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SG/SM/20991
25 October 2021

Business-as-Usual Guarantees Future of Climate Chaos, Growing Threats to Peace, Secretary-General Tells General Assembly Meeting on ‘Our Common Agenda’

Following are UN Secretary‑General António Guterres’ remarks at the informal plenary meeting of the General Assembly on Our Common Agenda:

I am pleased to join you for this discussion on Our Common Agenda, building on the 12 commitments that you made in the UN75 declaration.

I have now had the opportunity to address you twice:  to launch the report, and during the high‑level week of the General Assembly.  I have also heard your preliminary reactions and those of your Heads of State and Government.

I know many of you share my sense of urgency regarding the state of our world.  We are reeling from the COVID‑19 pandemic and struggling to prevent a catastrophic collapse of the climate and biodiversity.  I am heartened by the broad agreement with my basic diagnosis:  that we are at a critical juncture, and that the choices we make today will determine whether we achieve a breakthrough in the form of a fairer and more sustainable future, or sleepwalk into breakdown and perpetual crisis.

The Common Agenda report aims above all to set us on the positive course.  The recommendations in Our Common Agenda can be grouped into four broad areas.  They call for renewed solidarity between peoples and future generations; a new social contract anchored in human rights; better management of critical issues of global concern like peace, the economy, health and our planet; and a United Nations that is upgraded so it can meet the challenges of a new era.

I have put these ideas to you not because I think they will be easy to agree upon or implement, but because I believe they are the right thing to do.  History will judge us if we do not rise to the challenges before us.  We already have roadmaps in place:  the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris Agreement.  But we know that progress in achieving the SDGs was already off track, and the pandemic has set it back even further.

Our Common Agenda aims to turbo‑charge work on the Sustainable Development Goals, so that we accelerate throughout the decade, taking into account the gaps and delays caused by the pandemic.  I am very encouraged by the strong and positive response I have already heard from Member States to Our Common Agenda. Some 50 leaders explicitly welcomed it during the General Debate, and many more echoed its broad themes in their interventions and in their meetings with me.

I was also heartened by the positive reception in the General Assembly on 10 September and again on 11 October.  Many of you have expressed your agreement with the report’s diagnosis that the COVID‑19 pandemic and the looming climate crisis have brought us to an inflection point.  You have echoed calls for a deepening of solidarity, and reinvigorated multilateralism with the United Nations at its centre and the Charter as our guide.  And you have welcomed the inclusive process we followed in harnessing ideas for the report.

I believe this provides lessons for how we at the United Nations consult in the future.  I have also heard from some delegations about their interest in some of the report’s proposals.  These include the renewal of the social contract to strengthen trust and social cohesion at the country level, and a Biennial Summit, at the level of Heads of State and Government, between the members of the G20 and the members of the Economic and Social Council, the Secretary‑General and the heads of the international financial institutions, to work towards a more sustainable, inclusive and resilient global economy.

Several delegations have expressed their support for a Global Digital Compact; a focus on young people and future generations; and new measures to rethink gross domestic product (GDP); address misinformation; and transform education.  Several have welcomed the proposed Summit of the Future in 2023, to forge a new global consensus on what our future should look like, and what we can do today to secure it.  The Summit of the Future would advance ideas for governance of global public goods and potentially other areas of common interest where improvements are urgently needed.

I am pleased that some of the ideas included in Our Common Agenda have already advanced.  The right to a healthy environment was recognized by the Human Rights Council two weeks ago.  There is also progress towards agreement on a global minimum tax for multinational enterprises.

Our Common Agenda includes some 90 specific proposals.  We are at the beginning of an important process.  Much work lies ahead for deliberation, consultations and to find a path forward.  Some of the report’s proposals are addressed to the United Nations system — including the Secretariat and agencies, funds and programmes.  We have begun internal planning to take these recommendations forward, and we will continue a close dialogue with Member States as we map out implementation over the coming weeks and months.

However, the majority of the proposals in Our Common Agenda are for Member States to consider and to act upon.  Indeed, the final decision on the way forward on Our Common Agenda will be determined by you, the Member States.  I am here to listen to you, and look forward to receiving your further guidance today, in subsequent General Assembly sessions, and through the various intergovernmental processes with oversight over the proposals.

You have already contributed in invaluable ways to the development of Our Common Agenda — through the roadmap you provided in the UN75 Declaration, and through your participation in the broad consultation process.  As we now turn our minds to implementation, I continue to count on your engagement, your good will and your support.

I sincerely hope you agree that this report deserves to be welcomed by the General Assembly.  As always, I am grateful for your guidance on the way forward.  Change takes courage.  But, as Our Common Agenda makes clear, business as usual will not mean that things will remain the same.  Business as usual guarantees a future of climate chaos, ecological degradation, social unrest, and growing threats to peace and security.

I hope together we can work to chart a more positive course.

For information media. Not an official record.