Stockholm, Sweden

01 June 2022

Secretary-General's remarks at Press Stakeout with the Prime Minister of Sweden, Magdalena Andersson

Prime Minister Andersson thank you so very much for your warm welcome. 
 
Ladies and Gentlemen of the press – good afternoon,  
 
I want to thank the Government and people of Sweden for your steadfast support of the United Nations and multilateralism through the years.  
 
Sweden stands out as a trailblazer for gender equality; 
 
a champion of climate action and sustainable development; 
 
a staunch defender of human rights and international law;  
 
a pioneer in the mediation and prevention of conflicts; 
 
and a critical and much-needed partner in humanitarian action and development assistance.  
 
I am here for the Stockholm+50 conference – a crucial opportunity to bolster our response to the triple planetary emergency of climate disruption, pollution and biodiversity loss. 
 
As the late great Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme said at the time – and I quote:  
 
“In the field of human environment there is no individual future – neither for human beings nor for nations. Our future is common. We must share it together. We must shape it together”.  
 
I believe his insight has even greater relevance today across the spectrum of our many global challenges – from the climate emergency to the COVID-19 pandemic to the war in Ukraine.
 
On the war, the position of the United Nations is clear since the very beginning: the Russian invasion of Ukraine is a violation of its territorial integrity and a violation of the UN Charter.  
 
The war must end – now. 
 
It is causing immense suffering, destruction, and devastation of the country.  
 
But it also inflames a three-dimensional global crisis – of food, energy and finance – that is pummeling the most vulnerable people, countries and economies. 

I saw this for myself during my recent visit to the Sahel where countries were already confronting an escalating climate crisis, drowning in debt and struggling with economic insecurity heightened by the pandemic.  
 
Now they also face ballooning energy costs and growing hunger.  
 
A perfect storm is threatening to devastate the economies of many developing countries. 
 
They need support. 
 
Unfortunately, there are recent indications that some countries are considering deep cuts to Official Development Assistance, a reversal of prior commitments. 
 
This is alarming and I urge countries to reconsider given the dire consequences these cuts will have on the lives of the most vulnerable and I was very glad to hear the Prime Minister say that your commitment to official development assistance will be maintained. 
 
Ladies and gentlemen of the press,  
 
Specifically with respect to the food crisis, we need quick and decisive action to ensure a steady flow of food and energy in open markets, by lifting export restrictions, allocating surpluses and reserves to vulnerable populations, and addressing food price increases to calm market volatility. 
 
But let me be frank: there is no effective solution to the food crisis without reintegrating Ukraine’s food production, as well as the food and fertilizer produced by Russia into world markets – despite the war. 
 
I continue to exert every possible effort and use my good offices to promote a dialogue towards this end. 
 
We have two UN teams – led by Martin Griffiths and Rebeca Grynspan – to help find a package deal involving the safe and secure export of Ukrainian-produced food through the Black Sea along with unimpeded access of Russian food and fertilizers to global markets, especially developing countries. 
 
As we speak, the two groups are visiting relevant capitals to facilitate in the search for commonly agreed solutions.   
 
At the same time, the United Nations remains intensely focused on practical steps to save lives and reduce human suffering within Ukraine – from effective humanitarian corridors to the cessation of hostilities – and regionally through our refugee response.   
 
The Prime Minister and I discussed recent developments on the ground, the implications for European security, and possible pathways towards de-escalation and a negotiated settlement in line with international law and the UN Charter. 

I expressed my gratitude for Sweden’s remarkable solidarity in welcoming Ukrainian refugees and for providing vital support to our humanitarian operations.  
 
We also discussed other challenges – first and foremost, the climate crisis.  
 
Sweden has shown how ambitious environmental action and climate targets can support job creation, generate green growth and strengthen the health and well-being of society.  
 
I welcome Sweden’s commitment to achieve net-zero emissions by 2045 at the latest, and negative emissions shortly thereafter.  
 
I count on the European Union to match this ambition and review its renewable energy and energy efficiency targets this year.  
 
But even the most ambitious actions to slash emissions this decade will not erase the fact that the situation is already bad – and in many cases and places, irreversibly so. 
 
That is why adaptation and mitigation must be pursued with equal urgency – and developing countries must receive the necessary support at speed and at scale. 
 
We need massive increases in investments to accelerate the transition to renewable energy economies – and we need to ensure more finance flows to developing countries in support of these efforts. 
 
This means we need financial actors – especially multilateral development banks – to align their actions with the Paris Agreement and to take more risk to unlock investments in developing countries. 
 
I count on all developed nations including Sweden to reassure developing countries with a clear and credible roadmap on how they will double finance for adaptation – as agreed in Glasgow last year. 
 
But most importantly, we must uphold the Paris Agreement, keep the 1.5-degree goal alive, and rescue the Sustainable Development Goals.  
 
This will require greater solidarity, deeper cooperation, higher ambitions, more urgency, and stronger leadership – not tomorrow, but today. And we count on Sweden for that purpose. 
 
This is my message to Member States at the outset of the Stockholm+50 conference.  
 
And I thank you. Tack. 

QUESTION: Thank you very much, Karl Ritter from the Associated Press. First question for the Secretary-General regarding High Commissioner Bachelet's trip to China: What, specifically, concretely, has been achieved through that trip? And do you feel that she's been able to get to do an independent, complete assessment of the human rights situation in China, particularly in Xinjiang, and will you support or do you plan to ask her to serve as a second term as High Commissioner?

SECRETARY-GENERAL: Well, I don't think this visit was an investigation visit and it is obvious that, in this visit, it was impossible to have a clear picture of everything that is going on, but this visit was an opportunity to say very important things and to convey very important messages on the absolute need to respect human rights and especially human rights in minorities, and namely in Xinjiang, to the Chinese authorities. And that, I think, is very important, especially doing that in China, and I have, of course, full confidence in the High Commissioner.

 QUESTION: A question both to Mrs. Andersson and to Mr. Guterres: In what way is the war in Ukraine affecting this meeting and the talks you plan to have at this meeting on climate change and on environmental issues? In what ways is the war affecting the general fight on these topics? Is it getting harder to fight climate change now?

 SECRETARY-GENERAL: Well, obviously, when we have a dramatic situation with the dimension of this war that has no comparison with any other conflict in the last decades, there is inevitably a diversion of attention in relation to many other issues, and the sense of urgency in the debate on climate has, of course, suffered with the war in Ukraine.

But I think this war has demonstrated one thing: How fragile is the world in its dependence to fossil fuels. And just look at the recent discussions that we have witnessed in the European Union. So, it's time to learn the lesson. If we do not want again to be in the same situation we are [in] today, we need to make a clear bet – massive investment in renewable energy and clear understanding that the dependence on fossil fuels is a suicidal one.

 QUESTION: TT News Agency in Sweden. I would like to ask the Secretary-General, the UN played an important role in the negotiations for people of Azovstal, in the steelwork, to get them out. Will the UN also play a role in getting them out of Russia? And secondly, in getting people who fled from Azovstal out of Russia, will the UN play a role in those negotiations?

And secondly, if I may, you talked about the food situation. Russia's President Vladimir Putin, he told French President Macron that he, Russia, is ready to help find options to get exports of grain from the Black Sea out. What is the UN doing? And are you happy with the results that has been made?

 SECRETARY-GENERAL: First, in relation to the first question. The UN was directly involved and, to a certain extent, I believe I was in the origin of that operation in the evacuation of civilians from Azovstal.

The UN was not directly involved, because it's not our area of competence, in the evacuation of military from Azovstal. What we have been insisting is on the need to pursue, as quickly as possible, the exchange of prisoners, in order for that problem to be solved in a definitive way.

The second question: I have been talking very little about what we are doing. And my experience is that when we talk too much and do too little, you make things difficult to happen. So, for the moment, we have not yet results. We are engaged in a serious dialogue, technically well-prepared, with all the relevant parties, in order to find a package deal that will allow for Ukraine to be able to export safely and with security, without undermining its own security, their grains through the Black Sea. And, at the same time, for the world to have access, without impediments, to the production, the Russian production, of fertilizers and food that is also essential for global markets, in the present situation.

 And let me remind you that there was a ban of exports until recently. I think that there is progress, but we are not yet there. These are very complex things, and the fact that everything is interlinked makes the negotiation particularly complex.
 But, as I said to the Security Council, I am hopeful, but there is a way to go, and we are totally committed to make things happen.

Recently, we had the announcement that all parties would agree to have, in relation to the Black Sea, a quadrilateral meeting between Russia, Ukraine, the UN and Turkey, to see how it will be possible to find a solution for that very complex situation in which there are serious security concerns to take into account.

 QUESTION: Isak Krona from Swedish Radio here. I have a question for you, Mr. Secretary-General, about climate aid, climate funding for developing countries. A lot of the reports point out the importance of economical aid to developing countries for mitigation and adaptation. I wonder what your standpoint is on that, how important is that? And also, you mentioned Sweden’s ambition to double the climate aid until 2025. But this year, Sweden is actually cutting its climate aid by a third to afford to take refugees from Ukraine. What do you think about that? Is that the right priority?

 SECRETARY-GENERAL: What I've been saying very clearly is that developed countries should have implemented that commitment to support the developing world with $100 billion per year since 2020. And, unfortunately, that did not happen in 2020, that did not happen in 2021. Until now, it's not yet clarified, it will happen in 2022. Probably, it will not happen in 2022. And this is one of the measure facts that is creating a level of mistrust that, in my opinion, is a very serious impediment for us to be able, collectively, in unity, north and south, to address climate change and to be able to keep the 1.5 degrees alive.