BY ALEX BALUKU
NEW YORK – United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres delivered a series of impassioned messages during a press conference preceding the 78th session of the UN General Assembly, addressing an array of pressing global challenges and the critical need for unity, urgent action, and sustainable development.
With a heavy heart, he began by expressing his deepest condolences and solidarity with the victims of the recent devastating earthquake in Morocco and the massive floods in Libya.
“These heart-wrenching disasters have claimed thousands of lives and affected countless families and communities,” Secretary-General Guterres stated. “The United Nations is mobilizing to support relief efforts, and we will work in every possible way with our partners to provide emergency assistance to those who desperately need it.”
Guterres went on to reflect on recent international gatherings he attended, emphasizing the importance of global cooperation in tackling pressing issues. He mentioned his participation in meetings in Nairobi, Jakarta, New Delhi, and an upcoming meeting in Havana with leaders of the G-77 and China.
However, he stressed that the most significant gathering, the High-Level Week of the General Assembly, was set to begin next week, highlighting its unique role in global diplomacy.
“It is a one-of-a-kind moment each year for leaders from every corner of the globe to not only assess the state of the world but to act for the common good,” Guterres said passionately. “Action is what the world needs now.”
Addressing Global Challenges
The Secretary-General acknowledged the multitude of challenges facing humanity, including the worsening climate emergency, escalating conflicts, a global cost-of-living crisis, soaring inequalities, and dramatic technological disruptions. He stressed that people worldwide are looking to their leaders for solutions.
“Yet, in the face of all this and more, geopolitical divisions are undermining our capacity to respond,” Guterres cautioned. He observed that a multipolar world was emerging, which could either bring equilibrium or lead to escalating tensions and fragmentation.
A Call for Strong, Reformed Multilateralism
To address these challenges and unite the multipolar world, Guterres emphasized the need for strong, reformed multilateral institutions anchored in the United Nations Charter and international law. He recognized that the existing multilateral institutions created after World War II needed reform, acknowledging the complexities of power dynamics and competing interests.
“I know reform is fundamentally about power, and there are obviously many competing interests and agendas in our increasingly multipolar world,” he stated. “But at a time when our challenges are more connected than ever, the outcome of a zero-sum game is that everyone gets zero.”
The Upcoming UNGA78 Session: A Turning Point for Humanity
The Secretary-General promised to provide further details on these matters in his address to the General Assembly on Tuesday.
In addition to addressing geopolitical challenges, next week’s session will focus on rescuing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at the halfway mark to 2030, boosting ambition to combat the climate crisis, addressing funding and investments for development, tackling health challenges, and addressing a host of other pressing global issues.
He underscored the importance of compromise in politics, diplomacy, and effective leadership, emphasizing that leaders have a special responsibility to achieve compromise in designing a common future for the common good.
“Next week here in New York is the place to start,” Guterres declared, leaving no doubt that the upcoming 78th session of the UN General Assembly would play a pivotal role in shaping the future of global cooperation and addressing the world’s most pressing challenges.
Geopolitical Tensions, Climate Ambition, and Global Cooperation
In a press conference following this address, Secretary-General António Guterres fielded questions from journalists on a range of critical global issues, further emphasizing the need for global cooperation and addressing ongoing challenges.
Stéphane, representing the United Nations Correspondents Association, kicked off the question session by inquiring about the prospects for progress, particularly regarding Ukraine and the Black Sea Grain Initiative.
Secretary-General Guterres revealed that he would be meeting with key leaders, including President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, indicating that these matters would be on the table for discussion. While he refrained from expressing optimism or pessimism, Guterres underlined his unwavering determination to address these issues.
Global Diplomacy and the United Nations’ Role
Guterres then faced a question from Xu Dezhi of China Central Television, who referred to Guterres’ earlier statement about not blaming the UN for actions taken by Member States.
Guterres emphasized the importance of the UN asserting its principles, defending the Charter, and leveraging its convening power to bring parties together, despite the challenging global environment. He expressed hope that the upcoming UN meetings would yield positive results, particularly in rescuing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Sherwin Bryce-Pease of South African Broadcasting inquired about the expectations from the G77 and China, which serve as a prelude to the UNGA and SDG Summit.
Guterres highlighted the critical role of the G77 and China in mobilizing resources and aligning policies with the SDGs. He also stressed their importance in advocating for changes in the international financial system to ensure that it supports the development aspirations of developing countries, many of which are grappling with debt-related challenges.
Climate Ambition and Global Unity
Amelie Bottollier of AFP News Agency posed a question about the Climate Ambition Summit, referencing the responses received to Guterres’ letter from heads of state and governments. Guterres acknowledged that G20 countries, responsible for 80 percent of global emissions, played a pivotal role in climate action.
While he didn’t confirm specific selections, he expressed hope that several G20 nations would announce substantial emissions reduction commitments during the summit and provide financial support to developing countries.
Michelle, a journalist, raised concerns about ongoing geopolitical tensions overshadowing discussions at the UNGA. Guterres acknowledged that the war in Ukraine exacerbated geopolitical divisions but emphasized the importance of finding a peaceful resolution.
He expressed concerns about the risk of global fragmentation, calling for serious commitment to reforming multilateral institutions and highlighting the economic costs of a fractured world.
Stronger Commitment to Achieve Sustainable Development Goals
United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres continued his call for stronger commitment and action in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) during a press briefing.
The Secretary-General highlighted the urgency of addressing global challenges, including poverty, hunger, and climate change, and highlighted the role of the upcoming high-level meetings at the United Nations in advancing these goals.
Addressing Global Challenges: Poverty, Hunger, and Climate Change
The Secretary-General’s message was clear: the world is facing pressing issues that require immediate attention and concrete action. He stressed the importance of a “quantum leap” in efforts to implement the SDGs and create a sustainable future for all.
Financing for Development
One of the primary concerns raised by Secretary-General Guterres was the widening gap in financing for developing countries. He pointed out that despite the SDGs’ ambitious targets, there has been a dramatic shortfall in funding, making it increasingly challenging to meet the objectives set out in the agenda. To bridge this gap, he proposed an SDG Stimulus, an initiative aimed at mobilizing resources for SDG implementation.
Global Security and Human Rights
The press briefing also touched on regional conflicts and diplomatic efforts. Secretary-General Guterres mentioned his upcoming meetings with world leaders, including President Zelenskyy of Ukraine, Minister Lavrov of Russia, and President Erdogan of Turkey.
While acknowledging the challenges surrounding these conflicts, he expressed hope that meaningful discussions could pave the way for peaceful solutions.
Addressing the issue of human rights, the Secretary-General reaffirmed the UN’s commitment to advocating for the rights of vulnerable populations, including women and girls. He highlighted the importance of raising human rights concerns in meetings with world leaders, particularly regarding countries where human rights violations persist.
The Role of the G20 and International Diplomacy
The press briefing further addressed the outcomes of the G20 Summit, with a focus on the New Delhi Leaders’ Declaration adopted under India’s presidency.
Secretary-General Guterres praised India’s efforts to prioritize development issues within the G20 agenda and acknowledged the importance of consensus in international diplomacy. He also highlighted the role of compromise in addressing complex global challenges.
The Secretary-General also used the press briefing as an opportunity to call for a renewed sense of urgency and commitment in addressing global challenges.
He stressed that the upcoming high-level meetings at the United Nations provide a platform for world leaders to take meaningful action towards achieving the SDGs, addressing regional conflicts, and upholding human rights.
The Secretary-General’s message serves as a reminder of the collective responsibility to create a more equitable and sustainable future for all, urging governments and the international community to prioritize these critical global objectives.