3 December 2020
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is an honour to address this General Assembly Special Session in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Nearly a year into the pandemic, we face a human tragedy, and a public health, humanitarian and development emergency.
For the first time since 1945, the entire world is confronted by a common threat, regardless of nationality, ethnicity or faith.
But while COVID-19 does not discriminate, our efforts to prevent and contain it do.
For that reason, the pandemic has hit the poorest and most vulnerable in our societies hardest.
It is having a devastating impact on older people; on women and girls; on low-income communities; on the marginalized and isolated. It is presenting new threats to the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals.
From the start, the World Health Organization provided factual information and scientific guidance that should have been the basis for a coordinated global response.
Unfortunately, many of these recommendations were not followed. And in some situations, there was a rejection of facts and an ignoring of the guidance. And when countries go in their own direction, the virus goes in every direction.
The social and economic impact of the pandemic is enormous, and growing.
Thanks to the hard work and dedication of scientists and researchers from around the world, including those who are with us today, vaccines may become available within the next weeks and months.
But let’s not fool ourselves.
A vaccine cannot undo damage that will stretch across years, even decades to come.
Extreme poverty is rising; the threat of famine looms.
We face the biggest global recession in eight decades.
These inter-generational impacts are not due to COVID-19 alone.
They are the result of long-term fragilities, inequalities and injustices that have been exposed by the pandemic.
It is time to reset.
As we build a strong recovery, we must seize the opportunity for change.
Since March, the United Nations system has focused its efforts on helping countries avoid the worst impacts of the pandemic, while working for a strong recovery.
We have mobilized our procurement and logistics operations to deliver medical equipment and supplies to 172 countries.
A large-scale coordinated and comprehensive health response, guided by the World Health Organization, aims to suppress transmission of the virus, reduce mortality, and develop vaccines, diagnostics and treatments that must be available to all.
I have repeatedly called for a COVID-19 vaccine to be a global public good available to everyone, everywhere. The ACT Accelerator and its COVAX facility are the tools to get us there.
There is still a finance gap of $28 billion, including $4.3 billion urgently needed for the next two months. I thank those who have contributed and urge all to show your strong support.
Beyond health, I appealed in March for a global ceasefire so that countries can focus on fighting the virus.
I echoed this call in my speech to the General Assembly in September, and urged new efforts and commitments to silence the guns by the end of the year.
I am encouraged by the support this call has received from Members States, regional organizations, armed movements and civil society organizations.
I am also encouraged by the response to my call for peace in homes around the world and an end to violence against women and girls. As we mark the 16 Days of Action against Gender-based Violence, I urge governments to take concrete steps to make good on the commitments that were made.
The United Nations is also strongly engaged in combatting misinformation online. Our ‘Verified’ campaign provides compelling, trusted information, while offering people tools to identify false content.
The United Nations system is mobilized to support countries in addressing the devasting socio-economic, humanitarian and human rights aspects of this crisis.
We have extended life-saving assistance to 63 of the most vulnerable countries through our Global Humanitarian Response Plan.
From the start, we have called for a stimulus package worth at least 10 per cent of global GDP, and for debt relief for all countries that need it.
I welcome the steps that have been taken to help developing countries.
But they are totally insufficient for the scale of this crisis.
Many low- and middle-income developing countries need immediate support to avert a liquidity crisis. They are being forced to choose between providing basic services for their people, or servicing their debts.
The initiative we launched with the governments of Canada and Jamaica has developed policy options for financing the response to COVID-19 and putting us back on course to achieve the SDGs.
These include increasing the resources available to the International Monetary Fund, through a new allocation of Special Drawing Rights to the benefit of developing countries, and a voluntary reallocation of unused Special Drawing Rights.
I hope the G20 debt initiatives will be broadened so that all vulnerable developing countries are eligible, including middle‑income countries that need debt relief.
In the longer-term, we need a reformed global architecture to enhance debt transparency and sustainability.
I am pressing for these policies in all my global engagements, most recently at the G20.
On the ground, our reformed United Nations Country teams led by a new generation of Resident Coordinators and largely thanks to the impact of the reform are being able to suppot governments in developing national response and recovery plans.
Looking ahead, the recovery from COVID-19 must address the pre-existing conditions it has exposed and exploited, from gaps in basic services to an overheated planet.
Stronger health systems and Universal Health Coverage must be a priority.
Since 2007, the World Health Organization has declared six Public Health Emergencies of International Concern.
COVID-19 will not be the last.
We must apply the lessons learned if we are to meet the responsibilities to our children and grandchildren.
Social safety nets must work for everyone. Too often, they fail precisely when they are needed most.
A new social contract between people, governments, the private sector, civil society and more, can tackle the roots of inequality with fair taxation on income and wealth, universal benefits, and opportunities for all.
As we relaunch economies, new investments must lay the groundwork for sustainable development and carbon neutrality, in line with the 2030 Agenda and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.
We cannot bequeath a broken planet and huge debts to future generations. The money we spend on recovery must go into building a greener, fairer future.
There is hopeful news on the climate front. A global coalition is taking shape for net zero emissions.
By early next year, countries representing more than 65 per cent of global carbon dioxide emissions are likely to have committed to carbon neutrality.
This sends a clear signal to markets, investors and decision-makers: Act now to put a price on carbon; end fossil fuel subsidies; stop constructing new coal power plants; and invest in resilient infrastructure.
2021 must be a leap year – the year of a quantum leap towards net zero emissions of greenhouse gasses.
Every country should enhance their Nationally Determined Contributions well in advance of COP26 next November in Glasgow, and in line with the long-term goal of global carbon neutrality by 2050.
Adaptation is an essential component of climate action. For Least Developed Countries and Small Island Developing States, it is an existential issue.
I appeal to developed countries to fulfil their long-standing promise to provide $100 billion annually to support developing countries in reaching our shared climate goals.
Early warning systems, climate-resilient infrastructure and agriculture can help avoid future losses while generating gains for biodiversity and other benefits for humankind.
We cannot separate climate action from global wellbeing, particularly biodiversity.
It is time to end the suicidal war with our planet.
2021 must be a year to address our planetary emergency.
We need a post-2020 biodiversity framework to halt the extinction crisis to be established in Kunming.
And we must see urgent action to protect and advance the health of the world’s seas and oceans.
Overfishing must stop; chemical and solid waste pollution, particularly plastics, must be drastically reduced.
We must make peace with our planet if we are to live in balance with its incredible riches.
As this difficult year draws to a close, let’s resolve to take the tough, ambitious decisions and actions that will lead to better days ahead.
In a global crisis, we must meet the expectations of those we serve with unity, solidarity and coordinated multilateral global action.
I call on you to take the opportunity of this Special Session of the General Assembly to confront the COVID-19 pandemic with the urgency it demands; to save lives; and to build a better future together.