The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need for global solidarity and greater international cooperation, and must be turned into an opportunity for fundamental change, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said in a keynote address to the Nobel Peace Prize Forum on Friday.
The event was held the day after the UN World Food Programme (WFP) officially received the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize for its lifesaving work assisting millions of hungry people across the globe.
No going back
The Nobel discussion focused on multilateralism and global governance in the aftermath of the pandemic, which has affected practically every corner of the planet.
The ever-growing economic and social fallout means the world is facing the biggest global recession in 80 years, rising levels of extreme poverty, and looming famine.
The Secretary-General called for a “reset”.
“We cannot respond to this crisis by going back to what was, or withdrawing into national shells. We need more international cooperation and stronger international institutions,” he stated.
Vaccines for all
Nearly a year has passed since COVID-19 first emerged in China. More than 68 million cases have been reported globally, including some 1.5 million deaths, according to latest data from the World Health Organization (WHO).
Although countries are facing a common enemy, the Secretary-General said they have not mounted a joint response, and even competed against each other for essential supplies and frontline workers.
“We cannot let the same thing happen for access to new COVID-19 vaccines, which must be a global public good”, he stressed.
Peace on the battlefield, and in the home
Mr. Guterres used the speech to reiterate policies he has pressed for throughout the crisis.
Just days after the pandemic was declared, the Secretary-General issued an appeal for a global ceasefire, urging warring parties to “silence the guns” and focus on fighting the virus.
“I am encouraged by the support this call has received – and by the positive response by governments to my call for peace in homes around the world and an end to violence against women and girls”, he said.
Looking beyond the pandemic, the UN chief saw other areas for global concern, and thus the need for greater global cooperation and governance.
Signs of hope
Addressing the climate emergency, the Secretary-General spoke of humanity’s “suicidal war on nature”, but he also pointed to “signs of hope”, such as the growing coalition of people pushing for action. Meanwhile, more than 100 countries have committed to achieve carbon neutrality in the next three decades.
On Friday, the 27 Member States of the European Union (EU) announced that they had reached agreement to raise their target for CO2 emissions cuts, to 55 per cent by 2030, up from 40 per cent, putting the EU on track to net-zero by 2050.
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“Every country, city, financial institution and company should adopt plans for transitioning to net zero emissions by 2050”, said Mr. Guterres. “I encourage the main emitters to lead the way by taking decisive decisions now.”
This year also marks the UN’s 75th anniversary, and Mr. Guterres has been engaging governments, civil society, thought leaders, and others, on how to “reinvigorate” multilateralism.
He called for countries to address the inequalities at the foundation of global power relations, in efforts towards achieving a more inclusive and fairer world.
“Multilateral cooperation should be firmly based on the universal values of community, solidarity, equality and humanity; recognizing the fundamental human rights of all and providing opportunities for all,” he said.