Sustainable Development Goals
Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks on Sustainable Development and Climate Change in Islamabad on 16 February:
It for me an enormous pleasure to start with this meeting on climate change, my first official visit as Secretary-General to Pakistan. For more than ten years, as High Commissioner for Refugees, I came many times to Pakistan. And in those ten years, I developed a love affair with the Pakistani people and with Pakistan itself.
And that love affair came from the extraordinary generosity and solidarity that the Pakistani people have shown, hosting millions of Afghan refugees, sharing with them its own resources, and independently of the impact, enormous impact on the economy, on the society, not to mention the impact of the Afghan crisis on the security of the country itself.
And I add humbly the possibility also to show my solidarity to Pakistani victims. I remember visiting parts of Kashmir during the earthquake. I remember [meeting] with those displaced by the conflict in the North. I remember being with those impacted by the floods and this very deeply felt solidarity has developed, as I said, a love affair with this country. And I feel that it is totally unfair that Pakistan is, as it was shown in a very eloquent way, is in the first line of negative impacts of climate change. It is not Pakistan that is creating climate change, of course there is a small contribution, but Pakistan is on the first line of the dramatically negative impacts of climate change.
And so I am pleased to be with you today to talk about sustainable development – and our common vision for the future we want – and the climate crisis, which is perhaps the gravest current obstacle to global peace, stability and prosperity.
Peace, prosperity, dignity and the realization of human rights for all people on a healthy planet – these are the objectives of the 2030 Agenda with its 17 time-bound Sustainable Development Goals.
Agreed by all United Nations Member States five years ago, the Sustainable Development Goals are an interlinked and an holistic blueprint to end poverty in all its forms and to build the kinds of societies that we will be proud to pass down to future generations.
The Goals cover the whole spectrum of human progress.
They target poverty, inequality, hunger and health.
They address key topics, such as the quality of the education, decent work, a just economy, gender equality.
They deal with climate change, with the oceans, biodiversity and the natural environment on which we all depend. And it makes natural solutions to be a central aspect of our strategy
And they promote justice, strong institutions and partnerships that will enable all countries to progress sustainably.
And let me emphasize “all countries”.
For the Sustainable Development Goals are relevant for every nation and every community.
No country can say that it has no inequality, or no urban poor being left behind, or no problems with pollution or climate change.
And no country can say that it is immune from the global forces that will affect its success.
Today’s challenges to sustainable development and human progress do not respect borders.
They are not confined to individual nations.
They demand collaborative answers that recognize that we all share the same planet and we need to cooperate across borders and sectors to realize our aspirations.
And I am pleased to say that Pakistan has embraced the Sustainable Development Goals from the start.
Back in 2016, Pakistan was among the first nations to integrate the SDGs into its national development agenda and recognize them as national development goals.
And, in 2018, Pakistan launched a national SDG framework to prioritize and localize the global goals throughout the country.
And, as with the Goals globally, poverty reduction is at the heart of Pakistan’s effort to leave no one behind.
A national poverty alleviation programme – titled Ehsaas, or compassion – has been launched to expand social protection and safety nets and to support human development.
A national youth development programme – titled Kamyab Jawan – is seeking to create 10 million jobs for young people in five years.
And stunting and malnutrition are down.
And the nation is seeing success in bringing down neonatal mortality, thanks in large part to the Lady Health Workers Programme, which has seen a significant increase in skilled birth attendants.
I am also encouraged by the country’s initiative this year to promote universal health coverage.
These are just some of the many actions being taken by Pakistan and other nations to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.
Everywhere, we can see progress – poverty and child deaths down; access to energy, education and decent work rising.
But whether we look at Pakistan or elsewhere, we can also say the pace of change is not yet fast enough.
In Pakistan, you are grappling with major challenges relating to HIV and polio, environmental degradation and providing education, skills and jobs for all in one of the youngest countries in the world.
And globally the story is similar.
We are off-track globally, especially in the areas of hunger, inequality, biodiversity and climate action.
Gender inequality – in business, in the home, in schools, in government, in the technology sector – is denying women and girls their rights and opportunities across the world.
And vulnerable populations – such as migrants, young people and persons with disabilities – remain at risk of being left behind.
Our collective efforts are not approaching the scale we need to deliver the SDGs by 2030.
In fact, by some estimates, we will only get half-way to our goals at the current pace.
For that reason, we have this year launched a Decade of Action to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.
With only 10 years left before the 2030 deadline, there is an urgent need to step up action.
And every nation, every community and every person can and must make a contribution.
The Decade of Action calls on governments, businesses, civil society and individuals everywhere to combine to create unstoppable momentum for the Goals.
The recipe is clear.
First, to mobilize everyone around a common effort.
Second to demand urgency and action, and to hold leaders to account.
And third, to supercharge ideas so that they become sustainable solutions. We need to identify what works and scale up solutions and investments so that we reach all the people on the planet.
In all of this, the mobilization of finance to fill the gap of some $2.5 to 3 trillion dollars a year is critical.
In a period where Official Development Assistance has been decreasing, together with private foreign investment in the developing world, it is absolutely essential that developed nations deliver on the commitments made in the Addis Ababa Action Agenda and the Paris Agreement.
On the other hand, it is important to support developing Member States in their capacity to mobilize domestic resources through improved governance and tax reforms.
But the success of national efforts also requires the international community to be more effective in clamping down on illicit financial flows, money laundering and tax evasion.
At the same time, we need innovative financial tools and help in de-risking private investment in the developing world to channel much stronger resources to achieve the SDGs.
Ladies and gentlemen,
I firmly believe we can be the generation that ends poverty and hunger and conquers injustice and inequality.
But it is not going to be easy.
We face multiple obstacles.
Geopolitical tensions are higher than they have been for years, and unpredictable changes in power relations in a chaotic world are placing a strain on the multilateral system that has largely kept the world safe for the past 75 years.
Global mistrust, due to growing inequality and unfair globalization, is growing – not only between nations but between peoples and their leaders.
We also have to address the challenges of the fourth industrial revolution and make sure we embrace the benefits while minimizing the risks posed to human rights and equity around the world.
Finally, and central to the discussion today, there is the climate emergency.
This is the threat that I believe is most grave and most urgent, yet is something I am convinced we can tackle, if only we can generate the political will and the unity we need to make a difference.
Climate disruption is a clear and present danger worldwide, but let us, for a minute, look at it through the lens of Pakistan.
Like other developing countries, Pakistan has contributed little to the problem yet faces disproportionate vulnerability because of it.
In the past decade, Pakistan has lost some 10,000 lives to climate-related disasters, including 1,200 who died due to a terrible heatwave in Karachi in 2015.
The Indus Valley is vulnerable to flooding, and low-lying coastal communities face the prospect of being swamped by rising sea levels.
And, currently the country is enduring a risk of a locust emergency, triggered by climate disruption.
Global warming is leading to global swarming.
But the biggest worry for Pakistan is water.
This is true for all the people of Central, South and East Asia who rely on the water towers of the Himalaya.
Pakistan’s smallholder farmers, who represent more than 40 per cent of the labour force, produce 90 per cent of the nation’s food supply and generate 75 per cent of the country’s export revenue.
They depend on rainfall and on irrigation from rivers fed by receding mountain glaciers.
In fact, 80 per cent of Pakistan’s water use is for agriculture.
And it is under threat.
Pakistan is one of the 15 most water-stressed countries in the world.
As temperatures rise and glaciers melt, Pakistan’s goals for reducing poverty and guaranteeing food security are put at risk.
And Pakistan is not alone. The same story is mirrored across the globe.
We see it in the droughts which threaten the Horn of Africa and the Sahel, and the wildfires that have caused so much suffering, most in Australia and the United States.
No country is immune.
That is why I am constantly urging global leaders to act on climate change before it is too late.
Sadly, after the success of the Paris conference in 2015, our momentum has stalled.
COP25 in Madrid was a disappointment.
Our planet is burning but too many decision makers continue to fiddle.
The only answer is decisive climate action – by governments, businesses and investors, mayors and governors, and citizens everywhere.
Gradual approaches are no longer enough.
At the next climate conference – COP26 in Glasgow – Governments must deliver the transformational change our world needs and that people demand, with much stronger ambition.
Ambition on mitigation, but also, as we see with the needs of Pakistan and many other developing countries, ambition on adaptation, and ambition on finance.
Every city, region, bank, pension fund and industry must completely reimagine how they operate.
Our goal must be to keep temperature rise to 1.5 degrees.
This is what the scientific community tells us is the only way to avert runaway climate change.
To do that, the world needs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 45 per cent from 2010 levels by 2030 and to reach net zero emissions by 2050.
The main obligation rests on the major emitters, and there is a map that shows that.
Those countries that contributed most to this crisis must lead the way, not least by phasing out coal and ending perverse fossil fuel subsidies.
But all countries can and must play a role.
I commend Prime Minister Imran Khan for highlighting climate change at the United Nations General Debate last September, and I congratulate Pakistan on becoming co-chair of the Green Climate Fund.
I also welcome the initiatives such as the “10 Billion Tree Tsunami” campaign and the government’s Clean and Green Pakistan Movement.
I have to say that I was extremely well impressed when I heard that Pakistan had decided that Islamabad was to abolish plastic bags, and that it will be the same everywhere.
Plastic pollution is today one of the central concerns that we have, especially for the protection of our oceans. Sometimes, people are a little bit reluctant of it, but for those that are reluctant, I have a solution here, which is to use bags like these that are non-plastic bags you get at the supermarket.
Such local initiatives are essential, and they should be reflected and supported across the planet where appropriate.
But ultimately, the answer to the global climate crisis will come from global solidarity backed by global action.
We are in a battle for our lives.
Our sustainable future is at stake.
But I firmly believe it is a battle that can be won.
Technology is on our side.
We have all the tools and knowledge we need to move from the grey economy to the green economy as it was seen in the slides.
We have the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.
We have the Sustainable Development Goals.
And we have the most engaged and mobilized generation of young people in history – a group that is simply not going to accept the current situation.
The history of humanity is one of progress. I believe the trajectory is inexorable.
So, as we look ahead to 2030, let us look ahead with optimism and determination knowing that we have overcome great challenges before, and we will surely do so again.
Secretary-General’s Remarks at Press Stakeout
With Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi
Islamabad, 16 February 2020
Secretary-General: It is a pleasure to be back in Pakistan – a country deeply committed to multilateralism and the United Nations.
This is my first visit as Secretary-General of the United Nations, but as High Commissioner for Refugees, I had the opportunity – I was fortunate — to be able to visit this country several times.
And as I said this afternoon in the conference on sustainable development and climate change, what I’ve seen — the generosity and solidarity with the Afghan people — has created a love affair between the [Pakistani] people and myself.
I would like to thank the Government of Pakistan and Prime Minister Imran Khan personally for inviting me, as well as Foreign Minister Qureshi for his strong support of the United Nations.
I have a full agenda, but there is a common thread to all my events and meetings here.
It is simply this: to recognize Pakistan’s outstanding generosity and solidarity over many decades and to highlight its place in confronting some of the biggest global challenges our world faces today.
I strongly believe it is time for the world to step back and look at Pakistan through a wider frame.
One of the main purposes of my visit is to spotlight the real Pakistan — with all its possibility and potential.
It is deeply rooted in Pakistani culture — from the vision of Muhammad Ali Jinnah … to the philosophy of Allama Iqbal … to the music of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan.
From the courageous example of Malala Yousafzai … to the giving spirit of Abdul Sattaar Edhi … to the visual artistry and advocacy of Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy.
And, of course, on better days, we also see it from the bats of the Pakistan cricket team — both the men’s and women’s teams, I might add!
Here in Pakistan, we see solidarity in action.
Pakistan is today the world’s second largest host of refugees – and for decades, it was the first.
I look forward to taking part tomorrow in a conference marking Pakistan’s four decades of support for Afghan refugees.
For 40 years, despite Pakistan’s own challenges, Pakistan has sheltered and protected Afghan refugees with limited support from the international community.
I can testify to this. Having served as High Commissioner for Refugees, I always found in Pakistan a reliable and generous partner.
One can only imagine how much worse the plight of Afghans would be, and how much more unstable the region might be, without Pakistan’s stellar example of hospitality and compassion.
The United Nations will continue to support Pakistan, and I call on other countries to support Pakistan and indeed show similar leadership in sharing this responsibility in this region and around the world.
As we look to issues of peace and security, the United Nations is profoundly grateful for the dedication and commitment of Pakistan’s peacekeepers.
Pakistan has consistently been one of the world’s top contributors to UN peacekeeping, with more than 4,000 men and increasingly women serving today in nine missions around the globe.
I also appreciate the Government’s strong support for the Action for Peacekeeping initiative, and for its commitment to continue to improve the effectiveness of our operations.
Foreign Minister Qureshi and I discussed regional security in South Asia.
With respect to Jammu and Kashmir, I am grateful for the work of the United Nations Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan. UNMOGIP will continue to monitor the ceasefire at the Line of Control in accordance with its mandate. And today I was happy I could inaugurate the new premises of their headquarters.
I am deeply concerned about the increase in tensions that we have witnessed last year.
I have repeatedly stressed the importance of exercising maximum restraint and taking steps to de-escalate, both militarily and verbally, while reiterating my offer to exercise my good offices, should both sides ask.
Diplomacy and dialogue remain the only tools that guarantee peace and stability, with solutions in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations and the resolutions of the Security Council.
Simultaneously, when we see situations of discontent and unrest, it is of utmost importance to ensure full respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.
Turning now to Afghanistan, I am following closely the important efforts to bring peace to the country.
Achieving a comprehensive settlement to the conflict is essential for saving lives and advancing sustainable development.
It is my hope that discussions will be productive in leading to a reduction in violence, especially violence that harms civilians. Reducing violence is critical to build confidence and support for a peace process that leads to a lasting political settlement and a permanent ceasefire.
Such conditions would contribute to enabling the peaceful return of displaced persons and refugees to their homes.
I want to reaffirm that the preferred, durable solution for refugees has always been voluntary repatriation in safety and dignity to their country of origin. This is also true for Afghan refugees.
Through its support to the ongoing peace efforts and building the necessary regional consensus, Pakistan continues to play a crucial role in realizing this potentially historic opportunity for peace.
The United Nations remains committed to supporting an inclusive and Afghan-led peace process that upholds the human rights of all citizens and leads to a sustainable peace in Afghanistan.
During my visit to Pakistan, I also look forward to visiting the newly opened Kartarpur Corridor connecting two key Sikh pilgrimage sites.
This is a welcome symbol of interfaith harmony, a unique experiment in cross-border ties, showing Pakistan’s commitment to peace.
The climate crisis is another key challenge of common concern — and once again, Pakistan is on the frontlines as one of the most vulnerable countries on the planet.
I welcome Pakistan’s ambition to take concrete action with the “ten billion tree tsunami” campaign and many other initiatives.
For my part, I will continue pressing for action to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees, which means to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.
It means more ambition by all – more ambition on mitigation, adaptation, resilience and finance. Major emitting countries and industrial sectors have a particular responsibility to lead the way.
And it means a successful UN Climate Conference – COP26 – later this year in Glasgow and I count on Pakistan’s strong commitment to that.
Finally, I would like to recognize Pakistan’s commitment to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the world’s framework for eliminating poverty, achieving gender equality, protecting the environment and building a fair globalization that works for all.
Pakistan was in the global lead in integrating the Sustainable Development Goals into its own national development agenda.
This is yet another example of the commitment and vision that we need to see more of around the world. I look forward to the rest of my visit and engaging with the leadership and people of Pakistan.
The United Nations family is strongly committed to helping the country advance prosperity and peace for all. Thank you.
Q and A:
Question: Excellency, my question, I will also ask, as Foreign Minister Qureshi has mentioned – I also refer to your statement of 8 August of last year, in which you reaffirmed the United Nations’ principled position on the Kashmir dispute. I wish to know what practical steps would you and your office take for the solution of this issue. And secondly, we are about one and a half months into the year 2020 and there have been more than 287 ceasefire violations along the Line of Control. I wish to know what’s stopping the United Nations to ensure that its military observers are given a hassle-free and free access to the Line of Control, as this may lead to a big conflict in the region. Thank you so much.
Secretary-General: Thank you very much. First of all, from the beginning, I have offered my good offices in relation to the situation, and of course, good offices can only work when accepted by both sides. On the other hand, I believe that there was an important contribution to clarifying what has happened by the report that was mentioned of the Human Rights High Commissioner. On the other hand, it is clear that we have taken a position about the need for Security Council resolutions to be implemented and for effective de-escalation and dialogue linked to that, with another very important condition, which is full respect for human rights and [fundamental] freedoms in Jammu and Kashmir.
In relation to the ceasefire, I visited UNMOGIP. We believe that UNMOGIP should have full freedom of movement; it has on the Pakistani side – we hope that this will also be achieved on the other side, and we will be strengthening its equipment capacity in order to better be able to implement its mandates.
Question: I am the correspondent from China, Xinhua news agency. And my question is, four Pakistani citizens have been infected by the novel coronavirus epidemic in China have already been cured and discharged three days ago. And as we know, Chinese government and people have been making an all-out effort to fight the global coronavirus disease, with notable outcomes. So how do you evaluate those measures? And in terms of the high, top leaders commanding and mobilization of the whole country, do you think that China offers a useful reference to the other countries and whole world in handling such a big public health threat? Thank you so much.
Secretary-General: First of all, in relation to the Pakistanis in China, I believe that the Government has been in close contact with the World Health Organization and that the government has acted in line with the principles defined by the World Health Organization in that regard. In relation to the situation in itself, it’s of course a huge challenge. I believe that the response has been a very strong and very impressive response. Obviously, in a situation as complex as this, it is always difficult to ave a quick solution. And the Chinese Government was the first to mention that there were a few limitations and the shortcomings. But I think that the effort that is in place is a gigantic effort. And we are very confident that efforts that that effort will allow for the progressive reduction of the disease.
Question: First of all, most welcome, Mr Secretary-General, to Pakistan. I am Faisal Raza Khan from 92 News. My question is that, as honourable Foreign Minister has said, would you agree to that early repatriation of Afghan refugees, vis-à-vis to the peace process? Do you think early repatriation would help a successful peace and reconciliation process in Afghanistan? Thank you.
Secretary-General: I think it’s very Important to respect the principles – I mean, the principles that have always been principles shared between the Government of Pakistan and the UNHCR, have been the principle of voluntary repatriation in safety and dignity. What we believe is this is the moment in which we need to create an important “pull effect” in Afghanistan, through peace and through reconstruction, the creation of jobs, the creation of opportunities, making the roadmap that was described by the Minister a roadmap to allow for a phased programme of return of the Afghans to be entirely successful. I think now, the biggest effort to be made is in Afghanistan, and I appeal to the international community to massively support Afghanistan, both to reach peace and then, based on peace, to do an effective reconstruction of the country to create the conditions for not only the well-being of the Afghan people in Afghanistan, but for the effective repatriation of refugees from Pakistan and Iran.
Question: Thank you so much, sir. Pakistan has lost billions of dollars fighting the war on terror, in an attempt to make this world a better place to live. And how do you see Pakistan’s effort to counter the menace of trans-national terrorism? And would you or your office play a role, an active role in convincing – because there are some countries who are not fully convinced at Pakistan’s efforts to counter the menace of terrorism, would your office be playing a role to convince or convey to those countries that, yes, Pakistan has done enough? How do you see that? Thank you.
Secretary-General: Well, I can testify, I came once to Islamabad and Islamabad was a military camp. And the Taliban was very close… the Pakistani Taliban were very close to Islamabad. They had overrun the Swat Valley and they were even a little bit further south. And I have to say that to be today in Islamabad, a family duty station for UN staff, and to compare with the past and to know what in between has been done in the territories that were FATA, and now, I believe, are integrated into Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and to see that administration is being put in place and to see that there is an intense program of development, that I believe that one has to recognize that the efforts that Pakistan has made to fight terrorism are absolutely remarkable and that they were very successful and everybody should support Pakistan to, I would say, consolidate these enormous efforts that I could witness myself. As I said, I’ve been here in the worst phase of the problem. And it’s very rewarding to come back and see how different these things are.
Question: Thank you. Mr. Secretary-General, there is another global issue that is Islamophobia and why the West fears Islam and the Muslims? And it is to be noted that Turkey, Iran, Pakistan and Malaysia have taken a joint initiative to counter this Islamophobia. We were there at UNGA when you also spoke about this in your speech in last year, UNGA session. How do you view these efforts? And what further support you will extend to this initiative by Pakistan?
Secretary-General: Well, Islamophobia is absolutely intolerable, as any other form of intolerance that we see today, be it against migrants or refugees that sometimes are attacked by populist politicians, or other forms of religious hatred of all kinds. So, it is for me absolutely evident that we need to fight Islamophobia very strongly. Hate speech is one of the most important instruments of Islamophobia. And we have launched recently, led by our Special Representative against genocide, we have launched a global UN initiative against hate speech, which I believe goes perfectly in line with the initiative that you have just mentioned. And at the same time, we are totally committed in our action around the world, to fight against all forms of populism that try to use Islamophobia and other forms of hatred as a tool to win votes, which is totally unacceptable. It is unacceptable that people try to win power dividing the people. This is against all democratic principles. And I think it’s our duty to preserve interfaith dialogue, to preserve harmony among religions. And I believe that my visit tomorrow to the corridor of Kartarpur will be the symbol of that dialogue and that tolerance.