UN Headquarters

12 July 2018

Opening remarks at press conference at UN Headquarters

António Guterres

Secretary-General António Guterres briefs the press on a wide-ranging number of topics. UN Photo/Mark Garten

Countries have the right and even the responsibility to determine their own migration policies, and to responsibly manage their borders.  But they must do so in full respect for human rights.

Ladies and Gentlemen of the media.
I really thank you very much for your presence.
Tomorrow, the General Assembly is expected to agree on a Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, for formal adoption in December in Marrakesh.
This action has immense potential to help the world harness the benefits of regular migration while safeguarding against the dangers of irregular movements that place people at risk.
Migrants are a remarkable engine for growth.  Migrants number more than 250 million around the world.  They make up 3 per cent of global population but contribute 10 per cent of global gross domestic product.
Yet more than 60,000 people on the move have died since 2000 – at sea, in the desert and elsewhere.  And often, migrants and refugees are demonized and attacked.
The Compact represents a comprehensive approach.  But let me underline three important objectives.
First, to reorient national development policies and international development cooperation to take migration into account, and create opportunities for people to work and live in dignity in their own countries.
Second, to strengthen international cooperation against smugglers and human traffickers, and to protect their victims.  Smuggling and trafficking are criminal activities; migration is not.
Third, to increase opportunities for legal migration. 
Migration is a positive global phenomenon.  Many aging developed countries need migrants to fill crucial gaps in labour markets.  Climate change and other factors, including simple human aspiration, will continue to lead people to seek opportunity far from their homes. 
If migration is inevitable, it needs to be better organized through effective international cooperation among countries of origin, transit and destination, so that we do not leave control of movements of people in the hands of smugglers and traffickers.
Countries have the right and even the responsibility to determine their own migration policies, and to responsibly manage their borders.  But they must do so in full respect for human rights. 
And as we know, not everybody moves voluntarily in search of a better life. 
More than 68 million people have been forcibly displaced by armed conflict and persecution -- the most since the Second World War.
I saw the human consequences yet again earlier this month when visiting desperate and traumatized Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh. 
I commend Bangladesh for showing compassion and generosity that have saved thousands of lives.
Unfortunately, elsewhere, we see many borders closing, and diminishing solidarity with people in need.
It is urgent that we re-assert the integrity of the international refugee protection regime. 
I am pleased that consultations on a Global Compact on Refugees were concluded last week, for consideration by the General Assembly at the end of the year.
Let us recall that the vast majority of the world’s refugees are hosted in developing countries that themselves face constraints.  This responsibility must be shared globally.
The two Compacts were the product of intense and inclusive consultations bringing together a wide range of actors, including migrants and refugees themselves.
These agreements show multilateralism in action and give us a strong platform for progress.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Also today I am pleased to announce that I am establishing a High-Level Panel on Digital Cooperation.
This is the first such panel of its kind – and will be comprised of women and men at the frontiers of technology, public policy, science, and academia.
I am happy to report that Ms. Melinda Gates and Mr. Jack Ma will serve as co-chairs.
I am grateful to them for making themselves available for this undertaking. The names of the members of the panel are available to all the distinguished members of the media present.
The reason for such a panel is clear. 
Digital technology is changing economies and societies at warp speed. 
The scale and pace of change is unprecedented, but the current means and levels of international cooperation are unequal to the challenge.
Technology now fuels so many aspects of our lives, from personal relationships to business and politics. 
We all depend on the Internet – from startup entrepreneurs …. to refugees for whom smart phones are a lifeline ….to grandparents such as myself chatting online with their grandchildren across continents.
Technological innovation is of course also critical to helping countries accelerate progress towards meeting the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Climate Accord.
And technology is not standing still; developments are accelerating.
New tech developments from artificial intelligence to blockchain and robotics are emerging every day. 
At the same time, the world is only beginning to address the dark side of innovation – such as cybersecurity threats, the risks of cyberwarfare, the magnification of hate speech, and violations of privacy.
As a global community, we face questions about security, equity, ethics, and human rights in a digital age.
We need to seize the potential of technology while safeguarding against risks and unintended consequences.
I see the United Nations as a unique platform for dialogue in our digital age. 
We need researchers, policymakers, technologists, entrepreneurs, civil society actors and social scientists to come to the table and share their part of the solution.
The Panel will map trends in digital technologies, identify gaps and opportunities, and outline proposals for strengthening international cooperation.
It will contribute to the broader public debate on the importance of cooperative and interdisciplinary approaches to the full range of digital challenges.
The Panel will submit its recommendations to me in nine months, and I am confident that the public consultations of this Panel, and its resulting report, will help advance digital cooperation for our shared future.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Finally, I would like to provide an update on our action to tackle sexual harassment. 
This scourge affects every corner of every society – and the United Nations is no exception.
As I said from my first day in office, this challenge is deeply rooted in historic power imbalances.  We live in a male-dominated world with a male-dominated culture. 
This is one reason why ensuring gender parity and the empowerment of women and girls is central.
I am determined to do all we can to tackle sexual harassment — at the Secretariat and system-wide in the United Nations. 
In the Secretariat, we have taken a number of unprecedented steps. 
Let me be specific. 
First, I have created a specialized team within the Office of Internal Oversight Services to focus on sexual harassment investigations. 
Last week, member states in the Budget Committee approved my proposal for the creation of six new investigator posts specializing in sexual harassment. 
This week, we are conducting interviews with a focus on recruiting women with expertise in such investigations.  Indeed, two-thirds of the candidates are women.
At the same time, we are ramping up our broader internal investigative capacity — rapidly filling posts that are available.  Twenty-six investigator positions have been filled since I took office, with the vast majority receiving training that included the sexual harassment dimension.  These of course are beyond the six new specialized posts I mentioned. And of course this training relates to a number of issues, but improvement in the skills of interviewing and the capacity to deal with the psycho-social aspects of trauma.
Second, we have fast tracked and streamlined procedures to receive, process and address complaints on sexual harassment.  All sexual harassment reports are now considered Category 1, which means they will all be investigated by the Office of Internal Oversight Services, not using any of the intermediate areas of investigation that in the past were possible.
At the same time, we have defined three months as the target in relation to investigation processes. We have determined, as well as in sexual exploitation and abuse, to have a victims-centered approach in investigation.   Our new whistleblower policy is also a strong complement to these efforts.
Third, a 24-hour “Speak Up” secretariat hotline is up and running for staff to confidentially report situations of sexual harassment and to seek advice.
Fourth, we have completed the terms of reference and bidding for a first-of-its-kind Secretariat staff survey to better understand our colleagues’ perception on the prevalence, nature and experience of sexual harassment.  The survey will now be launched.
Fifth, we have revamped mandatory training on sexual harassment this year —more than 14,000 staff have already completed it.
But all of that is not enough. 
Since the challenge is system-wide our action must be as well. 
I have encouraged agencies throughout the UN family to adopt similar measures, agencies that are not under my direct control.
At the November meeting of the UN Chief Executives Board, I created a Task Force that has taken a number of steps.
We have launched a new screening database of confirmed perpetrators from around the system so they are not rehired by another part of the UN, as unfortunately has happened sometimes in the past. 
We are harmonizing policies and principles and sharing best practices.
And the measures taken at the Secretariat will support further needed action across the system. The Secretariat capacity will be at the disposal of agencies that have difficulties in implementing the same measures.
In all these efforts, my message is clear: 
I want staff to feel confident about coming forward instead of staying silent for fear of retribution or flawed inquiries. 
To those who have stepped up to share painful personal experiences, I thank you for your courage.  I know it is not easy.  But you are helping to shape a better working environment across the world where all can enjoy respect and dignity.
I am absolutely committed to this effort. 
Zero tolerance in words must mean zero tolerance in deeds.
Thank you.