[Watch the video on webtv.un.org]
My dear friends, President Cyril Ramaphosa, excellencies, distinguished guests, friends,
It is a privilege to join you in honouring Nelson Mandela, an extraordinary global leader, advocate, and role model.
I thank the Nelson Mandela Foundation for this opportunity and commend their work to keep his vision alive. And I send my deepest condolences to the Mandela family and to the Government and people of South Africa on the untimely passing of Ambassador Zindzi Mandela earlier this week. May she rest in peace.
I was fortunate enough to meet Nelson Mandela several times. I will never forget his wisdom, determination and compassion, which shone forth in everything he said and did.
Last August, I visited Madiba’s cell at Robben Island. I stood there, looking through the bars, humbled again by his enormous mental strength and incalculable courage. Nelson Mandela spent 27 years in prison, 18 of them at Robben island. But he never allowed this experience to define him or his life.
Nelson Mandela rose above his jailers to liberate millions of South Africans and become a global inspiration and a modern icon.
He devoted his life to fighting the inequality that has reached crisis proportions around the world in recent decades – and that poses a growing threat to our future.
And so today, on Madiba’s birthday, I will talk about how we can address the many mutually reinforcing strands and layers of inequality, before they destroy our economies and societies.
COVID-19 is shining a spotlight on this injustice.
The world is in turmoil. Economies are in freefall.
We have been brought to our knees – by a microscopic virus.
The pandemic has demonstrated the fragility of our world.
It has laid bare risks we have ignored for decades: inadequate health systems; gaps in social protection; structural inequalities; environmental degradation; the climate crisis.
Entire regions that were making progress on eradicating poverty and narrowing inequality have been set back years, in a matter of months.
The virus poses the greatest risk to the most vulnerable: those living in poverty, older people, and people with disabilities and pre-existing conditions.
Health workers are on the front lines, with more than 4,000 infected in South Africa alone. I pay tribute to them.
In some countries, health inequalities are amplified as not just private hospitals, but businesses and even individuals are hoarding precious equipment that is urgently needed for everyone. A tragic example of inequality.
The economic fallout of the pandemic is affecting those who work in the informal economy; small and medium-size businesses; and people with caring responsibilities, who are mainly women.
We face the deepest global recession since World War II, and the broadest collapse in incomes since 1870.
One hundred million more people could be pushed into extreme poverty. We could see famines of historic proportions.
COVID-19 has been likened to an x-ray, revealing fractures in the fragile skeleton of the societies we have built.
It is exposing fallacies and falsehoods everywhere:
The lie that free markets can deliver healthcare for all;
The fiction that unpaid care work is not work;
The delusion that we live in a post-racist world;
The myth that we are all in the same boat.
Because while we are all floating on the same sea, it’s clear that some are in superyachts while others are clinging to drifting debris.
Inequality defines our time.
More than 70 per cent of the world’s people are living with rising income and wealth inequality. The 26 richest people in the world hold as much wealth as half the global population.
But income, pay and wealth are not the only measures of inequality. People’s chances in life depend on their gender, family and ethnic background, race, whether or not they have a disability, and other factors.
Multiple inequalities intersect and reinforce each other across the generations. The lives and expectations of millions of people are largely determined by their circumstances at birth.
In this way, inequality works against human development – for everyone. We all suffer its consequences.
High levels of inequality are associated with economic instability, corruption, financial crises, increased crime and poor physical and mental health.
Discrimination, abuse and lack of access to justice define inequality for many, particularly indigenous people, migrants, refugees and minorities of all kinds. Such inequalities are a direct assault on human rights.
Addressing inequality has therefore been a driving force throughout history for social justice, labour rights and gender equality.
The vision and promise of the United Nations is that food, healthcare, water and sanitation, education, decent work and social security are not commodities for sale to those who can afford them, but basic human rights to which we are all entitled.
We work to reduce inequality, every day, everywhere.
That vision is as important today as it was 75 years ago.
It is at the heart of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, our agreed blueprint for peace and prosperity on a healthy planet, captured in SDG 10: reduce inequality within and between countries.
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, many people around the globe understood that inequality was undermining their life chances and opportunities.
They saw a world out of balance.
They felt left behind.
They saw economic policies channeling resources upwards to the privileged few.
Millions of people from all continents took to the streets to make their voices heard.
High and rising inequalities were a common factor.
The anger feeding two recent social movements reflects utter disillusionment with the status quo.
Women everywhere have called time on one of the most egregious examples of gender inequality: violence perpetrated by powerful men against women who are simply trying to do their jobs.
The anti-racism movement that has spread from the United States around the world in the aftermath of George Floyd’s killing is one more sign that people have had enough:
Enough of inequality and discrimination that treats people as criminals on the basis of their skin colour;
Enough of the structural racism and systematic injustice that deny people their fundamental human rights.
These movements point to two of the historic sources of inequality in our world: colonialism and patriarchy.
The Global North, specifically my own continent of Europe, imposed colonial rule on much of the Global South for centuries, through violence and coercion.
Colonialism created vast inequality within and between countries, including the evils of the Transatlantic slave trade and the apartheid regime here in South Africa.
After the Second World War, the creation of the United Nations was based on a new global consensus around equality and human dignity.
A wave of decolonization swept the world.
But let’s not fool ourselves.
The legacy of colonialism still reverberates.
We see this in economic and social injustice, the rise of hate crimes and xenophobia; the persistence of institutionalized racism and white supremacy.
We see this in the global trade system. Economies that were colonized are at greater risk of getting locked into the production of raw materials and low-tech goods – a new form of colonialism.
And we see this in global power relations.
Africa has been a double victim. First, as a target of the colonial project. Second, African countries are under-represented in the international institutions that were created after the Second World War, before most of them had won independence.
The nations that came out on top more than seven decades ago have refused to contemplate the reforms needed to change power relations in international institutions. The composition and voting rights in the United Nations Security Council and the boards of the Bretton Woods system are a case in point.
Inequality starts at the top: in global institutions. Addressing inequality must start by reforming them.
And let’s not forget another great source of inequality in our world: millennia of patriarchy.
We live in a male-dominated world with a male-dominated culture.
Everywhere, women are worse off than men, simply because they are women. Inequality and discrimination are the norm. Violence against women, including femicide, is at epidemic levels.
Globally, women are still excluded from senior positions in governments and on corporate boards. Fewer than one in ten world leaders is a woman.
Gender inequality harms everyone because it prevents us from benefitting from the intelligence and experience of all of humanity.
This is why, as a proud feminist, I have made gender equality a top priority, and gender parity now a reality in top UN jobs. I urge leaders of all kinds to do the same.
And I am pleased to announce that South Africa’s Siya Kolisi is our new global champion for the United Nations-European Union Spotlight Initiative, engaging other men in fighting the global scourge of violence against women and girls.
Recent decades have created new tensions and trends.
Globalization and technological change have indeed fueled enormous gains in income and prosperity.
More than a billion people have moved out of extreme poverty.
But the expansion of trade and technological progress have also contributed to an unprecedented shift in income distribution.
Between 1980 and 2016, the world’s richest 1 per cent captured 27 per cent of the total cumulative growth in income.
Low-skilled workers face an onslaught from new technologies, automation, the offshoring of manufacturing and the demise of labour organizations.
Tax concessions, tax avoidance and tax evasion remain widespread. Corporate tax rates have fallen.
This has reduced resources to invest in the very services that can reduce inequality: social protection, education, healthcare.
And a new generation of inequalities goes beyond income and wealth to encompass the knowledge and skills needed to succeed in today’s world.
Deep disparities begin before birth and define lives – and early deaths.
More than 50 per cent of 20-year-olds in countries with very high human development are in higher education. In low human development countries, that figure is 3 per cent.
Even more shocking: some 17 per cent of the children born twenty years ago in countries with low human development have already died.
Looking to the future, two seismic shifts will shape the 21st century: the climate crisis, and digital transformation. Both could widen inequalities even further.
Some of the developments in today’s tech and innovation hubs are cause for serious concern.
The heavily male-dominated tech industry is not only missing out on half the world’s expertise and perspectives. It is also using algorithms that could further entrench gender and racial discrimination.
The digital divide reinforces social and economic divides, from literacy to healthcare, from urban to rural, from kindergarten to college.
In 2019, some 87 per cent of people in developed countries used the internet, compared with just 19 per cent in the least developed countries.
We are in danger of a two-speed world.
At the same time, by 2050, we estimate that accelerating climate change will affect millions of people through malnutrition, malaria and other diseases, migration, and extreme weather events.
This creates serious threats to inter-generational equality and justice. Today’s young climate protestors are on the frontlines of the fight against inequality.
The countries that are most affected by climate disruption did the least to contribute to global heating.
The green economy will be a new source of prosperity and employment. But let us not forget that some people will lose their jobs, particularly in the post-industrial rustbelts of our world.
This is why we call not only for climate action, but climate justice.
Political leaders must raise their ambition, businesses must raise their sights, and people everywhere must raise their voices.
There is a better way, and we must take it.
The corrosive effects of today’s levels of inequality are clear.
We are sometimes told a rising tide of economic growth lifts all boats.
But in reality, rising inequality sinks all boats.
Confidence in institutions and leaders is eroding. Voter turnout has fallen by a global average of 10 per cent since the beginning of the 1990s.
People who feel marginalized are vulnerable to arguments that blame their misfortunes on others, particularly those who look or behave differently.
But populism, nationalism, extremism, racism and scapegoating will only create new inequalities and divisions within and between communities; between countries, between ethnicities, between religions.
COVID-19 is a human tragedy. But it has also created a generational opportunity.
An opportunity to build back a more equal and sustainable world.
The response to the pandemic, and to the widespread discontent that preceded it, must be based on a New Social Contract and a New Global Deal that create equal opportunities for all and respect the rights and freedoms of all.
This is the only way that we will meet the goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Paris Agreement and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda – agreements that address precisely the failures that are being exposed and exploited by the pandemic.
A New Social Contract within societies will enable young people to live in dignity; will ensure women have the same prospects and opportunities as men; and will protect the sick, the vulnerable, and minorities of all kinds.
Education and digital technology must be two great enablers and equalizers.
As Nelson Mandela said and I quote, “Education is the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world.” As always, Nelson Mandela said it first.
Governments must prioritize equal access, from early learning to lifelong education.
Neuroscience tells us that pre-school education changes the lives of individuals and brings enormous benefits to communities and societies.
So when the richest children are seven times more likely than the poorest to attend pre-school, it is no surprise that inequality is inter-generational.
To deliver quality education for all, we need to more than double education spending in low and middle-income countries by 2030 to $3 trillion a year.
Within a generation, all children in low- and middle-income countries could have access to quality education at all levels.
This is possible. We just have to decide to do it.
And as technology transforms our world, learning facts and skills is not enough. Governments need to prioritize investment in digital literacy and infrastructure.
Learning how to learn, adapt and take on new skills will be essential.
The digital revolution and artificial intelligence will change the nature of work, and the relationship between work, leisure and other activities, some of which we cannot even imagine today.
The Roadmap for Digital Cooperation, launched at the United Nations last month, promotes a vision of an inclusive, sustainable digital future by connecting the remaining four billion people to the Internet by 2030.
The United Nations has also launched ‘Giga’, an ambitious project to get every school in the world online.
Technology can turbocharge the recovery from COVID-19 and the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.
Growing gaps in trust between people, institutions and leaders threaten us all.
People want social and economic systems that work for everyone. They want their human rights and fundamental freedoms to be respected. They want a say in decisions that affect their lives.
The New Social Contract, between Governments, people, civil society, business and more, must integrate employment, sustainable development and social protection, based on equal rights and opportunities for all.
Labour market policies, combined with constructive dialogue between employers and labour representatives, can improve pay and working conditions.
Labour representation is also critical to manage the challenges posed to jobs by technology and structural transformation – including the transition to a green economy.
The Labour movement has a proud history of fighting inequality and working for the rights and dignity of all.
The gradual integration of the informal sector into social protection frameworks is essential.
A changing world requires a new generation of social protection policies with new safety nets including Universal Health Coverage and the possibility of a Universal Basic Income.
Establishing minimum levels of social protection, and reversing chronic underinvestment in public services including education, healthcare, and internet access are essential.
But this is not enough to tackle entrenched inequalities.
We need affirmative action programmes and targeted policies to address and redress historic inequalities in gender, race or ethnicity that have been reinforced by social norms.
Taxation has also a role In the New Social Contract. Everyone – individuals and corporations – must pay their fair share.
In some countries, there is a place for taxes that recognize that the wealthy and well-connected have benefitted enormously from the state, and from their fellow citizens.
Governments should also shift the tax burden from payrolls to carbon.
Taxing carbon rather than people will increase output and employment, while reducing emissions.
We must break the vicious cycle of corruption, which is both a cause and effect of inequality. Corruption reduces and wastes funds available for social protection; it weakens social norms and the rule of law.
Fighting corruption depends on accountability. The greatest guarantee of accountability is a vibrant civil society, including a free, independent media and responsible social media platforms that encourage healthy debate.
Let’s face the facts. The global political and economic system is not delivering on critical global public goods: public health, climate action, sustainable development, peace.
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought home the tragic disconnect between self-interest and the common interest; and the huge gaps in governance structures and ethical frameworks.
To close those gaps, and to make the New Social Contract possible, we need a New Global Deal to ensure that power, wealth and opportunities are shared more broadly and fairly at the international level.
A new model for global governance must be based on full, inclusive and equal participation in global institutions.
Without that, we face even wider inequalities and gaps in solidarity – like those we see today in the fragmented global response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Developed countries are strongly invested in their own survival in the face of the pandemic. But they have failed to deliver enough support needed to help the developing world through these dangerous times.
A New Global Deal, based on a fair globalization, on the rights and dignity of every human being, on living in balance with nature, on taking account of the rights of future generations, and on success measured in human rather than economic terms, is the best way to change this.
The worldwide consultation process around the 75th anniversary of the United Nations has made clear that people want a global governance system that delivers for them.
The developing world must have a far stronger voice in global decision-making.
We also need a more inclusive and balanced multilateral trading system that enables developing countries to move up global value chains.
Illicit financial flows, money-laundering and tax evasion must be prevented. A global consensus to end tax havens is essential.
We must work together to integrate the principles of sustainable development into financial decision-making. Financial markets must be full partners in shifting the flow of resources away from the brown and the grey to the green, the sustainable and the equitable.
Reform of the debt architecture and access to affordable credit must create fiscal space for countries to move investment in the same direction.
As Nelson Mandela said: "One of the challenges of our time… is to re-instill in the consciousness of our people that sense of human solidarity, of being in the world for one another and because of and through others.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has reinforced this message more strongly than ever.
We belong to each other.
We stand together, or we fall apart.
Today, in demonstrations for racial equality… in campaigns against hate speech… in the struggles of people claiming their rights and standing up for future generations… we see the beginnings of a new movement.
This movement rejects inequality and division, and unites young people, civil society, the private sector, cities, regions and others behind policies for peace, our planet, justice and human rights for all. It is already making a difference.
Now is the time for global leaders to decide:
Will we succumb to chaos, division and inequality?
Or will we right the wrongs of the past and move forward together, for the good of all?
We are at breaking point. But we know which side of history we are on.
Nikiwe Bikitsha: The new global deal – let’s delve into some of the themes that he's raised as he joins me now in conversation. Secretary General, good day and thank you so much for joining us.
Secretary-General: It’s a pleasure.
Nikiwe Bikitsha: As a rapid response to COVID, we've seen a number of nation states take on unexpected and unplanned levels of debt. Now, in many cases, it's clear that this is going to be unsustainable for those countries, and there are parallels, Secretary-General, I'm sure you'll agree, to the debt crisis that many crises, that many countries in the global south faced decades ago. Secretary-General, are debt write-offs possible, as we move past the pandemic?
Secretary-General: They are possible and necessary. The G20 recognized in its meeting, in its summit, that, of course, countries are having big losses in their income, their fiscal income. The expenditure is increasing because the needs to respond to the call to diminish the negative impact, the social impact in the economies and the societies, and, at the same time, many countries have very high levels of debt, so there is a dramatic situation that needs to be faced.
There was a decision of the G20 to have a suspension in the payment, in the payments related to that, for the least developed countries, the poorest countries, in the world until the end of the year. Now, this is clearly not enough. We need more time, but many other countries have the same problem and need to be addressed.
There will be this weekend the meeting of the Ministers of Finance of the G20, I hope and the central bank governors. I hope that the consultations that we made will allow these to change.
But, in our opinion, and, since the beginning, we have been asking for several things. First, in line with what President Cyril Ramaphosa and the African leaders have clearly stressed a few months ago, we need, not only to suspend payment in relation to the debt of low, the lowest-income countries, but all developing and middle-income countries that have no easy access to financial markets and not able to service their debt.
And second, we need to look seriously into the needs of debt relief to a number of countries in which there is no sustainability for their debts. So, first, suspension of payments. Second, debt relief for those that effectively need it.
And then, third aspect, we need to look seriously into the structure of the debt architecture. And I believe that some structural measures need to be taken in order to avoid a situation in which a series of countries in insolvency might trigger a global depression, with very dramatic circumstances.
So, debt alleviation of the developing world is not only in the interest of the developing countries, it is in the interest of everybody. We must preserve the stability of financial sectors, and we must address the debt crisis, before it becomes a dramatic problem with consequences that are devastating for the world economy, and at the same time it's a matter of justice. The people of those countries, in many circumstances, have not even a responsibility in what has happened, and they absolutely need to be supported, and for that support to be possible, we need not only debt relief, but we need much more liquidity available for the developing world. And that is why, for instance, we have been, since the beginning, advocating for issuing new special drawing rights, the modern way to print money, and to distribute those drawing rights to the countries in need, as a way to create the conditions for the transfer of resources that is essential for the developing world.
If you look at developed countries today, they are spending trillions to respond to COVID-19 and to boost their economies, but Africa, to do the same, would need to do a, I would say, something equivalent to 10 per cent of the African economy would need a transfer of US$200 billion, more than US$200 billion. So we need debt relief, but we also need massive support, direct support, to the developing world, to respond to COVID-19, and at the same time, to be able to address the dramatic impacts in their economies and their societies, that is, of course, worsened by the inequalities existing, and by the fact that, in the developing world, the informal economy is a much bigger share of the global products.
Nikiwe Bikitsha: Extraordinary and absolutely necessary measures as, as you say. In your lecture, SG, you have described how the COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare risks that we had ignored for decades, such as under investment in health care, as well as inadequate health care system broadly. What is your call today, Secretary-General, to governments globally and the private sector specifically on tackling the pandemic in ways which won't really entrench, the disparities, which you have so described?
Secretary-General: We need to address the fragilities that were demonstrated by the pandemic.
One fragility relates to inequality, and the central aspect of inequality is the consequence of low levels of investment in public health systems and in other aspects of the welfare state in education, in social security. It is clear that countries must make an effort to invest more to have universal health coverage as an objective, and to have educational systems that work for all and a new generation of social protection policies that can address the dramatic situation of those that are in more poor and more vulnerable conditions in societies.
But for the developing countries to do it, they need support, and it is obvious that that is one of the reasons I was mentioning, we need not only to have a social contract within each country, we need a new global deal at the global level with an effective transfer of resources to the developing world for them to be able to address those [inaudible].
But, at the same time, when building back better it's not only addressing inequality – it's addressing other fragilities like climate change. It doesn't make sense to go on distributing subsidies on fossil fuels. We need to make sure to invest essentially on the green economy. Of course, there are transitions that need to be addressed. South Africa has a legacy and that legacy of course is based on coal. It takes time, it's complex.
That's why I speak not only about climate action, I also speak about climate justice. We need to be able to address those that will be impacted negatively by climate action, but it is essential that, when building back better, we build back with inclusiveness and with sustainability, addressing the problems of inequality and addressing the problems of climate change. And I think we have an opportunity now, but we must make the right choices, and the developed countries must express the solidarity to the developing world to allow it to do the same.
Nikiwe Bikitsha: Secretary-General, we often speak of education as a great equalizer. You yourself have just quoted Nelson Mandela, but we see in many countries that the gap between those who are able to obtain a university education and those who can't is actually widening and deepens and multiplies that inequality. What we're also seeing is that, not only does it diminish opportunities for those without university education, but the latest research seems to indicate that it may have an impact on levels of happiness as well. So with that in mind, is our focus on university education, creating you think greater chasms between people in society and, as a result undermining the working class?
Secretary-General: I think that our focus cannot be on university education – it must be on education as a whole. When I came to government in my country, only 20 per cent of the children had preschool education, and preschool education is probably the most important element of an equalizer, of education as an equalizer. Because, in general, rich families have the capacity to provide to their small children opportunities that poor families are not in the condition to do it. We managed in Portugal when I was in government to move from 20 per cent to 80 per cent of governance in preschool education. I hope that today it will be around 100 per cent.
It is absolutely essential to invest in preschool education, to invest in basic and secondary education, in the quality of education, in order to create equalizing factors that then will be reflected at university.
To perceive that university by itself can solve the problem, it is obvious that it won't because it will only reproduce inequalities that are already evident when people have access to that university and what you have just mentioned is the proof of that. So we need to have an educational policy conceived as an equalizer, and not an equal education policy that reproduces the inequalities because it serves better the children of the rich people than the children of the poor people. It serves better, the rich countries than the poor countries. That requires, of course, adequate policies at the local level, but that requires also a massive investment by the developed world in supporting the developing world, and autonomy in education in digital literacy.
[Inaudible] in today's world, is the digital divide. It is devastating and can be irreversible. So it's absolutely essential to support the developing world for a massive investment in digital literacy and digital infrastructure for internet to get everywhere, for all schools to get internet, and for the children in the developing world to be able to benefit from the benefits of the digital economy and the digital society.
Nikiwe Bikitsha: You mentioned the importance of technology, SG, as something that can either reinforce, devise or accelerate change, yet the majority of those who hold the data, which is the capital of this new technological ramp, are located either in the US or in China, the two major superpowers. Is it possible, then, to build a truly digital economy, when power remains so concentrated in those two powers?
Secretary-General: I think we have the problem of power and we have a problem of access. Our priority at the present moment is in the access, and in the capacity building. And that can be done independently of the fact that the technology is today dominated essentially by two countries.
We need to invest massively in bringing the internet to everybody. We need to invest massively in building capacity in State institutions to use the digital economy. We need to invest massively in digital literacy, and that we can do even if there is this question of power.
At the same time, we need to look into the question of power. And I think there is a risk to look into the world and to have a world divided into two blocs by the two biggest economies – two blocs with two dominating currencies, two blocs with two internets and two digital technology strategies and two artificial intelligence strategies, two trade systems, and this would be a disaster.
I think we need a universal system and we need universal rules. We need international law prevailing and we need the digital world to be a factor on these. That is reason why we launched our initiative our High-Level Panel on Digital Cooperation that produced a number of recommendations. Now, we have a roadmap with a number of measures, measures that are aiming at access as I mentioned in my intervention, but also aiming at power redistribution and governance, and governance of the digital world that brings equality in the access, but also in the use of the digital world, and that allow us to control the negative aspects of the digital world.
The way these tools spread, for instance, today, hate speech, the way it spreads racism, the way it spreads xenophobia, the way it spreads many of the things that we need to fight in our societies. We need the digital world to be a force for good, not a force for evil.
Nikiwe Bikitsha: And certainly one of the benefits of that technology is that you and I are able to connect in the manner in which we have today, which is absolutely fantastic, given the current global crisis which forbids us from traveling around the world. One of those other benefits is that there's greater engagement on tools such as social media. So what we did this week SG is to ask people to send us their questions – what have they always wanted to find out from you? Let me read one of those questions now and this question is from Mosiah here in South Africa, and he poses this question for you SG. As COVID continues to ravage livelihoods economies and lives, is it realistic for the SDGs to be met by 2030? Isn't it time for the global community to reconfigure the goals at September's UNGA, and extend by another 10 years? Your response, sir.
Secretary-General: Well, it will be very tough, and obviously what we are witnessing today is a dramatic negative impact on economies and societies that is also having a negative impact on the Sustainable Development Goals, but the worst thing we can do is to give up.
I think this only increases our responsibility to build back, based on the Sustainable Development Goals. Massive investments will be made in the world in the developed and hopefully the developing world. Let's organize those investments that will be made for the recovery to make sure that they are based in the principles and in the policies of the Sustainable Development Goals, that they build an inclusive economy, that they build a sustainable economy, that they organize themselves giving priority to education, to healthcare, to universal health coverage, allowing, at the same time, to address the challenges of climate change. If we do that, we can now have an acceleration to compensate for the loss. If we give up and we accept that we are going to postpone, I think we will make things worse. Of course, not every country will be able to reach it. Countries in conflict will have enormous difficulties, we knew that already, but we must be ambitious, and we must keep that ambition, and we must put political systems, political leaders, facing their responsibilities. They need to do everything to make it work.
Nikiwe Bikitsha: Another question from social media, what are the important lessons you have learned from your time as Secretary-General, while attempting to facilitate meaningful change in the world? Do we have to play the game to make meaningful change or do you think we can do it while yelling from the periphery? That's another question from today.
Secretary-General: I think we need both. First, we must play the game but try to change the rules of the game, because the game can be a different game. And that needs, obviously, a top-down approach. We need leaders that are committed, that force change, and we need to support those leaders. Unfortunately, in today's world, leadership and power are not always aligned. We have leadership with power and a lot of power without leadership. It's important to align the two. And that, of course, requires something that is very important, together with a top-down approach, a very strong bottom-up approach.
The grassroots movements, what we have seen with the youth in relation to climate change, what we are seeing today in the movement of civil society. For instance, I mentioned the dramatic question of sexual harassment, the #metoo campaign and other similar campaigns. We have seen this anti-racist movement all over the world after the dramatic killing that we have witnessed in Minneapolis. We see the extraordinary dynamism of people everywhere, of women, of young people, of the civil society and NGOs of all kinds, of all sorts, the human rights movement. We see a lot of dynamism and we need to stress that dynamism, we need to facilitate vibrant societies to express themselves. We need the free press to play that role. We need social media to be extremely active because only with this pressure from below will those that are trying to change things to change the rules of the game from the top will be able to succeed. If not, the lobbies that exist, the power structures that exist for the interests, entrenched interests that exist, the entrenched inequality that exists, will of course make life very difficult to all those leaders that are trying to change the world in a better direction based on the Agenda 2030, based on the climate agreement, the Paris Climate Agreement, based on the questions of social justice and finance that were defined in the Addis Ababa agenda.
All these can only be possible if, from the bottom, comes a very strong pressure to force leaders to move into directions that can lead to sustainability and inclusivity, that can address inequality and the fragilities of our present world.
But I hope, because I see the dynamism of that movement, I see cities, I see regions, I see even the private sector, the business community, more and more recognizing that everybody must be in the same boat instead of the present situation, in which I mentioned, some have very nice boats and some have only some debris to rescue them. So, we need to really, now that we are all in the same sea, make sure that we can all get into the same boat.
Nikiwe Bikitsha: Do you think though, Secretary-General, that the wealthy are interested in seeing that this just an equitable new global deal that you speak of, a new social contract, when, as we know, in reality, tax havens are aiding and abetting them to hide assets and fleece money from the developing world? And what is the UN doing about that?
Secretary-General: I do not trust necessarily the generosity of people. I trust the enlightened self- interest. It's interesting to see some of the big fortunes in this world, some of the richest men in the world, saying that they are not paying enough taxes, that it's totally unfair that the tax systems have evolved in such a way that the very rich people are not paying enough taxes.
So, some rich people are understanding that this is becoming dangerous for everyone, that inequality brings instability and instability is a danger for everybody, but that is the reason why I said today that we need to fight tax evasion, money laundering, illicit flows of capital, is essential. And we need to have a global consensus to end tax havens.
We need to create the conditions for countries to be able to make taxes work. And for that, of course, reform tax systems at country level, but abolish tax havens and fight money laundering and fight tax evasion and illicit financial flows at the global level.
Africa loses more money in illicit financial flows than the money that comes in official development aid. So these must be a priority and the UN has been very actively engaged in promoting these changes, together with many other institutions in the world. And we hope that sooner or later, we'll be able to gain in this battle.
Nikiwe Bikitsha: Mr. Secretary-General, Mr. Antonio Guterres, thank you so much for engaging with us so energetically on these issues at this extraordinary moment in history where we face, undoubtedly, one of the biggest challenges of the century. We thank you so much for your input and your insight and for indeed accepting our invitation as the Nelson Mandela Foundation to deliver the 18th Nelson Mandela annual lecture. We're so delighted that you could join us. We're deeply honored that you agreed to deliver the lecture this year. Of course, unfortunately, due to the global crisis you couldn't travel to South Africa. We were hoping and looking forward to hosting you at the Northwest University. But, indeed, we appreciate your participation today, and, as a token of our appreciation, as the Nelson Mandela Foundation, as well as the Board of Trustees of the Nelson Mandela Foundation, we would just like to give this bust of Nelson Mandela. It comes from the [inaudible] that legacy and, hopefully, when you can travel again soon, we'll be able to hand it to you in person. Mr. Guterres, thank you so much.
Secretary-General: Thank you very much, and I express my total solidarity to the people of South Africa, with the courage with which the South Africans are facing COVID-19 and its impact and to wish you the best success in fighting COVID-19 and in re-establishing your economy and your society.