UN - United Nations

01/22/2020 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 01/22/2020 15:31

General Assembly

Note: Following is a partial summary of statements made to today's meeting of the General Assembly. A complete summary will be available later today as Press Release GA/12238.


ANTÓNIO GUTERRES, Secretary-General of the United Nations, briefed Member States on the work of the Organization as it marks its seventy-fifth anniversary. Spotlighting all the progress achieved in that time, he nevertheless called upon all stakeholders to use the occasion to cast their eyes to the future. He drew attention to four 'horsemen' - looming threats facing humanity and the planet in the twenty-first century - citing the resurgence of epic geostrategic tensions; the existential global climate crisis; deepening global mistrust among peoples; and rapidly advancing technology. Indeed, terrorist attacks continue to take a merciless toll, the global nuclear menace is growing and tensions over trade remain unresolved, he noted, declaring: 'The risk of a Great Fracture is real.' Meanwhile, rising temperatures continue to melt records, the planet is burning and ocean temperatures are rising at the equivalent of five Hiroshima bombs per second. Deep and growing global mistrust is sparking disquiet and discontent, with societies from North to South churning. 'More and more people are convinced that globalization is not working for them', he said, pointing out that young people and women are rightly rising up around the globe to demand their rights. However, fears and anxieties are also spreading, as is hostility against refugees and migrants, he said, adding: 'Hatred is growing.' As for the rising threat posed by the 'dark side of the digital world', he said technological advances are growing faster than humanity can adapt to them. Artificial intelligence is generating breath-taking capacities, he added, while cautioning that it is also generating enormous risks and bringing humanity into unacceptable moral and political territory.

Pointing to some signs of hope, he highlighted successful democratic elections conducted in 2019, as well as the prevention of conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mali and beyond. Despite the hostilities in Yemen, a fragile ceasefire is holding, and a constitutional committee process has begun in Syria, he said, emphasizing that all such efforts require patience and persistence but are essential and save lives. 'As we look ahead, we have our work cut out for us', he added, pointing out that Security Council resolutions continue to be ignored as external interference continues to exacerbate conflicts. While the United Nations successfully delivers aid, such assistance is no substitute for solutions or long-term development, he stressed. However, the Organization's peacekeeping efforts are becoming more effective, he continued, spotlighting his 'Action for Peacekeeping' initiative. Calling upon States to help create the conditions needed for effective peace enforcement and to couple that with sustainable funding, he stressed that greater efforts are also needed to combat violence and extremism, recalling in that context that, in 2019, he put forward a first-of-its-kind action plan to fight hate speech. He went on to call upon all States parties to ensure that the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons remains able to fulfil its fundamental goals of preventing nuclear war and facilitating the elimination of nuclear weapons.

'We are at war with nature, and nature is fighting back hard', he said, calling attention to the massive fires burning across Australia and other ongoing natural disasters around the globe. Gradual approaches are no longer enough, he stressed, asking Governments to deliver the change that the world needs. Every bank, region, city, industry and pension fund must completely reimagine how it operates in order to limit temperature rise to 1.5°C, he added, underlining that countries that contributed most to the current climate crisis must lead the way. Spotlighting the opportunities provided by the upcoming Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Glasgow, the World Oceans Conference in Lisbon and the Biodiversity Conference in Kunming, he called specifically for a global ban on single-use plastics and greater attention to the importance of living in harmony with nature.

To help vanquish the third horseman, global mistrust, States should help build a fairer version of globalization, he said, noting that such a plan already exists in the form of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It has already achieved concrete progress, from reducing child mortality to expanding education and improving access to family planning. However, that is not enough, he said, pointing out that the world remains off track, with half a billion people living in poverty and a large gender gap in economic participation. To generate ambition, innovation and solutions, there must be improved governance and greater efforts to tackle illicit financial flows, stamp out corruption and develop effective, common-sense taxation systems, he stressed, urging Governments to listen to their people and open new channels for all to be heard, while harnessing the ideas, energy and hope of young people and women.

He went on to spotlight the significant threats posed by cybercrime, calling for greater cooperation on that issue at the global level, while noting that cybercrime will soon cost an estimated $6 billion annually. Indeed, the United Nations is a tailor-made platform from which to enable countries to hammer out new standards and protocols, including both legally-binding measures and voluntary approaches, he said. Recalling the 2019 report of the United Nations High-level Panel on Digital Cooperation, he pledged to put forward an action plan on cyberthreats and asked Member States to focus on making artificial intelligence better serve human beings. 'We continue to move towards a world of killing machines that are beyond the control of human beings', he warned, calling for an immediate and total ban on all lethal autonomous weapons.

Outlining progress made within the United Nations system, he said that, on 1 January 2020, for the first time, the Organization achieved male-female parity in all its high-level posts - those at the Assistant-Secretary-General and Under-Secretary-General levels. Over the course of the year, efforts to seek better gender and geographical balance in posts at all levels will continue, he said, emphasizing, however, that more resources are needed to fill vacant posts. He also called attention to the broad integration of the new policy on sexual harassment and the launch of a new database aimed at preventing those found guilty of sexual harassment from re-entering the United Nations system. 'Too often, Governments and international institutions are considered talking shops, and not places that listen to people', he noted, adding that the United Nations should make use of its seventy-fifth anniversary to focus more on the needs of people around the world.


COSMOS RICHARDSON (Saint Lucia), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said he recognizes that no single country, or group of countries, can successfully address global challenges, which must be confronted collectively by all States and relevant actors within the international community. One of the critical issues identified in the Secretary-General's report is that of climate change and the existential challenges it creates, he noted, emphasizing the need for attention to the alarming warning in the Secretary-General's report that the world is far off track to reach the Paris Agreement targets. It notes that the situation is 'potentially catastrophic for any development gains achieved thus far', he added.

CARICOM countries, he continued, have consistently joined with other small island developing States to confront challenges to sustainability and to pledge continued support for a meaningful global partnership to combat the effects of climate conditions. The Community's Heads of Government have reiterated their strong commitment to the 2030 Agenda, with a special emphasis on Goal 14 on the conservation and sustainable use of the oceans, he emphasized. CARICOM has taken note of the reforms under way within the United Nations system and recognizes they are critical to the full and effective implementation of the global development mandates adopted by Member States, he added, citing the 2030 Agenda, the SIDS Accelerated Modalities of Action (SAMOA) Pathway, the Paris Agreement and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction.

KOKOU KPAYEDO (Togo) spoke on behalf of the African Group, reiterating its commitment to strengthening multilateralism as the only way to solve collective global challenges. The Group has been calling for a reformed United Nations for a long time, he said, noting that contemporary challenges are becoming more complex, from climate change, through conflict, violent extremism and terrorism to resource scarcity and degradation. They threaten the modest progress made in promoting development and achieving stability, while jeopardizing chances for further progress, he added.

Emphasizing that sustainable development is a top priority for the African Group, he said it is the only way to address poverty, under-development and environmental degradation. Reform of the United Nations development system will be vital in accelerating efforts for implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, he added. Expressing the Group's deep concern about the impact of climate change on African countries, he underlined the continent's negligible contribution to the phenomenon, while pointing out that climate change contributes to conflict and insecurity, which in turn threaten the ability of African countries to pursue sustainable development and to eliminate poverty.

MONA JUUL (Norway), speaking on behalf of the Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Sweden), said they are steadfast supporters of the Secretary-General's leadership on United Nations reform and welcome the report's focus in that regard. Emphasizing that real impact will require a culture of change at all levels, she pointed out that the international community has agreed on ambitious reforms that must now be implemented at the country level. Stakeholders must share what has worked and what has not, she said. As for 2020 and beyond, she agreed with the Secretary-General that silos must be broken and that all pillars of the United Nations must work together.

She went on to stress that United Nations peacekeeping must remain adequate in the maintenance of international peace and security, underlining the importance of efforts to implement the Action for Peacekeeping initiative on the ground. The Nordic countries look forward to the upcoming review of the United Nations peacekeeping architecture and hope it will contribute to further strengthening of the Organization's role in preventing conflict while building and sustaining peace, she said. Underlining the need for the United Nations to ensure system-wide coherence in prioritizing human rights, she said there are clear links between lack of respect for human rights and other challenges facing the international community. If the Organization fails in its obligations to respect, protect and fulfil human rights, it is unlikely to succeed in its efforts to promote sustainable development and peace, she warned.