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Antonio Guterres, Secretary General of the United Nations

UN Secretary General calls for global unity in face of ‘existential’ challenges

By Cecilia Ologunagba

New York, Aug. 25, 2023

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has emphasised the urgent need for unity and justice to tackle humanity’s pressing challenges, which range from the climate crisis to economic disparities and conflicts with global implications.

Guterres, who made the call at the just concluded BRIC Summit in Johannesburg, South Africa, commended the Rainbow Nation’s extraordinary path to unity through action and justice.

“That’s what our world needs: unity for action and unity for justice; we are confronting existential challenges,” he said in a statement.

The UN chief said the world needed unity for action to confront the challenges, drawing attention to worsening impacts of climate change and rising poverty, hunger and inequalities.

The BRICS group of world economies made up of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, which started in 2010, represents more than 40 per cent of the world’s population.

All BRICS member states are also members of the wider G20 bloc.

Guterres spotlighted the risks posed by emerging technologies without a comprehensive global framework, while also shedding light on the geopolitical divides and conflicts, especially the impacts stemming from the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The UN chief outlined the global shift towards a multipolar world, cautioning that multipolarity alone could not ensure a peaceful and just status quo.

He called for robust and effective multilateral institutions to support this shift.

Drawing parallels, he highlighted the lessons from the early 20th century when Europe’s multipolarity without strong multilateral mechanisms contributed to the start of the First World War.

“As the global community moves towards multipolarity, we desperately need – and I have been vigorously advocating for – a strengthened and reformed multilateral architecture based on the UN charter and international law,” Guterres said.

He pointed out that today’s global governance structures were established in the aftermath of World War Two, excluding many African countries that were still under colonial rule.

He stressed the necessity for these institutions to reflect contemporary power dynamics and economic realities.

The UN chief warned that without such reforms, fragmentation would become inevitable.

“We cannot afford a world with a divided global economy and financial system; with diverging strategies on technology including artificial intelligence; and with conflicting security frameworks,” he said.

Guterres went on to note that low-income countries, particularly in Africa, would bear the brunt of the impact of such a fracture.

“I have come to Johannesburg with a simple message: in a fracturing world overwhelmed by crises, there is simply no alternative to cooperation,” he said.

The secretary-general said that as an historic victim of slavery and colonialism, the continent continued to confront “grave injustices,” including economic disparities and rapid climate change.

He called for a redesigned global financial architecture and stepped-up climate action, highlighting his Climate Solidarity Pact and Acceleration Agenda.

“Developed countries must also finally keep their promises to developing countries: by meeting the 100 billion dollars goal, doubling adaptation finance, replenishing the Green Climate Fund, and operationalising the loss and damage fund this year,” he said.

Guterres concluded with a call for collective action, stressing that humanity will not be able to solve its common problems in a fragmented way.

“Together, let us work to advance the power of universal action, the imperative for justice, and the promise of a better future,” he said.

The BRICS Summit ended on Thursday with adoption of the Johannesburg II Declaration presented by the South African President Cyril Ramaphosa.

The BRICS members have committed to strengthening the framework of mutually beneficial BRICS cooperation under the three pillars of political and security, economic and financial, and cultural and people-to-people cooperation.

The member states have also committed to enhancing strategic partnership for the benefit of their people through the promotion of peace and a more representative and fairer international order.

BRICS, the collective of the world’s largest developing economies, is also committed to a reinvigorated and reformed multilateral system, sustainable development and inclusive growth.

The 94-point document adopted at the three-day summit that began on Aug. 22 focused mostly on economic issues and cooperation.

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