14 November 2020

Secretary-General, at South-East Asian Nations Summit, Welcomes Region’s Swift Action on COVID-19 Recovery, Urges Leaders to Adopt Robust Plans for Carbon Neutrality

Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ opening remarks to the open session of the eleventh Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)-United Nations Summit, held today:

It is an honour to join you for the eleventh ASEAN-UN Summit, and I want to congratulate Viet Nam for its solidarity as ASEAN Chair and as member of the United Nations Security Council.

I wish to start by expressing my deepest condolences on the loss of lives caused by the recent floods and landslides in Viet Nam.  The United Nations stands with you.

As we mark the seventy-fifth anniversary of the United Nations, the international community is facing a “perfect storm”:  a global pandemic.  The climate emergency.  Rising geopolitical tensions.  The risk of nuclear proliferation.  Persistent poverty and growing inequalities.  Entrenched conflicts and the eruption of new ones.  The world is off track to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.  And multilateralism itself is being questioned precisely when we need it most.

I count on your leadership and your resolve for urgent action to safeguard our shared world.  I welcome ASEAN’s support for the nuclear non-proliferation regime and my call for a global ceasefire.  Allow me to renew that call with regard to continuing conflicts around the world, including in your region.

Regarding the pandemic, I commend your swift and effective action and welcome your commitment to international cooperation and regional solidarity.  I appreciate your recognition that any COVID-19 vaccine must be a global public good, and I thank ASEAN for its strong support for the COVAX Facility.  The United Nations welcomes the ASEAN Comprehensive Recovery Framework and stands ready to work with you to build resilience, improve preparedness and safeguard the environment.  The pandemic is an opportunity to build back better.

I also wish to stress the urgent need to address gender-based violence and inequalities — both of which have been magnified by COVID-19.  Horrendous as it has been, the pandemic also provides an opportunity to revitalize our efforts to advance the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and accelerate climate action across the world and in the region.

Let me therefore reiterate my call at the tenth ASEAN Summit for robust action in the ASEAN region to reverse climate change.  I am striving to mobilize a global coalition for carbon neutrality, and I urge all ASEAN members to adopt plans for transitioning to net‑zero emissions by 2050.

Let me turn now to peace and security.  The deepening fracture of the international order continues to raise the risk of miscalculation, armed hostilities and even a new cold war.  At this time of division, ASEAN’s global and regional efforts to maintain peace and stability through dialogue and cooperation are important, and the United Nations system stands ready to support your efforts.  We are grateful for ASEAN’s contribution of 5,000 peacekeepers to 10 United Nations peacekeeping operations.

Regarding the South China Sea, we appreciate ASEAN’s commitment and efforts to peaceful dispute resolution in conformity with international law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

With respect to Myanmar, it is my sincere hope that the recent elections enhance relations in the country and will help to create conditions to ensure that refugees can return to their homes in safety and dignity.  Unimpeded humanitarian access and greater efforts to address root causes remain crucial.  Accountability remains critical for reconciliation.

In the recent years, our comprehensive partnership has grown stronger than ever.  The United Nations fully supports the many ambitious ASEAN initiatives, and the new plan of action reaffirms our commitment to further scale up our technical cooperation and strengthen our partnership.

I again thank ASEAN for its commitment to the United Nations at this pivotal moment for humankind.

For information media. Not an official record.