UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres outlined three crises in need of better global governance to make progress and “rescue” the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs: the climate emergency, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the “morally bankrupt” financial system.
He added that safe, affordable, and secure internet services for all will be a focus of the Transforming Education Summit in 2022.
Guterres said ‘Our Common Agenda’ is a roadmap to addressing these governance challenges.
The UN Secretary-General has called for prioritizing action in 2022 to address five interlinked crises, and the “outdated” multilateral frameworks that are failing to protect critical global goods or deliver on aspirations for sustainable development, peace, and human rights. His remarks were based on the annual Report on the Work of the Organization.Addressing the UN General Assembly (UNGA) on 21 January 2022, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres identified five crises that are feeding off each other to worsen unrest: “Inequity and injustice in tackling the pandemic. A global economic system rigged against the poor. Insufficient action on the existential climate threat. A wild west digital frontier that profits from division.”
First, Guterres outlined three crises in need of better global governance to make progress and “rescue” the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs. These are: the climate emergency, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the “morally bankrupt” financial system.
On climate, Guterres called for:
- An unprecedented investment surge in renewable energy infrastructure, tripling to USD 5 trillion annually by 2030;
- Creating coalitions to provide financial and technical support for big emitters and other countries that are highly dependent on coal and need resources and technology to transition to renewable energy; and
- Every country to strengthen their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) under the Paris Agreement until they collectively deliver the 45% emissions reduction needed by 2030 – this is the reduction needed to reach carbon neutrality by mid-century.
Guterres emphasized that the planet has already warmed by about 1.2 degrees Celsius, and the “battle to keep the 1.5-degree goal alive will be won or lost in this decade.” He urged, “No new coal plants. No expansion in oil and gas exploration.”
On fighting the pandemic, Guterres said:
- Governments must avoid “travel apartheid” in which developing countries where a new variant emerges may face travel restrictions;
- All countries and all manufacturers should prioritize vaccine supply to COVAX and create the conditions for the local production of tests, vaccines and treatments; and
- The World Health Organization (WHO) should have greater authority as part of efforts to prepare for the next outbreak.
On reforming global finance, Guterres said the divergence between developed and developing countries is “not a bug but a feature” of the system, which ascribes poor credit ratings to developing economies and then deprives them of private finance. He called for:
- Redistribution of the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) Special Drawing Rights to benefit the countries that need them the most;
- Creation of a Resiliency and Sustainability Trust at the IMF, which would provide more long-term, low-cost funding to poor and vulnerable countries;
- A “serious review” of the mechanisms of global financial governance, which are currently dominated by the richest economies;
- A fairer global tax system;
- Addressing illicit financial flows; and
- Increasing the resources of Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs).
He explained that government needs to be able to invest in people and resilience in ways that are anchored in the SDGs, for example by strengthening health and education systems, creating jobs, and conducting a just transition to renewable energy. Guterres said that in 2022 he will use the UN’s convening power to boost investment in the SDGs.
Guterres then highlighted an issue “where global governance barely exists”: the internet and digital technology. He said strong regulatory frameworks are needed to change social media companies’ business models, which he said currently rely on algorithms that “prioritize addiction, outrage and anxiety at the cost of public safety.” He said safe, affordable, and secure internet services for all will be a focus of the Transforming Education Summit he will convene in 2022. He has also proposed: a Global Digital Compact as part of the Summit of the Future in 2023, and a Global Code of Conduct to address integrity in public information and misinformation that undermines science.
Guterres also noted the need for more attention on securing peace, reporting that the number of violent conflict around the world is the highest since 1945. He also noted that conflict prevention is at the heart of the proposed New Agenda for Peace. He highlighted his commitment to putting women at the center of conflict prevention, peacemaking, and peacebuilding efforts.
Guterres concluded that ‘Our Common Agenda’ which was submitted to the UNGA in September 2021 is a roadmap to addressing these governance challenges. [Remarks of UN Secretary-General to UNGA] [Remarks to press] [Publication: Report of the Secretary-General on the Work of the Organization] [DESA news story]