Following are UN Secretary‑General António Guterres’ remarks at the informal meeting of the General Assembly, in New York today:
Let me start by thanking all Member States, all of you for your support across our agenda.
I took office last year calling for us to make 2017 a year for peace. One year later, we must recognize that peace remains elusive. In fundamental ways, the world has gone in reverse. Conflicts have deepened and new dangers have emerged. Global anxieties about nuclear weapons are the highest since the Cold War. Climate change is moving faster than we are. Inequalities are growing. We see horrific violations of human rights. Nationalism, racism and xenophobia are on the rise.
To me, these are all indications that we need greater unity and courage — unity and courage to meet today’s most urgent needs, to ease the fears of the people we serve and set the world on track towards a better future.
It is up to Member States to define the priorities of United Nations action. Today I will highlight 12 areas of concern and one cross‑cutting imperative — the empowerment of women everywhere.
Un : promouvoir un véritable "new deal" pour une mondialisation équitable
La pauvreté et les inégalités ne sont en rien inéluctables, pas plus que ne l’est la répartition inégale des bénéfices de la mondialisation.
Ce n’est pas le fruit du hasard si huit personnes possèdent autant de richesses que la moitié la plus pauvre de la population mondiale. Le fonctionnement de l’économie mondiale et du commerce international sont le produit des choix que font les êtres humains.
Notre choix, c’est l’Agenda 2030 pour le développement durable : l’ambition que nous avons de bâtir des sociétés prospères et pacifiques pour tous, sans laissés-pour-compte.
Le financement est vital pour accomplir ce travail. Le Programme d’action d’Addis-Abeba énonce les besoins et la manière de mobiliser les ressources, notamment en ayant recours à des instruments novateurs. Je lance une fois encore un appel aux gouvernements, en particulier aux donateurs, pour qu’ils tiennent leurs engagements de financement.
Et j’exhorte la communauté internationale à mettre en place des mécanismes efficaces contre l’évasion fiscale, le blanchissement et les flux illicites de capitaux, afin que les pays en développement puissent mieux mobiliser leurs propres ressources.
En repositionnant le système des Nations Unies pour le développement, nous pourrons aider mieux les États Membres à atteindre les objectifs de développement durable. Nous devons aussi tirer parti du dynamisme du secteur privé et de la société civile.
Les jeunes méritent également une place de choix. Nous nous devons d’investir dans leur avenir et leur donner la voix.
Deux : rehausser grandement nos ambitions en matière de lutte contre les changements climatiques
En 2016, pour la première fois depuis trois ans, les émissions de CO2 ont augmenté. Les cinq dernières années ont été les plus chaudes de l’histoire.
L’Accord de Paris a jeté les bases de l’action. Mais les engagements pris jusqu’à présent ne suffiront pas à atteindre les buts fixés. Nous devons rehausser nos ambitions à cet égard.
Heureusement, les possibilités d’action climatique n’ont jamais été aussi importantes. J’ai entendu dire que l’âge de pierre n’avait pas pris fin faute de pierres.
Rien ne sert d’attendre de manquer de charbon et de pétrole pour sortir de l’âge des combustibles fossiles. Ceux qui ne misent pas sur l’économie verte ont devant eux un avenir terne. Nous devons investir dans l’avenir, pas dans le passé.
L’an prochain, j’organiserai un sommet sur le climat pour mobiliser la communauté internationale en faveur de la réduction plus ambitieuse des émissions, de l’adaptation aux changements climatiques et de la transition énergétique dont nous avons tant besoin.
Trois : tirer parti de la mobilité humaine
L’adoption du Pacte mondial pour des migrations sûres, ordonnées et régulières est l’une des tâches les plus importantes que nous devons accomplir cette année.
Je l’ai dit et je le répète : les migrations sont un phénomène positif.
Elles favorisent la croissance économique, réduisent les inégalités, créent des liens entre les sociétés et nous aident à faire face aux évolutions démographiques.
Mais, il faut le reconnaitre, elles sont aussi à l’origine de tensions politiques et de tragédies humaines.
C’est pourquoi nous devons mettre en place beaucoup plus d’opportunités de migration licite et offrir aux personnes la possibilité de vivre et de travailler dignement dans leur propre pays, comme objectif central de stratégie de développement et de la coopération internationale pour le développement.
C’est le seul moyen pour nous de lutter contre les passeurs et les trafiquants et de protéger ceux qui en sont victimes.
En cuarto lugar, cosechar los beneficios de la Cuarta Revolución Industrial a la vez que protegerse de sus amenazas.
Los avances tecnológicos pueden ayudar a proporcionar respuestas a los desafíos más urgentes del presente.
Al mismo tiempo, sabemos que la tecnología puede exacerbar la desigualdad. La inteligencia artificial impactara dramáticamente los mercados laborales y las sociedades, la ingeniería genética contiene serios dilemas éticos, las amenazas de ciberseguridad están en aumento y la privacidad está en riesgo.
Las Naciones Unidas están comprometidas a servir como un foro en el que los Estados Miembros, el sector privado, los científicos y la sociedad civil puedan debatir el camino hacia adelante en esos asuntos de frontera, así como controlar su potencial en beneficio de todos.
Fifth, achieving the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula without sleep‑walking our way into calamity.
I welcome the firm decisions the Security Council has taken in response to nuclear tests and ballistic missile launches by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. They must be fully implemented.
The Council’s unity also paves the way for diplomatic engagement. That is why, last month, I sent the Under‑Secretary‑General for Political Affairs to Pyongyang for the first in‑depth political exchange of views between the United Nations Secretariat and Democratic People’s Republic of Korea officials in almost eight years.
I welcome the reopening of inter‑Korean communication channels, especially military‑to‑military. This is critical to lower the risk of miscalculation or misunderstanding and to reduce tensions. I am also encouraged by the decision of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to participate in the upcoming Winter Olympics in the Republic of Korea. I will be there myself in the opening ceremony.
We need to build on these small signs of hope, and expand diplomatic efforts to achieve the peaceful denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula in the context of regional security.
Sixth, disentangling the mess in the broader Middle East.
The situation in the broader Middle East has become a Gordian knot. With so many interrelated flash‑points, the risk of an escalatory cycle is real.
We must press for a return to negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians. There is no alternative to a two‑State solution. Recent signals of diminishing support for this undermine moderates and empower radicals. There is no plan B.
In Lebanon, let us all work to preserve the country’s sovereignty and stability, and strengthen State institutions. In Yemen, it is time for the parties to enter into meaningful peace negotiations beyond efforts to ease the dramatic humanitarian catastrophe. Looking at the Gulf, we must seize all opportunities to establish and strengthen platforms for regional dialogue to ease tensions, avoid escalations and allow for political solutions to emerge.
In Syria, the United Nations will continue its engagement towards genuine, representative and direct intra‑Syrian negotiations in Geneva leading to a political settlement of the conflict. And, in Iraq, we will support all efforts to ensure the country’s territorial integrity, pursue inclusive governance and ease sectarian tensions.
Seventh, strengthening our partnership with the African Union.
I am a strong believer in African‑led solutions to African problems. The African Union and the United Nations have a shared interest in strengthening mechanisms to defuse conflicts before they escalate, and to manage them effectively where they occur. It is essential for the international community to fully support the efforts of the African Union and subregional organizations, especially when traditional peacekeeping models are not enough, and where peace enforcement and counter‑terrorism are needed. An effective and well‑funded African peace and security architecture remains a global strategic imperative.
In Somalia, around Lake Chad, as well as in the Sahel, African forces require solid support from the international community and the United Nations, with clear mandates and adequate and predictable financing. I also remain totally committed to supporting Libyan actors in securing a political agreement and fully implementing the road map presented by my Special Representative, leading to parliamentary and presidential elections.
Eighth, removing the paralysis that has let European conflicts fester and freeze.
Having started two world wars, and taking into account the resources and capacities available to Europe, it is unjustifiable for conflicts in the region to persist. Resolving these situations requires pushing back the dangerous tide of nationalism, and revitalizing the relevant mediation initiatives — including the Normandy format and Trilateral Contact Group on Eastern Ukraine, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group on Nagorno‑Karabakh, the Geneva international discussions related to Georgia and the “5+2” process on Transnistria. A concerted effort for solutions leading to long‑term stability in the Western Balkans is also urgent.
I urge European leaders to show that the continent can live up to its ideals of shared prosperity and peaceful coexistence.
Ninth, maintaining a strong focus on counter‑terrorism.
There are distinct links between conflicts and the spread of terrorism. It is clear that in countries like Afghanistan, moves towards peace would advance the fight against the terrorism that plagues that country and spreads well beyond its borders. Terrorism needs globally coordinated responses to defeat it. In June, I will convene a summit of heads of counter‑terrorism agencies to advance multilateral cooperation in this vital struggle.
It is also critical to focus on root causes and support for victims. Our actions must be grounded in respect for human rights and the rule of law. And we must avoid approaches that feed the grievances and narratives that may generate the very violence we seek to eliminate. In short, in preventing and combating terrorism we should be both tough and smart.
Tenth, strengthening United Nations peace operations.
Peacekeeping is facing unprecedented challenges. Our missions are increasingly deployed in difficult environments where there is little peace to keep. Many times ill‑equipped, our peacekeepers are now deliberately targeted. This situation is not sustainable. It is time to sound an alarm. I am determined to improve how peacekeeping performs, to better protect ourselves and the populations we serve. A detailed plan of action for that purpose is being prepared by the Department of Peacekeeping Operations.
But we can only do it with more engagement and support from all Member States: as troop or police contributors, as financial contributors, as partners in political efforts and in the Security Council. I thank our troop- and police‑contributing countries for their generosity, and pay tribute to all personnel who have given their lives in the line of duty.
Peacekeeping must be seen in the context of the whole peace continuum, with prevention as our clear priority. Next month, I will present to you my report on peacebuilding and sustaining peace, as required by the General Assembly, which we hope will galvanize our efforts to prevent violent conflicts.
The Mediation Advisory Board is also up and running. One of its members — President Olusegun Obasanjo — has just undertaken its first initiative in support of the successful elections and political transition under way in Liberia. We have already planned a number of other missions — with the agreement of the countries concerned — to Member States facing stability challenges.
Eleventh, reversing the large‑scale exodus of Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslims.
Cast out of their homes and country, and subjected to brutality both by military forces and others, they are under siege as a group — for who they are. They desperately need immediate, life‑saving assistance, long‑term solutions and justice.
I call on the Government to ensure unfettered humanitarian access in Rakhine State, and I appeal to the international community to support those who have fled to Bangladesh. The agreement between Bangladesh and Myanmar, I hope, will pave the way for the safe, voluntary, dignified and sustainable return of refugees to their places of origin, in accordance with international standards. Full implementation of the Rakhine Advisory Commission recommendations is also vital.
I remain strongly committed to supporting Myanmar’s democratic transition through these difficult moments.
Twelfth, overcoming the false contradiction between human rights and national sovereignty.
Human rights and national sovereignty go hand in hand. The achievement of human rights strengthens states and societies, thereby reinforcing sovereignty. States with effective, accountable institutions are among the best defenders of human rights. The United Nations stands ready to support States in building their capacities to uphold the rule of law and promote respect for human rights, all — civil, political, economic, social and cultural — and to eliminate all forms of discrimination.
A vibrant civil society and free press have also central roles to play. In this seventieth year of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, let us be guided by that mighty document’s aspirations and guarantees. That is also the spirit of the Human Rights Up Front initiative, to which I remain fully committed.
In each of these 12 areas, we can see the disproportionate impact on women — from conflicts to climate change to mass migration. We can also see, in the greater equality and inclusion of women, a fundamental tool to address these complex challenges. Women’s meaningful participation in peace and security has been proven to make peace more sustainable. Women’s equal participation in the labour force and equal pay would unlock trillions of dollars for our economies.
To achieve such gains, however, greater action is needed. My approach rests on three pillars:
First, empowerment — empowering women and girls. Power is the heart of the matter. I have launched a road map for achieving gender parity at all levels of the United Nations. With the appointment I announced yesterday, we have reached, far in advance, full parity in the 44‑member United Nations Senior Management Group.
I have requested that all of our reforms make explicit how they are strengthening our capacity to deliver on gender equality. And I have mandated an internal task force to review the United Nations own spending on gender equality.
Second, preventing sexual exploitation and abuse against women. Our Organization’s first‑ever Victims’ Rights Advocate is now in place, working closely with States and across the United Nations system. Eighty‑two Member States are part of a Voluntary Compact to prevent these crimes and respond swiftly to allegations. Fifty‑eight world leaders are showing their resolve by standing with me in a circle of leadership. There is a long way to go, but we are totally determined.
Third, preventing and addressing sexual harassment. I reiterate my personal commitment to eliminating sexual harassment from our Organization. My zero‑tolerance approach was recently reaffirmed in a joint letter with staff unions to all our personnel. I have also set up a task force, led by Jan Beagle of the Department of Management, to review United Nations policies and capacities to investigate, to ensure accountability, and to look at the support and protection offered to those affected. We are working on more detailed measures to simplify the procedures for reporting harassment and to raise awareness of this very serious issue throughout our Organization.
This will be a decisive year for reform. The General Assembly has taken important decisions. You have my reports and proposals; I have listened hard to your comments and suggestions. As we have been debating it in several sessions, I will not develop the issue today. The period ahead must set the course towards peace and prosperity.
I have just returned from a visit to Colombia, where I saw inspiring advances towards peace and reconciliation — but also the challenges that such processes inevitably entail. I draw hope from our work there, and from the courage and resilience of the Colombian people.
All our challenges — everything, everywhere, demand an investment of time, money, energy, political capital and more. Member States must assume their leadership. But everyone, everywhere, can do something to make our world more safe, sustainable and secure. Even in the face of headwinds and hatred, we must uphold the values of the United Nations Charter. But we can only do that together, as United Nations and one human family.