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UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres

UN chief seeks solutions to climate crisis, inequality

By Cecilia Ologunagba

New York, July 4, 2023

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres says the world has the power to seek solutions to climate crisis and growing inequality, noting that cooperation is key to addressing the challenges.

Guterres said in a statement on Tuesday that divisions were growing and geopolitical tensions rising as humanity faces major challenges where the world has the power to be united for solutions.

Guterres said this while addressing the Council of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), the world’s largest regional security body in terms of landmass and population.

SCO includes China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and new member Iran.

The UN has had a cooperation agreement with the Asia-focused SCO since 2010, which also partners with multiple UN agencies.

This year the summit is being hosted via videoconference by India.

The UN chief told Member States the growing divisions had been aggravated by different national and regional responses to global crises, differences over security threats, the consequences of COVID and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“But today’s global challenges, from the climate crisis to growing inequality and the governance of new technology, can only be resolved through dialogue and cooperation. And the only way that can happen is together.”

He said there were three main areas where he believes Member States could be united for solutions.

“First, the climate crisis. Unless humanity acts together, we are heading for disaster. We need to team up – and speed up,” he urged.

He cited his Climate Solidarity Pact aimed at big carbon emitters and developing countries, backing support for emerging economies.

“Climate action is the fight of our lives, and SCO members have an important role to play,” he emphasised.

Next, he said solutions needed to be forthcoming as the world sleepwalks “completely unprepared” into the new tech era.

Artificial Intelligence (AI), autonomous weapons, and bioengineering are three areas where our abilities to safely develop and regulate the industry and companies pioneering it “are falling far behind”.

To help forge international consensus on the rules, he cited the UN’s proposed Global Digital Compact to bring together governments, regional organisations, the private sector and civil society.

He said a new UN High-Level advisory group on Artificial Intelligence would be created.

“I am open to any initiative by Member States to create an international agency for AI,” he added.

“SCO members are global leaders in many of these areas and we count on your engagement and support.”

Thirdly, he reiterated the breakdown in trust within and between countries which has sparked rising inequality.

The pandemic only widened it, while saddling developing economies with too much debt and interest payments, swallowing up money that could have gone on climate action and sustainable development.

“The solution to unjust globalisation is not to reduce globalisation. It is to reduce injustice.

He called on States to work for fair globalisation, climate justice, and global finance reforms that bring equity and balance to both the Bretton Woods institutions and the Security Council.

“We are calling for deep reforms to make global frameworks more representative of developing and emerging economies, and more responsive to their needs.

“And I am also calling for an immediate SDG Stimulus to increase liquidity, reduce the debt burden on developing economies, and get the 2030 Agenda on track.”

He said at the national level, a strong focus was needed on social protection and jobs. A new social contract needs to be based on respect “for all human rights,” he added.

The SCO is well placed, he said, to advance peace and security in Eurasia and counter violent extremism and terrorism.

He welcomed the commitment of Afghanistan’s neighbours to a peaceful and united Afghanistan “with an inclusive broad-based Government”, following the 2021 Taliban takeover, which is returning the country to rule by religious fiat and totally undermined women’s rights.

He said Afghans needed “a Government that will safeguard the rights of all its people, particularly women and girls, and prevent the country from becoming a centre for terrorism and violent extremism”.

Guterres welcomed the SCO’s commitment to deepening cooperation with the UN and called for “strong engagement” from States ahead of the SDG Summit, Climate Ambition Summit and his planned Summit of the Future next year.

“Let us work together for global solutions that advance peace and security, sustainable development and human rights for all,” he said.

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