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21 September 2020

Inclusive, Networked Multilateralism Vital for Better World Governance, Says Secretary-General, at General Assembly’s Seventy-Fifth Anniversary Meeting

Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks at the General Assembly meeting marking the seventy-fifth anniversary of the United Nations, in New York today:

The ideals of the United Nations — peace, justice, equality and dignity — are beacons to a better world.  But, the Organization we celebrate today emerged only after immense suffering.  It took two world wars, millions of deaths and the horrors of the Holocaust for world leaders to commit to international cooperation and the rule of law.

That commitment produced results.  A Third World War — which so many had feared — has been avoided.  Never in modern history have we gone so many years without a military confrontation between the major Powers.  This is a major achievement of which Member States can be proud — and which we must all strive to preserve.

Down the decades, there have been other historic accomplishments, including:  peace treaties and peacekeeping; decolonization; human rights standards — and mechanisms to uphold them; the triumph over apartheid; life-saving humanitarian aid for millions of victims of conflict and disaster; the eradication of diseases; the steady reduction of hunger; the progressive development of international law; and landmark agreements to protect the environment and our planet.  Most recently, unanimous agreement on the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement on climate change provide an inspiring vision for the twenty-first century.

Yet, there is still so much to be done.  Of the 850 delegates to the San Francisco Conference, just 8 were women.  Twenty-five years since the Beijing Platform for Action, gender inequality remains the greatest single challenge to human rights around the world.

Climate calamity looms.  Biodiversity is collapsing.  Poverty is again rising.  Hatred is spreading.  Geopolitical tensions are escalating.  Nuclear weapons remain on hair-trigger alert.  Transformative technologies have opened up new opportunities, but also exposed new threats.  The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare the world’s fragilities.  We can only address them together.

Today, we have a surplus of multilateral challenges and a deficit of multilateral solutions.  I welcome the General Assembly’s seventy-fifth anniversary declaration and commitment to reinvigorate multilateralism.  You have invited me to assess how to advance our common agenda, and I will report back with analysis and recommendations.  This will be an important and inclusive process of profound reflection.

Already, we know that we need more — and more effective — multilateralism, with vision, ambition and impact.  National sovereignty, a pillar of the United Nations, goes hand in hand with enhanced international cooperation based on common values and shared responsibilities in pursuit of progress for all.

No one wants a world government, but we must work together to improve world governance.  In an interconnected world, we need a networked multilateralism, in which the United Nations family, international financial institutions, regional organizations, trading blocs and others work together more closely and more effectively.  We also need, as the President said, an inclusive multilateralism, drawing on civil society, cities, businesses, local authorities and more and more on young people.

The Secretariat marked this anniversary with a global conversation that reached more than a million people around the world, with a special focus on the voices of youth.  They shared their fears and hopes for the future.  They said international cooperation is vital to deal with today’s challenges.  They highlighted that COVID-19 has made such solidarity more urgent.  And they stressed that the world needs health systems and basic services for all.

People are fearful about the climate crisis, poverty, inequality, corruption and systemic racial and gender discrimination.  They see the United Nations as a vehicle to make the world a better place.  And they count on us to meet today’s tests.  That responsibility lies above all with Member States.

Member States established the United Nations and have a duty to embrace it, nourish it and provide it with the tools to make a difference.  We owe this to “We the peoples”.  We owe it to the peacekeepers, diplomats, humanitarian personnel and others who sacrificed their lives advancing common values.  I salute all staff, past and present, for their dedication in bringing the ideals of the United Nation to life.

Our Organization’s founders began their work during the heat of conflict.  Now it falls to us to chart our way out of danger.  In the words of our Charter, let us “combine our efforts to achieve these aims” as United Nations.  Thank you.

For information media. Not an official record.