Category Archives: Secretary Generals Messages

SG’s messages as and when they are available. Usually posted on the day of the concerned observance or activity.

Secretary-General António Guterres video message to launch the policy brief on ‘Education and Covid-19′

Education is the key to personal development and the future of societies.

It unlocks opportunities and narrows inequalities.

It is the bedrock of informed, tolerant societies, and a primary driver of sustainable development.

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to the largest disruption of education ever.

In mid-July, schools were closed in more than 160 countries, affecting over 1 billion students.

At least 40 million children worldwide have missed out on education in their critical pre-school year.

And parents, especially women, have been forced to assume heavy care burdens in the home.

Despite the delivery of lessons by radio, television and online, and the best efforts of teachers and parents, many students remain out of reach.

Learners with disabilities, those in minority or disadvantaged communities, displaced and refugee students and those in remote areas are at highest risk of being left behind.

And even for those who can access distance learning, success depends on their living conditions, including the fair distribution of domestic duties.

We already faced a learning crisis before the pandemic.

More than 250 million school-age children were out of school.

And only a quarter of secondary school children in developing countries were leaving school with basic skills.

Now we face a generational catastrophe that could waste untold human potential, undermine decades of progress, and exacerbate entrenched inequalities.

The knock-on effects on child nutrition, child marriage and gender equality, among others, are deeply concerning.

This is the backdrop to the Policy Brief I am launching today, together with a new campaign with education partners and United Nations agencies called ‘Save our Future’.

We are at a defining moment for the world’s children and young people.

The decisions that governments and partners take now will have lasting impact on hundreds of millions of young people, and on the development prospects of countries for decades to come.

This Policy Brief calls for action in four key areas:

First, reopening schools.

Once local transmission of COVID-19 is under control, getting students back into schools and learning institutions as safely as possible must be a top priority.

We have issued guidance to help governments in this complex endeavour.

It will be essential to balance health risks against risks to children’s education and protection, and to factor in the impact on women’s labour force participation.

Consultation with parents, carers, teachers and young people is fundamental.

Second, prioritizing education in financing decisions.

Before the crisis hit, low and middle-income countries already faced an education funding gap of $1.5 trillion dollars a year.

This gap has now grown.

Education budgets need to be protected and increased.

And it is critical that education is at the heart of international solidarity efforts, from debt management and stimulus packages to global humanitarian appeals and official development assistance.

Third, targeting the hardest to reach.

Education initiatives must seek to reach those at greatest risk of being left behind — people in emergencies and crises; minority groups of all kinds; displaced people and those with disabilities.

They should be sensitive to the specific challenges faced by girls, boys, women and men, and should urgently seek to bridge the digital divide.

Fourth, the future of education is here.

We have a generational opportunity to reimagine education.

We can take a leap towards forward-looking systems that deliver quality education for all as a springboard for the Sustainable Development Goals.

To achieve this, we need investment in digital literacy and infrastructure, an evolution towards learning how to learn, a rejuvenation of life-long learning and strengthened links between formal and non-formal education.

And we need to draw on flexible delivery methods, digital technologies and modernized curricula while ensuring sustained support for teachers and communities.

As the world faces unsustainable levels of inequality, we need education – the great equalizer – more than ever.

We must take bold steps now, to create inclusive, resilient, quality education systems fit for the future.

Remarks by the Secretary-General at Launch of Policy Brief on Food Security

New York, 9 June 2020

There is more than enough food in the world to feed our population of 7.8 billion people.

But, today, more than 820 million people are hungry.

And some 144 million children under the age of 5 are stunted – more than one in five children worldwide.

Our food systems are failing, and the Covid-19 pandemic is making things worse.

Unless immediate action is taken, it is increasingly clear that there is an impending global food emergency that could have long term impacts on hundreds of millions of children and adults.

This year, some 49 million extra people may fall into extreme poverty due to the COVID-19 crisis.

The number of people who are acutely food or nutrition insecure will rapidly expand.

Every percentage point drop in global Gross Domestic Product means an additional 0.7 million stunted children.

Even in countries with abundant food, we see risks of disruptions in the food supply chain.

We need to act now to avoid the worst impacts of our efforts to control the pandemic.

Today I am launching a Policy Brief on the Impact of COVID-19 on Food Security and Nutrition.

It has three clear findings.

First, we must mobilize to save lives and livelihoods, focusing attention where the risk is most acute.

That means designating food and nutrition services as essential, while implementing appropriate protections for food workers.

It means preserving critical humanitarian food, livelihood and nutrition assistance to vulnerable groups.

And it means positioning food in food-crisis countries to reinforce and scale up social protection systems.

Countries need to scale up support for food processing, transport and local food markets, and they must keep trade corridors open to ensure the continuous functioning of food systems.

And they must ensure that relief and stimulus packages reach the most vulnerable, including meeting the liquidity needs of small-scale food producers and rural businesses.

Second, we must strengthen social protection systems for nutrition.

Countries need to safeguard access to safe, nutritious foods, particularly for young children, pregnant and breastfeeding women, older people and other at-risk groups.

And they need to adapt and expand social protection schemes to benefit nutritionally at-risk groups.

This includes supporting children who no longer have access to school meals.

Third, we must invest in the future.

We have an opportunity to build a more inclusive and sustainable world.

Let us build food systems that better address the needs of food producers and workers.

Let us provide more inclusive access to healthy and nutritious food so we can eradicate hunger.

And let us rebalance the relationship between food systems and the natural environment by transforming them to work better with nature and for the climate.

We cannot forget that food systems contribute up to 29 per cent of all greenhouse gas emissions, including 44 per cent of methane, and are having a negative impact on biodiversity.

If we do these things and more, as indicated by the brief we are launching today, we can avoid some of the worst impacts of the COVID19 pandemic on food security and nutrition – and we can do so in a way that supports the green transition that we need to make.

Thank you.

Secretary-General António Guterres video message on World Environment Day 5 June

Nature is sending us a clear message.

We are harming the natural world – to our own detriment.

Habitat degradation and biodiversity loss are accelerating.

Climate disruption is getting worse.

Fires, floods, droughts and superstorms are more frequent and damaging.

Oceans are heating and acidifying, destroying coral ecosystems.

And now, a new coronavirus is raging, undermining health and livelihoods.

To care for humanity, we MUST care for nature.

We need our entire global community to change course.

Let’s rethink what we buy and use.

Adopt sustainable habits, farming and business models.

Safeguard remaining wild spaces and wildlife.

And commit to a green and resilient future.

As we work to build back better, let’s put nature where it belongs — at the heart of our decision making.

On this World Environment Day, it’s Time for Nature.

THE SECRETARY-GENERAL-REMARKS ON COVID-19 AND PEOPLE ON THE MOVE

New York, 3 June 2020

COVID-19 continues to devastate lives and livelihoods around the globe — hitting the most vulnerable the hardest.

This is particularly true for millions of people on the move — such as refugees and internally displaced persons who are forced to flee their homes from violence or disaster, or migrants in precarious situations.

Now they face three crises rolled into one.

First, a health crisis — as they become exposed to the virus, often in crowded conditions where social distancing is an impossible luxury — and where basics such as health care, water, sanitation and nutrition are often hard to find.

This impact will be even more devastating to the large number of people on the move who live in least developed countries.  One-third of the world’s internally displaced population live in the 10 countries most at-risk to COVID-19.

Second, people on the move face a socio-economic crisis — especially those working in the informal economy without access to social protection.

In addition, the loss of income from COVID-19 is likely to lead to a colossal $109 billion drop in remittances.  That’s the equivalent of nearly three-quarters of all official development assistance that is no longer being sent back home to the 800 million people who depend on it.

Third, people on the move face a protection crisis.

More than 150 countries have imposed border restrictions to contain the spread of the virus.  At least 99 states make no exception for people seeking asylum from persecution.

At the same time, fear of COVID-19 has led to skyrocketing xenophobia, racism and stigmatization.

And the already precarious situation of women and girls is ever more dire, as they face higher risks of exposure to gender-based violence, abuse and exploitation.

Yet even as refugees and migrants face all these challenges, they are contributing heroically on the frontlines in essential work.

About one in eight of all nurses globally, for example, is practicing in a country different from where they were born.

The COVID-19 crisis is an opportunity to reimagine human mobility.

Four core understandings must guide the way:

First, exclusion is costly and inclusion pays.  An inclusive public health and socio-economic response will help suppress the virus, restart our economies and advance the Sustainable Development Goals.

Second, we must uphold human dignity in the face of the pandemic and learn from the handful of countries that have shown how to implement travel restrictions and border controls while fully respecting human rights and international refugee protection principles.

Third, no-one is safe until everyone is safe.  Diagnostics, treatment and vaccines must be accessible to all.

Fourth and finally, people on the move are part of the solution.  Let us remove unwarranted barriers, explore models to regularize pathways for migrants and reduce transaction costs for remittances.

I am grateful to countries, especially developing countries, that have opened their borders and hearts to refugees and migrants, despite their own social, economic, and now health, challenges.

They offer a moving lesson to others in a period when doors are closed.  It is essential that these countries are provided increased support and full solidarity.

We all have a vested interest to ensure that the responsibility of protecting the world’s refugees is equitably shared and that human mobility remains safe, inclusive, and respects international human rights and refugee law.

No country can fight the pandemic or manage migration alone.

But together, we can contain the spread of the virus, buffer its impact on the most vulnerable and recover better for the benefit of all.

Thank you.

Secretary-General António Guterres video message on International day of UN Peacekeepers, 29 May

29 May 2020

Today we honor more than one million men and women who have served as United Nations peacekeepers and the more than 3,900 who have lost their lives in the line of duty.

We also express our gratitude to the 95,000 civilian, police and military personnel currently deployed around the world.

They are facing one of the greatest challenges ever: delivering on their peace and security mandates while helping countries to address the COVID-19 pandemic.

The theme of this year’s observance – Women in Peacekeeping – highlights their central role in our operations.

Women often have greater access in the communities we serve, enabling us to improve the protection of civilians, promote human rights and enhance overall performance.

This is especially important today, as female peacekeepers are on the frontlines in supporting the response to COVID-19 in already fragile contexts – using local radio to spread public health messaging, delivering necessary supplies to communities for prevention, and supporting efforts of local peacebuilders. Yet, women continue to represent only 6 per cent of uniformed military, police, justice and corrections personnel in field missions.

As we commemorate the 20th anniversary of Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security, we must do more to achieve women’s equal representation in all areas of peace and security.

Together, let us continue to wage peace, defeat the pandemic and build a better future.

 

The Secretary General Remarks at Launch of Policy Brief on Persons With Disabilities and COVID-19

New York, 5 May 2020 (recorded 4 May)

The COVID-19 crisis is affecting every aspect of our societies, revealing the extent of exclusion that the most marginalized members of society experience.

Today, I would like to highlight how the pandemic is affecting the world’s 1 billion people with disabilities.

Even under normal circumstances, persons with disabilities are less likely to access education, healthcare and income opportunities or participate in the community.

This is exacerbated for those in humanitarian and fragile contexts.

People with disabilities are more likely to live in poverty, and they experience higher rates of violence, neglect and abuse.

The pandemic is intensifying these inequalities — and producing new threats.

Today we are launching a report that recommends a disability-inclusive response and recovery for everyone.

People with disabilities are among the hardest hit by COVID-19.

They face a lack of accessible public health information, significant barriers to implement basic hygiene measures, and inaccessible health facilities.

If they contract COVID-19, many are more likely to develop severe health conditions, which may result in death.

The share of COVID-19 related deaths in care homes — where older people with disabilities are overrepresented — ranges from 19 per cent to an astonishing 72 per cent.

In some countries, healthcare rationing decisions are based on discriminatory criteria, such as age or assumptions about quality or value of life, based on disability.

We cannot let this continue.

We must guarantee the equal rights of people with disabilities to access healthcare and lifesaving procedures during the pandemic.

Persons with disabilities who faced exclusion in employment before this crisis, are now more likely to lose their job and will experience greater difficulties in returning to work.

Yet, only 28 per cent of people with significant disabilities have access to benefits — and only 1 per cent in low-income countries.

People with disabilities — particularly, women and girls — face a greater risk of domestic violence, which has surged during the pandemic.

I urge governments to place people with disabilities at the center of COVID-19 response and recovery efforts and to consult and engage people with disabilities.

Persons with disabilities have valuable experience to offer of thriving in situations of isolation and alternate working arrangements.

Looking to the future, we have a unique opportunity to design and implement more inclusive and accessible societies to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

 Last year, I launched the United Nations Disability Inclusion Strategy to ensure the UN system is doing its part.

The Strategy represents the UN’s commitment to achieve transformative and lasting change.

When we secure the rights of people with disabilities, we are investing in our common future.

The Secretary General- Video Message on World Press Freedom Day 2020

“Journalism Without Fear or Favour”

New York, 3 May 2020

Journalists and media workers are crucial to helping us make informed decisions. As the world fights the COVID-19 pandemic, those decisions can make the difference between life and death.

On World Press Freedom Day, we call on governments — and others — to guarantee that journalists can do their jobs throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.

As the pandemic spreads, it has also given rise to a second pandemic of misinformation, from harmful health advice to wild conspiracy theories.

The press provides the antidote: verified, scientific, fact-based news and analysis.

But since the pandemic began, many journalists are being subjected to increased restrictions and punishments simply for doing their jobs.

Temporary constraints on freedom of movement are essential to beat COVID-19. But they must not be abused as an excuse to crack down on journalists’ ability to do their work.

Today, we thank the media for providing facts and analysis; for holding leaders – in every sector – accountable; and for speaking truth to power.

We particularly recognize those who are playing a life-saving role reporting on public health.

And we call on governments to protect media workers, and to strengthen and maintain press freedom, which is essential for a future of peace, justice and human rights for all.

 

 

The Secretary General- Video Message to Launch Policy Brief on Older Persons

New York, 1 May 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic is causing untold fear and suffering for older people across the world.

The fatality rate for older people is higher overall, and for those over 80, it is five times the global average.

Beyond its immediate health impact, the pandemic is putting older people at greater risk of poverty, discrimination and isolation. It is likely to have a particularly devastating impact on older people in developing countries.

As an older person myself, with responsibility for an even older mother, I am deeply concerned about the pandemic on a personal level, and about its effects on our communities and societies.

Today we are launching a policy brief that provides analysis and recommendations to address these challenges. Our response to COVID-19 must respect the rights and dignity of older people.

There are four main messages.

First, no person, young or old, is expendable. Older people have the same rights to life and health as everyone else.

Difficult decisions around life-saving medical care must respect the human rights and dignity of all.

Second, while physical distancing is crucial, let’s not forget we are one community and we all belong to each other. We need improved social support and smarter efforts to reach older people through digital technology.

That is vital to older people who may face great suffering and isolation under lockdowns and other restrictions.

Third, all social, economic and humanitarian responses must take the needs of older people fully into account, from universal health coverage to social protection, decent work and pensions.

The majority of older people are women, who are more likely to enter this period of their lives in poverty and without access to healthcare. Policies must be targeted at meeting their needs.

And fourth, let’s not treat older people as invisible or powerless.

Many older people depend on an income and are fully engaged in work, in family life, in teaching and learning, and in looking after others. Their voices and leadership count.

To get through this pandemic together, we need a surge in global and national solidarity and the contributions of all members of society, including older people.

As we look to recover better, we will need ambition and vision to build more inclusive, sustainable and age-friendly societies that are fit for the future.

The Secretary General Message on the Anniversary of the 1994 Genocide Against the Tutsi in Rwanda

7 April 2020

Today, we recall the genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda — when more than one million people

The UN Secretary-General Mr. António Guterres

The UN Secretary-General Mr. António Guterres

were systematically murdered in just 100 days.

The victims were overwhelmingly Tutsi, but also included Hutu and others who opposed the genocide.

On this Day, we honour those who were killed.

And we gain inspiration from the capacity of those who survived for reconciliation and restoration.

We must never again let such an atrocity occur.

We must say no to hate speech and xenophobia, and reject the forces of polarization, nationalism and protectionism.

Only by recognizing that we are all one human family sharing the same planet will we be able to rise to the many global challenges that confront us – from COVID-19 to climate change.

Since the genocide, Rwanda has demonstrated that it is possible to rise from the ashes, to heal and to rebuild a stronger, more sustainable society.

As we look ahead to accelerating efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, let us take inspiration from the ongoing lesson of Rwanda.

United Nations Secretary-General launches plan to address the potentially devastating socio-economic impacts of COVID-19 Establishes global fund to support low- and middle-income countries

PRESS RELEASE

NEW YORK, 31 MARCH 2020—The new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is attacking societies at their core, claiming lives and people’s livelihoods. The potential longer-term effects on the global economy and those of individual countries are dire.

In a new report, Shared responsibility, global solidarity: Responding to the socio-economic

UNSG Antonio Guterres

impacts of COVID-19, the United Nations Secretary-General calls on everyone to act together to address this impact and lessen the blow to people.

The report describes the speed and scale of the outbreak, the severity of cases, and the societal and economic disruption of COVID-19, which has so far claimed the lives of 33 257 people, with 697 244 confirmed cases in 204 countries, areas and territories.

“COVID-19 is the greatest test that we have faced together since the formation of the United Nations,” said António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations. “This human crisis demands coordinated, decisive, inclusive and innovative policy action from the world’s leading economies – and maximum financial and technical support for the poorest and most vulnerable people and countries.”

The report comes after the IMF has announced that the world has entered into a recession as bad or worse than in 2009. The report calls for a large-scale, coordinated and comprehensive multilateral response amounting to at least 10 percent of global GDP.

The United Nations system—and its global network of regional, sub-regional and country offices working for peace, human rights, sustainable development and humanitarian action, will support all governments and partners through the response and recovery.

To that end, the Secretary-General has established a dedicated COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund to support efforts in low- and middle-income countries. Its approach underpins the reformed UN with a coordinated multi-agency, multi-sectoral response for priority national and local actions to address the socioeconomic impact of the COVID-19 crisis. It will count on the country leadership of Resident Coordinators and UN Country Teams in swiftly supporting and enabling governments in this crisis, and recovery.

NOTES TO EDITORS

The shared responsibility and global solidarity roadmap calls for:
• Suppressing the transmission of the virus to control the pandemic.
• Safeguarding people’s lives and their livelihoods.
• Learning from this human crisis to build back better.

Suppressing the transmission of the virus to control the pandemic

The report warns that there is no time to lose in mounting the most robust and cooperative health response the world has ever seen. The strongest support must be provided to the multilateral effort to suppress transmission and stop the pandemic, led by the World Health Organization. At the same time there is great need for scientific collaboration in the search for a vaccine and effective therapeutics. This must be matched with assurances of universal access to vaccines and treatment. Throughout the report a people-centred approach is promoted that calls for engaging communities affected by COVID-19, respect for human rights and inclusion, gender equality and dignity for all.

Safeguarding people’s lives and their livelihoods

Recognizing that epidemics can expose and exacerbate existing inequalities in society, the road map shows it will be crucial to cushion the knock-on effects on people’s lives, their livelihoods and the economy. The report highlights examples of actions countries could take, such as direct provision of resources to support workers and households, provision of health and unemployment insurance, scaling-up of social protection, and support to businesses to prevent bankruptcies and job loss. The report strongly recognizes that women and girls must have a face in the response; and opportunities for young people, seriously affected, need to be preserved.

Learn from this crisis to build back better

The world will be faced with a choice in its recovery. Go back to the world we knew before or deal decisively with those issues that make everyone unnecessarily vulnerable to this and future crises. From stronger health systems and fewer people living in extreme poverty to achieving gender equality and taking climate action for a healthy planet, the report gives hope that lessons from this human crisis can build more just and resilient societies and deliver on the promise of the 2030 Agenda and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

Partnerships for progress

No single country or entity will win alone against the pandemic. A successful response and recovery will require international cooperation and partnerships at every level — governments taking action in lock step with communities; private sector engagement to find pathways out of this crisis. Partnerships based on solidarity will be the cornerstone for progress. Civil Society, women and grassroots organizations, community-based organizations and faith-based organizations will play a vital role. In assisting the most vulnerable populations, these networks are active in bringing economic and livelihood opportunities and adapting responses to the community context. These organizations, in many locations in the world, are the first, or only, point of reference for individuals and families as they seek to cope with the impacts of COVID-19 and for the recovery ahead.

Call to action

The COVID-19 Pandemic is a defining moment for modern society, and history will judge the efficacy of the response not by the actions of any single set of government actors taken in isolation, but by the degree to which the response is coordinated globally across all sectors for the benefit of our human family.

The United Nations and its global network of regional, sub-regional and country offices working for peace, human rights, sustainable development and humanitarian action, supported by established coordination mechanisms, will work with partners to ensure first and foremost that lives are saved, livelihoods are restored, and that the global economy and the people we serve emerge stronger from this crisis.
The 129 UN Resident Coordinators and the UN Country Teams will provide comprehensive policy and operational support at the national level in support of a whole of society approach in countries. With the right actions, the COVID-19 pandemic can mark the beginning of a new type of global and societal cooperation.

Recommended measures to cope with the impacts of COVID-19:

1. Global measures to match the magnitude of the crisis
• Advocate and support implementation of a human-centered, innovative and coordinated stimulus package reaching double-digit percentage points of the world’s gross domestic product.
• Resist the temptation to resort to protectionist measures.
• Take explicit measures to boost the economies of developing countries.

2. Regional mobilization
A coordinated regional approach will enable collective examination of impacts, coordination of monetary, fiscal and social measures, and sharing best practices and the lessons learned. • Adopt DO NO HARM trade policies, preserve connectivity, and ensure regional monetary-fiscal coordination. • Engage with private financial sector to support businesses. • Address structural challenges and strengthen normative frameworks to deal with transboundary risks.

3. National solidarity is crucial to leave no one behind
The pandemic is hitting an already weak and fragile world economy. Global growth in 2019 was already the slowest since the global financial crisis of 2008/2009. According to ILO estimates, the world could lose between 5 million and 25 million jobs.
• Undertake fiscal stimulus and support for the most vulnerable.
• Protect Human Rights and focus on inclusion.
• Support to Small and Medium sized Enterprises.
• Support decent work.
• Support education.
• Prioritize social cohesion measures.

COVID-19 socio-economic estimates for 2020 as of March 2020
5 – 25 million jobs lost (ILO)

US$ 860 billion – US$ 3.4 trillion losses in labor income (ILO)

30% — 40% downward pressure on global foreign direct investment flows (UNCTAD)

20% – 30% decline in international arrivals (UNWTO)

3.6 billion people offline (ITU)

1.5 billion students out of school (UNESCO)