope to go there. I want to go there, too, because I heard that penguins are also enthusiastic supporters of Israel. Now, you laugh, but penguins have no difficulty recognizing that some things are black and white, are right and wrong, and unfortunately, when it comes to UN decisions about Israel, that simple recognition is too often absent.”
“I’m a long-serving Israeli prime minister, so I’ve listened to countless speeches in this hall, but I can say this: None were bolder, none were more courageous and forthright than the one delivered by President Trump today. President Trump rightly called the nuclear deal with Iran – he called it ‘an embarrassment.’ Well, I couldn’t agree with him more. And here’s why: Iran vows to destroy my country. Every day, including by its chief of staff the other day. Iran is conducting a campaign of conquest across the Middle East, and Iran is developing ballistic missiles to threaten the entire world.”
"With President Trump's recent announcement of his strategy to counter terrorism and bring stability to South Asia, Afghanistan's enduring partnership with the U.S. has been renewed and redirected."
“I declare before you that the Islamic Republic of Iran will not be the first country to violate the agreement; but it will respond decisively and resolutely to its violation by any party. It will be a great pity if this agreement were to be destroyed by rogue newcomers to the world of politics: the world will have lost a great opportunity. But such unfortunate behavior will never impede Iran's course of progress and advancement. By violating its international commitments, the new U.S. administration only destroys its own credibility and undermines international confidence in negotiating with it, or accepting its word or promise.”
“The path of moderation is the path of peace; but a just and inclusive peace: not peace for one nation and war and turmoil for others. Moderation is freedom and democracy, but in an inclusive and comprehensive manner, not purporting to promote freedom in one place while supporting dictators elsewhere. Moderation is the synergy of ideas and not the dance of swords. And finally, the path of moderation nurtures beauty. Deadly weapons exports are not beautiful. Rather, peace is.”
“I have no choice but to focus my remarks on a single issue, that of North Korea. North Korea conducted a nuclear test on September the 3rd. Whether or not it was a hydrogen bomb test, its scale far exceeded that of previous tests. Both before and after that, on August 29 and again on September 15… North Korea launched missiles. Both of these were launched to fly over Japan and make a display of their cruising range. The gravity of this threat is unprecedented. It is indisputably a matter of urgency.”
“This recent crisis is of an altogether different dimension qualitatively than those we have eluded every time some dictator has attempted to acquire weapons of mass destruction. North Korea’s nuclear weapons either already are, or are on the verge of becoming hydrogen bombs. Their means of delivery will sooner or later be ICBMs. Over the more than 20 years since the end of the Cold War, where and when else, and to what dictators, have we allowed such self-indulgence? As it turns out, it is only towards North Korea that this has been allowed.”
“I believe that the only way for us to respond to this vast array of challenges is to come together and defend the international order that we have worked so hard to create and the values by which we stand. For it is the fundamental values that we share, values of fairness, justice and human rights, that have created the common values between nations to act together in our shared interest and form the multilateral system. And it is this rules-based system which we have developed, including the institutions, the international frameworks of free and fair trade, agreements such as the Paris Climate Accord and laws and conventions like the Non-Proliferation Treaty, which enables the global cooperation through which we can protect those values.”
“So as the world looks on, I am calling for further steps and for nations with this special responsibility to work together and exert the pressure we know is necessary to force Kim Jong Un to change his ways. Let us not fail this time. Let our message to North Korea be clear. Our determination to uphold these rules is stronger by far than their determination to undermine them.”
“The recent events in Rakhine State are a painful reminder that we face difficult challenges ahead on the long journey towards peace, prosperity and democracy. However, please allow me to reiterate this: our commitment to peace remains as strong and as unwavering today as it was one year ago when our State Counsellor, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, first addressed you from this podium. As part of this commitment, we have made the national reconciliation and peace process our top priority. Our vision here is clear: to achieve a democratic, federal Union, based on the principles of freedom, justice, equal rights and self-determination.”
“We do not desire the collapse of North Korea. We will not seek unification by absorption or artificial means, if North Korea makes a decision even now to stand on the right side of history, we are ready to assist North Korea together with the international community. North Korea should acknowledge all these immutable facts as soon as possible. It must immediately cease making reckless choices that could lead to its own isolation and downfall and choose the path of dialogue. I urge North Korea to abandon its hostile policies against other countries and give up its nuclear weapons program in a verifiable and irreversible way.”
“Part of that new partnership will involve addressing the shared challenge of climate change. Indigenous and northern communities are particularly affected by its stark reality... At home, we are working hard to help these communities adapt and prepare for the future. At the international level, our commitment is unwavering. There is no country on this planet that can walk away from the reality of climate change. And for our part, Canada will continue to fight for the global plan that has a realistic chance of countering it. We have a responsibility to future generations, and we will uphold it.”
“The motto ‘our country first’ not only leads to more national confrontations and less prosperity. In the end, there will only be losers. Our historical experience as Germans is very different: only after we learned following two world wars to see our former enemies as neighbors and partners with whom we want to shoulder responsibility for a peaceful coexistence. Only since then do our own citizens in Germany have a better life. We have learned that it was not ‘Germany first’ that made our country strong and prosperous. Rather, it was ‘European and international responsibility first’ that gave us Germans peace and prosperity.”
“Being here, at the UN headquarters, we must not forget about the origins of the United Nations. The rulings of the Nuremberg Tribunal served as a warning against leaving in oblivion the lessons of World War II and the disastrous consequences of the attempts to rule the destinies of the world by trampling lawful interests of other nations and peoples. It is an outrage to use one's concern for freedom of expression as an excuse to condone radical movements that profess neo-Nazi ideology and stand up for heroization of Nazis and their associates. Consistent efforts are required to put a secure shield against neo- Nazism, revanchism, extremism and xenophobia, and enhance international and intercultural harmony.”
“The unlimited Israeli support to terrorists in Syria did not come as a surprise. After all, the two share the same interests and goals.”
“The so-called 'International Coalition' led by the US, which was created three years ago to allegedly fight terrorist groups such as ISIL, has killed much more innocent Syrians, mostly women and children, than terrorists and has destroyed vital infrastructure that Syrians have worked for years to build. It has also used phosphorus bombs and other internationally prohibited weapons before the eyes of the whole world. We cannot understand the silence of the international community in the face of these crimes. The international community has not condemned or sought to stop these crimes, even though the Syrian government has made a number of appeals to the Security Council to assume its main responsibility of maintaining international peace and security.”
“During his 8 months in power, he has turned the White House into a noisy marketing place full of crackling sounds of abacus beads and now he has tried to turn the UN arena into a gangsters' nest where money is respected and bloodshed is the order of the day. The absurd reality that the person like Trump, a mentally deranged person full of megalomania and complacency, the person who is chastised even by American people as ‘Commander in Grief’, ‘Lyin King’, ‘President Evil’ is holding the seat of the U.S. President, and the dangerous reality that the gambler who grew old using threats, frauds and all other schemes to acquire a patch of land holds the nuclear button; these are what constitute the gravest threat to the international peace and security today.”
“Due to his lacking of basic common knowledge and proper sentiment, he tried to insult the supreme dignity of my country by referring it to a rocket. By doing so, however, he committed an irreversible mistake of making our rockets' visit to the entire U.S. mainland inevitable all the more. None other than Trump himself is on a suicide mission. In case innocent lives of the U.S. are lost because of this suicide attack. Trump will be held totally responsible.”