Secretary-General António Guterres said the COVID-19 pandemic “is a threat, it is a problem,” but also an opportunity to "change in the right direction,” following the “blueprint” of the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals.
In a wide ranging-interview, just ahead of the unprecedented and mostly virtual General Assembly General Debate, Guterres outlined his priorities for the year ahead, with the unpredictable threat of the coronavirus that is still spreading, together with the opportunities that he sees to radically change course for the long-term benefit of all.
The Secretary-General said, “it is absolutely essential that a vaccine for COVID-19 be considered a global public good, a people's vaccine. And that we won’t have a competition of countries trying to get as many vaccines as possible for themselves and forgetting about those who have fewer resources.”
He said, “we need an affordable vaccine for everybody everywhere, because we will only be safe if everybody’s safe.”
On climate change, he said, “the objectives are clear. How can we reach them? We need a total commitment, especially of the big emitters, to all the transformational actions in energy, in agriculture in industry, in transportation, in all areas of our life, we need transformation actions that make it possible to reach those objectives.”
Guterres said, “we should stop spending money, taxpayers' money in subsidies to fossil fuels. We should massively invest in renewable energy because it's cheaper, it's most profitable. It's not only the right thing to do it is the best economic thing to do.”
On the role of young people, the Secretary-General said, “this very strong commitment of the young people to ideas like Universal Health Coverage; to ideas like climate action; to ideas like more justice and equality in our societies; gender equality, fight against racism. All these aspects show a very committed young people. That is the biggest hope I have in relation to our common future.”
Secretary-General António Guterres
He outlined the importance of women taking power for themselves, ending inequalities through a sea change in attitudes over discrimination, gender, disabilities and equal rights.
He said, “men must understand that it is in the interest of everybody, not only of women, to have gender equality and gender parity, because the world will be better. It is true we live in a male-dominated world with a male-dominated culture. That is why it is so important in the UN to reach parity. And we have done it at the top level, but we now need to do it everywhere. There is essentially a question of power.”
The UN chief reiterated the imperative of silencing the guns through a global ceasefire so the world can truly unite against the virus; building true solidarity through the global public good of a vaccine for all, available to all; and making sure the world keeps global warming below 1.5 degrees and achieves carbon neutrality through climate action, by 2050.
He said, “let's make sure that we have a global ceasefire. Let's make sure that we'll have a vaccine that is a global public good, and people's vaccine. And let's make sure that when we rebuild our economies, we do so to reach carbon neutrality in 2050.”