At UNGA, Biden says ‘future’ belongs to those who allow people to ‘breathe free’

During his speech at the 76th UN General Assembly, US President Joe Biden stressed on the country not being at war for the first time in 20 years, indirectly likening it to the withdrawal of its troops from the now Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. 
Joe Biden delivers speech at the 76th session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) for the first time as the President of the US on Tuesday. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Joe Biden delivers speech at the 76th session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) for the first time as the President of the US on Tuesday. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Published on Sep 21, 2021 11:33 PM IST
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Written by Sharangee Dutta | Edited by Avik Roy, Hindustan Times, New Delhi

US President Joe Biden on Tuesday, while talking about growth and development across the globe, said that the future belongs to those nations who provide their citizens with the “ability to breathe free,” and not those who seek to “suffocate” people with an “iron hand.”

Addressing the plenary of the 76th United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) for the first time since becoming the President of the United States, Biden spoke about authoritarian governance around the world that pose a threat for individuals to live freely. During the speech, Biden emphasised that it's important for individuals hailing from the LGBT community to “live and love freely.”

The US President said that as countries move to meet the “cost-cutting challenges” of the fast-moving world, he wants to quash any speculation about him being “agnostic about the future” that nations want for the world.

“The future will belong to those who embrace human dignity, not trample it. The future will belong to those who unleash the potential of their people, not those who stifle it,” Biden told the attendees at the UNGA.

Biden pointed out that authoritarians of the world may seek to proclaim the end of democracy but the latter lives on. “The truth is that democratic world is everywhere,” the US President said, adding that it lives among peace protests, humanitarian rights defenders, journalists, and anti-corruption activists.

Referring to the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan after 20 years, which eventually saw the swift takeover of the country by the Islamist militant group Taliban, Biden said that for the first in two decades, “US is not at war.” He noted that in the current scenario, the US is going to utilise all its resources for what lies ahead and for the future.

Also Read | ‘Not same as 20 years ago’: US President Joe Biden says country better equipped to deal with terrorist threats

Urging the members of the United Nations to work towards creating a better world in the days ahead, the US President stressed that countries need to start working “now”. “I can tell you where America stands – we will choose to build a better future. We – you and I, have the will and capacity to make it better,” Biden told the UN General Assembly.

While speaking about human rights and the importance of democracy, Biden also mentioned the Taliban – who now rules Afghanistan. “[The] UNSC adopted a resolution outlining how to support people of Afghanistan, laid out the expectations from the Taliban,” he said, adding that all nations must collectively advocate the rights of women and girls to pursue their dreams “free of violence and intimidation.”

“We cannot afford to waste any more time. Let’s get to work. Let’s make our future better now. We can do this; it’s within our power and capacity,” Biden said to close his speech at the UNGA.

Also Read | At UNGA, Joe Biden calls for cooperation on Covid-19, climate change; hails Quad

Biden’s speech for a free and democratic world, with stress on human and women’s rights comes close on the heels of the Taliban announcing an all-male cabinet in the group’s recently formed government in Afghanistan. On Tuesday, Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid announced the names of the remaining ministers, defending that ethnic minorities such as Hazaras were included. Although he said that women might be included later, another spokesperson of the group Sayed Zekrullah Hashimi had earlier told Tolo News that women should give birth and not be ministers – citing that a woman becoming a minister is like putting something on her neck that “she can’t carry.”

“It is not necessary for women to be in the cabinet – they should give birth. Women protesters can’t represent all women in Afghanistan,” Hashimi told Tolo News.

Also Read | Is it necessary for Afghan women to be part of cabinet? Taliban leader replies

Meanwhile, the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres told global leaders during the opening debate of the 76th session of the UNGA that the world is facing the “greatest cascade” of crises owing to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, Taliban takeover of Afghanistan and climate crisis.

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