FROM THE UN SECRETARY-GENERAL
Secretary-General: Amid Widening Fault Lines, Broken Relations
among Great Powers, World ‘in Turmoil’
Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks to the Paris Peace Forum, in Paris on 11 November:
I am pleased to be back at the Paris Peace Forum and to open its second session in this magnificent Great Hall. The immediate success of this event illustrates the wish and the need for new reflections on international governance.
A year ago, on the hundredth anniversary of the First World War Armistice, we talked about the course of history and its inevitable lessons. Of course, in comparison with the horrifying conflicts of the last century, the current situation might seem more peaceful. But we are still far from the “Perpetual Peace” described by the great thinkers of the Enlightenment. The reality on the ground is much more chaotic and uncertain.
The Sahel, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan, around the world, conflicts persist, causing suffering and uprooting people. Our world is in turmoil. It is no longer bipolar or unipolar, but it is not yet truly multipolar. Balances of power are constantly shifting.
Often, we are not seeing wars between sovereign States, but asymmetrical conflicts in which States are facing non-State groups. With the growing interference of third parties, these conflicts rapidly take on a regional dimension.
At the same time, relationships between the major Powers are more dysfunctional than ever. As we’ve seen, this has very unfortunate consequences in the Security Council, which regularly finds itself paralysed. And even when the Council does act, external interference makes implementing its resolutions even harder.
Take the Libyan arms embargo. Everyone is flouting it, and nobody is even trying to deny that fact. National and regional tensions are spreading. Conflicts are becoming more and more interdependent and increasingly linked to a new form of global terrorism.
The impact of the Libyan conflict on the Sahel and the Lake Chad region is a sad illustration of this. To this is added the threat of nuclear proliferation, which, far from disappearing, is making a worrying comeback. Prevention is thus more essential than ever.
We must address the underlying causes and prevent the increase of tensions and the eruption of new conflicts. This will only be possible through multilateralism.
These ideas underpin the reforms that I have initiated at the United Nations. They are about putting crisis prevention and mediation at the heart of our activities, and developing a framework to combat violent extremism and strengthen international peace and security, in close cooperation with regional organizations like the African Union and the European Union. Against this backdrop, I’d like to highlight five global risks, or widening fault lines.
First is the emerging risk of an economic, technological and geostrategic fault line opening up. We could end up with a planet split in two, with the two largest economies creating two separate and competing worlds, each with its own dominant currency, trade and financial rules, its own Internet, its own development of artificial intelligence and its own geopolitical and military strategies, in a zero-sum game.
We must do everything possible to avert this Great Fracture and preserve a global system: a universal economy with respect for international law; a multipolar world with solid multilateral institutions. For this, we absolutely must have a strong and united Europe, as a fundamental pillar of a multilateral order based on the rule of law and respect for fundamental freedoms.
As a former European Head of government, I know that this is not always easy. But, as Secretary-General of the United Nations, I also know that the European Union represents a beacon of hope, and that its failure would contribute enormously to the failure of multilateralism.
At the same time, at the national level, we see a widening fault line in the social contract. We are witnessing a wave of protests all across the world. While the situations are all unique, they have two features in common.
First, we are seeing a growing deficit of trust between people and political institutions and leaders. The social contract is under threat. We are also seeing the negative effects of globalization which, coupled with advancing technology, is deepening inequalities in society.
People are suffering and want to be heard. They want equality. They are calling for social and economic systems that work for everybody. They want their human rights and
fundamental freedoms to be respected. They want to have a say in the decisions that affect their lives. When this is not the case, the feeling of exclusion can lead to revolt.
Governments have a duty to respect freedom of expression and of peaceful assembly. I am concerned by the fact that some demonstrations have resulted in violence and loss of human life. Everyone must exercise restraint and prioritize dialogue. We must respond to this deep and widespread discontent with a new social contract, one that is inclusive and equitable. Young people should be able to live in dignity. Women should have the same prospects and opportunities as men.
How can we explain to our children that, if we keep up the current pace, it will take us another two centuries to reach economic equality between men and women? The sick, the vulnerable and those living with a disability should be protected.
A peaceful and stable society is only possible when there are equal opportunities for all and respect for the rights and freedoms of all. This is the road map for the Sustainable Development Goals and the 2030 Agenda adopted by the General Assembly: globalization that is sustainable and inclusive.
And this should be at the heart of our reflection on new models for global governance. It is only through everyone’s full participation that we will rebuild people’s trust in the democratic system. If we fail to tackle these inequalities, they open up a third fault line: a solidarity gap.
As we know, this type of social environment leads to the all-too-familiar phenomenon of people turning inward. And it is the most vulnerable — minorities, refugees, migrants, women and children — who are the first to suffer in these circumstances.
Fear of foreigners is being used for political ends. Intolerance and hatred are becoming commonplace. People who have lost everything are being blamed for all the world’s ills.
This exacerbates the polarization of political life and the risk of divided societies. Let us return to reason. Let us not yield to populist rhetoric. Let us never accept racism, xenophobia or discrimination. Let us reach out.
Instead of short-term political calculations that sow discontent and division, let us show daring and political courage. Diversity is not a threat but an asset.
To ensure success, let us invest in social cohesion, so that every community feels that its identity is respected and that it can fully participate in society as a whole. In parallel, let us strengthen international cooperation.
We must combat human trafficking and the smugglers who are getting rich at the expense of desperate women and men. We must also build on the first-ever Global Compact on Migration, adopted last December. There is an urgent need to re-establish the integrity of the refugee-protection regime, and fulfil the promises set out in the Global Compact on Refugees.
These human migratory flows will probably increase in the coming years — which brings me to the fourth fault line: the one between people and planet. Let us not mince words: the climate crisis is a race against time for the survival of our civilization, a race that we are losing.
Though this danger is, alas, still not obvious to some, it’s a reality for many whose environment is becoming uninhabitable. We are seeing temperature records broken, one after another. We are seeing icecaps recede and deserts expand. We are witnessing ever-more unpredictable and destructive storms. I have seen, with my own eyes, the devastation in Dominica, Mozambique and the Bahamas.
The proliferation of these extreme phenomena is displacing populations and contributing to the destabilization of whole countries and to local conflicts. The Sahel and Afghanistan are sad examples. And that is just the beginning.
If we fail to act now, history will remember that we had all the means needed to fight back, but that we chose to do nothing. Our children and grandchildren will remember that we didn’t listen to them, and that we sacrificed their future for fake short-term profit. But it is not too late. Solutions exist.
This is why we organized the Climate Action Summit. To act without delay, and with greater ambition. The Paris Agreement must be implemented. But the road map established by the scientific community is clear: we must reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by 45 per cent by 2030; achieve carbon neutrality by 2050; and limit the global temperature increase to 1.5°C by the end of the century.
Even if the Paris commitments were fully met, and they are not, it would not be enough to set us on that path. Governments should not only honour their national contributions, but increase them as soon as possible. This will start at COP25 [twenty-fifth Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change], at the end of this year in Madrid.
It is high time to put a price on carbon and stop subsidizing fossil fuels with taxpayers’ money. How can it make sense to reward the pollution that is killing millions of people? The time has come to tax carbon rather than incomes. It is the polluters who should pay.
Technological progress is on our side. I see many investors and businesses adopting sustainable and lucrative development models. It’s the lack of political will that worries me deeply. Developed countries should also keep their promise to mobilize, between now and 2020, $100 billion each year from public and private sources for developing countries.
The $9.8 billion promised two weeks ago at the Green Climate Fund pledging conference sends out an important signal. We have about a decade left to act. Let’s not waste any more time.
Lastly, we are all seeing the emergence of a fifth fault line: a technological divide. New technologies, of course, hold fantastic potential. A new world is opening up for us. As we will see during the Forum, new technologies represent a tool for peace and for the sustainable development of societies. But these very technologies can also increase risk and accelerate inequalities. Entire sectors of the labour market are disappearing.
And although new opportunities are emerging, the jobs created are not the same. To avoid exclusion, we must therefore put in place a long-term education strategy that integrates lifelong learning of new technologies.
We must no longer simply learn, but learn how to learn, while setting up innovative social protection mechanisms so that no one is left behind. Technology must be a vehicle for social progress and reducing inequalities.
At the same time, hate speech and the manipulation of information are spreading. New forms of surveillance, including surveillance by private entities, are becoming more widespread. Traditional regulation is not working. Lawmakers are unable to keep up with Moore’s Law.
For this reason, I wish to make the United Nations a place in which Governments, companies, researchers and civil society can meet to define together the red lines and best practice rules.
The report of the High-level Panel on Digital Cooperation illustrates this multi-stakeholder vision, and can guide our joint efforts. The annual Internet Governance Forum is an important occasion, and I know that some of you will be joining me in Berlin at the end of the month. The Paris Call, adopted at the Forum last year, is another step in this direction.
I have also launched a United Nations-system-wide strategy to tackle online hate speech. The task is an unrelenting one. With the adoption of the General Data Protection Regulation, the European Union is setting an example and inspiring similar measures elsewhere in the world.
The European Union must continue to shape the digital age and be at the forefront of technological regulation. Because cybercrime thrives in a poorly regulated or unregulated environment. Disinformation campaigns, orchestrated very cheaply, can reach the furthest side of the world. Cyberattacks can paralyse entire countries or companies.
And a new arms race — the cyberarms race — is already under way. The danger is that the next war will be triggered by a massive cyberattack. Tomorrow, killer robots could take the place of soldiers. We must ban all autonomous weapons. Machines that have the power and discretion to kill without human intervention are politically unacceptable and morally despicable.
How is it imaginable that technological “progress” could lead to regression in human rights? We should instead be ensuring that artificial intelligence is used to guarantee that everyone can live in dignity, peace and prosperity. The world is breaking apart. The status quo is untenable.
What country is capable of bridging these fault lines in isolation, separately from the rest of the world? None. We need a universal system that respects international law and is organized around strong multilateral institutions. We need more international solidarity, more multilateralism.
But this multilateralism needs to adapt to the challenges of today and tomorrow. That is why I have launched reforms to make the United Nations more effective and agile. We must think in terms of networked multilateralism, close to the people. We need to work hand in hand with regional organizations, but also with international financial institutions, development banks and specialized agencies.
That is why in the Sahel we cooperate with Governments, the African Union, Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the G5 Sahel, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the African Development Bank, the Sahel Alliance, donor countries and many others to address security and development issues in a coordinated and integrated manner.
However, international cooperation cannot be limited to institutional actors alone. The projects presented here are all arguments in favour of inclusive multilateralism, with the full
participation of civil society, including young people, business, academic and philanthropic circles.
The climate issue is an example of this. Last month, I was in Copenhagen for the C40 world summit of mayors committed to taking climate action. Cities account for 70 per cent of emissions. Concerted action with local partners is therefore vital.
Looking to the future, the Sustainable Development Goals require extraordinary investment. For example, I have brought together the Global Investors for Sustainable Development Alliance, which includes 30 influential investors pledging to raise thousands of billions of dollars together over the next two years.
Why? Because they know that investing in sustainable development is not only ethical but also profitable. But, as we will see throughout the Forum, the same approach applies to many other issues. For example, the Digital Peace Now campaign aims to respond to the increase in cyberattacks by encouraging world leaders to make cyberspace safer.
I am also pleased that tomorrow will mark the inauguration of the French hub of the International Gender Champions network, launched in Geneva in 2015, and of which I am honoured to be a member. I strongly believe that gender inequality is first and foremost a power issue, and that it is vital to make equality between women and men a professional reality.
That is why immediately after assuming the leadership of the United Nations, I put in place a strategy to achieve parity well before 2030. That goal has already been achieved in the Senior Management Group and among the Resident Coordinators.
Women’s participation in peace processes is equally essential. Resolution 1325 (200) on women, peace and security must be implemented, and good intentions must be translated into action. This vision of inclusive cooperation is at the heart of the reflection we are launching for the seventy-fifth anniversary of the United Nations.
Throughout 2020, a dialogue open to citizens from all over the world will gather ideas to address challenges and encourage collective action. The results will be presented to world leaders at the seventy-fifth session of the General Assembly. I invite you to participate actively in this dialogue so that this anniversary breathes new life into multilateralism.
Only a sustained strategic vision will enable us to solve challenges that are interdependent and long-term. Fighting the climate crisis also means fighting for peace and social
cohesion. Expanding access to technology also means contributing to gender equality. Preventing conflicts also means facilitating fair and sustainable development.
We have proven in the past that we are able to come together, to rise to the occasion. Victor Hugo said that those who live are those who fight. So, let us fight, fight and not give up. I thank you for your commitment and wish you well in your work.