SECRETARY-GENERAL’S REMARKS AT THE ST. PETERSBURG INTERNATIONAL ECONOMIC FORUM (SPIEF-2019) 6 June 2019 SG: First of all, I would like to say that today is Pushkin’s day, and I’d like to pay tribute to the Russian language that I do not speak. I apologize for not being able to speak in Russian, but I pay tribute to that wonderful language and to Pushkin’s fantastic contribution to world culture. Now, first of all, why was it necessary to have the Sustainable Development Goals and Agenda 2030? Twenty years ago, I was in government in my country, Portugal, and there was a naive optimism about globalization, technological progress - the idea that globalization would generate enormous wealth and that would trickle down and, in the end, solve all the economic problems around the world. Now the truth is, that, indeed, globalization, technological progress increased enormously global wealth, global trade, had fantastic improvements in the lives of billions of people, a much larger middle class, we live more years, less children die on birth. But the same globalization and the same technological progress increased dramatically inequality in the world and left people, regions, sectors, areas behind. In the rust belts of this world, or in countries that for different reasons could not catch up. And these are generating an enormous malaise, this is generating an enormous break of trust. Trust between people and the political establishments, trust between people and the international organizations. And there was an understanding that it was necessary to find a way to move towards a fair globalization. A globalization that would benefit all. And that’s how we were able to gather in the United Nations all nations and come up with a program of actions for 2030. The objectives were the eradication of poverty, the eradication of hunger, an enormous effort in education, in health; but also in the environment, also in governance, in all other aspects in order to be able to take profit of technological progress, take profit of globalization for everybody to benefit. Now this is a very ambitious objective. And it is true that we are lagging behind in relation to this objective. First of all, because it would be very difficult to mobilize all the resources and all the capacities, and second, and it is true, I don’t like to use the interpretation of things in the world based on one person. But let’s look into the objective situation of today. Let’s look into the objective… Moderator: You never mentioned President Trump yet, so we’re waiting… SG: Let’s look at the present situation of today. We see growth slowing down. And growth slowing down is of course an obstacle to the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). We see trade conflicts and other unilateral decisions that have an impact on trade and we see also conflicts related to technology, namely related to the key aspects of the 5G or artificial intelligence, that create enormous unpredictability and contribute to the volatility of markets. We see at the same time climate change. Climate change is a major threat to us all. And a major limitation to our capacity to deliver in relation to the Goals. And we see the impact of new technologies, namely, the so-called fourth industrial revolution, the artificial intelligence that will have massive impacts on the markets, especially in the labour market. There will be a massive creation of jobs and massive destruction of jobs. And we are not prepared for that. So, obviously we need to rethink education systems. To make sure that we learn not to learn instead of learning too many of the things that no longer serve any purpose. We need to base things on lifelong learning, we need to create a new generation of safety nets for many people who have difficulties adapting. So, it is necessary to recognize that we are in a moment in which all these reasons are making it more difficult to implement the Sustainable Development Goals. And, of course, all these reasons are related to the politics in a world that at certain moment was bipolar, then became unipolar, and today is a bit chaotic and as recently has been very fashionable to say so-called Thucydides Trap, when you have one power that emerges and one power becomes less dominant there is indeed a risk of conflict. The Thucydides Trap, if you remember, it was the rise of Athens and the fear that that generated in Sparta that made the war of Peloponnesus inevitable. I don’t think that we have a war that is inevitable, but I think we need to do everything possible to have the wisdom of leadership everywhere, with all leaders to make sure that we don’t move into a new Cold War and to make sure that we don’t have not only with climate change, a global warming, but with other kinds of conflicts, a global political warming that will undermine the Sustainable Development Goals and Agenda 2030, and undermine our collective security. Moderator: Because countries now appear to be in this moment more focused on their individual needs and ambitions and not on the collective ambitions the way that the Sustainable Development Goals proposed. But let me ask you in a different way, Secretary-General, the Goals talk about the indivisibility that every part of the Goals are important. China, the Chinese leader is here in St. Petersburg, has lifted 250 million people out of poverty. What do you think is more important: lifting people out of poverty or human rights and democracy? SG: I think that everything is important, because to lift people out of poverty is a basic human right. People sometimes think about human rights only about political and civil rights. But there are economic, social, cultural rights. And to lift people out of poverty is basically a human rights action. So, indeed, from that point of view, we have to recognise that the most remarkable achievement in relation to the eradication of poverty in the world was done by China in the last few decades. And I would remind that the plan according to President Xi Jiangpin, as referred several times, is to completely eradicate absolute poverty, the poverty that is below the level that is internationally accepted, to totally eradicate absolute poverty in China in 2020. And that, in my opinion, is an important achievement from the point of view of human rights. There are aspects in which I might disagree on human rights - civil, political or others. But I think it’s important to be objective and not to be so passionate in what we say or the way we express our things that we don’t make justice to what deserves that justice. Moderator: So you do feel able to criticize China in terms of human rights? SG: I can criticize China when I believe China is not doing well on whatever is not doing well. But it is clear that to eradicate poverty in a country with the history of China and the problems of China is an absolutely remarkable achievement and it would be stupid not to recognize it. Moderator: A little bit more context of just in terms of your own home: The United Nations faces its own challenges even with these goals of funding particularly because of a lack of money from the United States. I gather that you even suggested that you might propose selling your residence in New York in order to fund the United Nations, perhaps you should think about maybe moving into a Trump Hotel, that might help with the diplomacy. SG: I see that you have an obsession, but let’s be objective again. We have a very difficult cash situation in the UN, because of an increase of arrears, and because of old-fashioned methodologies in budget management that need to be addressed. And that cash situation, I hope, we are now discussing it in the General Assembly, I hope we will find ways to overcome it. But it is absolutely essential that all countries pay their fees, pay them on time, pay them entirely and pay them without conditions - that applies to every country, including the country that you have mentioned. [other participants answer questions] Moderator: Secretary-General, I want to end with you. We started it [the opening session] late, but we are also overtime. There are huge positives: Save the Children issued a report just in the past few weeks. It said that 280 million children around the world are significantly better off today than they were 20 years ago. And they praise both China and America for their role in helping that enormous number of children. And yet when you talk to leaders like these gentlemen and others around the world, their attention is so pulled now to the problems that the world is facing. What other conversations you are having? SG: Well, I do not accept the idea that we reduce international relations today to a confrontation between the United States and China or that we accept that we are moving into a new Cold War between the United States and China. What we need is a multipolar world. What we need is the United States, China, the Russian Federation, India, the European Union and several other key partners able to address their problems and to address their problems in a multilateral way. We had the experience in Europe before the First World War of a multipolar Europe. In the absence of multilateral mechanisms of governance, the result of that was the First World War. So we need a multipolar world with all these actors to play a relevant role in world affairs and we need that multipolar world with multilateral forms of governance and international relations based on international law. Moderator: Final question: with all of this going on and all of these challenges for you, do you plan, do you hope for another term as Secretary-General? SG: There is only one way to be a Secretary-General. It is to be an honest broker. And to be an honest broker, there is something you can never have in your plans is to submit what you do to any consideration about candidacies or things of the sort. You need to do at any moment what you think is the right thing to do and that eventually might create the conditions in which you cannot be reelected. It does not matter. Moderator: But it is a “yes” if they will have you, is that right? It is “yes” if they want you, then you would like a second term? SG: Well, when I was Prime Minister in Portugal, the day I determined that I had no conditions to apply the projects in which I believed, I was in government and I resigned, and let the others have the opportunity to do what they believed could be done. I think it only makes sense to be a public servant nationally and internationally if you are there to do things in which you believe. If you have no conditions to do the things you believe, you had better do something else. And my position has always been - in my life, in all things - the same. When I am here, I do my best to do what I have to do as the Secretary-General of the United Nations. I do not think about what the future will bring. The day I will start thinking about the future I will start undermining my action today.
27 April - Secretary-General's remarks at Leaders' Roundtable on promoting green and sustainable development to implement the 2030 Agenda
I am deeply concerned about the climate crisis, and this is a matter I am very passionate about.
Since I feel, when one looks at what happens on the ground and which is growing worse day by day, I believe we still lack the global political will to take the kind of transformational measures necessary to make these trends be reversed before it is too late.
And indeed, I strongly welcome your focus today on green and sustainable development – our common global commitment through the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. And I can assure you, Mr. President [Xi Jinping of China], that the UN will do everything possible to help towards the success of the Belt and Road Initiative, also in this context.
Now, the deepening climate crisis is at the top of our concerns.
Climate change is moving much faster than our efforts to address it, and the last four years were the hottest on record.
Natural disasters have wreaked havoc in nearly every region of the globe.
Last year, more than 35 million people were affected by floods, and when visiting, namely Africa, I am always impressed by the way drought is progressing, destroying livelihoods and forcing more and more people to move.
The average number of people exposed to heatwaves has increased by some 125 million since the beginning of the century, with deadly consequences.
The combination of extreme heat and air pollution is proving increasingly dangerous.
The climate crisis threatens decades of progress and jeopardizes all our plans for an inclusive and sustainable development.
And the clock is ticking. Science has clearly told us that we have only 12 years for this transformation, if we want to limit temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius and to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.
To put it simply, we need green development. We need sustainable development. And we need it now.
We can win the race to keep our planet livable and on a healthy trajectory.
But this requires action that is rooted in solutions that are sustainable and aligned with the Paris Agreement and the 2030 Agenda.
To help generate the ambition we need, and to showcase practical, feasible and ambitious solutions to meet our goals, I am convening a Climate Action Summit in New York on 23rd September.
And I am calling on leaders to come with concrete, realistic plans to enhance their Nationally Determined Contributions by 2020.
These plans must show how we can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 45 per cent over the next decade and get to net zero emissions globally by 2050 through strong mitigation and adaptation measures.
And this is why I have been asking leaders around the world to adopt carbon pricing that reflects the true cost of emissions – and I’d like to underline the fact that the two largest emissions trading systems are the Chinese and European Union ones – but also to end subsidies on fossil fuels, and not to start construction of new coal plants beyond 2020.
I am also counting on leaders to make sure their plans include women as key decision-makers and address disproportionate impacts many women experience from climate change.
Chinese leadership will continue to be crucial.
As I said yesterday, new renewable energy jobs in China now outnumber those created in the oil and gas industries.
In 2017, China invested more than $125 billion dollars in renewable energy, an increase of 25 per cent over the previous year.
And I will never forget that, in the UN Climate Conference in Katowice, China played an absolutely essential role building bridges and securing an agreement that allowed for the approval of the Action Plan of the Paris Agreement.
It is estimated that some 75 per cent of the global infrastructure that will be needed by 2050 is yet to be built, and the existing infrastructure will have to be made climate-resilient.
That is why the Belt and Road Initiative, with its huge volume of investment, is an opportunity we cannot miss to propel our world into a green future and to help countries transition to low-carbon, clean-energy pathways with new infrastructure that is sustainable and equitable, and drives adaptation and is based on non-fossil energy.
The momentum for transformational change is growing.
The green economy is the future. It fosters prosperity, creates decent work, addresses root causes of conflict and contributes to the full enjoyment of all human rights – not only civil and political, but also economic, social and cultural.
More governments, cities and businesses than ever understand that climate solutions strengthen our economies and protect our environment at the same time.
To transform our world, we need inclusive, sustainable growth that uplifts surrounding communities, responds to the needs of all, brings women into the economy of tomorrow, and is fully compatible with the Paris Agreement on climate change and the Sustainable Development Goals.
Together – and the Belt and Road Initiative is an absolutely crucial instrument for that – we can move farther down the road to realizing the 2030 Agenda and to achieving our global vision for people, planet and prosperity.
According to the UN health agency, “countries are spending more on health, but people are still paying too much out of their own pockets”.
The agency’s new report on global health expenditure launched on Wednesday reveals that “spending on health is outpacing the rest of the global economy, accounting for 10 per cent of global gross domestic product (GDP).
The trend is particularly noticeable in low- and middle-income countries where health spending is growing on average six per cent annually compared with four per cent in high-income countries.
Health spending is made up of government expenditure, out-of-pocket payments and other sources, such as voluntary health insurance and employer-provided health programmes.
While reliance on out-of-pocket expenses is slowly declining around the world, the report notes that in low- and middle-income countries, domestic public funding for health is increasing and external funding in middle-income countries, declining.
Highlighting the importance of increasing domestic spending for achieving universal health coverage and the health-related Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO’s Director-General, said that this should be seen as “an investment in poverty reduction, jobs, productivity, inclusive economic growth, and healthier, safer, fairer societies.”
Worldwide, governments provide an average of 51 per cent of a country’s health spending, while more than 35 per cent of health spending per country comes from out-of-pocket expenses. One consequence of this is 100 million people pushed into extreme poverty each year, the report stresses.
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Paris Agreement on climate change, the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction and the New Urban Agenda together provide a roadmap for a more sustainable and resilient world. How our cities develop will have significant implications for realizing the future we want.
This year’s World Cities Day focuses on resilience and sustainability. Every week, 1.4 million people move to cities. Such rapid urbanization can strain local capacities, contributing to increased risk from natural and human made disasters. But hazards do not need to become disasters. The answer is to build resilience -- to storms, floods, earthquakes, fires, pandemics and economic crises.
Cities around the world are already acting to increase resilience and sustainability. Bangkok has built vast underground water storage facilities to cope with increased flood risk and save water for drier periods. In Quito, the local government has reclaimed or protected more than 200,000 hectares of land to boost flood protection, reduce erosion and safeguard the city’s freshwater supply and biodiversity. And in Johannesburg, the city is involving residents in efforts to improve public spaces so they can be safely used for recreation, sports, community events and services such as free medical care.
On World Cities Day, let us be inspired by these examples. Let us work together to build sustainable and resilient cities that provide safety and opportunities for all.
International data sectors from national statistical offices, the private sector, NGOs, academia and international and regional organizations are gathering in Dubai from Monday to Wednesday, in a bid to accelerate progress on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
The experts will launch innovative solutions to improve data on migration, health, gender and many other key areas of sustainable development at the second annual Forum, which takes place at the Madinat Jumeirah Convention Center.
The 3-day conference is packed with over 80 sessions and parallel events, and is seen as a crucial opportunity for major producers and users of data and statistics to find ways to deliver better data for policy makers and citizens in all areas of sustainable development.
Speaking ahead of the opening session, Liu Zhenmin, UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, underlined the critical importance of good data in order to achieve the SDGs: “It is essential to have accurate, reliable, timely and disaggregated data, tracking the unprecedented range of economic, social and environmental goals in the 2030 Agenda. At the UN World Data Forum, I expect new partnerships to be forged, commitments announced, and support boosted.”
The conference takes place two months before the expected adoption by Member States of the Global Compact for Migration, the first-ever UN global agreement on a common approach to international migration, and one of the high-level sessions will be on improving migration data to help set new strategies for how to better track the more than 258 million migrants around the world, including through real-time data sources such as call records: this will serve as a contribution to the December conference.
Financing for data and statistics, and ways to fill the funding deficit and data gaps that exists in many countries will be a focus topic of this year’s Forum, at a time when developing countries face a gap of $200 million per year and over 100 countries do not have comprehensive birth and death registration data: a lack of funding and capacity are serious constraints for many countries.
[ read the full story on UN News ]
The United Nations Secretary-General launched a new partnership strategy with the world’s 1.8 billion young people on Monday, to help put “their ideas into action”. Noting that it was “a rare treat” to see so many young faces at the UN, to launch the new “Youth2030” strategy, UN chief António Guterres highlighted a list of challenges “the largest young generation in history” faces today.
He noted that “globalization, new technologies, displacement, shrinking civic space, changing labour markets and climate impacts,” were putting huge pressure on youth everywhere, adding that more than one-fifth of young people are not in employment, education or training; a quarter are affected by violence or armed conflict; and young people remain excluded from development programmes, ignored in peace negotiations and denied a voice in most international decision-making.
At the same time, he pointed out that young people were “a vast source of innovation, ideas and solutions,” who push for the needed changes in technology, climate action, inclusivity and societal justice.
“Empowering young people, supporting them, and making sure they can fulfil their potential are important ends in themselves, We want this for all people, everywhere.”
--- UN Secretary General
Moreover, to fulfil the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development for a more peaceful, sustainable and prosperous world, “we need young people to lead,” he added.
In presenting Youth 2030: The United Nations Youth Strategy, he called it “the UN’s strategy to engage with, but especially to empower young people.”
Saying that the Organization has for decades worked for youth, he expressed hope that the new strategy would make the UN “a leader” in working with them, “in understanding their needs, in helping to put their ideas into action, in ensuring their views inform our processes.”
“And as we change, we will work with our partners to do likewise” and spur new partnerships, the UN chief said, identifying five key areas:
- Opening new routes to involve young people and amplify their voices.
- Strengthening the UN’s focus on their accessing education and health services.
- Placing their economic empowerment at the fore of development strategies, with a focus on training and jobs.
- Working to ensure their rights, and civic and political engagement.
Prioritizing support for young people in conflict and in humanitarian crises, including their participation in peace processes.