Report of the Secretary-General on the Work of the Organization 2017

I. Introduction

The UN Secretariat Building in New York, with Members States’ flags in the foreground.
UN Photo/Rick Bajomas

"We need to rekindle faith in multilateralism and confidence in the United Nations as the place where States and civil society can come together to face the most pressing challenges in the world today… We can succeed only if we work in greater unison. Multilateralism is not optional. It is the most effective vehicle, whether regional or global, for achieving the goals of peace, inclusive sustainable development and human rights for all."

Full report for 2017 PDF document | 2016 report PDF document | Past reports PDF document

II. The work of the Organization

A. Promotion of sustained economic growth and sustainable development

Class run by the “Peace Through Adult Literacy” programme in Gao, Mali. The centre operates with support from the UN mission (MINUSMA). UN Photo/Harandane Dicko

The adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development represents an unparalleled achievement in setting objectives for the international community. It marks a paradigm shift towards a comprehensive and integrated vision of inclusive sustainable development, applicable to all people in all countries and explicitly anchored in human rights. The challenge now lies in its implementation. It is critical to mobilize adequate financial and non-financial support, ensure the effectiveness of multi-stakeholder partnerships and maintain a relentless focus on the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.

B. Maintenance of international peace and security

The UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) delivering election materials and deploying security personnel ahead of elections.  UN Photo/Logan Abassi

United Nations peace operations are among our strongest tools for maintaining peace and containing conflict. But the United Nations must go beyond reacting to events and build anticipatory relationships with national and regional partners to prevent conflict. Prevention requires addressing the root causes of conflict across the three pillars of the United Nations: peace and security, human rights and inclusive development.  I am fully engaged in offering support in seeking peaceful solutions to disputes through the use of my good offices.

C. Development of Africa

An aerial view of Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire. UN Photo/Basile Zoma

One of my highest priorities is to strengthen United Nations efforts in Africa. Economic growth in several African countries surpassed that in other parts of the globe. Yet some parts of Africa face threats and challenges involving protracted violence and human insecurity that undermine development. The 2030 Agenda is key to Africa’s future, and the United Nations is working closely with its partners in Africa towards a mutually reinforcing implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, in harmony with the African Union’s Agenda 2063.

D. Promotion and protection of human rights

UN humanitarian agencies and partners are assisting hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, September 2017.  WFP Photo/Saikat Mojumder

Alongside bloody conflict, the past year has seen the continued deprivation of basic economic and social rights for millions of women, men and children. Millions have sought refuge from armed conflict and have migrated in search of opportunities and the protection of their human rights.  In the “New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants”, Member States committed to protect the human rights of all migrants. The Organization is supporting States in this endeavour, but greater and more consistent leadership is needed across every region.

E. Effective coordination of humanitarian assistance efforts

The UN Refugee Agency and its partners deliver aid to hard-to-reach neighborhoods in Eastern Aleppo, Syria. Photo/UNHCR

Devastating natural disasters, such as floods, storms, wildfires and severe weather, now displace three times more people than are displaced by conflicts. An unprecedented food crisis has hit more people than ever before. Nevertheless, disregard for international humanitarian law and human rights law remained endemic, as evidenced by attacks against civilians, humanitarian workers and medical personnel.  During 2017, the United Nations and its humanitarian partners assisted more people than any previous year since the founding of the Organization.

F. Promotion of justice and international law

A briefing on "The Effective Adjudication of Terrorism Cases" at UN Headquarters in New York. UN Photo/Loey Felipe

The United Nations is increasingly involved in promoting justice and the rule of law in international courts, treaties and agreements and in providing support to domestic authorities. Deprived of peaceful, legal redress, the lack of justice and the rule of law, some segments of society may be drawn to violence.  Respect for justice and the rule of law are an integral part of human rights. Thus, the role of the United Nations in promoting human rights becomes even more necessary.  The International Court of Justice continues to function as a central mechanism for the peaceful resolution of disputes.  Acceptance of the Court’s compulsory jurisdiction among Member States is one of my highest priorities.

G. Disarmament

A soldier stands over seized weapons in Mogadishu, Somalia. UN Photo/Stuart Price

The Organization’s advocacy for disarmament is more vital than ever. Through its regional centres for peace and disarmament, the United Nations continues to build the capacity of States to tackle illicit arms trade through practical measures, such as stockpile management and legal assistance.  Negotiations on a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons were held at Headquarters in July 2017, with my full support, as a step towards the universally desired goal of a nuclear weapon-free world. 

H. Drug control, crime prevention and combating international
terrorism in all its forms and manifestations

A member of the Liberia National Police Anti-Drug Squad reviews the burning of confiscated drugs.  UN Photo/Staton Winter

The United Nations continues to support increased access to services, including HIV services, for people who use drugs and people in prisons. In line with United Nations support for Member States in responding to crime, two of my highest priorities are the elimination of all forms of violence against women and against children. We are spearheading a new agenda for counter-terrorism through a new Office of Counter-Terrorism, a reinvigorated “all United Nations” approach to assist in the implementation of the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, and the High Level Preventing Violent Extremism Action Group.

III. Strengthening the Organization

The flags of UN Member States Guatemala, Guinea and Guinea-Bissau flying outside UN Headquarters in New York. UN Photo/Manuel Elias

Our efforts to implement the Organization’s ambitious reform agenda rest on ensuring that we simplify procedures, decentralize decision-making and move towards even greater transparency and accountability. In April 2017, I established an internal review team on management reform under the overall guidance of the Chef de Cabinet. Transforming the Organization to better deliver on its mandate is our ultimate goal.

IV. Conclusion

Secretary-General António Guterres speaking with school children during a visit to the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan. UN Photo/Sahem Rababah

The United Nations is the gravitational centre for dialogue and cooperation to find common solutions, and with its concentrated support Member States have reached two landmark agreements: the 2030 Agenda and the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change. Taken together, they demonstrate that nations have the will to work multilaterally when they see a driving need. They represent a clear road map to a mutual destination: taking care of our shared global home.