UN Headquarters

25 June 2020

Opening remarks to the Press on the launch of the UN Comprehensive Response to COVID-19

António Guterres

Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome. 
We mark tomorrow’s 75th anniversary of the adoption of the United Nations Charter at a time of colossal global upheaval and risk.
From COVID-19 to climate disruption, from racial injustice to rising inequalities, we are a world in turmoil.  
At the same time, we are an international community with an enduring vision – embodied in the Charter – to guide us to a better future. 
The same Charter whose values enabled us to avoid the scourge of the third World War as many had feared. 

Our shared challenge is to rise to this moment.

Let me start with COVID-19.

A microscopic virus has brought catastrophic consequences to our world.

The pandemic has laid bare severe and systemic inequalities. 

And it has underscored the world’s fragilities more generally – not just in the face of another health emergency but also the climate crisis, lawlessness in cyberspace, and the risks of nuclear proliferation again.   

People are losing ever more trust in political establishments and institutions. 
In the face of these fragilities, world leaders need to be humble and recognize the vital importance of unity and solidarity.
None of us can predict what comes next. 
We are in the middle of the mist.
Where we can, the United Nations has cut through the fog – and acted.
The United Nations family has mobilized to save lives, control transmission of the virus and ease the economic fallout.
We have shipped more than 250 million items of personal protective equipment to more than 130 countries; ensured education for 155 million children; and provided mental health support for 45 million children, parents and caregivers.
We placed the UN supply chain network at the service of Member States and established 8 global air hubs that have reached more than 110 countries, providing 69,000 cubic meters of medical goods in the last six weeks alone.
We have trained nearly 2 million health and community workers…
Created safe channels for 3 million children and adults to report sexual exploitation and abuse …
And reached more than 2 billion people with information on staying safe and accessing health services. 
From the beginning, the United Nations has been calling for massive global support for the most vulnerable people and countries – a rescue package amounting to at least 10 per cent of the global economy and promoting the mechanisms of solidarity to ensure that the developing world can also benefit from it.
The United Nations is also supporting work to accelerate research and development for a people’s vaccine, affordable and accessible to all. A global public good. 
My appeal for a global ceasefire has been endorsed by nearly 180 countries, more than 20 armed groups as well as religious leaders and millions of members of civil society.
The difficulty is to implement it. 
My Special Envoys and I are working together to establish effective ceasefires and doing everything possible to overcome the legacy of long-lasting conflicts with deep mistrust among the parties and spoilers with a vested interest in disruption.
We are also fighting the plague of misinformation.  Next Tuesday June 30th, our new “Verified” initiative will ask people using social media platforms to participate in a special global “pause” before sharing questionable information.
Today I am presenting an overview of our comprehensive United Nations Response on COVID-19 – documenting not only our action over the last three months, but also offering a roadmap toward recovering better. 
We cannot go back to the way it was and simply recreate the systems that have aggravated the crisis.

We need to build back better with more sustainable, inclusive, gender-equal societies and economies.
There is no good reason, for example, for any country to include coal in their COVID-19 recovery plans.  This is the time to invest in energy sources that don’t pollute, don’t cause emissions, generate decent jobs and save money.
The United Nations is strongly committed to leading the renewal.
For 75 years, we have sought to help stitch the world together in productive cooperative relationships for global problem-solving and the common good. 
Today we are pursuing the Sustainable Development Goals, providing food assistance for 87 million people in 83 countries and vaccines for half the world’s children, helping to save 3 million lives every year. 
The women and men of the United Nations are assisting 80 million refugees and displaced people and enabling more than 2 million women and girls to overcome complications from pregnancy and childbirth. 
Forty political missions and peacekeeping operations, with 95,000 troops, police and civilian personnel, strive to keep the peace and protect civilians.  Our electoral assistance now extends to 60 countries each year. 
Our help for victims of torture reaches 40,000 people.  And some 7,500 monitoring missions every year seek to protect human rights, make violations known and hold perpetrators accountable.
This is the work of the United Nations, day in and day out, around the clock, around the world.
Throughout this anniversary year, we have also been listening.
For that, we mobilized more than 5,000 partners and convened more than 1,000 listening sessions in 124 countries.
More than 230,000 people in 193 member states and observer states engaged in our forward-looking UN75 survey. 
The responses paint a clear picture of priorities in the time of COVID-19 and beyond:
Number one: universal access to healthcare.
Number two: strengthen solidarity between people and nations.
Number three: rethink the global economy against inequality. 
As we mark Charter Day and look ahead, we must reimagine the way nations cooperate.
We need a networked multilateralism, bringing together the UN system, regional organizations, international financial institutions and others.
We need an inclusive multilateralism, drawing on the indispensable contributions of civil society, business, cities, regions and, in particular, with greater weight given to the voices of youth. 
In the 21st century, Governments are no longer the only political and power reality.
And we need an effective multilateralism that can function as an instrument of global governance where it is needed.
The problem is not that multilateralism is not up to the challenges the world faces.  The problem is that today’s multilateralism lacks scale, ambition and teeth. 
And some of the instruments that do have teeth, show little or no appetite to bite, as has recently been the case with the difficulties faced by the Security Council.
We need to give multilateralism the capacities to confront our challenges, not only to meet immediate needs but to enable future generations to meet theirs. 
In an ever more interdependent world, national interests are not easily separated from the global good.
Shared values, shared responsibility, shared sovereignty, shared progress – these must be our guide and our goals.
I understand the challenge. 
It is difficult to have a meaningful transformation of the mechanisms of global governance without the active participation of the world powers – and, let me blunt, their relationships today have never been more dysfunctional.
But I firmly believe that an awakening will come when we recognize our shared fragilities – when the factors that today divide instead begin to force people to finally understand that division is a danger to everyone, starting with themselves.
Ultimately, that is the way out of the mist.
Our Charter still points the way. 

I draw encouragement from much that the United Nations has helped make possible across the decades, and from the heroism of so much of the COVID-19 response. This is solidarity and unity to build on.
I look forward to discussing these matters with world leaders in September in whatever format necessary. We absolutely must come together to reimagine and reinvent the world we share.
Thank you.