Following is UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ keynote address at the closing of the Doha Forum, in Doha today:
I congratulate the Doha Forum and its mission to serve as a “platform for global dialogue on critical challenges facing our world”.
Perhaps the most precious — and increasingly scarce — resource in our world today is indeed dialogue. Places to broaden understanding, share ideas, think out of the box and find common ground.
We need more such platforms to respond to our collective challenges. I thank you for the space you have created through the Doha Forum. I know you have had a very full and rich two days of discussions.
I am here in Doha on the final leg of a journey that started in Marrakech, where we adopted a Global Compact on Migration. From there to Poland for the Climate Summit. From there to Sweden for the Yemen talks, back to Poland. Each of these days underlines a core reality in today’s world.
To put it simply, we face enormous challenges that can’t be solved by any country on its own: climate change — the defining challenge of our times; migration and refugees — people on the move, everywhere; the multiplication of conflicts that are increasingly interlinked, and which itself is linked to newer threats of global terrorism and international criminality; and the impacts of new technologies that are difficult to manage in all their dimensions. The list goes on.
Two things are clear. First, more than ever, we need global responses to global challenges. Second, more than ever, multilateralism and international cooperation are under fire. This the ultimate paradox in today’s world.
Multilateralism is being questioned precisely when we need it most. The world is more connected, yet societies are becoming more fragmented. Challenges are growing outward, while many people are turning inward.
What is then going on? I believe that, behind this paradox, there is a huge deficit of trust. As I said at the United Nations General Assembly, our world is suffering from a bad case of Trust Deficit Disorder.
It’s a deficit on many levels. Trust between people and political institutions. Trust among countries. Trust in international organizations, namely the United Nations itself. And many are profiting from that alienation and distrust.
The best-selling brand in our world today is fear. It gets ratings. It wins votes. It generates clicks.
And the trust deficit grows ever larger with uneven economic growth that leaves too many people and communities behind; stagnant or declining real per capita incomes; escalating trade disputes; rising debt; an undercurrent of geopolitical tensions adding further pressure to the global economy; and, perhaps above all, rising inequalities that undermine stability and social cohesion in many countries in our world.
People are rightly questioning a world where a handful of people — mostly men — hold the same wealth as half of humanity.
All of this underscores the need for a fair globalization. And I believe that we have the blueprint for that fair globalization: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development approved by all countries in the world.
But, at the same time, the world that was bipolar for much of our lifetimes then became, for a short period, unipolar, and now it’s no longer bipolar or unipolar, but it’s also not yet multipolar.
We are somewhere in an in-between period. It’s basically a chaotic period and indeed leading to a confused, and at times, chaotic world order.
Impunity and unpredictability tend to prevail. And this uncertainty is a greenhouse for conflicts to multiply and dangers to spread. And of course, even moving to a multipolar world, we need to recognize that multipolarity alone does not guarantee peace.
Europe was multipolar 100 years ago. But, the frameworks for international cooperation and problem solving were not there. There were no multilateral institutions in the Europe of the pre-First World War, and the result was a catastrophic First World War.
It is vital that we work towards creating a multipolar architecture to establish factors of equilibrium diminishing the risks of confrontation, but, at the same time, to re-establish a system of multilateral governance and a rules-based order grounded in the rule of law and respect for human rights.
At the same time, we need new forms of cooperation with other international and regional organizations, a networked multilateralism, with the United Nations at its centre, but with closer links with civil society and other stakeholders, making it an inclusive multilateralism. Networking and being inclusive is essential for the reform of our multilateral system.
This is the kind of world we need in the twenty-first century — an international system fully able to respond to global problems with global solutions.
Of course, the most dramatic of these problems relates to conflict. We face old conflicts that never seem to die along with the new phenomenon of cascading and interlinked conflicts.
That is why the capacity to prevent [conflict] is more important than ever. That is why I am pushing for a surge in our diplomatic capacity, while understanding that prevention and sustaining peace must be our common key instruments.
There is another conflict we face together — the one being wittingly or unwittingly waged with our own planet because of man-made climate change. And this is a battle for our future, and in this conflict, nature does not negotiate.
Climate change is running faster than we are, and we are running out of time. If science has been wrong, it is only because things are getting worse than even what was predicted. The facts speak for themselves. The impacts are everywhere: more extreme weather, rising sea levels, melting sea ice.
The social, economic and environmental costs of climate change dwarf the costs of acting now. And failure to act means more disasters and emergencies and air pollution that could cost the global economy, it was calculated, as much as $21 trillion by 2050.
On the other hand, ambitious climate action will not only slow temperature rise, it will be good for economies, for public health and for the environment. Green business is becoming truly good business, and technology is on our side. The pace and promise of technology is absolutely remarkable. Linking people, helping feed populations, driving economic growth.
But, at the same time, there are risks in technological progress. Genetic engineering can cure diseases, but it can produce monsters. The internet is essential to our lives. I think it will be impossible for most of us to live without the Internet helping us in much of what we do, but there is also a dark web, a haven for terrorists, international criminal networks and those profiting from sexual exploitation and abuse.
Artificial intelligence will help power economies, achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, it will be a fantastic instrument to generate wealth and profit in the world. But, at the same time, we will face tremendous disruption in the labour markets. There will be an enormous amount of jobs created and then an enormous amount of jobs destroyed. And they will not be the same and it will be very difficult to recycle people.
Even the concept of work is changing and will change dramatically, and the relationship between work, leisure and other occupations will probably be completely different in the future we are facing.
We are not prepared for that, and largely in the world, we are not getting prepared for that. It is obvious that we need a massive investment in education, but a different sort of education. I must say, I’ve seen enormous progress in what Qatar has been doing and especially in the role that Sheikha Moza has had both in your country and around the world. We need an education, not to learn how to do things, but to learn how to learn because many of those that are today in schools and universities will have jobs that simply do not exist and are not even envisionable today.
A new generation of support and safety nets will be necessary for people that will have difficulties to adapt.
We will need to mobilize Government, civil societies, everybody, and I believe that the Doha Forum can be a very important instrument in making sure that there is full consciousness of the impacts of technological evolution in our societies in the future.
We simply are not yet doing enough to prepare for this challenge and to ensure technology will be a force for good.
But, despite these times of chaos and confusion, I see winds of hope around the world. Over the last year, historic peace agreements in the Horn of Africa. A peace deal in South Sudan after years of war. Initiatives of action for peace in the Korean Peninsula that remain still uncertain, but would have been completely unthinkable just a year ago.
I just came from Stockholm, and let’s hope that what was possible to negotiate about Hodeidah will lead to peace in Yemen — Yemen, a country that corresponds today to the worst humanitarian crisis in the world.
We see commitments to peace in Colombia. Strengthened cooperation in Central Asia. Progress in resolving differences like the ones between Greece and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, just about the name of the country itself. United Nations peacekeeping missions in West Africa successfully concluding after years of work.
And hundreds of millions of people, let’s be clear, were lifted out of extreme poverty across the world over the past three decades.
And all of this is a simple reminder. When we work together, we can achieve great things for the good of all people. International cooperation works. And that cooperation has never been more critical to repair broken trust and to uphold the dignity for one and all.