PIVOTAL MOMENT: UN Secretary-General says world is at ‘pivotal moment’ and countries must work together to avoid breakdown of global order and a future of perpetual crisis
The UN secretary-general issued a dire warning Friday that the world is moving in the wrong direction and faces ‘a pivotal moment’ in which business as usual could lead to a breakdown of global order and perpetual crises.
Changing course, he said, could signal a breakthrough to a greener and safer future.
In a horizon-scanning report presented to the General Assembly, Guterres said his vision for a ‘breakthrough scenario’ to that future is driven by ‘the principle of working together … And recognizing that no community or country, however powerful, can solve its challenges alone.’
In order to do that, the UN chief said the world´s nations and people must reverse today´s dangerous trends.
The world is under ‘enormous stress’ on almost every front, he said, and the COVID-19 pandemic was a wake-up call[/b]demonstrating the failure of nations to come together and take joint decisions.
Guterres said this ‘paralysis’ extends far beyond COVID-19 to the failures to tackle the climate crisis and ‘our suicidal war on nature and the collapse of biodiversity.’
Other crises, he said, include ‘unchecked inequality’ undermining the cohesion of societies, and technology’s advances ‘without guard rails to protect us from its unforeseen consequences.’
[b]In other signs of a more chaotic and insecure world, he pointed to rising poverty, hunger and gender inequality after decades of decline, bringing people into the streets to protest, ‘while conspiracy theories and lies fuel deep divisions within societies.’
Additionally, he cited the extreme risk to human life and the planet from nuclear war and a climate breakdown.
The report – ‘Our Common Agenda’ – is a response to last year´s declaration by world leaders on the 75th anniversary of the United Nations and the request from the General Assembly’s 193 member nations for the U.N. chief to make recommendations to address the challenges for global governance.
He said multilateral institutions have proven to be ‘too weak and fragmented for today´s global challenges and risks.’
What´s needed, Guterres said, is not new multilateral bureaucracies but more effective multilateral institutions including a United Nations ‘2.0’ more relevant to the 21st century.
‘And we need multilateralism with teeth,’ he said.
In the report, Guterres said immediate action is needed to protect the planet´s ‘most precious’ assets from oceans to outer space, to ensure it is livable, and to deliver on the aspirations of people everywhere for peace and good health.
He called for an immediate global vaccination plan implemented by an emergency task force, saying ‘investing $50 billion in vaccinations now could add an estimated $9 trillion to the global economy in the next four years.’
The report proposes that a global Summit of the Future take place in 2023 that would not only look at all these issues but go beyond traditional security threats ‘to strengthen global governance of digital technology and outer space, and to manage future risks and crises,’ he said.
It would also consider a New Agenda for Peace including measures to reduce strategic risks from nuclear weapons, cyber warfare and lethal autonomous weapons, which Guterres called one of humanity´s most destabilizing inventions.
The secretary-general said a new United Nations Futures Lab will publish regular reports ‘on megatrends and risks.’
He said the COVID-19 pandemic also exposed deficiencies in the global Financial system .
To tackle these weaknesses and integrate the global financial system with other global priorities.
Guterres proposed holding summits every two years between the 20 leading economies in the G20, the U.N.´s Economic and Social Council, the heads of international financial institutions and the U.N. secretary-general.
He also called for the correction of ‘a major blind spot in how we measure progress and prosperity,’ saying Gross Domestic Product or GDP fails to account for ‘the incalculable social and environmental damage that may be caused by the pursuit of profit.’
‘My report calls for new metrics that value the life and well-being of the many over short-term profit for the few,’ Guterres said.
It also calls for a new Emergency Platform that would be triggered automatically in large-scale crises comprising governments, the U.N. system, international financial institutions, civil society, the private sector and others, he said.