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30 November 2018

Secretary-General Stresses Need for Fair Globalization in Remarks to ‘Putting People First’ Session of G20 Summit

Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks to the G20 during the “Putting people first” session, in Buenos Aires today:

To put people first was my slogan when I ran for Prime Minister of Portugal more than two decades ago but it was also the slogan of my opponent, and in these two decades I’ve seen this slogan everywhere, every time.  The problem is that for a number of people in our societies, they do not feel they’re being put first but they feel they’re being considered last.

Indeed, the combination of globalization and technological change that generated enormous wealth and reduced extreme poverty has also dramatically increased the inequality within our societies and at the same time, left people, sectors and regions behind, generating the kind of frustrations that make many people mistrust their political establishment or international organizations like mine.

We need indeed to work together for a fair globalization, and allow me two brief notes:  firstly, we need to be much more effective in reducing inequality in our societies because the trend will be for inequality to keep on growing.  This means a more effective combination, a mix of policies ‑ fiscal policy, monetary policy, jobs policy, policies in the social safety net ‑ in order to make sure that we are really able to reduce inequalities against the trend that will push inequality to grow.

Second, we need to be much better prepared for the impact of the Fourth Industrial Revolution led by artificial intelligence in our societies.  The next two decades will see a massive creation of jobs and massive destruction of jobs, but they will be very different, and it will not be obvious how to move people from one side to another.  Some ideas are really clear.  We need a much bigger investment in education and skills, but not education and skills to learn things but to learn how to learn things, and there is still a lot to be reformed in our educational systems to reach that.  On the other hand, we need to consider a different relation between work, leisure and other occupations.  The nature of work will change, and in some societies, you might need a new generation of safety nets.

Finally, gender.  We need to be much more effective in affirmative action for gender equality because this is a question of power.  We still live in male-dominated societies, in a male-dominated culture and we will only be able to really move towards gender equality with a strong push for empowerment of women in all sectors – those in the political systems, in business, in the economy and in the social sectors.  And one concern about this:  when we see the preponderance of men in technological professions, I’m afraid that the Silicon Valleys of this world will be a factor reducing gender equality instead of moving in that direction.

We need a fair globalization and I think we have a blueprint for that, the 2030 Agenda, the Sustainable Development Goals.  Thank you very much.

For information media. Not an official record.