Category Archives: Statements from the UN Secretary-General

UN Secretary-General’s Message on World AIDS Day, 1 December 2018

Thirty years after the first World AIDS Day, the response to HIV stands at a crossroads. Which way we turn may define the course of the epidemic—whether we will end AIDS by 2030, or whether future generations will carry on bearing the burden of this devastating disease.

More than 77 million people have become infected with HIV, and more than 35 million have died of an AIDS-related illness. Huge progress has been made in diagnosis and treatment, and prevention efforts have avoided millions of new infections.

Yet the pace of progress is not matching global ambition.  New HIV infections are not falling rapidly enough. Some regions are lagging behind, and financial resources are insufficient. Stigma and discrimination are still holding people back, especially key populations— including gay men and other men who have sex with men, sex workers, transgenders, people who inject drugs, prisoners and migrants—and young women and adolescent girls.  Moreover, one in four people living with HIV do not know that they have the virus, impeding them from making informed decisions on prevention, treatment and other care and support services.

There is still time — to scale-up testing for HIV; to enable more people to access treatment; to increase resources needed to prevent new infections; and to end the stigma.  At this critical juncture, we need to take the right turn now.

UN Secretary-General’s Remarks on International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, 19 November 2018

I am very pleased to be with you to discuss this essential topic.

Violence against women and girls is a global pandemic.

It is a moral affront to all women and girls and to us all, a mark of shame on all our societies, and a major obstacle to inclusive, equitable and sustainable development.

At its core, violence against women and girls in all its forms is the manifestation of a profound lack of respect – a failure by men to recognize the inherent equality and dignity of women.

It is an issue of fundamental human rights.

The violence can take many forms – from domestic violence to trafficking, from sexual violence in conflict to child marriage, genital mutilation and femicide.

It is an issue that harms the individual but also has far-reaching consequences for families and for society.

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UN Secretary-General’s Message on World Tsunami Awareness Day, 5 November 2018

Tsunamis are rare but devastating.  I saw this first-hand during my recent visit to Sulawesi, Indonesia, shortly after the earthquake and tsunami of 1 October.  More than 2,000 people died and thousands more were harmed or displaced.

As well as struggling to deal with the losses and trauma, the people of Sulawesi will need to recover from the economic losses caused by this disaster.  Reducing economic losses is a key target of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction and is vital for eradicating extreme poverty.

Over the past two decades, tsunamis have accounted for almost 10 per cent of economic losses from disasters, setting back development gains, especially in countries that border the Indian and Pacific Oceans.

World Tsunami Awareness Day is an opportunity to emphasize again the importance of disaster prevention and preparedness, including early warning, public education, science to better understand and predict tsunamis, and development that takes account of risk in seismic zones and exposed coastal areas. [Ends]

 

UN Secretary-General’s Message on the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists, 2 November 2018

In just over a decade, more than a thousand journalists have been killed while carrying out their indispensable work. Nine out of ten cases are unresolved, with no one held accountable.

Female journalists are often at greater risk of being targeted not only for their reporting but also because of their gender, including through the threat of sexual violence.

This year alone, at least 88 journalists have been killed.

Many thousands more have been attacked, harassed, detained or imprisoned on spurious charges, without due process.

This is outrageous. This should not become the new normal.

When journalists are targeted, societies as a whole pay a price.

I am deeply troubled by the growing number of attacks and the culture of impunity.

I call on Governments and the international community to protect journalists and create the conditions they need to do their work.

On this day, I pay tribute to journalists who do their jobs every day despite intimidation and threats. Their work – and that of their fallen colleagues — reminds us that truth never dies. Neither must our commitment to the fundamental right to freedom of expression.

Reporting is not a crime.

Together, let us stand up for journalists, for truth and for justice. [Ends]

You may download the Secretary-General’s video message at: https://bit.ly/2SxOufZ

 

UN Secretary-General’s Message for World Cities Day, 31 October 2018

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Paris Agreement on climate change, the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction and the New Urban Agenda together provide a roadmap for a more sustainable and resilient world.  How our cities develop will have significant implications for realizing the future we want.

This year’s World Cities Day focuses on resilience and sustainability.  Every week, 1.4 million people move to cities.  Such rapid urbanization can strain local capacities, contributing to increased risk from natural and human made disasters.  But hazards do not need to become disasters.  The answer is to build resilience — to storms, floods, earthquakes, fires, pandemics and economic crises.

Cities around the world are already acting to increase resilience and sustainability.  Bangkok has built vast underground water storage facilities to cope with increased flood risk and save water for drier periods.  In Quito, the local government has reclaimed or protected more than 200,000 hectares of land to boost flood protection, reduce erosion and safeguard the city’s freshwater supply and biodiversity.  And in Johannesburg, the city is involving residents in efforts to improve public spaces so they can be safely used for recreation, sports, community events and services such as free medical care.

On World Cities Day, let us be inspired by these examples.  Let us work together to build sustainable and resilient cities that provide safety and opportunities for all.

UN Secretary-General’s Message for World Food Day, 16 October 2018

In our world of plenty, one person in nine does not have enough to eat.

About 820 million people still suffer from hunger.

Most of them are women.

Some 155 million children are chronically malnourished and may endure the effects of stunting for their entire lives.

And hunger causes almost half of the infant deaths worldwide.

This is intolerable.

On World Food Day, let us commit to a world without hunger — a world in which every person has access to a healthy, nutritious diet.

Zero hunger is about joining forces.

Countries and companies, institutions and individuals: we must each do our part towards sustainable food systems.

Today, we renew our commitment to uphold everyone’s fundamental right to food and to leave no one behind.

Thank you.

UN Secretary-General’s Message for the International Day of the Girl Child, 11 October 2018

Today, 600 million adolescent girls are preparing to enter a world of work transformed by innovation and automation. They are the largest generation in history and a vast source of ideas and solutions for all career fields. Yet far too often, girls are not given the space and opportunities they need to achieve their full potential. Multiple barriers include systematic discrimination, biases and lack of training.

We need concerted efforts to overcome the obstacles that mean that, for example, women make up less than 30 per cent of graduates in information and communications technology and occupy less than 30 per cent of research and development jobs worldwide

Negative gender stereotypes related to girls’ education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics begin as early as primary school, and have the devastating effect of making them doubt their own potential.

Although the number of girls attending school is the highest ever, many are still not getting the skills necessary for lifelong success. Moreover, it is estimated that five years from now, over one-third of the abilities considered important in today’s workforce will have changed.

We need to equip girls with transferable and lifelong skills such as critical thinking, creativity and digital awareness. Having role models will also be critical, especially in the sciences and other fields where the presence of women is sparse.

To help empower young people, I recently launched Youth2030, a strategy that aims to work with them, understand their needs and help put their ideas into action. On this International Day of the Girl, let us recommit to supporting every girl to develop her skills, enter the workforce on equal terms and reach her full potential.

 

UN Secretary-General’s Message for International Day for Disaster Reduction, 13 October 2018

This year’s International Day for Disaster Reduction falls shortly after a devastating earthquake and tsunami in Indonesia showed yet again the urgency of resilience and risk-awareness.

Disasters have a steep human cost.

Millions of people are displaced every year, losing their homes and jobs because of extreme weather events and earthquakes.

However, not all countries report systematically on the economic losses from major disaster events, according to a new report prepared by the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction.

This year’s International Day aims to highlight the need for Member States to improve data collection on disasters, including comprehensive accounting of economic losses.

This is crucial for progress on crisis prevention.

For example, a better understanding of the economic losses from extreme weather events can help to generate greater action on climate change and increased ambition on reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Measuring economic losses can also motivate governments to do more to achieve the targets of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, which seeks a substantial reduction in disaster losses by 2030.

Reducing the economic losses from disasters has the power to transform lives and contribute greatly to the eradication of poverty.

As we mark the International Day for Disaster Reduction, let us reaffirm our commitment to this vital endeavour.

UN Secretary-General’s Message for World Mental Health Day, 10 October 2018

Health encompasses both physical and mental well-being.

Yet for too long, mental health has been mostly an afterthought, despite its overwhelming impacts on communities and young people, everywhere.

This year’s World Mental Health Day focuses on young people.

One in five young people will experience a mental health problem this year. Half of all mental health conditions start by the age of 14.  Most cases are, however, undetected and untreated.

Poor mental health during adolescence has an impact on educational achievement and increases the risk of alcohol and substance use and violent behaviour.  Suicide is a leading cause of death in young people.

Millions of people are caught up in conflict and disasters, putting them at risk of a range of long-term mental health problems. Violence against women — physical, sexual and psychological — results in lasting scars, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Yet despite these challenges, a great deal of mental health conditions are both preventable and treatable, especially if we start looking after our mental health at an early age.

The 2030 Agenda is clear: We must leave no one behind.  Yet, those struggling with mental health problems are still being marginalized.

Healthy societies require greater integration of mental health into broader health and social care systems, under the umbrella of universal health coverage.

The United Nations is committed to creating a world where by 2030 everyone, everywhere has someone to turn to in support of their mental health, in a world free of stigma and discrimination.

If we change our attitude to mental health – we change the world.  It is time to act on mental health.

UN Secretary-General’s Message on the International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer, 16 September 2018

This has been a year of record-breaking heat around the world. It is also a pivotal time for climate action.

As we address this threat, we can draw inspiration from the Montreal Protocol, a shining example of how the world can come together for people and planet.

When science showed us that chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and other substances were tearing a hole in the ozone layer that protects all life on earth, the world responded with determination and foresight by banning them.  Thanks to this global commitment, the ozone layer is expected to return to its 1980 levels by mid-century.

However, this work is not yet done.

The landmark Kigali Amendment, which enters into force on 1 January 2019, sets its sights on hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), powerful climate-warming gases still used in cooling systems.

So far, 46 countries have ratified this new instrument; I call on all others to follow suit and show their commitment to a healthier planet. I expect countries to demonstrate significant progress in implementing the Kigali Amendment at the Climate Summit I am convening in September 2019.

For over three decades, the Montreal Protocol has done much more than shrink the ozone hole; it has shown us how environmental governance can respond to science, and how countries can come together to address a shared vulnerability.

I call for that same spirit of common cause and, especially, greater leadership as we strive to implement the Paris Agreement on climate change and mobilize the ambitious climate action we so urgently need at this time.

[Ends]