Following are United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ remarks to the General Session of the General Assembly, in New York today:
Before I start, I would like to offer my sincere condolences to the people and the Government of Kenya for the loss of life in my life.
My thoughts are with the families of the victims and I send my best wishes to all those injured, hoping for a full and fast recovery. The United Nations stands with all Kenyans and with everybody, everywhere, in our fight to counter terrorism.
Let me now begin by wishing you a happy New Year – and thanking you for your strong support throughout 2018. In my New Year’s message one year ago, I issued a red alert for our world. As we look ahead to 2019, I will not slim words. Alarm bells are still ringing. We face a world of trouble.
Armed conflict threatens millions and forced displacement is at record levels. Poverty is far from eradicated and hunger is growing again. Inequality keeps rising. And the climate crisis is wreaking havoc. We also see growing disputes over trade, sky-high debt, threats to the rule of law and human rights, shrinking space for civil society and attacks to media freedoms.
These ills have profound impacts on people’s daily lives. And they are deeply corrosive. They generate anxiety and they breed mistrust. They polarize societies – politically and socially. They make people and countries fear they are being left behind as they progress to the fortunate few.
In such a context, it is not difficult to understand why many people are losing their faith in political establishments, doubting whether national governments care about them and questioning the value of international organizations. Let’s be clear: the lack of faith of the United Nations.
In such circumstances, it would be all too easy to become demoralized or even paralyzed. But, the truth is that the experience of last year when we work together and when we assume our responsibilities, we get things done.
Despite the headwinds we know so well, we have shown the United Nations added value. Thanks to your commitment, we made a real difference. We have focused on results, making the United Nations more responsive and respected.
Let us return to some important achievements of the year 2018. A resurgence of diplomacy for peace – initiated or supported or by the United Nations – moves situations perceived as insoluble.
In Yemen, a UN-brokered ceasefire opens a window of opportunity, with all the challenges we face, but with the hope of ending the world’s worst humanitarian disaster.
An encouraging dialogue for peace and the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula has been initiated. A peace agreement has been concluded in South Sudan. Ethiopia and Eritrea have signed a historic peace agreement.
After years of effort, the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Liberia has concluded its work, consolidating the successes of other United Nations operations in West Africa.
Greece and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia have made good progress in settling the dispute over the name of the country. Progress towards democratic transition and greater openness has been made in Armenia and Central Asia.
The UN-backed tribunal in Cambodia has recognized two former Khmer Rouge leaders guilty of crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide – which gives justice even decades after the commission of crimes.
In difficult contexts, particularly in Madagascar, Mali, the Maldives and Liberia, important elections have been successfully held, most with the active support of the United Nations.
We now hope that the electoral process in the Democratic Republic of the Congo will be concluded without violence and in full respect of the will of the Congolese people and the legal and constitutional rules of the country. Other fundamental advances have been made on vital issues.
In Katowice, we overcame doubts to revitalize climate action by adopting the work program for the Paris Agreement under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. I have traveled to Poland three times to call for action now and I have seen the willingness and commitment of the negotiators of the Member States to achieve a positive outcome.
Against all odds, we have adopted the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, which shows the way forward, with respect for the sovereignty of States, to give migrants a chance, ensure their dignity and put an end to tragedies which occur before our eyes with sinister regularity.
This text has been supplemented by a global pact on refugees, which should allow everyone to contribute in a fair and organized way to the protection and reception of refugees, but also to the support of host communities.
Throughout the year, we have intensified our work towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. One hundred and two Member States submitted their national voluntary examinations. Fifty-one more States will do the same this year, giving us an inspiring glimpse of efforts to implement the 2030 Agenda.
Your support has also been instrumental in providing humanitarian assistance to the world’s most vulnerable. A record $ 15 billion in contributions was donated to nearly 100 million people in need. It’s unprecedented. This humanitarian aid saves lives, in a remarkable demonstration of solidarity. And it demonstrates the added value of the United Nations.
In 2018, I also launched several new initiatives, taking advantage of the unique legitimacy of our Organization and its unifying power.
In March, we launched the Action for Peacekeeping initiative, refocusing peacekeeping on more realistic goals, making our missions safer and more robust, and having more support for training. and the equipment of our contingents. It is also about strengthening support for political solutions that remain the key to any peace effort.
I thank the 151 countries and the 4 major organizations that have endorsed this initiative. Indeed, the partnership on which our operations are based is stronger than ever, with troop and police force providers having almost reached record numbers.
In May, I presented a new agenda for disarmament: we must act against weapons of mass destruction, but also conventional weapons, and against the diversion of new technologies with fantastic potential for military purposes that would trigger a a terrible arms race. Our goal is threefold: disarmament to save humanity, disarmament to save lives and disarmament to preserve our future.
In June, we brought together, for the first time, heads of counter-terrorism agencies around the world and established a United Nations Task Force coordinating the work of United Nations entities in the fight against terrorism. terrorism. We have redoubled our efforts in this decisive fight and proved that it is possible to fight terrorism while respecting human rights.
Throughout the year, we deepened our engagement with youth and launched Youth 2030, a new youth empowerment strategy. We have also taken unprecedented steps to promote gender equality.
For the first time in the history of the UN, we achieved this parity in the senior management and among the candidates for the position of resident coordinator. We do everything possible to create a professional environment without harassment or abuse of power of any kind.
Discrimination against women remains a scandalous reality around the world, and women continue to be constantly excluded from peace negotiations and other important decision-making bodies. The United Nations must remain at the forefront of change in this area.
We should draw encouragement from our achievements. At the same time, we recognize that many people still see the United Nations as ineffective, cumbersome and bureaucratic. We want more, effective, flexible and efficient Organization. That is why we are reforming ourselves in ways – to better serve the people.
With your guidance and support, a new United Nations development system is now in place, including a new resident coordinator system and a new generation of country teams. This position will be supported by the Sustainable Development Goals.
Our peace and security architecture has been strengthened, mediation, peacekeeping and peacebuilding. These are new management capabilities, structures and practices, including new levels of transparency, simplification and accountability that will hopefully, deeply transformed the organization.
On January 1, I issued new delegations of authority to more than 200 heads of United Nations entities. This will cut red tape and bring decision-making closer to the point of delivery – a key reform objective.
We are also improving the balance of our staff, recognizing the immense value of geographical diversity at all levels. With two years of reform and decisions now behind us, 2019 will see a restoring United Nations working for all.
While recognizing the progress we are making, we can not be complacent. To meet the needs and expectations of the people we serve, we must accelerate our work. It starts by accelerating the surge in diplomacy.
Partnerships are fundamental – none more than our commitment to the people of Africa. We will continue to strengthen our partnership with the African Union as we move towards consolidating gains towards peace on the continent, and press for lasting solutions in Mali and the Sahel, South Sudan, Somalia, the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo .
Last month’s Stockholm Agreement on Yemen helped to prevent a catastrophic military confrontation in Hodeidah that would have greatly increased the risk of famine. But, it is more important to ensure that the parties live up to their commitments, and that a true political process finally leads to peace.
In Libya, the ceasefire brokered by the United Nations is still holding. Our efforts have helped stabilize the currency, brought some measure of economic relief and enabled a realistic prospect for security reform. Now it’s time to help unite the people of the country and make it easier for a national conference paving the way for reconciliation and future elections.
In Syria, the war is far from over. Millions of civilians, particularly in the north-east and north-west. My new Special Envoy will continue to push for a resolution of 2254 (2015) and the Geneva communique – where the voices of all Syrians are heard, and grievances can be addressed in a peaceful and fair manner.
The conflict in Afghanistan continues to take an appalling toll. I welcome recent peace efforts, including the Government’s offers for talks and ceasefire, and other Member States.
Unfortunately, a number of peace and security challenges remain unresolved, from the Caucasus and Ukraine to Myanmar and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. On these and other matters, the unity and support of the Security Council will be crucial to overcome the deadlocks.
And as we live in the world, we understand that lasting peace is a consensus on society, with women as full participants in all peace processes. In this fast-changing world, standing still means falling further behind. On three key twenty-first-century challenges, we need to dramatically accelerate our efforts in 2019. Quite simply, we must put our pedal to the metal.
First and foremost, to fight climate change. There is no greater challenge to the world of today and tomorrow. The threat is on a clear trajectory: hotter, faster, more severe. Science is clear. And things are getting worse than what was forecast.
Last week, a study found that ocean temperatures are rising 40 percent faster than the world’s top scientists predicted just five years ago. Over the next decade, we need to transform our economy to an unprecedented 1.5 C. By 2020, under the Paris Agreement, the Member States are meant to assess progress and submit new pledges to meet the goals to which they agree. And by 2050, we need to reach net zero global emissions. That means enhanced efforts now, both to reduce emissions and to seize the opportunities of a clean, green energy future.
That is why I will agree on a climate summit on September 23 to mobilize action by political leaders, the business community and civil society. We need greater ambition – ambition on mitigation, ambition on adaptation, ambition on finance and ambition on innovation. I want to be one of the world’s leaders in the world, and I will be at the top of the scale of the challenge.
Second, we need to make a strong contribution to climate change, we need to step up our efforts to achieve Sustainable Development Goals. Despite considerable efforts, the transformative changes demanded by the 2030 Agenda are not yet being made.
We need a sharper focus on what we have in the world of poverty and inequality, and in delivering strong savings.
That is why the Climate Summit will be followed by the General Assembly’s first Heads of State and Government meeting of the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development since the 2030 Agenda was adopted.
And it is why those two issues will be addressed to one another.
Third, the new technologies that can help this work are also outpacing our ability to reckon with their profound impacts. Here, too, we need to step up.
The fourth Industrial Revolution continues to open new opportunities for health care, education, humanitarian assistance and much more. But, these benefits, we must address the disruption of labor markets, the weaponization of artificial intelligence and the huinous activities on the dark web.
This year, my High-level Panel on Digital Cooperation will report on proposals for reducing digital inequality, building digital capacity and ensuring that new technologies are in place.
Across this work, across the world, what really matters is people – “we the peoples”. And what guides is a set of values – the universal values of the United Nations Peace. Justice. Human Dignity. Tolerance. Solidarity.
Today, those values are under attack around the globe. An ideological battle is taking place. Most disturbingly, we hear the troubling, hateful echoes of long past, and noxious views moving into the mainstream. Let’s not forget the lessons of the 1930s. There is no room for hate speech, intolerance or xenophobia. We will fight it anytime, anywhere. But we must do more. We must go deeper.
For the values that we defend to prevail, we need to understand people’s anxieties, fears and concerns. We need to address the cause of change in the world.
I am convinced that we can move forward with confidence for the green economy and for the benefits of the fourth Industrial Revolution.
But, I am not certain that we must at the same time invest in social cohesion, in education, in new skills for people to adapt, and safety nets for those who risk to be left behind – never forgetting the coal miner, the assembly line worker, and all those across the world, dismissed or caught up in seizures, afraid of being left behind.
We need a new campaign for values – for the human rights and dignity that we hold dear and we must be made real in the lives of all.
Allow me to recall what I Said as a candidate for Secretary-General Almost three years ago When I presented my candidacy: “In times of insecurity, When people feel uncertain about future Their, When anxieties and fears are Promoted and exploited by political populists, “old-fashioned nationalists or religious fundamentalists, the success of the United Nations and the international community in our common commitment to our common values.”
In that spirit, let’s keep showing everyone we care. Let’s keep proving our worth through action. And let’s accelerate our efforts to move our world forward and leave no one behind.
Source: United Nations