Tag Archives: Human Rights

The Charter of the United Nations: Ideals for Shaping Our Reality

by Nicolas de Rivière, President of the Security Council for the month of June 2020 and Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations.

“Reconciling the requirements of the ideal with the possibilities of the real”: this is how Georges Bidault, Minister for Foreign Affairs and head of the French delegation to the San Francisco conference, summed up the objective pursued by the drafters of the Charter of the United Nations. On the still living ashes of the Second World War, the fathers of an Organization charged with developing friendly relations between nations, promoting human rights and economic and social progress were less utopian than visionary. They understood that the community of States should have a common constitution. It has been tested by conflict, crisis and upheaval, but its resilience and strength have shaped the very structure of contemporary international relations.

The Charter brings us together. It defines the United Nations as “a centre for harmonizing the actions of nations”, where each member is treated as an equal across social, economic or political differences. With the quadrupling of the number of contracting parties since its inception, the Charter, which has become universal, truly expresses the values and aspirations of Humanity. That is why France attaches so much importance to ensuring that diversity—cultural, legal and linguistic—is duly reflected within the Organization, in its staff and in the way it operates: the United Nations has the heavy but noble task of ensuring the participation of all peoples in international discussion. As revealed by the major consultation under way in the context of the commemoration of the seventy-fifth anniversary, 95 per cent of our contemporaries believe that only international cooperation will make it possible to respond to the challenges of today and tomorrow. But it must also reflect their voice.

The Charter is the summit of an international order based on law: Article 103 gives it primacy over other international legal instruments. In the most difficult negotiations, it remains the frame of reference, and the precious Blue Booklet is never far away. It binds States as well as the principal organs of the United Nations. The Security Council thus exercises its responsibility as guarantor of the maintenance of international peace and security within the strict framework of the Charter, when deciding on measures to combat arms proliferation, establishing peacekeeping operations, authorizing the delivery of cross-border humanitarian aid to Syria or referring situations to the International Criminal Court. These decisions must be respected by all Member States in accordance with Article 25 of the Charter.

The Charter protects us. The COVID-19 pandemic is a wake-up call for multilateralism, because the virus knows no borders, and no one is spared. The global and cross-cutting nature of the health crisis logically points to the United Nations as the only truly universal and multisector forum for responding to it.

It is France’s profound conviction that whenever we accept that the resolution of international crises takes place outside the multilateral framework, chaos threatens to prevail. That is particularly true today in the Middle East, where the risk of conflagration has never been greater. At a time when civilian populations have already suffered too much from the scourge of war and terrorism, we need more than ever to prevent a military spiral and to put an end to the serious human rights violations and humanitarian disasters that continue to take place, in this region as in other parts of the world.

As President Macron said in his address to the General Assembly on 24 September 2019, in a world that has become multipolar, we must reinvent “strong multilateralism”, as opposed to the temptation of national withdrawal. It was on the basis of that conviction that last year France, together with Germany, launched an Alliance for Multilateralism, a flexible framework bringing together countries of good will that wish to promote both the multilateral method and concrete initiatives in various areas that illustrate its importance.

Joseph Paul Boncour

Joseph Paul-Boncour, former Prime Minister and member of the delegation from France, signing the UN Charter at the Veterans’ War Memorial Building, San Francisco, United States, 26 June 1945.UN Photo/McCreary

To be strong, the multilateralism that we embody here in New York must be effective. It must address without delay the greatest challenges of our time, all of which are global: climate change, health and food security, the protection of biodiversity, terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, inequalities, migration, massive violations of international humanitarian law and human rights, and the new challenges posed by technology. The Charter, in its profound modernity, set the goal, 75 years ago, of achieving international cooperation in solving international problems in all these areas. France has taken the initiative to mobilize the international community on these issues, whether by launching the One Planet Summit with the United Nations and the World Bank, or by co-organizing the Generation Equality Forum in the near future, 25 years after the Beijing conference. In the face of global challenges, international cooperation is the only possible way forward; if we do not move forward, we will retreat.

The Charter is the foundation of our collective action. It offers a method, rules and tools. It enshrines negotiation as the main way forward. The principles it lays down, and in particular the universality of human rights, are non-negotiable. It provides several means of action, including peacekeeping operations and international sanctions. The specific prerogatives that it confers on certain members should not be received as licenses but as responsibilities. That is why France, together with Mexico, has, since 2013, called for the suspension of the veto in the event of mass atrocities in the form of a political, voluntary and collective commitment by the five permanent members of the Security Council. To date, 105 Member States have joined this initiative.

The Charter in no way prevents the necessary modernization of the Organization, which, on the contrary, has been constantly reinventing itself. The decompartmentalization of the various pillars and components of the United Nations galaxy, as reflected in the vision of “Delivering as One”, is necessary for the pursuit of the Sustainable Development Goals of the 2030 Agenda. The efforts undertaken in that regard, in particular the triple reform undertaken by the Secretary-General (reform of the peace and security architecture, development reform and management reform), must be supported. Each of the principal organs must play its part by optimizing its work.

Like a robust building that has stood the test of time, the Charter can be amended to better reflect the realities of the contemporary world. In that regard, France would like the Security Council to be expanded, as it was for the first time in 1963, to take into account the emergence of new Powers and to allow for a stronger presence on the African continent.

For 75 years, the Charter has been our highest common denominator. Its relevance remains unaltered. Sometimes a home, sometimes a bulwark, it allows the pursuit of an ideal of peace and prosperity towards which we must strive, with modesty but also with courage. It is incumbent upon us to pass on its values and promises to future generations.

26 June 2020

Featured photo credit: Nicolas de Rivière, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations, addresses the Security Council meeting on the situation in the Great Lakes region. New York, 3 October 2019. UN Photo/Laura Jarriel

The  UN Chronicle is not an official record. The views expressed by individual authors, as well as the boundaries and names shown and the designations used in maps or articles, do not necessarily imply official endorsement or acceptance by the United Nations.

UN Charter 1945

Marking 75 Years of the Charter of the United Nations

UN Charter Day – 26 June 2020

The Charter of the United Nations has been a constant presence in my life. My awareness of it started with the usual brief introduction to the basics of the United Nations as an organization that many young people receive in school. Later, as my political awareness took shape against the backdrop of military rule in Portugal and my country’s status as a colonial power, the Charter’s calls for self-determination and other freedoms registered with urgency. During the time I spent as a volunteer in the poor neighbourhoods of Lisbon, the Charter’s vision of social justice was equally resonant. In subsequent service as a parliamentarian and then as Prime Minister, I was privileged to have an opportunity to advance not only national progress but one of the Charter’s other main objectives: international cooperation. Across a decade as High Commissioner for Refugees and now in my current role, the Charter’s power inspires me onward every day in serving “we the peoples”, including the most vulnerable members of the human family, who have a special claim on that landmark document’s provisions and protections.

View of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, United States, the city in which the Charter of the United Nations was signed on 26 June 1945. ©Kishan Rana

The adoption of the Charter of the United Nations was a pivotal and historic moment. The document enshrined a determination to establish a new international order built with the purpose of avoiding a third world war following two such cataclysms that took place within the space of a single generation. Over the past seventy-five years, the Charter has proven to be a solid yet flexible framework. Its ideals have endured, and its legal foundation has progressively adjusted to new situations and needs. Amidst crisis and complexity, the Charter has remained the touchstone we all refer to and rely upon to uphold our shared responsibilities and achieve our global commitments.

In an era of spreading hatred and impunity, the Charter reminds us of the primacy of human dignity and the rule of law. And in a time of rapid transformation and technological change, the Charter’s values and objectives endure: the peaceful settlement of disputes; the equal rights of men and women; non-intervention, self-determination and the sovereign equality of Member States; and clear rules governing the use of force, as set out in Article 2, paragraph 4, and Chapter VII of the Charter.

These principles are not favours or concessions. They form the bedrock of international relations and are central to peace. They have saved lives, advanced economic and social progress and inspired the further elaboration of international law, encompassing key areas such as human rights, the environment and international criminal justice.

When these principles have been flouted, put aside or applied selectively, the results have been catastrophic: conflict, chaos, death, disillusion and mistrust. Our shared challenge is to do far better in upholding the Charter’s values. One of the most effective ways to fulfil our commitments is to invest in prevention, as envisaged in the Charter’s Chapter VI. Another is by working more closely with regional organizations, as foreseen in Chapter VIII. And while peacekeeping is not mentioned in the Charter, it epitomizes the kind of collective action for peace that the Charter envisions and is an indispensable tool that merits strong international support.

Resilient and visionary, the Charter of the United Nations speaks to all people; it belongs to everyone, everywhere. At a time when the world is wrestling with the COVID-19 pandemic, rising geopolitical tensions and growing climate disruption, the Charter points the way to the solidarity we need today and across generations. As we strive to maintain international peace and security, protect human rights, achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and strengthen multilateralism, we must return to fundamental principles; we must return to the framework that has kept us together; we must come home to our Charter.

25 June 2020

About the author
António Guterres is the ninth Secretary-General of the United Nations.

Feature Photo Credit: António Guterres, laying his left hand on the Charter of the United Nations, takes the oath of office as Secretary-General of the United Nations for a five-year term that began on 1 January 2017. Peter Thomson, then President of the General Assembly, administers the oath. 12 December 2016. UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

The  UN Chronicle is not an official record. The views expressed by individual authors, as well as the boundaries and names shown and the designations used in maps or articles, do not necessarily imply official endorsement or acceptance by the United Nations.

Op-Ed On the Black Lives Matter Protests and other Mass Demonstrations against Systemic Racism and Police Brutality

Joint reflexions by United Nations Senior African Officials (*)

 A desperate yearning for a long-departed mother. Reaching deep from the bowels of fragile humanity. Grasping for breath. Begging for mercy. The entire world heard the tragic cry. The family of nations saw his face pounded against the harsh tarmac. Unbearable pain in broad daylight. A neck buckling under the knee and weight of history. A gentle giant, desperately clinging to life. Yearning to breathe free. Till his last breath.

As senior African leaders in the United Nations, the last few weeks of protests at the killing of George Floyd in the hands of police, have left us all outraged at the injustice of racism that continues to be pervasive in our host country and across the world.

Not enough can ever be said about the deep trauma and inter-generational suffering that has resulted from the racial injustice perpetrated through centuries, particularly against people of African descent. To merely condemn expressions and acts of racism is not enough.

We must go beyond and do more.

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres stated that “we need to raise our voices against all expressions of racism and instances of racist behaviour”. Following the killing of Mr. George Floyd, the cry ‘Black Lives Matter’ resounding across the United States and throughout the world is more than a slogan. In fact, they do not only matter, they are quintessential to the fulfillment of our common human dignity.

Now is the time to move from words to deeds.

We owe it to George Floyd and to all victims of racial discrimination and police brutality to dismantle racist institutions. As leaders in the multilateral system, we believe it is incumbent upon us to speak for those whose voices have been silenced, and advocate for effective responses that would contribute to fight systemic racism, a global scourge that has been perpetuated over centuries.

The shocking killing of George Floyd is rooted in a wider and intractable set of issues that will not disappear if we ignore them. It is time for the United Nations to step up and act decisively to help end systemic racism against people of African descent and other minority groups “in  promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all, without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion” as stipulated in Article 1 of the UN Charter.  Indeed, the foundation of the United Nations is the conviction that all human beings are equal and entitled to live without fear of persecution.

It was at the height of the civil rights movement in the United States and during the emergence of post-colonial independent African nations joining the United Nations, that the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) came into force in 1969.

This was a pivotal time in history. The collapse of apartheid in South Africa, driven in part by the United Nations, was one of the Organization’s proudest achievements.

The human rights and dignity of black people in Africa as well as across the African diaspora resonated as a powerful signal to future generations, that the United Nations would neither turn a blind eye on racial discrimination nor tolerate injustice and bigotry  under the cover of unjust laws.  In this new era, the United Nations must in the same vein use its influence to once again remind us of the unfinished business of eradicating racism and urge the community of nations to remove the stain of racism on humanity.

We welcome the initiatives by the Secretary-General to strengthen the global anti-racism discourse, which would address systemic racism at all levels, as well as its impact wherever it exists, including in the United Nations Organization itself.

If we are to lead, we must do so by example. To initiate and sustain real change, we also must have an honest assessment of how we uphold the UN Charter within our institution.

Our expression of solidarity is well in keeping with our responsibilities and obligations as international civil servants to stand up and speak out against oppression. As leaders we share the core beliefs and the values and principles enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations that do not leave us the option to keep silent.

We commit to harnessing our expertise, leadership and mandates to address the root causes and structural changes that must be implemented if we are to bring an end to racism.

Almost 500 years after the revolting Transatlantic trade of Africans began, we have arrived at a critical point in the arc of the moral universe as we approach in 2024 the end of the International Decade for People of African Descent, a mere four years away. Let us use our collective voice to fulfill the aspirations of our communities that the United Nations will wield its moral power as an institution to effect global change. Let us use our voice to contribute towards the realization of Africa’s own transformative vision contained in Agenda 2063 which is consistent with the world’s Agenda 2030.

Africa is the cradle of humanity and the forerunner of human civilizations. Africa as a continent must play a definitive role if the world is to achieve sustainable development and peace. That was the dream of the founders of the Organization of African Unity, that was also the strong belief of prominent leaders such as Kwame Nkrumah and eminent intellectuals such as Cheikh Anta Diop.

Let us never forget the words of President Nelson Mandela: “To deny people their human rights is to challenge their very humanity.”

Let us ever bear in mind the admonition of civil rights leader Fannie Lou Hamer:

“Nobody’s free until everybody’s free”, who was echoed by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.,

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”.  

Their words were later embodied into the rainbow of the diverse nation of South Africa, as spelled by the peacemaker Archbishop Desmond Tutu when he stated that “Black liberation is an absolutely indispensable prerequisite to white liberation – nobody will be free until we all are free.”

(*) All signatories listed below are senior UN officials who hold the rank of Under Secretary General. They signed this Op Ed in their personal capacity:

Tedros ADHANOM GHEBREYESUS

Mahamat Saleh ANNADIF

Zainab BANGURA

Winnie BYANYIMA

Mohamed Ibn CHAMBAS

Adama DIENG

François Lounceny FALL

Bience GAWANAS

Gilbert HOUNGBO

Bishar A. HUSSEIN

Natalia KANEM

Mukhisa KITUYI

Jeremiah Nyamane MAMABOLO

Phumzile MLAMBO-NGCUKA

Mankeur NDIAYE

Parfait ONANGA-ANYANGA

Moussa D. OUMAROU

Pramila PATTEN

Vera SONGWE

Hanna TETTEH

Ibrahim THIAW

Leila ZERROUGUI

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 UN at 75: Now is the Time to “Build Back Better”

Photo: Fabrizio Hochschild, Special Adviser on the Preparations for the Commemoration of the Seventy-Fifth Anniversary of the United Nations, at a commemorative event to mark the 74th anniversary of the signing of the Charter of the United Nations. New York, 26 June 2019. ©UN Photo/Manuel Elias

The United Nations turns 75 this year. It is a time of great upheaval for the world, as it was in 1945 when the Organization was founded. Many of the trends we grapple with today could not have been imagined by people back then: that human actions would fuel global temperature rise, posing an existential risk to our species and a million others. That new technologies would radically reshape how we live, work and interact with each other. That greater affluence and longevity would be accompanied by challenges of their own.

But many of the problems we face would have been all too familiar: from conflict to mass displacement, big power rivalries to corrosive nationalism, and inequality to pandemics. The experience of the 1918 H1N1 flu outbreak, estimated to have infected a third of the world’s population, would still have been present in many people’s minds.

We have come a long way over the past seven decades, with huge strides forward in education, and in tackling extreme poverty and hunger. We have moved from a world in which a third of the population lived in non-self-governing territories and most women did not have equal voting rights to one that is freer by many measures.

We have won great victories. The eradication of smallpox—spearheaded by the World Health Organization, with sustained political and financial support from the international community—alone has saved millions of lives. It remains the only infectious disease to have been wiped out.

Yet progress has been uneven, and failures well-documented and tragic. As we mark the International Day of Multilateralism and Diplomacy for Peace, it is important that we remember not only our successes, but also the lows that continue to haunt us. After three decades in the field, I carry with me the privilege and burden of both.

The United Nations represents people’s aspirations. Its creation gave hope to the world that countries would work together to prevent future wars, and the factors that lead to conflict, such as poverty and human rights abuses. But it was also a pragmatic response by world leaders, who realized that cooperation and compromise were less costly than war. Multilateralism is, and always has been, an interplay of national and shared concerns.

Increasingly, though, the line between global and national interest is blurring. We are now more interconnected than ever. Our economies, our societies, the things we rely on in our daily lives, all depend on countries working together. So does tackling the challenges we face. Pandemics, climate change and cybercrime do not respect borders. They cannot be solved by any one country alone, no matter how big or powerful. We need international cooperation to galvanize action and to harness the opportunities the future holds, whether that’s leveraging the benefits of new technologies or building a zero-carbon world.

COVID-19 has shown how crucial it is for us to cooperate across borders, sectors and generations. It has laid bare our underlying dependencies. We are only as strong as the most vulnerable among us. We cannot beat this crisis without working together.

We need a whole-of-society response: to share information and research, to address the damage to lives and livelihoods, and to ensure we build back better. We need to engage youth. The crisis is having a huge impact on young people, mentally and physically. According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), more than 90 per cent of the world’s students are impacted by the closure of facilities. Prior to the pandemic, the World Bank estimated that in developing countries an extra 600 million jobs would be needed by 2030 to keep pace with population growth. Job prospects are now even more uncertain. We also need to engage older people, who have, so far, been worst affected by the virus.

Member States’ responses have shown that transformations that seemed impossible just months ago can be achieved in a short time frame when political leadership is aligned with support from stakeholders and the public. In seeking to recover from this crisis, the Secretary-General has called for “a strong focus on building more equal, inclusive and sustainable economies and societies that are more resilient in the face of pandemics, climate change and the many other global challenges we face”.

Now is the time to end business as usual. Now is the time to put into practice the commitment to future generations that is central to the Charter of the United Nations, and to make progress on the United Nations we need for the future we want, as envisaged in the Sustainable Development Goals.

That is the spirit in which the United Nations 75th anniversary was conceived by the Secretary-General last year: not as a celebration, but as a moment of reflection, of listening, of coming together as a human family to discuss how we can overcome the big trends shaping our future, from the rapid changes in the make-up of our population to popular discontent in many parts of the world.

In January, the UN75 team launched the “world’s largest conversation” – a United Nations system-wide initiative to gather public opinion and crowdsource solutions to the challenges we face. The initiative has five strands:

A short survey, to give as many people as possible the chance to make their voice heard
Conversations within communities, to allow for deeper discussion—online, via phone, radio or messaging service, and, where possible, in person Formal opinion polling, to give us statistically sound, representative data, Media and social media analysis, to give us a snapshot of what people think when they are not being asked a question, Academic and policy research analysis, to provide input from experts and practitioners. Together, these five routes will give us insights into the public’s hopes, fears and priorities for the future, as well as ideas on actions we can take to create the world we want.

To date, over 13 million people have taken part. More than 350 dialogues have been held and over 70,000 people in nearly all United Nations Member States have completed our survey (live results are available here). The initial results, featured in our first report, show overwhelming—and increasing—support for global cooperation, across all age and social groups. They show that people think climate change will be the defining trend shaping our future, with conflict and health at numbers 2 and 3. And early indications are that universal access to health care, rethinking the global economy and greater solidarity between people and nations are the top priorities for recovering better from the pandemic.

The results will be presented by the United Nations Secretary-General to world leaders in September 2020, when Member States will adopt a declaration on the 75th anniversary. Amidst the pandemic, the declaration has taken on even greater significance as a vehicle for leaders to set out an inspiring vision, anchored around concrete actions, that sends a powerful message of hope to people across the world.

Ahead of that moment, we invite people from all regions, backgrounds and walks of life to contribute their views. We continue to seek partners who can help us reach young people, marginalized communities, and those who may not typically engage, including our critics. We cannot afford to leave anyone behind. Now is the time to lift everyone up and build a better future for all.

24 April 2020

About the author
Fabrizio Hochschild is Under-Secretary-General and Special Adviser on Preparations for the Commemoration of the Seventy-Fifth Anniversary of the United Nations.

The  UN Chronicle is not an official record. The views expressed by individual authors, as well as the boundaries and names shown and the designations used in maps or articles, do not necessarily imply official endorsement or acceptance by the United Nations.

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.

 

 

All hands on deck to fight a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic

By António Guterres

Only by coming together will the world be able to face down the COVID-19 pandemic and its shattering consequences. At an emergency virtual meeting last Thursday, G20 leaders took

UNSG Antonio Guterres

steps in the right direction. But we are still far away from having a coordinated, articulated global response that meets the unprecedented magnitude of what we are facing.

Far from flattening the curve of infection, we are still well behind it. The disease initially took 67 days to infect 100,000 people; soon, 100,000 people and more will be infected daily. Without concerted and courageous action, the number of new cases will almost certainly escalate into the millions, pushing health systems to the breaking point, economies into a nosedive and people into despair, with the poorest hit hardest.

We must prepare for the worst and do everything to avoid it. Here is a three-point call to action — based on science, solidarity and smart policies — for doing just that.

First, suppress transmission of the coronavirus.

That requires aggressive and early testing and contact tracing, complemented by quarantines, treatment, and measures to keep first responders safe, combined with measures to restrict movement and contact. Such steps, despite the disruptions they cause, must be sustained until therapies and a vaccine emerge.

Crucially, this robust and cooperative effort should be guided by the World Health Organization, a member of the United Nations family; countries acting on their own – as they must for their people – will not get the job done for all.

Second, tackle the devastating social and economic dimensions of the crisis.

The virus is spreading like wildfire, and is likely to move swiftly into the Global South, where health systems face constraints, people are more vulnerable, and millions live in densely populated slums or crowded settlements for refugees and internally displaced persons. Fuelled by such conditions, the virus could devastate the developing world and then re-emerge where it was previously suppressed. In our interconnected world, we are only as strong as the weakest health systems.

Clearly, we must fight the virus for all of humanity, with a focus on people, especially the most affected: women, older persons, youth, low-wage workers, small and medium enterprises, the informal sector and vulnerable groups.

The United Nations has just issued reports documenting how the viral contagion has become an economic contagion, and setting out the financing needed to address the shocks. The International Monetary Fund has declared that we have entered a recession as bad as or worse than in 2009.

We need a comprehensive multilateral response amounting to a double-digit percentage of global Gross Domestic Product.

Developed countries can do it by themselves, and some are indeed doing it. But we must massively increase the resources available to the developing world by expanding the capacity of the IMF, namely through the issuance of special drawing rights, and of the other international financial institutions so that they can rapidly inject resources into the countries that need them. I know this is difficult as nations find themselves increasing domestic spending by record amounts. But that spending will be in vain if we don’t control the virus.

Coordinated swaps among central banks can also bring liquidity to emerging economies. Debt alleviation must also be a priority – including immediate waivers on interest payments for 2020.

Third, recover better.

We simply cannot return to where we were before COVID-19 struck, with societies unnecessarily vulnerable to crisis. The pandemic has reminded us, in the starkest way possible, of the price we pay for weaknesses in health systems, social protections and public services. It has underscored and exacerbated inequalities, above all gender inequity, laying bare the way in which the formal economy has been sustained on the back of invisible and unpaid care labour. It has highlighted ongoing human rights challenges, including stigma and violence against women.

Now is the time to redouble our efforts to build more inclusive and sustainable economies and societies that are more resilient in the face of pandemics, climate change and other global challenges. The recovery must lead to a different economy. Our roadmap remains the 2030 Agenda and Sustainable Development Goals.

The United Nations system is fully mobilized: supporting country responses, placing our supply chains at the world’s disposal, and advocating for a global cease-fire.

Ending the pandemic everywhere is both a moral imperative and a matter of enlightened self-interest. At this unusual moment, we cannot resort to the usual tools. Extraordinary times demand extraordinary measures. We face a colossal test which demands decisive, coordinated and innovative action from all, for all.

The article first appeared in The Guardian.

The author is Secretary-General of the United Nations

A New Year’s Message from the United Nations

From here at the United Nations, I join you in welcoming the New Year.

We enter 2020 with uncertainty and insecurity all around.

Persistent inequality and rising hatred.

A warring world and a warming planet.

Climate change is not only a long-term problem but a clear and present danger.

We cannot afford to be the generation that fiddled while the planet burned.

But there is also hope.

This year, my New Year’s message is to the greatest source of that hope: the world’s young people.

From climate action to gender equality to social justice and human rights, your generation is on the frontlines and in the headlines.

I am inspired by your passion and determination.

You are rightly demanding a role in shaping the future.

I am with you.

The United Nations stands with you – and belongs to you.

2020 marks the 75th anniversary of the United Nations.

We are launching a Decade of Action for the Sustainable Development Goals, our blueprint for a fair globalization.

This year, the world needs young people to keep speaking out. Keep thinking big.  Keep pushing boundaries.  And keep up the pressure.

I wish you peace and happiness in 2020.

Thank you.

Video message available here

The UN Secretary-General’s message on World Press Freedom Day, 3 May 2019

A free press is essential for peace, justice, sustainable development and human rights.

No democracy is complete without access to transparent and reliable information. It is the cornerstone for building fair and impartial institutions, holding leaders accountable and

The UN Secretary-General Mr. António Guterres

The UN Secretary-General Mr. António Guterres

speaking truth to power.

This is especially true during election seasons — the focus of this year’s World Press Freedom Day.

Facts, not falsehoods, should guide people as they choose their representatives.

Yet while technology has transformed the ways in which we receive and share information, sometimes it is used to mislead public opinion or to fuel violence and hatred.

Civic space has been shrinking worldwide at an alarming rate.

And with anti-media rhetoric on the rise, so too are violence and harssasment against journalists, including women.

I am deeply troubled by the growing number of attacks and the culture of impunity.

According to UNESCO, almost 100 journalists were killed in 2018.

Hundreds are imprisoned.

When media workers are targeted, societies as a whole pay a price.
On World Press Freedom Day, I call on all to defend the rights of journalists, whose efforts help us to build a better world for all.

Thank you.