BY ALEX BALUKU
Baluku is a distinguished Fellow of the Dag Hammarskjöld Fund for Journalists, currently reporting from the United States of America on the 78th UN General Assembly. With a keen eye for global affairs and a commitment to delivering insightful coverage of UN activities, Baluku brings a unique perspective to the world of international journalism.
BEIJING, 18 OCT 2023 – The United Nations Secretary-General, Mr. António Guterres, delivered a speech at the 3rd Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing, highlighting the critical role of infrastructure in development and addressing the ongoing crisis in the Middle East.
The forum, hosted by Chinese President Xi Jinping, emphasizes the significance of infrastructure development for economic progress. Mr. Guterres stressed the importance of infrastructure in people’s daily lives, from basic necessities like drinking water and electricity to modern transportation systems and internet access. However, he pointed out that billions of people in developing countries still lack access to these essential services.
The Secretary-General commended the Belt and Road Initiative for its potential to support economic sustainability in developing countries facing financial challenges. He also acknowledged the need for a global financial architecture that reflects the current world economy and the importance of effective debt relief mechanisms.
Regarding environmental sustainability, Mr. Guterres praised the Belt and Road Initiative for aligning with international best practices. He highlighted the importance of investments that support resilience and adaptation while keeping global warming within the 1.5-degree limit. He also commended the Green Silk Road initiative for promoting sustainable solutions and emphasized the need for developed countries to reach net-zero emissions by 2040.
The Secretary-General called for the Belt and Road investments to help drive a transition towards clean, renewable energy, especially in developing countries, while ensuring affordable electricity for all. He stressed that development should not come at the expense of the environment.
In his concluding remarks, Mr. Guterres emphasized that with the contributions of the Belt and Road Initiative, the world can turn the infrastructure emergency into an opportunity, accelerate the achievement of sustainable development goals, and bring hope and progress to billions of people.
However, Mr. Guterres also addressed the ongoing crisis in the Middle East, expressing deep concern for the region’s future. He made two urgent humanitarian appeals: one to Hamas for the immediate release of hostages and another to Israel to allow unrestricted access for humanitarian aid to Gaza, where the majority of the population is women and children.
The Secretary-General condemned acts of terror by Hamas and stressed that they cannot justify the collective punishment of the Palestinian people. He also expressed his horror at the tragic attack on Al Ahli hospital in Gaza and called for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire to alleviate the suffering in the region.
The Middle East remains on the precipice, with lives and the fate of the entire region hanging in the balance. Mr. Guterres urged for the spirit of the Belt and Road Forum to help those involved find a path to peace in the region.