New York

14 November 2020

Secretary-General's video message to East Asia Summit 2020

I am pleased to send greetings to the East Asia Summit. I welcome your focus on the COVID-19 crisis.

The pandemic has caused profound disruption around the world. The countries of East and Southeast Asia have set a strong example in dealing with the pandemic.

Yet, in Asia, the virus has still infected at least 14 million people and killed more than a quarter million. The economic and social crises triggered by COVID-19 have added to the challenges of the immediate health crisis.

Millions of informal workers are jobless or have lost much of their income. Often, they have no social protection. In East Asia alone, as many as 39 million people could revert to extreme poverty.

The global community needs to tackle this challenge with compassion and solidarity to recover stronger and stay on track to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

The United Nations, led by the World Health Organization, has been working to coordinate global efforts to develop and scale up the production of effective vaccines and therapeutics.

These must be available and affordable for everyone, everywhere. No one is safe until we are all safe. The United Nations has also coordinated a Global Humanitarian Response Plan for those most in need.

And to help countries finance COVID-19 recovery and the longer-term investments needed to deliver the Sustainable Development Goals, the United Nations has launched a new global initiative on Financing for Development.

We have called for countries to mobilize a stimulus package amounting to at least 10 per cent of global Gross Domestic Product.

Here we need global solidarity.

Just 2.5 per cent of this global fiscal stimulus is accounted for by developing and emerging economies, which have the greatest need, least resources and weakest capacities for addressing the crisis. It is essential that we invest in people, including through social protection, universal healthcare and quality education. We also need to invest in the planet.

We must use the COVID-19 recovery effort to build green climate-resilient economies and work towards carbon neutrality by 2050.

This will, incidentally, also drive the job creation that will reduce inequality and address the air pollution that is choking many Asian cities I commend the recent decisions of China, Japan and the Republic of Korea committing to net zero emissions.

To reach carbon neutrality by 2050, I am calling for all countries to stop building new coal power plants and for partners to stop financing them. Countries also need to put a price on carbon and end subsidies for fossil fuels. Our response to the COVID-19 crisis must be aligned with the Paris Agreement and Sustainable Development Goals. In all these efforts, you can count on the support of the United Nations system.

Together, we can use the response to COVID-19 to build a world with less inequality, that is more inclusive and more sustainable.

Thank you.