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UN Chief Guterres calls for effective multilateralism

By Deepak Arora

DAVOS, Jan 24: The world’s problems are “more and more integrated” but the response to them is increasingly “fragmented” and “dysfunctional”, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said on Thursday, in an appeal for governments and other partners to respond to people’s grievances and recommit to international cooperation.

In his “State of the World” address, delivered at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Guterres gave a comprehensive assessment of current global risks and challenges, while also noting “a wind of hope” for potential conflict resolution in the Central African Republic, South Sudan, Yemen and Syria.

Much greater solidarity is needed to counter the many challenges facing the world, he insisted, highlighting the “paralysis” of the UN Security Council on certain issues, and the fact that relations between the world’s three superpowers – China, Russia and the United States – had “never been as dysfunctional” as they are today.

In light of this “multipolar” situation, and the involvement of other States such as Iran, Turkey and Saudi Arabia in the Syrian conflict, Guterres called for greater involvement in multilateral organizations, suggesting that it was an absence of these mechanisms that had led to the First World War.

“If one looks at global politics and geo-political tensions, the global economy and megatrends including climate change, the movement of people and digitalization, the truth is that they are more and more interlinked… but the responses are fragmented,” he said, warning that “if these are not reversed, it’s a recipe for disaster”.

Climate change ‘running faster than we are’

Focusing on climate change as one of the key challenges facing the world, the UN chief insisted that “we are losing the race” to manage it.

“Climate change is running faster than we are,” he said, highlighting that even though the reality was “proving to be worse than what science has foreseen” as the world experiences ever-warmer temperatures, political will to do something about it was “slowing down”.

And in a context of continuing national subsidies for fossil fuel-burning industries, only limited carbon pricing and persistent climate change doubters, Guterres regretted the fact that this should be so, at a time when the “technology is on our side and when we see more and more the business community ready to respond in a positive way and the civil society more and more engaged”.

Economic dark clouds

Turning to the world’s economy, the UN chief noted that although global growth was “acceptable”, there were nonetheless “dark clouds on the horizon.”

These were being encouraged by trade disputes – which were “essentially a political problem”, he maintained – along with higher levels of debt than before the 2008-9 financial crisis.

Both issues prevented countries from responding to emerging crises and implementing major infrastructure projects that were necessary for sustainable development, Guterres explained, noting also a growing lack of trust with governments “and international organizations like ours”.

“If one looks at the shutdowns and the Brexit saga, there is a certain sense that political systems do not know exactly what to do when dealing with problems that have strong economic impacts,” he said. “That is a factor of lack of confidence and a factor of lack of confidence creates of increases instability in the markets.”

On globalization and technological progress, which had brought “fantastic improvements” to many, Guterres noted that these developments had increased inequality and marginalized millions, both within countries, and between them.

With disillusionment the result, and amid the mass movement of people in search of a better life or shelter, the UN Secretary-General insisted that although he firmly believed a coordinated and global response was the answer, more needed to be done to convince those who felt differently.

It's ‘not enough, to vilify populists and nationalists’

“It’s also not enough to vilify those that disagree with this and just consider them as nationalists or populists or whatever,” he said. “We need to understand the grievances and the root causes why large sectors of the population in different parts of the world disagree with us. And we need to address those root causes and we need to show these people that we care for them.”

Achieving this cannot be done by governments or international organizations alone, Guterres said, before calling for more space for other actors to get involved in a revived 21st century multilateral model.

“We need to work together. There is no way we can do isolated responses to the problems we face, they are all interlinked… It needs to be a multilateralism in which States are part of the system, but it needs more and more the business community, civil society, academia - they are all part of the world to analyze problems, to define strategies, to define policies and then to implement them.”

Key to show ‘added value’ of UN in surge for diplomacy

Among his other priorities, the UN Secretary-General underlined his wish to show the “added value” of the United Nations.

He pointed to the recent meeting on climate change in Katowice, Poland, where Member States agreed on the basis to move forward on the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change, at which parties undertook to limit global temperature increase to 1.5 C.

“Everybody thought that Katowice would be a failure; it was not,” he said. “We managed to approve the work programme of the Paris Agreement. We need more ambition… but it was possible to bring together countries that were in a totally different position to at least agree on the basis to move forward.”

On Yemen, he insisted that the UN was pushing for a “surge in diplomacy for peace” after a first ceasefire accord was signed in Sweden at the end of last year, while “many other situations have been improving in recent times” he said, including South Sudan and Ethiopia.

“We are there, we are doing things that are necessary, and nobody can replace the United Nations in this way,” Mr. Guterres said, adding that the UN was still responsible for distributing more than half the aid in the world today.

UN platform to repair broken trust in a broken world: António Guterres

By Deepak Arora

UNITED NATIONS, Jan 18: Warning against the dangers of widespread fear and mistrust in our planet, the United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres, told journalists on Friday he wants to reaffirm the UN as a “platform for action to repair broken trust in a broken world.”

“The best-selling brand in our world today is indeed fear,” stated Mr. Guterres. “It gets ratings. It wins votes. It generates clicks,” he added, during the press conference, held at UN headquarters in New York.

“I believe the biggest challenge that governments and institutions face today is to show that we care – and to mobilize solutions that respond to people’s fears and anxieties with answers, with concrete answers,” he explained.

The Secretary-General was speaking two days after presenting his areas of action for the UN for 2019 to the 193 Member States, who, he said, widely responded to his remarks by highlighting the importance of multilateralism.

“As we look to the challenges we face – from climate change to migration to terrorism to the downsides of globalisation – there is no doubt in my mind that global challenges require global solutions,” he noted. “No country can do it alone. We need multilateralism more than ever.”

The UN chief noted that “dismissing or vilifying the doubters of multilateralism will lead nowhere,” and insisted on the importance of understanding why “many people around the world are not convinced of the power and purpose of international cooperation.”

Citing the fact that, in the process of globalisation and technological progress, many people, sectors, and entire regions were left behind, he explained the UN needs to focus on addressing the root causes of this widespread mistrust, anxiety, anger and fear, over three key areas of work: accelerating sustainable development, strengthening the added value of the United Nations through reform, and engaging societies to put an end to the rise of hate speech, xenophobia and intolerance.

“We hear troubling, hateful echoes of eras long past. Poisonous views are penetrating political debates and polluting the mainstream,” warned Guterres, as he stressed the need to remember the lessons of the 1930s and the Second World War.

“Hate speech and hate crimes are direct threats to human rights, sustainable development and peace and security,” he said.

Stressing that “words are not enough,” the UN Secretary-General announced he has tasked his Special Adviser for the Prevention of Genocide, Adama Dieng, to bring together a team to develop a UN-wide strategy and urgent global plan of action against hate speech and hate crimes.

Guterres stated that his “absolute priority for 2019” is to make sure the United Nations is a “platform for action to repair broken trust in a broken world and deliver for people”.

Following his opening remarks, the Secretary-General answered questions from members of press on various issues handled by the UN, including the situation in Venezuela, in Syria, and in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the plight of migrants and refugees worldwide, recent uncertainty around the elections in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as well as UN funding challenges.

UNSC condemns attacks on Afghan security forces

By Deepak Arora

UNITED NATIONS, Jan 3: The United Nations Security Council has condemned “in the strongest terms” a series of coordinated attacks aimed at security checkpoints in northern Afghanistan which took place on Monday night, killing at least 27 and wounding dozens of others

According to news reports, the assaults were carried out by Taliban extremists in the provinces of Sar-e-Pul and Balkh, striking security forces in three areas; the centre of Sayad District, along a road linking Sar-e-Pul to Jowzjan, and a village where oil wells are situated.

“The members of the Security Council expressed their deepest sympathy and condolences to the families of the victims and to the Government of Afghanistan and they wished a speedy and full recovery to those who were injured”, said a statement issued on Thursday.

Council members “reaffirmed that terrorism in all its forms and manifestations constitutes one of the most serious threats to international peace and security”, and underlined the need “to hold perpetrators, organizers, financiers and sponsors of these reprehensible acts of terrorism accountable and bring them to justice.”

They called on all States “to cooperate actively with the Government of Afghanistan and all other relevant authorities” to help end the cycle of violence in the country.

The attacks on New Year’s Eve came a day after the announcement by Afghan electoral authorities of a new date for planned presidential elections, which had been scheduled to take place on April 20. Elections will now be held in July this year.

In a statement, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, UNAMA, said that “the United Nations understands that the new date announced by the Independent Election Commission follows consultations with a broad range of political actors, civil society organizations, and the Government of Afghanistan, all of whom have expressed the strong desire for a credible and transparent presidential election.”

“The United Nations acknowledges the IEC’s assessment that additional time is needed in order to learn from the 2018 parliamentary elections and adequately prepare”, said UNAMA.

When international cooperation works, the world wins: UN chief Guterres

By Deepak Arora

UNITED NATIONS, Dec 28: Last year, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres issued “a red alert” over a range of dangers confronting the world, which “still persist” as 2019 looms. “These are anxious times for many, and our world is undergoing a stress test,” the UN chief said on Saturday in his message for the New Year.

He reiterated one of his clarion calls during 2018 over climate change, saying that it was still “running faster than we are,” and that deepening geo-political divisions are making conflicts more difficult to resolve.

Record numbers of people are moving in search of safety and protection, inequality is growing and “people are questioning a world in which a handful of people hold the same wealth as half of humanity,” he said.

Moreover, he stated that intolerance was on the rise while trust is declining.

“But”, Mr. Guterres continued, “there are also reasons for hope”, notably in Yemen where breakthrough talks have created an opportunity at least, for peace.

The Secretary-General also cited the September agreement signed in Riyadh between Ethiopia and Eritrea, which has eased long-running tensions and brought improved prospects to an entire region as cause for optimism.

Likewise, he pointed to the agreement between warring parties in South Sudan which has revitalized chances for peace, “bringing more progress in the past four months than in the previous four years.”

The UN was also able to bring countries together in Katowice, Poland, to agree on a programme to implement the Paris Agreement on climate change.

“Now we need to increase ambition to beat this existential threat,” asserted Mr. Guterres. “It’s time to seize our last best chance” and “stop uncontrolled and spiraling climate change.”

In recent weeks, the UN also oversaw landmark global agreements on migration and refugees, “that will help to save lives and overcome damaging myths.”

And people everywhere are mobilizing behind the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which he called “our global blueprint for peace, justice and prosperity on a healthy planet.”

“When international cooperation works, the world wins”, the UN chief stressed.

He maintained that in 2019, the UN “will continue to bring people together to build bridges and create space for solutions” , keeping up the pressure for change.

“As we begin this New Year, let’s resolve to confront threats, defend human dignity and build a better future – together,” concluded the Secretary-General, wishing the world a peaceful, prosperous and healthy 2019.

UN chief calls for ‘credible’ probe into Jamal Khashoggi murder

DOHA, Dec 16: UN chief Antonio Guterres called Sunday for a “credible” probe into journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s murder in Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul.

“It is absolutely essential to have a credible investigation and to have the punishment of those that were guilty,” Guterres said at a conference in Doha.

The UN chief said he had no information on the case except what had been reported in the media.

Khashoggi, a Saudi contributor to the Washington Post, was killed on October 2 shortly after entering the kingdom’s consulate in what Riyadh called a “rogue” operation.

Saudi Arabia has repeatedly rejected Turkish demands to extradite suspects connected to the murder of the journalist, a critic of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Turkey’s foreign minister said Saturday that his country would “not give up” on establishing the truth about the murder.

“We haven’t received any new information or outcome of the investigation from the Saudi side,” Mevlut Cavusoglu said, also in Qatar which has been the target of a Saudi-led boycott since June 2017.

“Turkey will not give up on this, we will go to the end.” Earlier this month, the minister said Turkey was in talks over a possible United Nations investigation into the killing which has provoked global outrage.

According to Turkey, a 15-member Saudi team was sent to Istanbul to kill Khashoggi, a palace insider turned critic of the regime.

Riyadh has since detained 21 people over the murder.

Despite speculation that the powerful crown prince ordered the hit, the kingdom has strongly denied he was involved.

The murder has damaged Riyadh’s international reputation, and Western countries including the United States, France and Canada have placed sanctions on nearly 20 Saudi nationals.

 

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