Despite countless “headwinds” and “ills”, the United Nations has “made a real difference” in 2018 and will need to achieve even more in 2019, as the planet faces “a world of trouble.” That was the New Year message of UN Secretary-General António Guterres.
Guterres defined five priorities for the UN during 2019 which are a surge in diplomacy; greater ambition on climate action; powering ahead with sustainable development; addressing the challenges presented by new technologies, and reaffirming the UN’s values worldwide.
Among the successes of 2018, he cited progress towards forging peace in Yemen, the Korean peninsula, and South Sudan, and between former enemies Ethiopia and Eritrea.
“Partnerships are fundamental”, said the secretary-general, especially in Africa, as the UN strives to “consolidate gains towards peace on the continent,” in particular in the Sahel, Mali, South Sudan, Somalia, the Central African Republic, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Other conflicts where effective diplomacy will be critical and require the “unity and support of the Security Council” to overcome deadlocks are Yemen, Libya, Syria, and Afghanistan.
“As we strive to end conflicts around the world, we understand that lasting peace must be based on a broad consensus of society, with women as full participants in all peace processes,” the UN chief added.
“There is no greater challenge to the world of today and tomorrow than climate change,” noted Guterres, reminding member states that by 2020, under the Paris Agreement, they are meant to assess progress and submit new pledges to meet the goals to which they agreed.
“And by 2050, we need to reach net zero global emissions,” he stressed, explaining that this will require enhanced efforts now, both to reduce emissions, and to seize the opportunities of a clean, green energy future.
“That is why, I will convene a Climate Summit on September 23rd to mobilise action by political leaders, the business community, and civil society,” he explained, adding that “we need greater ambition – ambition on mitigation, ambition on adaptation, ambition on finance, and ambition on innovation.”
“Despite considerable efforts from governments and many others, the transformative changes demanded by the 2030 agenda are not yet being made,” regretted the UN secretary-general.
He called on member states to have a “sharper focus on what works in reducing poverty and inequality, and in delivering strong and inclusive economies, while safeguarding the environment — and we need increased financing for those solutions.”
In September, right after the Climate Change Summit, the UN chief invited heads of state and governments to gather for another summit, focused on how to accelerate action towards the sustainable development goals (SDGs), and three other prominent meetings on financing for development, universal health coverage, and the risks faced by small island developing states.
“I urge you all to do your utmost to make September 2019 a defining moment for stopping runaway climate change, achieving the SDGs, and building a fair globalisation,” he said.
Acknowledging new technologies that “can turbocharge” the world’s efforts for peace and sustainable development. The UN chief warned that they are also outpacing the world’s capacity to reckon with their profound impacts.
The UN’s efforts on this front will focus in 2019 on reducing digital inequality, building digital capacity, and ensuring that new technologies are on the UN’s side as a force for good, he said.
“What guides us is a set of values – the universal values of the United Nations Charter that binds us together,” said the secretary-general, citing peace, justice, human dignity, tolerance, and solidarity.
“Today, those values are under attack around the world,” he warned, explaining that “an ideological battle is taking place,” and that “we hear the troubling, hateful echoes of eras long past, and noxious views moving into the mainstream”.
The UN secretary-general called for deeper efforts to “show that we understand people’s anxieties, fears, and concerns” and to “address the root causes that lead people to feel marooned in our rapidly changing world”.
“Let’s keep showing all people that we care,” he concluded. “Let’s keep proving our worth through action,” concluded the UN secretary general.