Following is the text of UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ video message for the World Forum for Democracy, held in Strasbourg, France, from 16 to 18 November:
It is a pleasure to greet the World Forum for Democracy at this critical juncture in world affairs.
I welcome your focus on the perils facing the environment. Alongside the COVID-19 pandemic, we face a triple planetary emergency — a climate crisis, a nature crisis and a pollution crisis. These are causing profound suffering: lost lives, lost jobs, rising hunger, declining health and widening damage from disasters.
Yet, we have solutions. We know what we need to do to reconcile humankind and nature. The great majority of countries across the world have recognized the right to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment at the national or regional level.
Democracy is critical to protect this advance. Democracy can promote access to information — crucial for decision-making, accountability and raising awareness about environmental protection. It can ensure participation in decision-making and advance much-needed legislation.
And it can ensure intergenerational justice. Even before the spread of COVID-19, young people were staring at an environment under assault and a potentially compromised future, and demanding action by world leaders.
Now, we stand at a precipice, where we can halt and reverse the damage we have done, and mobilize the world to achieve carbon neutrality, before it is too late. Democratic practices and processes can help to point the way.
That means upholding civic space and media freedoms, which are under threat in so many places at this time. It means protecting environmental activists, indigenous groups and other human rights defenders who face harassment, imprisonment and extrajudicial killing for doing their essential work. And it means implementing environmental laws and listening to the voices calling for change.
As vast sums are allocated to revitalize economies and recover, we have an opportunity to move towards a more resilient, decarbonized and sustainable future.
Thank you for your contributions to this vital work.