Geneva, Switzerland

29 November 2021

Deputy Secretary-General's remarks at Briefing to Member States [as prepared for delivery]

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you for joining this briefing today.
It is a pleasure to be back in Geneva as we continue to strengthen synergies between the UN’s work in New York, Geneva and beyond.

We meet at a crucial time.

Our world is still reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic and facing a deeply uneven recovery.

We are struggling to prevent a catastrophic collapse of climate and biodiversity.

We are facing growing levels of poverty and inequality and dramatic reversals in gender equality.

Trust in public institutions is waning, societies are becoming more divided, human rights are under attack and we are failing to stem the tide of humanitarian need, conflict and instability.

And yet, in all of this, we know there is still reason for hope and that a better future is not just possible but within our grasp.

In September, the Secretary-General presented his report on Our Common Agenda aimed at strengthening and accelerating implementation of existing international frameworks, particularly the 2030 Agenda.

Today, I would like to touch on five areas that are at the heart of that call and that can only be advanced through a more inclusive, effective, networked multilateralism, particularly here in Geneva.

First, ending the pandemic.

COVID-19 continues its destructive march, now claiming over 5 million lives and causing severe disruption to economies and societies.

While wealthy countries are rolling-out third doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, only about six per cent of people in Africa are fully vaccinated. 
As the Secretary-General has said, this is a global shame.

The Global COVID-19 Vaccination Strategy, launched by the Secretary-General and the World Health Organization last month, provides a credible and costed plan to tame the virus.
We can and we must get vaccines into the arms of 40 per cent of people in all countries by the end of this year — and 70 per cent by the middle of 2022.

I urge all member states to fully support reaching these achievable targets.

And through your discussions this week at the World Health Assembly Special Session, we can also help put in place a more effective pandemic preparedness architecture for the future.

Second, on climate change, the outcomes from COP26 are an important step but they fall far short of what is needed. 1.5 degrees is on life support.
 It is time to go into emergency mode. Every tenth of a degree matters. We must accelerate climate action in this decade to have a viable and more secure pathway to net-zero by 2050.

We must end fossil fuels subsidies, phase out coal, put a price on carbon, and build resilience of vulnerable communities against the here and now impacts of climate change. Donor countries have to make good on the $100 billion climate finance commitment to support developing countries, including doubling of adaptation finance.

We continue to see major growth in net zero commitments from diverse stakeholders. To address the deficit of credibility and a surplus of confusion around net zero targets, the Secretary General announced that he will establish a Group of Experts to propose clear standards to measure and analyze net zero commitments from non-state actors.

Adaptation was a central topic in Glasgow and the decision taken to double adaptation finance – a priority of the Secretary-General for the last year – was vital. Next year’s COP27 in Sharm Al-Sheikh will be an opportunity to mark progress on climate adaptation and climate finance including on issues relating to access and “quality” of finance.  A key demand by developing countries on creating a facility and work programme on Loss and Damage to provide adequate support has not been met yet. 

Third, on Financing for Sustainable Development.

Many countries, including the vulnerable middle-income countries, are still lacking the resources needed to invest in a sustainable and inclusive recovery and achieve the SDGs.

Urgent efforts are needed to resolve long-standing challenges in the global financial and debt architecture to bolster resilience against future shocks.

We also need to work with the private sector and multilateral development banks to develop innovative financing tools, and help lower risk and draw capital to bankable, job-creating projects to the accelerate recovery.

Today, I will participate in the Building Bridges Summit which provides us with an opportunity to join forces between New York and Geneva to drive finance to the SDGs.

Fourth, on social inclusion.

The pandemic has shown just how precarious recent development gains have been.

It has also highlighted massive under-investment in essential public services - and the millions of people who remain completely out of reach.

If we are to get the SDGs back on track and give everyone a fair shot in life, then a dramatic change is needed in how countries approach and prioritize investment in people.

In September, the UN and ILO launched the Global Accelerator for Jobs and Social Protection, with the aim of creating at least 400 million jobs by 2030, primarily in the green and care economies, and extending social protection floors to over 4 billion people currently not covered.

I urge all countries to get behind this initiative.

Next September, the Secretary-General will hold a Summit on Transforming Education with a view to averting a generational catastrophe and to rethinking education systems so that learners everywhere are equipped with the skills and knowledge needed to excel in our rapidly changing world.

I look forward to working with all delegations and all partners to maximize the Summit’s impact.

Fifth, I want to note the success of the Food Systems Summit, which, over the course of a 20-month process, engaged hundreds of thousands of people around the world to leverage the power of food systems for the SDGs.

The momentum generated by the Summit must be maintained and taken to the next level to deliver results on the ground, particularly with the provision of demand-driven support to countries.
A robust follow-up effort will be led through a Food Systems Coordination Hub, operational as of January 2022.

Sixth and finally, on the reform of the UN Development System.

The recently adopted General Assembly resolution on the review of the Resident Coordinator system provides a strong endorsement of the progress made since the ambitious reforms were approved in 2018.

I commend governing bodies for their crucial role in this regard.

The resolution highlighted areas where further progress was needed.

This includes on adherence to the dual reporting lines and more effective reporting on results.

Member states also highlighted the need for the RC system to be fully funded to respond to the increase in demands that the recovery and SDG implementation will place on the UN in country.

The Secretary-General and I will do all in our power to support this. I invite all Member States to come forward, with contributions commensurate with their relative share and their ambitions for the reform.  Every contribution counts.

In closing, I would like to commend the UN family and staff here in Geneva who have been supporting Member States during these very challenging times.

They have demonstrated outstanding resilience over the past two years and a strong commitment to deliver concrete improvements in people’s lives.

Our world continues to face enormous challenges but by working together; by understanding each other; by finding common ground and increasing the ambition, we can make a decisive difference.

I look forward to your feedback and questions and I thank you for your ongoing support.