In a wide-ranging interview with UN News, Secretary-General António Guterres is calling on world leaders to ‘wake up’, make an immediate course correction at home and abroad, and unite.
“The institutions we have, have no teeth. And sometimes, even when they have teeth, like in the case of the Security Council, they have not much appetite to bite,” the Secretary-General said.
Mr. Guterres sat down with UN News to answer questions on a host of topics, from the COVID-19 pandemic, to gender equality.
He called for an equitable global vaccination plan, with variants continuing to appear, that at some point, might become resistant to current innoculations.
“And on that day, nobody will be safe, in the south and in the north, not even in the countries where everybody was vaccinated,” he said.
On Afghanistan, he argues that the situation is “unpredictable” and warned: “What happened in Afghanistan, might embolden now, terrorist groups or other rebel movements to become more aggressive.”
The Secretary-General also highlighted climate change, saying the world is “on the verge of the abyss” and asked all Member States to make the next UN Climate Change Conference, COP26, a success.
The interview has been edited for clarity and length.
UN News: On global security, as the world continues to grapple with more security threats, what more can the UN do to make the world a more secure place?
António Guterres: Well, the biggest problem today is the lack of trust. And especially the lack of trust among the big powers. You see that in the difficulties of the Security Council to take adequate decisions with the rest of the different crisis in the world.
And so, with this division, with this divide among the big powers with this lack of trust, what we see is an environment of impunity, people think they can do whatever they want.
So, we need to rebuild trust, and we need to rebuild trust among those that have more influence in world affairs to be able to cooperate in order to make sure that we are able to unite the international community in addressing the crises that are multiplying now.
We see more coup d’états, we see new situations of conflict, we see social instability and unrest.
We need to have a Security Council that is united, that is strong. And for that, we need a serious dialogue among the big powers to try to find common ground.
UN News: The general debate is next week, Mr. Secretary-General, what is your key message the world leaders as they're coming next week?
António Guterres: My main message: It's time to ring the alarm bell. We are on the verge of a precipice and we are moving in the wrong direction.
Look at [COVID-19] vaccination, look at the difficulties in bringing together all countries to make sure that we make COP26 a success.
Look at the multiplication of conflicts we have witnessed in the last few months. We need to change course, and we need to wake up.
So, my message to the leaders: Wake up, change course, unite, and let's try to defeat the enormous challenges we are facing today.