We are all connected, Ardern tells UN General Assembly

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has urged world leaders to address rising inequality and make international trade "more open and inclusive" in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

She addressed the United Nations General Assembly in New York today via video link.

Ardern previously announced she would not travel to the General Assemblymeeting due to the Covid-19 situation.

"As I deliver this address to the General Assembly from here in New Zealand, it strikes me that even when global events threaten to disconnect and divide us, a shared instinct to connect with one another, still prevails," she said.

"I have often described New Zealand as being remote, but connected. The Covid-19 pandemic has made both parts of this statement truer than ever. In some ways, we now feel that remoteness more keenly.

"The vast ocean surrounding our islands have taken on an even greater significance in a time when our border controls are our first line of defence against a highly contagious, global virus."

She cited New Zealand's approach to battling the pandemic with high vaccination and a focus on the "team of 5 million."

"It has been a privilege for me as a leader, to witness the practical application of New Zealanders' values to these challenges.

"Values like manaakitanga and whanaungatanga, which in the Māori language mean kindness, and a shared sense of humanity and connectedness. Values like kotahitanga, or a shared aspiration and unity towards a common goal.

"These values have seen New Zealanders take care of one another, and work together to limit the transmission of Covid-19 in our communities."

Ardern said New Zealand is working with nations including Australia and the COVAX worldwide initiative to support vaccination across the Pacific Islands.

"Without equitable access for all, we risk further variants developing which could undermine or undo our progress," she said.

Prime Minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern delivers a pre-recorded speech to the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters on September 24, 2021, in New York.

Prime Minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern delivers a pre-recorded speech to the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters on September 24, 2021, in New York. Photo: AFP

Ardern said more than 120 million people have been pushed into extreme poverty as a result of the pandemic, and inequality within and between countries has deepened.

"As we turn our mind to the challenges we face globally, we must turn to the most important thing of all - he tangata, he tangata, he tangata - it is people, people, people.

"These consequences were never inevitable, and there are steps we can take to reverse these trends and improve the lives of those impacted," she said.

She said leaders must commit to ensuring the flow of essential goods and services, and reject any temptation to turn inwards and focus on protectionism.

"We know that poverty and inequality drive conflict and instability, and we are also seeing this, in heightened civil unrest and conflict. Humanitarian crises have worsened. We are seeing this in Afghanistan and there are many more."

Ardern also said that the UN's work on climate change continues to be of the highest importance, and New Zealand will continue to work to improve its response.

"Climate change touches all of our lives, but countries in the Pacific are some of the most affected, despite having contributed least to the problem.

"New Zealand has made the 1.5 degree limit the heart of our domestic climate change legislation. We have committed to a 2050 target and we are revising our Nationally Determined Contribution."

Watch Jacinda Ardern's full speech here:

September 25, 2021

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