UNITED NATIONS, Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe has appealed to the global community to allow his country to act freely and within the context of its own sovereignty.

The nonagenarian was one of a handful of Heads of State and Government attending the United Nations Oceans Conference in New York that hopes to secure commitments to reverse the cycle of the ocean's decline.

President Mugabe told his audience that the oceans contributed significantly to Zimbabwe's development, despite it being a landlocked county.

In an unhurried approach to the podium accompanied by three aides, the world's oldest head of state at 93 told his audience the time to act to protect humankind's common heritage was now.

"The Oceans and seas contribute significantly to the development of my country in their capacity as a model for the conveyance of goods between my country and the outside world. That contribution is set to grow and increase in the coming years as we opt for greener modes of transporting our exports. Sea freight will be a preferred choice for its environmental friendliness and higher carry capacity than air-freight."

In a carefully delivered speech, at times stumbling and slurring his words, President Mugabe warned that developing countries suffered the most from illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing in their waters.

"We call for an end to these illegal practices which prejudice the development prospects of the affected developing countries. We also call for increased support to developing countries to capacitate them to derive optimum benefits from the exploitation of their marine environments. In this regard we support the voluntary commitment made by our regional organisation, the South African Development Community - SADC, to establish and strengthen existing regional fisheries monitoring control and surveillance mechanisms in Eastern Africa, South Africa and the Indian Ocean regions."

He also called for greater financial and technological assistance to poorer countries in a familiar refrain used here at the UN.

"We have also underlined the importance of partnerships at all levels from the national to the global level. I wish to remind some partners that while they may exclude my country from some financial and technical assistance facilities because of the illegal sanctions they continue to maintain against it, the effects of climate change are not discriminatory, may they listen to that. The effects of climate change are not discriminatory so please down with your sanctions."

He recommitted Zimbabweans to implementing the Sustainable Development Goals within the means available to them.


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November 2017
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