23 January 2018
UN Secretary-General Presents 12 Priorities for 2018
UN Photo/Cia Pak
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The Secretary-General highlighted 12 areas of concern where priority action is needed alongside the empowerment of women everywhere, which he said is a cross-cutting imperative.

The Secretary-General also said 2018 will be “a decisive year for reform”.

16 January 2018: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has presented his priorities for 2018, identifying 12 areas of concern where action is required immediately. He also provided details on a system-wide strategy for gender equality.

The briefing for UN Member States took place on 16 January 2018, at UN Headquarters in New York, US. Opening the briefing, the Secretary-General noted that since he took office in January 2017, several global challenges have intensified: conflicts have deepened and new dangers have emerged; global anxieties about nuclear weapons are at their highest since the Cold War; climate change is moving faster than governments are moving to take action; inequalities are growing; horrific violations of human rights are happening; and nationalism, racism and xenophobia are on the rise.

Guterres highlighted 12 areas of concern where priority action is needed, alongside the empowerment of women everywhere, which he said is a cross-cutting imperative. The 12 areas are:

  • Promoting a real “new deal” for an equitable globalization, whose benefits are shared with everyone: the Secretary-General urged Member States to respect their financial commitments and to set in place stronger mechanisms that address fiscal evasion and illicit financial flows (IFFs);
  • Noting that in 2016, for the first time in the last three years, carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions increased and the past five years have been the warmest in history, the Secretary-General called for stepping up climate action and announced that he will hold a climate summit in 2019 to increase momentum;
  • Taking advantage of global mobility through the adoption of the first Global Compact on Migration;
  • Taking advantage of advances in technology, while protecting societies from its risks: Guterres noted that the UN will serve as a platform for Member States to come together with the private sector, the scientific community and academia to discuss on how to use the potential and address the risks;
  • Achieving the peaceful de-nuclearization of the Korean Peninsula;
  • Deescalating tensions in the Middle East;
  • Strengthening the UN’s partnership with the African Union (AU);
  • Pushing back the dangerous tide of nationalism in Europe, and revitalizing mediation initiatives – including the Normandy Format and Trilateral Contact Group on Eastern Ukraine, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group on Nagorno-Karabakh, the Geneva International Discussions related to Georgia, and the “5+2” process on Transnistria;
  • Maintaining a strong focus on counter-terrorism: Guterres announced the convening in June 2017 of a Summit of Heads of Counter-Terrorism Agencies to advance multilateral cooperation;
  • Strengthening UN peace operations: the Secretary-General noted that a detailed plan of action for that purpose is being prepared by the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, and said that, in February 2018, he will present his report on peacebuilding and sustaining peace;
  • Reversing the large-scale exodus of Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslims, for which the full implementation of the Rakhine Advisory Commission recommendations is vital; and
  • Overcoming the “false contradiction” between human rights and national sovereignty: Guterres mentioned that the UN stands ready to support states in building their capacities to uphold the rule of law, promote respect for human rights, and eliminate all forms of discrimination.

The Secretary-General noted that his report on peacebuilding and sustaining peace to be presented in February will contain “very strong” proposals on strengthening the Peacebuilding Fund. He observed that the AU needs strong support and clear mandates from the UN, and announced that the UN and the AU will sign a framework of agreement on development, aligning the 2030 Agenda and Africa 2063, during the AU Summit taking place at the end of January 2018.

On gender equality, Guterres said his approach rests on three pillars. The first pillar is empowering women and girls. To that end, he noted the September 2017 launch of his roadmap for achieving gender parity at all UN levels, and announced that in 2018 the UN reached full parity in the 44-member UN Senior Management Group. He added that he also mandated an internal task force to review the UN’s spending on gender equality.

The second pillar of his gender equality approach, Guterres said, is preventing sexual exploitation and abuse against women. With this aim, he appointed the UN’s first-ever Victims’ Rights Advocate, who will work closely with Member States and across the UN system. He noted that 82 Member States are part of a Voluntary Compact to prevent these crimes and respond swiftly to allegations.

The third pillar on which Secretary-General’s gender equality approach rests is preventing and addressing sexual harassment. He reiterated his personal commitment to eliminating sexual harassment at the UN, adding that his zero-tolerance approach was recently reaffirmed in a joint letter with staff unions to all UN personnel. He reported that he has set up a task force, led by Jan Beagle of the Department of Management, to review UN policies and capacities to investigate, to ensure accountability, and to look at the support and protection offered to those affected. Guterres said his team is currently working on more detailed measures to simplify the procedures for reporting harassment and raise awareness of the issue throughout the UN.

The Secretary-General added that 2018 will be “a decisive year for reform,” and noted that the repositioning of the UN development system will facilitate better support for Member States in achieving the SDGs.

Countries welcomed a more in-depth definition of “sustaining peace.”

In the ensuing discussion, many countries, including Cuba, Iran and Singapore, stressed the need for the UN to defend and promote multilateralism. Brazil and Cuba noted that reform of the UN peace and security pillar will not be complete without reform of the UN Security Council. Singapore expressed hope that the Secretary-General will act as advocate for an open and fair world trade system. China called for attention to the root causes of the refugee crisis. Guatemala and El Salvador welcomed a more in-depth definition of the “sustaining peace” concept, with El Salvador adding that the concept should include human rights and be addressed under the peace and security pillar. [Secretary-General Remarks] [UN Press Release] [SDG Knowledge Hub Sources]

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