Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks at the opening of the Belt and Road Forum, in Beijing today:
I feel very grateful and very honoured to have the opportunity to speak at this Forum.
The world today is at a critical juncture. We face both unprecedented challenges and unique opportunities, with the potential for widely contrasting futures.
In recent decades, the world has made remarkable progress in human development. The proportion of people living in extreme poverty has dropped by half. China alone lifted more than 600 million people out of poverty. Billions of people gained access to drinking water. Millions more are in school. Thanks to major inroads against malaria, tuberculosis and other deadly diseases, people are living longer, healthier lives. Technological innovations have stitched the world together in new webs of commerce, contact and common endeavour.
Yet, we also know that millions of people are being left behind. The tide of globalization has yet to lift all boats. For too many, the path to prosperity has proven elusive. Inequalities within and between countries are causing social tensions and sometimes conflicts. The planet’s ecosystems are degrading at an alarming rate. Climate change has become a serious danger.
The inability to resolve old conflicts or prevent new ones has caused immense suffering. Terrorism and fragility are on the rise. Trust is on the decline — trust in Governments, in globalization and in the values that hold us together.
Our challenge is to revitalize international cooperation for the common good, and build lives of peace and dignity for all.
For the first time in human history, the world has at its disposal sufficient resources and advanced technologies to end extreme poverty, to reduce inequalities and to place the planet on a sustainable trajectory. We also have inspiring new strategies, agreed by all two years ago: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Paris Agreement on climate change and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda on financing for development.
Bringing these plans to life requires wide-ranging action, investment and leadership. In this context, the Belt and Road Initiative has immense potential. Running through Asia, Europe and Africa, it is far-reaching in geography and ambition. For countries yearning to become more integrated with the global economy, it can promote access to markets.
While the Belt and Road Initiative and the 2030 Agenda are different in their nature and scope, both have sustainable development as the overarching objective. Both strive to create opportunities, global public goods and win-win cooperation. And both aim to deepen “connectivity” across countries and regions: connectivity in infrastructure, trade, finance, policies, and perhaps most important of all, among peoples.
In order for the participating countries along the Belt and Road to fully benefit from the potential of enhanced connectivity, it is crucial to strengthen the links between the Initiative and the Sustainable Development Goals. Those 17 Goals can guide the policies and actions under the Belt and Road towards true sustainable development.
As projects under the initiative unfold, let us work together to uphold international environmental and social standards, and to ensure that the benefits reach beyond cities into rural areas.
With the initiative expected to generate vast investments in infrastructure, let us seize the moment to help countries make the transition to clean-energy, low-carbon pathways instead of locking in unsustainable practices for decades to come. Chinese leadership on climate change will continue to be pivotal.
As the Belt and Road attracts public and private funding, let us recognize that countries will still need official development assistance. I urge donors to fulfil their long-standing commitments, namely the Addis Ababa Plan of Action. And just as the initiative opens new corridors for goods, let us also keep open the channels for dialogue, so that any possible tensions among the countries touched by this undertaking can give way to mutual benefit.
The Belt and Road Initiative is rooted in a shared vision for global development. Indeed, China is a central pillar of multilateralism.
China played a key role in shaping the 2030 Agenda and in making possible the adoption of the Paris Agreement — two of the past decade’s signal achievements in international diplomacy. China has also launched several major initiatives, from the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and increased support for United Nations peacekeeping, to a combination of new funds aiming at strengthening both peace and prosperity.
This wide-ranging engagement is more necessary than ever today. Our world is multipolar. But, that by itself is no guarantee of prosperity and peace. A multipolar world needs multilateral cooperation to face common threats and seize shared opportunities.
The Belt and Road Initiative has clear echoes of the ancient Silk Road. Today, we must take that spirit to new heights, for the benefit of all. As a Chinese saying goes: “Building the road is the first step towards prosperity.” The United Nations system stands ready to travel this road with you in order to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and to fulfil our promise to leave no one behind.