Category Archives: Statements from the UN Secretary-General

UN Secretary-General’s message on the beginning of Ramadan

I extend my warmest wishes as millions of Muslims around the world begin observing the holy month of Ramadan.

This will, of course, be a very different Ramadan.  Many community activities will naturally be affected by measures to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.  Meanwhile, many people in conflict zones will once again be tragically marking this month with war and insecurity all around.

I recently called for an immediate global ceasefire to focus on our common enemy — the virus.  I repeat that appeal today, recalling the words of the Holy Quran “and if they incline to peace, then incline to it”.

Ramadan is also about supporting the most vulnerable.  I thank governments and people throughout the Muslim world who live by their faith, supporting those fleeing conflict in the best Islamic tradition of hospitality and generosity — a remarkable lesson in this world where so many doors have been closed to those in need of protection, even before COVID-19.

Once again, my best wishes to all for mercy, solidarity and compassion in these trying times.

Ramadan Kareem.

We are all in this together: Human rights and COVID-19 response and recovery

23 April 2020

Video message from the UN Secretary-General

 The COVID-19 pandemic is a public health emergency — but it is far more. 

 It is an economic crisis.  A social crisis.  And a human crisis that is fast becoming a human rights crisis.

In February, I launched a Call to Action to put human dignity and the promise of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights at the core of our work.

As I said then, human rights cannot be an afterthought in times of crisis — and we now face the biggest international crisis in generations.

Today, I am releasing a report highlighting how human rights can and must guide COVID-19 response and recovery.

The message is clear:  People — and their rights — must be front and centre. 

A human rights lens puts everyone in the picture and ensures that no one is left behind.

Human rights responses can help beat the pandemic, putting a focus on the imperative of healthcare for everyone.

But they also serve as an essential warning system — highlighting who is suffering most, why, and what can be done about it.

We have seen how the virus does not discriminate, but its impacts do — exposing deep weaknesses in the delivery of public services and structural inequalities that impede access to them.  We must make sure they are properly addressed in the response. 

We see the disproportionate effects on certain communities, the rise of hate speech, the targeting of vulnerable groups, and the risks of heavy-handed security responses undermining the health response.

Against the background of rising ethno-nationalism, populism, authoritarianism and a pushback against human rights in some countries, the crisis can provide a pretext to adopt repressive measures for purposes unrelated to the pandemic. 

This is unacceptable.

More than ever, governments must be transparent, responsive and accountable.  Civic space and press freedom are critical.  Civil society organizations and the private sector have essential roles to play.

And in all we do, let’s never forget:  The threat is the virus, not people.

We must ensure that any emergency measures — including states of emergency — are legal, proportionate, necessary and non-discriminatory, have a specific focus and duration, and take the least intrusive approach possible to protect public health.

The best response is one that responds proportionately to immediate threats while protecting human rights and the rule of law.

Looking ahead, we need to build back better.  The Sustainable Development Goals — which are underpinned by human rights — provide the framework for more inclusive and sustainable economies and societies.

Strengthening economic and social rights bolsters resilience for the long haul.

The recovery must also respect the rights of future generations, enhancing climate action aiming at carbon neutrality by 2050 and protecting biodiversity.

We are all in this together.

The virus threatens everyone.  Human rights uplift everyone.

By respecting human rights in this time of crisis, we will build more effective and inclusive solutions for the emergency of today and the recovery for tomorrow. [Ends]

UN Secretary-General’s remarks on International Mother Earth Day, 22 April 2020

On this International Mother Earth Day, all eyes are on the COVID-19 pandemic – the biggest test the world has faced since the Second World War.

We must work together to save lives, ease suffering and lessen the shattering economic and social consequences.

The impact of the coronavirus is both immediate and dreadful.

But there is another deep emergency — the planet’s unfolding environmental crisis.

Biodiversity is in steep decline.

Climate disruption is approaching a point of no return.

We must act decisively to protect our planet from both the coronavirus and the existential threat of climate disruption.

The current crisis is an unprecedented wake-up call.

We need to turn the recovery into a real opportunity to do things right for the future.

I am therefore proposing six climate-related actions to shape the recovery and the work ahead.

First: as we spend huge amounts of money to recover from the coronavirus, we must deliver new jobs and businesses through a clean, green transition.

Second: where taxpayers’ money is used to rescue businesses, it needs to  be tied to achieving green jobs and sustainable growth.

Third: fiscal firepower must drive a shift from the grey to green economy, and make societies and people more resilient

Fourth: public funds should be used to invest in the future, not the past, and flow to sustainable sectors and projects that help the environment and the climate.

Fossil fuel subsidies must end, and polluters must start paying for their pollution

Fifth: climate risks and opportunities must be incorporated into the financial system as well as all aspects of public policy making and infrastructure.

Sixth: we need to work together as an international community.

These six principles constitute an important guide to recovering better together.

Greenhouse gases, just like viruses, do not respect national boundaries.

On this Earth Day, please join me in demanding a healthy and resilient future for people and planet alike.


UN Secretary-General’s remarks to media on the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on children

New York, 16 April 2020

As the COVID-19 pandemic spreads across the globe, we are seeing an alarming pattern.

The poorest and most vulnerable members of society are being hardest hit, both by the pandemic and the response.

I am especially concerned about the well-being of the world’s children.

Thankfully, children have so far been largely spared from the most severe symptoms of the disease.

But their lives are being totally upended.

I appeal to families everywhere, and leaders at all levels: protect our children.

Today we are launching a report that highlights the risks they face.

First, education.

Almost all students are now out of school.

Some schools are offering distance learning, but this is not available to all.

Children in countries with slow and expensive Internet services are severely disadvantaged.

Second, food.

A staggering 310 million schoolchildren – nearly half of the world’s total – rely on school for a regular source of daily nutrition.

Even before Covid-19 the world faced unacceptable rates of childhood malnutrition and stunting.

Third, safety.

With children out of school, their communities in lockdown and a global recession biting deeper, family stress levels are rising.

Children are both victims and witnesses of domestic violence and abuse.

With schools closed, an important early warning mechanism is missing.

There is also a danger that girls will drop out of school, leading to an increase in teenage pregnancies.

And we must not ignore the growing risks children are facing as they spend more time online.

This can leave children vulnerable to online sexual exploitation and grooming.

A lack of face-to-face contact with friends and partners may lead to heightened risk-taking such as sending sexualized images.

And increased and unstructured time online may expose children to potentially harmful and violent content as well as greater risk of cyberbullying.

Governments and parents all have a role in keeping children safe.

Social media companies have a special responsibility to protect the vulnerable.

Fourth, health.

Reduced household income will force poor families to cut back on essential health and food expenditures, particularly affecting children, pregnant women, and breastfeeding mothers.

Polio vaccination campaigns have been suspended.

Measles immunization campaigns have stopped in at least 23 countries.

And as health services become overwhelmed, sick children are less able to access care.

With the global recession gathering pace, there could be hundreds of thousands additional child deaths in 2020.

These are just some of the findings of the report we are issuing today.

Its conclusion is clear.

We must act now on each of these threats to our children.

Leaders must do everything in their power to cushion the impact of the pandemic.

What started as a public health emergency has snowballed into a formidable test for the global promise to leave no one behind.

The report urges governments and donors to prioritize education for all children.

It recommends they provide economic assistance, including cash transfers, to low-income families and minimize disruptions to social and healthcare services for children.

We must also prioritize the most vulnerable – children in conflict situations; child refugees and displaced persons; children living with disabilities.

Finally, we must commit to building back better by using the recovery from COVID-19 to pursue a more sustainable and inclusive economy and society in line with the Sustainable Development Goals.

With the pandemic placing so many of the world’s children in jeopardy,
I reiterate my urgent appeal: let us protect our children and safeguard their well-being. [Ends]

UN Secretary-General’s Statement on Gender-Based Violence and COVID-19

New York, 5 April 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic is causing untold human suffering and economic devastation around the world.

I recently called for an immediate global ceasefire to focus on our shared struggle to overcome the pandemic.

I appealed for an end to violence everywhere, now.

But violence is not confined to the battlefield.

For many women and girls, the threat looms largest where they should be safest.

In their own homes.

And so I make a new appeal today for peace at home — and in homes — around the world.

We know lockdowns and quarantines are essential to suppressing COVID-19. But they can trap women with abusive partners.

Over the past weeks as economic and social pressures and fear have grown, we have seen a horrifying global surge in domestic violence.

In some countries, the number of women calling support services has doubled.

Meanwhile, healthcare providers and police are overwhelmed and understaffed.

Local support groups are paralyzed or short of funds. Some domestic violence shelters are closed; others are full.

I urge all governments to make the prevention and redress of violence against women a key part of their national response plans for COVID-19.

That means increasing investment in online services and civil society organizations.

Making sure judicial systems continue to prosecute abusers.

Setting up emergency warning systems in pharmacies and groceries.

Declaring shelters as essential services.

And creating safe ways for women to seek support, without alerting their abus

Women’s rights and freedoms are essential to strong, resilient societies.

Together, we can and must prevent violence everywhere, from war zones to people’s homes, as we work to beat COVID-19. [Ends]

UN Secretary-General’s Video Message on World Health Day, 7 April 2020

The text of the video message is provided as follows:

World Health Day this year comes at a very difficult time for all of us.

My message today is to our health care workers — the nurses, midwives, technicians, paramedics, pharmacists, doctors, drivers, cleaners, administrators and many others — who work, day and night to keep us safe.

Today, we are more deeply grateful than ever to all of you, as you work, round the clock, putting yourselves at risk, to fight the ravages of this pandemic.

We have all had reason to give thanks for the care and professionalism of nurses and midwives. I know I do.

Nurses shoulder some of the biggest healthcare burdens.  They perform difficult work and endure long hours, while risking injury, infection and the mental health burden that accompanies such traumatic work.  They often provide comfort at the end of life.

Midwives provide comfort at the beginning of life. During a pandemic, their work is even more challenging, as you bring our newborn safely into this world.

To the nurses and midwives of the world: thank you for your work.

In these traumatic times, I say to all healthcare workers: we stand with you and we count on you.

You make us proud; you inspire us. We are indebted to you.

Thank you for the difference you are making, every day and everywhere. [Ends]

All hands on deck to fight a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic

by Antonio Guterres, 3 April 2020

Only by coming together will the world be able to face down the COVID-19 pandemic and its shattering consequences. At an emergency virtual meeting last Thursday, G20 leaders took steps in the right direction.  But we are still far away from having a coordinated, articulated global response that meets the unprecedented magnitude of what we are facing.

Far from flattening the curve of infection, we are still well behind it.  The disease initially took 67 days to infect 100,000 people; soon, 100,000 people and more will be infected daily.  Without concerted and courageous action, the number of new cases will almost certainly escalate into the millions, pushing health systems to the breaking point, economies into a nosedive and people into despair, with the poorest hit hardest.

We must prepare for the worst and do everything to avoid it.  Here is a three-point call to action — based on science, solidarity and smart policies — for doing just that.

First, suppress transmission of the coronavirus.

That requires aggressive and early testing and contact tracing, complemented by quarantines, treatment, and measures to keep first responders safe, combined with measures to restrict movement and contact.  Such steps, despite the disruptions they cause, must be sustained until therapies and a vaccine emerge.

Crucially, this robust and cooperative effort should be guided by the World Health Organization, a member of the United Nations family; countries acting on their own – as they must for their people – will not get the job done for all.

Second, tackle the devastating social and economic dimensions of the crisis.

The virus is spreading like wildfire, and is likely to move swiftly into the Global South, where health systems face constraints, people are more vulnerable, and millions live in densely populated slums or crowded settlements for refugees and internally displaced persons.  Fuelled by such conditions, the virus could devastate the developing world and then re-emerge where it was previously suppressed.  In our interconnected world, we are only as strong as the weakest health systems.

Clearly, we must fight the virus for all of humanity, with a focus on people, especially the most affected: women, older persons, youth, low-wage workers, small and medium enterprises, the informal sector and vulnerable groups.

The United Nations has just issued reports documenting how the viral contagion has become an economic contagion, and setting out the financing needed to address the shocks.  The International Monetary Fund has declared that we have entered a recession as bad as or worse than in 2009.

We need a comprehensive multilateral response amounting to a double-digit percentage of global Gross Domestic Product.

Developed countries can do it by themselves, and some are indeed doing it.  But we must massively increase the resources available to the developing world by expanding the capacity of the IMF, namely through the issuance of special drawing rights, and of the other international financial institutions so that they can rapidly inject resources into the countries that need them.  I know this is difficult as nations find themselves increasing domestic spending by record amounts.  But that spending will be in vain if we don’t control the virus.

Coordinated swaps among central banks can also bring liquidity to emerging economies.  Debt alleviation must also be a priority – including immediate waivers on interest payments for 2020.

Third, recover better.

We simply cannot return to where we were before COVID-19 struck, with societies unnecessarily vulnerable to crisis.  The pandemic has reminded us, in the starkest way possible, of the price we pay for weaknesses in health systems, social protections and public services.  It has underscored and exacerbated inequalities, above all gender inequity, laying bare the way in which the formal economy has been sustained on the back of invisible and unpaid care labour.  It has highlighted ongoing human rights challenges, including stigma and violence against women.

Now is the time to redouble our efforts to build more inclusive and sustainable economies and societies that are more resilient in the face of pandemics, climate change and other global challenges.  The recovery must lead to a different economy.  Our roadmap remains the 2030 Agenda and Sustainable Development Goals.

The United Nations system is fully mobilized: supporting country responses, placing our supply chains at the world’s disposal, and advocating for a global cease-fire.

Ending the pandemic everywhere is both a moral imperative and a matter of enlightened self-interest.  At this unusual moment, we cannot resort to the usual tools.  Extraordinary times demand extraordinary measures.  We face a colossal test which demands decisive, coordinated and innovative action from all, for all.

António Guterres is Secretary-General of the United Nations





New York, 31 March 2020

[as delivered]

The world is facing an unprecedented test.  And this is the moment of truth.

Hundreds of thousands of people are falling seriously ill from COVID-19, and the disease is spreading exponentially in many places,

Societies are in turmoil and economies are in a nose-dive.

The International Monetary Fund has reassessed the prospect for growth for 2020 and 2021, declaring that we have entered a recession – as bad as or worse than in 2009.

We must respond decisively, innovatively and together to suppress the spread of the virus and address the socio-economic devastation that COVID-19 is causing in all regions.

The magnitude of the response must match the scale of the crisis — large-scale, coordinated and comprehensive, with country and international responses being guided by the World Health Organization.

And it must be multilateral, with countries showing solidarity to the most vulnerable communities and nations.

The message of the report we are issuing today is clear: shared responsibility and global solidarity in response to the impacts of COVID-19.

It is a call to action.

First, for an immediate coordinated health response to suppress transmission and end the pandemic.

A response that scales up health capacity for testing, tracing, quarantine and treatment, while keeping first responders safe, combined with measures to restrict movement and contact.

A response that delivers universal access to treatment and vaccines, when they are ready.

It is essential that developed countries immediately assist those less developed to bolster their health systems and their response capacity to stop transmission.

Otherwise we face the nightmare of the disease spreading like wildfire in the global South with millions of deaths and the prospect of the disease re-emerging where it was previously suppressed.

Let us remember that we are only as strong as the weakest health system in our interconnected world.

I am particularly concerned with the African continent, and I strongly encourage the G20 to move ahead with a G20 Africa initiative as proposed at the Summit.

Second, we must tackle the devastating social and economic dimensions of this crisis, with a focus on the most affected: women, older persons, youth, low-wage workers, small and medium enterprises, the informal sector and vulnerable groups, especially those in humanitarian and conflict settings.

We must see countries not only united to beat the virus but also to tackle its profound consequences.

That means designing fiscal and monetary policies able to support the direct provision of resources to support workers and households, the provision of health and unemployment insurance, scaled up social protection, and support to businesses to prevent bankruptcies and massive job losses.

What is needed is a large-scale, coordinated and comprehensive multilateral response amounting to at least 10 per cent of global GDP.

Developed countries can do it by themselves, and some are indeed doing so.

But we must massively increase the resources available to the developing world by expanding the capacity of the International Monetary Fund, namely through the issuance of special drawing rights, and the other international financial institutions to rapidly inject resources into the countries that need them.

Coordinated swaps among central banks can also bring liquidity to emerging economies.

Debt alleviation must be a priority – including immediate waivers on interest payments for 2020.

The United Nations system is fully mobilized, providing guidance for global efforts, supporting country responses and placing our supply chains at the world’s disposal.

And to support our efforts, the United Nations is establishing a new multi-partner Trust Fund for COVID19 Response and Recovery to support low- and middle-income countries to respond to the emergency and recover from the socio-economic shock.

UN Resident Coordinators worldwide will be the drivers of the UN response on the ground, ensuring that the wide and diverse expertise and assets of the United Nations system are used in the most efficient and effective way to support countries.

Finally, when we get past this crisis — which we will — we will face a choice.

We can go back to the world as it was before or deal decisively with those issues that make us all unnecessarily vulnerable to crises.

Our roadmap is the 2030 Agenda and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

The recovery from the COVID-19 crisis must lead to a different economy.

Everything we do during and after this crisis must be with a strong focus on building more equal, inclusive and sustainable economies and societies that are more resilient in the face of pandemics, climate change, and the many other global challenges we face.

What the world needs now is solidarity.

With solidarity we can defeat the virus and build a better world.

Thank you. [Ends]

UN Secretary-General’s Remarks at G20 Virtual Summit on the COVID-19 Pandemic

26 March 2020 

Thank you, Your Majesty, for convening this meeting. 

We are at war with a virus – and not winning it.

It took the world three months to reach 100,000 confirmed cases of infection. 

The next 100,000 happened in just 12 days. 

The third took four days.

The fourth, just one and a half.

This is exponential growth and only the tip of the iceberg. 

This war needs a war-time plan to fight it.

Solidarity is essential. Among the G-20 – and with the developing world, including countries in conflict. 

That is why I appealed for a global ceasefire.

Allow me to highlight three critical areas for concerted G-20 action.

First, to suppress the transmission of COVID-19 as quickly as possible.

That must be our common strategy. 

It requires a coordinated G-20 response mechanism guided by WHO.

All countries must be able to combine systematic testing, tracing, quarantining and treatment with restrictions on movement and contact – aiming to suppress transmission of the virus. 

And they have to coordinate the exit strategy to keep it suppressed until a vaccine becomes available.

At the same time, we need massive support to increase the response capacity of developing countries.

The United Nations system has a well-established supply chain network, and we stand ready to place it at your disposal.

Second, we must work together to minimize the social and economic impact.

The G-20 came of age in the 2008 financial crisis.  

The challenges before us dwarf those of 2008. 

And what we face today is not a banking crisis; it is a human crisis.

While the liquidity of the financial system must be assured, our emphasis must be on the human dimension.  

We need to concentrate on people, keeping households afloat and businesses solvent, able to protect jobs.

This will require a global response reaching double-digit percentages of the global economy.

I welcome infusions of liquidity and social and economic support in developed countries — with direct transfer of resources to people and businesses.

But a stimulus package to help developing countries with the same objectives also requires a massive investment.

For this, we need greater resources for the International Monetary Fund and other International Financial Institutions, a meaningful emission of Special Drawing Rights, coordinated swaps between central banks and steps to alleviate debt, such as a waiver of interest payments.  

I also appeal for the waving of sanctions that can undermine countries’ capacity to respond to the pandemic.

Third, we must work together now to set the stage for a recovery that builds a more sustainable, inclusive and equitable economy, guided by our shared promise — the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. 


Keep updated on Covid-19:

The United Nations’ page on the Coronavirus disease (Covid-19)

UN Secretary-General’s Message for Earth Hour, 28 March 2020

Photo: WWF/Manila Bulletin

The climate crisis is a clear and present danger.

But we can all do our part to safeguard our planet.

The United Nations is proud to join in the global effort to mark Earth Hour.

It’s a reminder that small changes can make a big difference.

So join me and people everywhere by switching off your lights for an hour on Saturday March 28th at 8:30 p.m., your local time.

Earth Hour is about our earth.

By turning off your lights, you can shine a light on the pressing need for climate action.

Let’s show that we are determined to protect our planet, the one home we all share. [Ends]