Secretary-General: Climate, Gender, Rising Inequality as Central to Implementing 2030 Agenda
Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks to the Second High-level United Nations Conference on South-South Cooperation in Buenos Aires, Argentina on 20 March:
I thank the Government and people of Argentina for hosting this Conference.
Forty years ago, the landmark international conference on South-South Cooperation resulted in the Buenos Aires Plan of Action for Promoting and Implementing Technical Cooperation among Developing Countries. Since then, the Buenos Aires Plan of Action, known as BAPA, has been the foundation and reference point for South-South cooperation, based on principles of national ownership, equality and non-conditionality.
BAPA transformed the dynamics of international cooperation. It highlighted the value of a different form of cooperation, based on the exchange of knowledge and appropriate technologies among nations facing similar development challenges. Across the global South, we have seen remarkable advances since BAPA. Thanks in part to South-South cooperation, millions of women, men and children have been lifted out of extreme poverty. Developing countries have achieved some of the fastest economic growth rates ever seen and have set global standards for sustainable development.
As we gather again in Buenos Aires, we recognize and celebrate the long journey we have walked together. But we also recognize our common challenges. Today, we are here to ensure that South-South cooperation remains responsive to the evolving realities of global development and the changing needs of developing countries as they implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. We have an opportunity to develop and strengthen frameworks for South-South cooperation; improve systems and tools; increase transparency; and strengthen accountability.
I see five issues that will be central to implementing the Paris Agreement on climate change and achieving the 2030 Agenda. South-South cooperation can offer solutions to all of
them. First, rising inequality both between and within countries is eroding trust and deepening a sense of injustice. Globalization has enabled many people to escape poverty — but its benefits are not shared equitably, and its costs fall disproportionately on the poor and vulnerable. Cooperation can enable developing countries to learn from each other and grow more quickly, close income gaps and build inclusive, resilient societies.
Second, climate change is the defining issue of our time, and we are losing the race. Two thousand and eighteen was the fourth-hottest year on record and natural disasters are impacting nearly every region. That is why I am bringing world leaders together at a climate action summit in New York in September. I am calling on leaders to bring concrete, realistic plans that raise ambition on mitigation, adaptation, finance and innovation. We must enhance nationally determined contributions by 2020, in line with reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 45 per cent over the next decade.
We need fundamental shifts to support green financing and increase investment in climate action from billions to trillions. The Green Climate Fund must become fully resourced and operational. And the pledge to mobilize $100 billion a year by 2020 for climate action in the developing world, including mitigation and adaptation, must be implemented.
South-South cooperation will be vital to ensure mutual support and exchange of best practices, to enhance adaptation and increase the resilience of developing countries and communities facing the devastating impacts of climate change. South-South cooperation can also support the transformation of economies dependent on fossil fuels with strategies that reinforce both sustainable development and environmental protection.
Third, infrastructure and energy needs are set to expand enormously, thanks to population growth and urbanization in the global South. Some 60 per cent of the area that is expected to become urban by 2030 has yet to be built. If we get this wrong, we will lock ourselves into a high-emissions future with potentially catastrophic consequences. But if we get infrastructure right, it will be an opportunity for development cooperation; industrial transition and growth; cross-border trade and investment; climate change mitigation and adaptation; and sustainable development.
Fourth, gender has been described as the docking station for the Sustainable Development Goals since it offers opportunities to engage on different cross-cutting issues. It must be at the heart of all efforts if we are to succeed. We have seen significant progress for women over the past 40 years. More girls are in school; more women are doing paid work. Harmful practices like female genital mutilation and child marriage are in decline. But this progress is not complete; indeed, we are seeing a pushback against our efforts and in some cases the gender equality gap is widening.
This affects us all because where women are better represented in politics, we see improved social protection and increased spending on development. When women have access to land and credit, harvests increase. When girls are educated, they contribute more to their communities and break cycles of poverty. And let’s not forget that countries with the highest number of women in parliament, in national security institutions, and as farmers, are indeed in the global South.
Fifth, the multilateral development system must be better positioned to support South-South cooperation and implement the 2030 Agenda. South-South cooperation has evolved significantly over the last decades — but multilateral institutions, including the United Nations, have not kept up. I am grateful to Member States for recognizing the role of the United Nations in the outcome document for this Conference. We will take up the mandates you are entrusting to us, and you can count on my personal commitment to make sure the ongoing reforms of the United Nations reinvigorate our support for South-South cooperation.
We also need to realign financing for sustainable development and unlock the trillions that will deliver the 2030 Agenda. South-South cooperation can never be a substitute for official development assistance or replace the responsibilities of the global North set out in the Addis Ababa Action Agenda and the Paris Agreement. South-South cooperation must also involve young people, civil society, the private sector, academia and others, building innovative partnerships and extending the reach of initiatives. It must harness the potential of new technologies and digitalization that create opportunities and promote inclusivity. South-South cooperation is a global exercise of all countries of the South to benefit everyone, including the least developed countries. Every country, every partner has something to share or teach, whatever their circumstances.
This Conference is a starting point. Later this year, over the course of a week in September, Heads of State will gather in New York for the Sustainable Development Goals Summit and the Climate Action Summit. They will discuss universal health coverage, financing sustainable development and the global partnership to support small island developing States.
All these meetings are aimed at accelerating implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the Paris Agreement, which were born from a consensus on the common interests that bind us together. Now is the time to stake out that common ground again and take bold and transformative action. Together, we can achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, we can beat climate change, and transform the lives of people around the world.