Secretary-General of the United Nations

H.E. Mr. António Guterres

Statement Summary

ANTÓNIO GUTERRES, Secretary‑General of the United Nations, said the ideals of the Organization — peace, justice, equality and dignity — are beacons to a better world.  It took two world wars, millions of deaths and the horrors of the Holocaust for leaders to commit to international cooperation and the rule of law.  “That commitment produced results,” he assured.  A third world war — which so many had feared — has been avoided.  And never in modern history has the world gone so many years without a military confrontation between the major powers.  “This is a great achievement of which Member States can be proud — and which we must all strive to preserve.”

Recalling other historic accomplishments, he pointed to peace treaties and peacekeeping, decolonization, human rights standards, the triumph over apartheid and life‑saving humanitarian aid provided to millions of victims of conflict and disaster.  The eradication of disease, reduction of hunger, development of international law and landmark pacts to protect the environment are among the still other successes.  Most recently, unanimous support for the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement on climate change provided an inspiring vision for the twenty‑first century.

Yet, there is still so much to be done, he stressed.  Of the 850 delegates to the San Francisco Conference, just 8 were women.  Twenty‑five years since the Beijing Platform for Action, gender inequality remains the “greatest single challenge to human rights around the world”.  Meanwhile, climate calamity looms.  Biodiversity is collapsing.  Poverty is rising.  Hatred is spreading.  And nuclear weapons remain on hair‑trigger alert.  Transformative technologies have opened huge new opportunities, but also exposed new threats, while COVID‑19 has laid bare the world’s fragilities.  “We can only address them together,” he said.  “We have a surplus of multilateral challenges and a deficit of multilateral solutions.”  Recalling that the Declaration to be adopted invites him to assess how to advance the common agenda, he said this will be an important, inclusive process of profound reflection.

Indeed, the need for more — and more effective — multilateralism is well known, he said, stressing that national sovereignty — a pillar of the Charter of the United Nations — goes hand‑in‑hand with enhanced international cooperation, based on common values and shared responsibilities for progress.  “No one wants a world government.  But we must work together to improve world governance,” he said.  An interconnected world requires a networked multilateralism, in which the United Nations, international financial institutions, regional organizations, trading blocs and others work together more closely and effectively.  It will also be important to involve civil society, cities, businesses, local authorities and young people.