Tag Archives: UN@75

Global Wake-Up Call

by António Guterres

From COVID-19 to climate disruption, from racial injustice to rising inequalities, we are a world in turmoil.

Antonio Guterres

At the same time, we are an international community with an enduring vision – embodied in the United Nations Charter, which marks its 75th anniversary this year. That vision of a better future — based on the values of equality, mutual respect and international cooperation — has helped us to avoid a Third World War that would have had catastrophic consequences for life on our planet.

Our shared challenge is to channel that collective spirit and rise to this moment of trial and test.

The pandemic has laid bare severe and systemic inequalities both within and between countries and communities. More broadly, it has underscored the world’s fragilities – not just in the face of another health emergency, but in our faltering response to the climate crisis, lawlessness in cyberspace, and the risks of nuclear proliferation. People everywhere are losing trust in political establishments and institutions.

The emergency is compounded by many other profound humanitarian crises: conflicts that are continuing or even intensifying; record numbers of people forced to flee their homes; swarms of locusts in Africa and South Asia; looming droughts in southern Africa and Central America; all amid a context of rising geopolitical tensions.

In the face of these fragilities, world leaders need to be humble and recognize the vital importance of unity and solidarity.

No one can predict what comes next, but I see two possible scenarios.

First, the “optimistic” possibility.

In this case, the world would muddle through. Countries in the global North would engineer a successful exit strategy. Developing countries would receive enough support and their demographic characteristics – namely, the youth of their people – would help contain the impact.

And then perhaps a vaccine would appear in the next nine months or so, and would be distributed as a global public good, a “people’s vaccine” available and accessible to all.

If this happens, and if the economy starts up progressively, we might move towards some kind of normality in two or three years.

But there is also a second, bleaker scenario in which countries fail to coordinate their actions. New waves of the virus keep occurring. The situation in the developing world explodes. Work on the vaccine lags — or even if there is a vaccine relatively soon — it becomes the subject of fierce competition and countries with greater economic power gain access to it first, leaving others behind.

In this scenario, we could also see greater movement toward fragmentation, populism and xenophobia. Each country could go it alone or in so-called coalitions of the willing to address some specific challenges. In the end, the world would fail to mobilize the kind of governance needed to address our shared challenges.

The result may well be a global depression that could last at least five or seven years before a new normal emerges, the nature of which is impossible to predict.

It is very difficult to know if we are moving in one direction or the other. We must work for the best and prepare for the worst.

The pandemic, as horrible as it is, must be a wake-up call that prompts all political leaders to understand that our assumptions and approaches have to change, and that division is a danger to everyone.

This understanding could lead people to recognize that the only way to address global fragilities is through much more robust mechanisms of global governance with international cooperation.

After all, we cannot simply return to the systems that gave rise to the current crisis. We need to build back better with more sustainable, inclusive, gender-equal societies and economies.

In doing so, we must reimagine the way nations cooperate. Today’s multilateralism lacks scale, ambition and teeth — and some of the instruments that do have teeth show little or no appetite to bite, as we have seen in the difficulties faced by the Security Council.

We need a networked multilateralism, in which the United Nations and its agencies, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, regional organizations such as the African Union and European Union, trade organizations and others work together more closely and effectively.

We also need a more inclusive multilateralism. Governments today are far from the only players in terms of politics and power. Civil society, the business community, local authorities, cities and regional governments are assuming more and more leadership roles in today’s world.

This, in turn, will help lead to an effective multilateralism with the mechanisms it needs to make global governance work where it is needed.

A new, networked, inclusive, effective multilateralism, based on the enduring values of the United Nations Charter, could snap us out of our sleepwalking state and stop the slide towards ever greater danger.

Political leaders around the world need to heed this wake-up call and come together to address the world’s fragilities, strengthen our capacity for global governance, give teeth to multilateral institutions, and draw from the power of unity and solidarity to overcome the biggest test of our times.

António Guterres is the Secretary-General of 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.

The Secretary General- Video Message Marking The 75th Anniversary of The Adoption Of The Charter Of The United Nations

Opening remarks by António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations, on the commemoration of the signing of the Charter of the United Nations – General Assembly.

“I send my warmest greetings to “we the peoples”.

Those first three words of our founding Charter, adopted 75 years ago today, give the United Nations its vision and its mission.

We exist to serve people — and we work as one for the benefit of all.

The Charter was adopted as the Second World War was in its final months and winding down.

We mark the anniversary of that milestone as global pressures are spiraling up.

The Charter brought rules and hope to a world in ruins.

It remains our touchstone for a world mired in a pandemic, torn by discrimination, endangered by climate change and scarred by poverty, inequality and war.

Agreement on the Charter closed one era and opened another.

Gone were the genocidal Nazi regime and their allies; in came the prospect of human rights.

Out went the rampant nationalism and precarious balance of power that produced two catastrophic world wars; in came the promise of collective security and the peaceful resolution of disputes.

And where an earlier attempt at international organization dissolved, the new United Nations started life on firmer ground built on norms and the lessons of hard experience.

The post-war multilateral arrangements have compiled a solid record of service – saving millions of lives, advancing the human condition and fulfilling its cardinal task of preventing World War Three.

But there have been painful setbacks.

And today’s realities are as forbidding as ever.

COVID-19 has touched everyone, everywhere – precisely the kind of global challenge for which the United Nations was founded.

At the same time, people continue to lose trust in political establishments. Today’s marches against racism were preceded by widespread protests against inequality, discrimination, corruption and lack of opportunities all over the world – grievances that still need to be addressed, including with a renewed social contract.

Meanwhile, other fundamental fragilities have only grown: the climate crisis, environmental degradation, cyberattacks, nuclear proliferation, a pushback on human rights and the risk of another pandemic. It is not difficult to imagine a new virus transmitted as easily as COVID-19 but as deadly as Ebola.

The delegates in San Francisco in 1945, having themselves lived through a global pandemic, depression and war, seized their opportunity to plant the seeds of something better and new.

Today, we must do the same.

To achieve that watershed moment, we need to reimagine multilateralism, give it teeth to function as the founders intended, and ensure that effective global governance is a reality when it is needed.

We must also bring others to the table in an inclusive and networked multilateralism, since governments are only part of today’s political realities. Civil society, cities, the private sector and young people are essential voices in shaping the world we want.

Like those who drafted the Charter, we must look without illusion at today’s injustices, their roots and the suffering they engender.

Yet there is also much to encourage us and drive us onward:

The heroism and solidarity of the pandemic response;

The global embrace of the Sustainable Development Goals;

The millions of young activists and global citizens pushing to advance equality, climate action, a green economy — and to take control of their destiny.

I am inspired by so much that has been built and achieved across 75 years.

I pay tribute to the service and sacrifice of thousands of United Nations peacekeepers, staff and others who, across the world and across the years, gave their lives while advancing the causes and values of the United Nations.

The Charter’s vision stands the test of time and its values will continue to carry us forward.

Now is the time to persevere, press ahead, pursue our goals, show responsibility for our world, and take care of each other.

It is up to us to rise to the test of this pivotal moment for our future.

Thank you”

 

 

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.

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