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António Guterres (United Nations Secretary-General) - Priorities for 2019

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Published on Jan 16, 2019

Opening Remarks by António Guterres, United Nations Secretary-General at the Seventy-third session
Informal Briefing by the Secretary-General on his Priorities for 2019.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres sounded the alarm on the “ills” of the world today including armed conflict, hunger, rising inequality, and climate change which have “profound impacts on people’s daily lives.”

Addressing an informal meeting of the General Assembly today (16 Jan) on the areas of action for the UN in 2019, Guterres said the troubles facing the world are “deeply corrosive. They generate anxiety and they breed mistrust. They polarize societies – politically and socially.” He said many people and countries “fear they are being left behind as progress seems to benefit only the fortunate few.” He added that it was not difficult to understand why many people are losing faith in political establishments as well as the United Nations.

The UN chief pointed to successes of 2018 in places such as Yemen, Liberia, Cambodia, as well as the progress on climate change made in Katowice to show that when we work together, we do get things done. However, he acknowledged that may people see the UN as “ineffective, cumbersome and bureaucratic”, and stressed that the Organization was reforming itself “in ambitious ways” to be more nimble, effective, flexible and efficient.

He noted there is a new UN Development system in place to better support the efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, and the UN is cutting red tape and implementing new management practices to bolster transparency and accountability.

Guterres underscored that in this fast-changing world, “standing still means falling further behind.” He added that on three key 21st-century challenges, the world needed to “dramatically accelerate” its efforts in 2019. These include “first and foremost, to fight climate change.” He said there was “no greater challenge to the world of today and tomorrow” adding that the threat was on a clear trajectory: “hotter, faster, more severe.”

The UN chief said the world must also strongly accelerate its broader efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. Guterres said he would convene a Climate Summit and a High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development in September and urged member states to do their utmost to make the month a defining moment for stopping runaway climate change, achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and building a fair globalization.

The Secretary-General said new technologies, which could turbocharge this work, were also outpacing our capacity to reckon with their profound impacts. He added, “The Fourth Industrial Revolution continues to open new possibilities for health care, education, humanitarian assistance and much else. But alongside these benefits, we must address the disruption of labour markets, the weaponization of artificial intelligence and the heinous activities on the dark web.”

Guterres said the universal values of the UN Charter that bind us together - peace, justice, human dignity, tolerance, and solidarity - are under attack around the globe. He said, “An ideological battle is taking place. Most disturbingly, we hear the troubling, hateful echoes of eras long past, and noxious views moving into the mainstream. Let’s not forget the lessons of the 1930s. There can be never room for hate speech, intolerance or xenophobia. We will fight it anytime, anywhere.”

The UN chief underlined that for the values that we defend to truly prevail, we need to show that we understand people’s anxieties, fears and concerns. He stressed the need to address the root causes that lead people to feel marooned in our rapidly changing world.

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