Category Archives: Statements from the UN Secretary-General

UN Secretary-General’s Remarks at Launch of Global Humanitarian Response Plan for COVID-19

New York, 25 March 2020

The world faces an unprecedented threat.

The COVID-19 pandemic has rapidly covered the globe. It has spread suffering, disrupted billions of lives and endangered the global economy.

COVID-19 is menacing the whole of humanity – and so the whole of humanity must fight back. Individual country responses are not going to be enough.

Wealthy countries with strong health systems are buckling under the pressure.

Now, the virus is arriving in countries already in the midst of humanitarian crises caused by conflicts, natural disasters and climate change.

These are places where people who have been forced to flee their homes because of bombs, violence or floods are living under plastic sheets in fields, or crammed into refugee camps or informal settlements.

They do not have homes in which to socially distance or self-isolate.

They lack clean water and soap with which to do that most basic act of self-protection against the virus – washing their hands.

And should they become critically ill, they have no way of accessing a healthcare system that can provide a hospital bed and a ventilator.

We must come to the aid of the ultra-vulnerable – millions upon millions of people who are least able to protect themselves.

This is a matter of basic human solidarity.

It is also crucial for combatting the virus.

The world is only as strong as our weakest health system. If we do not act decisively now, I fear the virus will establish a foothold in the most fragile countries, leaving the whole world vulnerable as it continues to circle the planet, paying no mind to borders.

This is the moment to step up for the vulnerable.

Older persons, persons with chronic illness and persons with disabilities face particular, disproportionate risks, and require an all-out effort to save their lives and protect their future.

We are also aware of the heavy impact the crisis is having on the world’s women across many fronts, in particular losses of livelihood, increased burdens of unpaid care labour, and the heightened exposure to domestic violence.

Today we are launching a $2 billion global humanitarian response plan to fund the fight against COVID-19 in the world’s poorest countries.

Coordinated by the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, this interagency plan brings together existing appeals from the World Health Organization and other UN partners, and identifies new needs as well.

Properly funded, it will save many lives and arm humanitarian agencies and NGOs with laboratory supplies for testing, and with medical equipment to treat the sick while protecting health care workers.

The plan also includes additional measures to support host communities that continue to generously open their homes and towns to refugees and displaced persons.

We need to act now to stem the impact of COVID-19 in already vulnerable humanitarian contexts.

And we need to maintain support for existing humanitarian response plans on which 100 million people depend.

If such funding is diverted, the consequences could be catastrophic: the further spread of cholera, measles and meningitis; greater levels of child malnutrition; and a blow to the ability of these countries to combat the virus.

Let us do everything we can to prevent COVID-19 from wreaking havoc in places with limited healthcare capacity and resilience.

At the same time, we are doing our utmost to plan for and respond to early recovery in the countries around the globe that will need it most so that we achieve a new sustainable and inclusive economy that leaves no-one behind. I have asked United Nations Resident Coordinators and UN Country Teams to support countries around the world in addressing the socio-economic implications of this pandemic, [which] will require an adequate funding mechanism.

But now we need to support this humanitarian response plan, which is a necessity for global health security.

It is a moral imperative and in everyone’s interests.

And it is a crucial part of winning this fight.

I appeal to Governments to give it their full support.

Thank you. [Ends]

Keep updated on Covid-19: https://www.un.org/coronavirus

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

 

 

 

UN Secretary-General Appeal for Global Ceasefire

23 March 2020

You may view the Secretary-General’s appeal here: https://go.aws/3duyJAz

The text of the message is found below:

Our world faces a common enemy: COVID-19.

The virus does not care about nationality or ethnicity, faction or faith.  It attacks all, relentlessly.

Meanwhile, armed conflict rages on around the world.

The most vulnerable — women and children, people with disabilities, the marginalized and the displaced — pay the highest price.

They are also at the highest risk of suffering devastating losses from COVID-19.

Let’s not forget that in war-ravaged countries, health systems have collapsed.

Health professionals, already few in number, have often been targeted.

Refugees and others displaced by violent conflict are doubly vulnerable.

The fury of the virus illustrates the folly of war.

That is why today, I am calling for an immediate global ceasefire in all corners of the world.

It is time to put armed conflict on lockdown and focus together on the true fight of our lives.

To warring parties, I say:

Pull back from hostilities.

Put aside mistrust and animosity.

Silence the guns; stop the artillery; end the airstrikes.

This is crucial…

To help create corridors for life-saving aid.

To open precious windows for diplomacy.

To bring hope to places among the most vulnerable to COVID-19.

Let us take inspiration from coalitions and dialogue slowly taking shape among rival parties to enable joint approaches to COVID-19.  But we need much more.

End the sickness of war and fight the disease that is ravaging our world.

It starts by stopping the fighting everywhere. Now.

That is what our human family needs, now more than ever. [Ends]

Keep updated on Covid-19: https://www.un.org/coronavirus

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

 

UN Secretary-General’s video message on Covid-19, 14 March 2020

Dear friends,

The upheaval caused by the coronavirus – COVID 19 — is all around us.

And I know many are anxious, worried and confused.

That’s absolutely natural.

We are facing a health threat unlike any other in our lifetimes.

Meanwhile, the virus is spreading … the danger is growing … and our health systems, economies and day-to-day lives are being severely tested.

The most vulnerable are the most affected — particularly our elderly and those with pre-existing medical conditions … those without access to reliable health care … and those in poverty or living on the edge.

The social and economic fallout from the combination of the pandemic and slowing economies will affect most of us for some months.

But the spread of the virus will peak.  Our economies will recover.

Until then, we must act together to slow the spread of the virus and look after each other.

This is a time for prudence, not panic. Science, not stigma.  Facts, not fear.

Even though the situation has been classified as a pandemic, it is one we can control.

We can slow down transmissions, prevent infections and save lives.

But that will take unprecedented personal, national and international action.

We must declare war on this virus.

That means countries have a responsibility to gear up, step up and scale up.

By implementing effective containment strategies.

By activating and enhancing emergency response systems.

By dramatically increasing testing capacity and care for patients.

By readying hospitals, ensuring they have the space, supplies and needed personnel.

And by developing life-saving medical interventions.

And all of us have a responsibility, too.

To follow medical advice and take simple, practical steps recommended by health authorities.

In addition to being a public health crisis, the virus is infecting the global economy.

Financial markets have been hard hit by the uncertainty.

Global supply chains have been disrupted.

Investment and consumer demand have plunged — with a real and rising risk of a global recession.

United Nations economists estimate that the virus could cost the global economy at least $1 trillion this year – and perhaps more.

No country can do it alone.

More than ever, governments must cooperate to revitalize economies … expand public investment … boost trade … and ensure targeted support for the people and communities most affected by the disease or more vulnerable to the negative economic impacts – including women who often shoulder a disproportionate burden of care work.

Dear Friends,

A pandemic drives home the essential interconnectedness of our human family.

Preventing the further spread of COVID-19 is a shared responsibility for us all.

The United Nations – including the World Health Organization — is fully mobilized.

As part of our human family, we are working 24/7 with governments, providing international guidance, helping the world take on this threat.

We stand in full solidarity with you.

We are in this together – and we will get through this, together.

Thank you. [Ends]

Keep updated on Covid-19: https://www.un.org/coronavirus

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

UN Secretary-General’s virtual press encounter on COVID-19 crisis

19 March 2020

You may watch this virtual press stakeout on UN Web TV:

http://webtv.un.org/watch/player/6142886874001

The transcript of this virtual press encounter is provided by UNIC Manila below:

A global recession – perhaps of record dimensions – is a near certainty.

The International Labour Organization (ILO) has just reported that workers around the world could lose as much as 3.4 trillion U.S. dollars in income by the end of this year.

This is, above all, a human crisis that calls for solidarity.

Our human family is stressed and the social fabric is being torn.  People are suffering, sick and scared.

Current responses at the country level will not address the global scale and complexity of the crisis.

This is a moment that demands coordinated, decisive, and innovative policy action from the world’s leading economies.   We must recognize that the poorest and most vulnerable — especially women — will be the hardest hit.

I welcome the decision by G20 leaders to convene an emergency summit next week to respond to the epic challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic – and I look forward to taking part.

My central message is clear:  We are in an unprecedented situation and the normal rules no longer apply.  We cannot resort to the usual tools in such unusual times.

The creativity of the response must match the unique nature of the crisis – and the magnitude of the response must match its scale.

Our world faces a common enemy.  We are at war with a virus.

COVID-19 is killing people, as well as attacking the real economy at its core – trade, supply chains, businesses, jobs.  Entire countries and cities are in lockdown.  Borders are closing.  Companies are struggling to stay in business and families are simply struggling to stay afloat.

But in managing this crisis, we also have a unique opportunity.

Done right, we can steer the recovery toward a more sustainable and inclusive path.  But poorly coordinated policies risk locking in — or even worsening — already unsustainable inequalities, reversing hard-won development gains and poverty reduction.

I call on world leaders to come together and offer an urgent and coordinated response to this global crisis.

I see three critical areas for action:

FIRST, TACKLING THE HEALTH EMERGENCY.

Many countries have exceeded the capacity to care for even mild cases in dedicated health facilities, with many unable to respond to the enormous needs of the elderly.

Even in the wealthiest countries, we see health systems buckling under pressure.

Health spending must be scaled up right away to meet urgent needs and the surge in demand — expanding testing, bolstering facilities, supporting health care workers, and ensuring adequate supplies – with full respect for human rights and without stigma.

It has been proven that the virus can be contained.  It must be contained.

If we let the virus spread like wildfire – especially in the most vulnerable regions of the world — it would kill millions of people.

And we need to immediately move away from a situation where each country is undertaking its own health strategies to one that ensures, in full transparency, a coordinated global response, including helping countries that are less prepared to tackle the crisis.

Governments must give the strongest support to the multilateral effort to fight the virus, led by the World Health Organization (WHO), whose appeals must be fully met.

The health catastrophe makes clear that we are only as strong as the weakest health system.

Global solidarity is not only a moral imperative, it is in everyone’s interests.

SECOND, WE MUST FOCUS ON THE SOCIAL IMPACT AND THE ECONOMIC RESPONSE AND RECOVERY.

Unlike the 2008 financial crisis, injecting capital in the financial sector alone is not the answer.  This is not a banking crisis – and indeed, banks must be part of the solution.

And it is not an ordinary shock in supply and demand; it is a shock to society as a whole.

The liquidity of the financial system must be guaranteed, and  banks must use their resilience to support their customers.

But let’s not forget this is essentially a human crisis.

Most fundamentally, we need to focus on people — low-wage workers, small and medium enterprises and the most vulnerable.

And that means wage support, insurance, social protection, preventing bankruptcies and job loss.

And that also means designing fiscal and monetary responses to ensure that the burden does not fall on those who can least afford it.

The recovery must not come on the backs of the poorest – and we cannot create a legion of new poor.

We need to get resources directly in the hands of people.  A number of countries are taking up social protection initiatives such as cash transfers and universal income.

We need to take it to the next level to ensure support reaches those entirely dependent on the informal economy and countries less able to respond.

Remittances are a lifeline in the developing world – especially now.  Countries have already committed to reduce remittance fees to 3 percent, much below the current average levels.  The crisis requires us to go further, getting as close to zero as possible.

In addition, G20 leaders have taken steps to protect their own citizens and economies by waiving interest payments.  We must apply that same logic to the most vulnerable countries in our global village and alleviate their debt burden.

Across the board, we need a commitment to ensure adequate financial facilities to support countries in difficulties.  The IMF, the World Bank and other International Financial Institutions play a key role. The private sector is essential to seeking and creating investment opportunities and protecting jobs.

And we must refrain from the temptation of resorting to protectionism.  This is the time to dismantle trade barriers and re-establish supply chains.

Looking at the broader picture, disruptions to society are having a profound impact.

We must address the effects of this crisis on women.  The world’s women are disproportionally carrying the burden at home and in the wider economy.

Children are also paying a heavy price.  More than 800 million children are out of school right now — many of whom rely on school to provide their only meal.  We must ensure that all children have access to food and equal access to learning – bridging the digital divide and reducing the costs of connectivity.

As people’s lives are disrupted, isolated and upturned, we must prevent this pandemic from turning into a crisis of mental health.  Young people will be most at risk.

The world needs to keep going with core support to programmes for the most vulnerable, including through UN-coordinated humanitarian and refugee response plans.  Humanitarian needs must not be sacrificed.

THIRD, AND FINALLY, WE HAVE A RESPONSIBILITY TO “RECOVER BETTER”.

The 2008 financial crisis demonstrated clearly that countries with robust social protection systems suffered the least and recovered most quickly from its impact.

We must ensure that lessons are learned and that this crisis provides a watershed moment for health emergency preparedness and for investment in critical 21st century public services and the effective delivery of global public goods.

We have a framework for action – the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.  We must keep our promises for people and planet.

The United Nations – and our global network of country offices — will support all governments to ensure that the global economy and the people we serve emerge stronger from this crisis.

That is the logic of the Decade of Action to deliver the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

More than ever before, we need solidarity, hope and the political will to see this crisis through together.

Thank you.

Q&A

Under-Secretary-General Fleming:  SecretaryGeneral, we’re now going to take questions from the press. This is a virtual press conference, the first of its kind for you and in our age.

Our first question is from Edith Lederer from the Associated Press. She asks: Mr. SecretaryGeneral, you’re calling especially on the G20 countries to take the lead, but many of them are struggling to deal with the COVID19 pandemic in their own countries. Where is the money going to come from to fulfil the ambitious programme you just outlined?

Secretary-General:  Well, we see that whenever there is a problem in the banking system, trillions appear to solve the problems of the banks. And these trillions must appear now. Governments, Central Banks must work to guarantee that there is liquidity in the economy but also that funds are mobilised to those that are most in need. And those that are most in need are people on one hand and the poorest countries on the other. And it is absolutely essential to show solidarity in the way we respond to the crisis.

A wealthy country must not be convinced that it has only to deal with its own citizens. It’s in the interest of a wealthy country to contribute to a global response because the crisis can come from wherever at any moment, and it is in the interest of everybody to fight it effectively, especially in the most vulnerable areas of the world.

Ms. Fleming:  The next question is from many journalists collectively. Are you concerned that the restrictions on travel will boost nationalist sentiments? You say that international cooperation is the answer. How do you achieve that?

Secretary-General:  I think that the restrictions on travel can be understood because of the need to contain the spread of the disease, but it’s very important at the same time people feel the need of solidarity. It’s very important to fight fake news, to fight those campaigns in social media that try to spread fear, that try to spread antagonism, that try to create divisions.

This is a moment of solidarity, and this is a moment where political leaders, religious leaders, community leaders must convey a very strong message, asking for people to feel that we need do this together. And even if we are physically separated  I am physically separated from my family at the present moment, but we are together fighting this crisis. And I think that the same must happen with countries. The same must happen with peoples. We can be physically separated, but we need to do it together.

Ms. Fleming:  The next question is from Valeria Robecco from the Italian news agency ANSA. Africa is now experiencing a limited number of cases, but some experts fear that there will be a wave of cases in the near future. Are you working on some plans to help the most vulnerable areas?

Secretary-General:  Yes.  Our teams in Africa are working very hard with the governments to support them, but my very strong appeal to the G20 is to have a particular concern with African countries and other countries in the developing world. We must absolutely be strong in supporting them because the virus will come… is coming to them, and their systems are extremely weak. So, they need very strong support from the developed world, and if that support is denied, we could have catastrophic consequences.

If the virus is not contained because countries have not the capacity to contain it, it can spread like wildfire, as I mentioned, and we could have… even with low rates of mortality, we could have millions of people dying, and this is absolutely unacceptable.

Ms. Fleming:  We’re going to take two more questions. This next question is from a number of journalists. As you know, the journalists gathered here are working in this building. And they want to know: Is it worth the risk to keep the UN Secretariat building open? And can the UN Security Council and the General Assembly meet virtually?

Secretary-General:  First of all, we were ahead of the curve in the UN, in the UN Headquarters. We took precautions earlier than they were prescribed even by the authorities here and in different other parts of the world. We have been extremely careful in order to contain the spread of the disease.

I’m working in headquarters. Most of our staff is working at home, and I believe that when people absolutely need to come, they can come, because I think we have created the conditions to do it in perfect safety.

On the other hand, it is very important to create the conditions for Member States to be able to meet. The Security Council will meet next week, more than once, and we have provided conditions for virtual meetings to take place at any moment.

In some circumstances, physical presence is needed. In others, it is not. But we have all the conditions to allow for virtual meetings to take place with any number of people.

I was just, today, in a virtual meeting with our 140 resident coordinators around the world. I’ve been in contact every day with  eight to ten of our offices around the world and of our missions around the world. And I can tell you I’m very proud, because even in these very difficult circumstances, the UN everywhere is open for businesses, and we are working to make sure that we deliver in relation to the Member States that need our support and in relation to the people we care for, the most vulnerable everywhere.

Ms. Fleming:  Final question from Majeed at Rudaw Network. Does the SG think there should be any special financial support from developed countries to the developing countries, especially the ones dealing with other crises, such as wars?

Secretary-General:  It is absolutely essential to have solidarity at the present moment. It’s absolutely essential that the effort that the developed countries are making to support their own citizens is extended to those countries that have not the capacity to do the same to their citizens and where poverty is much more widespread and the conditions to fight the disease are much less effective.

Ms. Fleming:  That’s the end of this press conference. Thank
you all for tuning in, and those who tuned in online, also, thank you very much.

Secretary-General:  Thank you very much.

[Press Conference concludes at 12:50 p.m.]

UN Secretary-General’s Video Message on International Migrants Day, 18 December 2019

 

Video link:

https://bit.ly/35rJvSX

[Text of the Secretary-General’s video message]

Migrants are integral members of society, contributing to mutual understanding and sustainable development in communities of both origin and destination.

Safe, orderly and regular migration is in the interest of all. And national priorities on migration are best achieved through international cooperation.

All migrants are entitled to equal protection of all their human rights.

These principles are enshrined in the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration.

Yet, we often hear narratives around migrants that are harmful and false.

And we often witness migrants facing unspeakable hardship as a result of policies shaped more by fear than by fact.

On this International Day, I urge leaders and people everywhere to bring the Global Compact to life, so that migration works for all.

[Ends]

UN Secretary-General’s Message on International Universal Health Coverage Day, 12 December 2019

This past September at the United Nations, world leaders endorsed an ambitious political declaration on universal health coverage, reaffirming that health is a human right.  The agreement is a significant achievement that will drive progress over the next decade on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

On this International Universal Health Coverage Day, I call on leaders to keep the promise and ensure health for all is a reality for everyone, everywhere.

While more people are accessing essential health services than ever before, far too many still miss out.  It is unacceptable and unjust that half of the world’s population still lacks access to these essential services and 100 million people are driven into extreme poverty every year due to healthcare costs.

A person’s health coverage should never depend on their wealth or where they may live.

On our path to health for all, we must prioritize the needs of those most vulnerable and furthest behind, through increased public investment in resilient primary health care systems, including for mental health needs. We must also recognize the increasing burden that pollution and the climate crisis place on health and healthcare systems.

Universal health coverage is integral to delivering the Sustainable Development Goals, our blueprint of a better future for people and planet.  On this International Day, let us reaffirm our commitment to health for all as an investment in humanity, wellbeing and prosperity for everyone.

[Ends]

 

UN Secretary-General’s Message on International Day for Persons with Disabilities, 3 December 2019

When we secure the rights of people with disabilities, we move closer to achieving the central promise of the 2030 Agenda – to leave no one behind.

While we still have much to do, we have seen important progress in building an inclusive world for all.

Almost all United Nations Member States have ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and I urge those who have not yet done so to ratify it without delay.

In June, I launched the United Nations Disability Inclusion Strategy, to raise our standards and performance on disability inclusion, across all areas of our work and around the world.

And for the first time, the Security Council adopted its first-ever resolution dedicated on the protection of persons with disabilities in armed conflict.

We are determined to lead by example.

On this International Day, I reaffirm the commitment of the United Nations to work with people with disabilities to build a sustainable, inclusive and transformative future in which everyone, including women, men, girls and boys with disabilities, can realize their potential.

Thank you. [Ends]

Watch the Secretary-General’s video message here: https://s3.amazonaws.com/downloads2.unmultimedia.org/public/video/ondemand/MSG%20SG%20INTL%20DAY%20PERSONS%20WITH%20DISABILITIES%20CLEAN%203%20Dec%20%2019.mp4

UN Secretary-General’s Message on Human Rights Day, 10 December 2019

(THEME: YOUTH STANDING UP FOR HUMAN RIGHTS)

This year, on Human Rights Day, we celebrate the role of young people in bringing human rights to life.

Globally, young people are marching, organizing, and speaking out:

For the right to a healthy environment…

For the equal rights of women and girls…

To participate in decision-making…

And to express their opinions freely…

They are marching for their right to a future of peace, justice and equal opportunities.

Every single person is entitled to all rights: civil, political, economic, social and cultural. Regardless of where they live. Regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, social origin, gender, sexual orientation, political or other opinion, disability or income, or any other status.

On this International Day, I call on everyone to support and protect young people who are standing up for human rights. [Ends]

Watch the Secretary-General’s video message here: https://vimeo.com/377264084

 

UN Secretary-General’s Message on World AIDS Day, 1 December 2019

Ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030, as we committed to in the Sustainable Development Goals, will require a continuous collaborative effort. The United Nations, Governments, civil society and other partners have been working together to scale up access to health services and to halt new HIV infections. More than 23 million people living with HIV were receiving treatment in 2018.

Communities around the world are at the heart of this response―helping people to claim their rights, promoting access to stigma-free health and social services, ensuring that services reach the most vulnerable and marginalized, and pressing to change laws that discriminate.  As the theme of this year’s observance rightly highlights, communities make the difference.

Yet unmet needs remain. A record 38 million people are living with HIV, and resources for the response to the epidemic declined by $1 billion last year. More than ever we need to harness the role of community-led organizations that advocate for their peers, deliver HIV services, defend human rights and provide support.

Where communities are engaged, we see change happen. We see investment lead to results. And we see equality, respect and dignity.

With communities, we can end AIDS.

by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres

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UN Secretary-General’s Message on the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists, 2 November 2019

Freedom of expression and free media are essential to fostering understanding, bolstering democracy and advancing our efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

In recent years, however, there has been a rise in the scale and number of attacks against the physical safety of journalists and media workers, and of incidents infringing upon their ability to do their vital work, including threats of prosecution, arrest, imprisonment, denial of journalistic access and failures to investigate and prosecute crimes against them.

The proportion of women among fatalities has also risen, and women journalists increasingly face gendered forms of violence, such as sexual harassment, sexual assault and threats.

When journalists are targeted, societies as a whole pay a price.  Without the ability to protect journalists, our ability to remain informed and contribute to decision-making is severely hampered.  Without journalists able to do their jobs in safety, we face the prospect of a world of confusion and disinformation.

On this International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists, let us stand up together for journalists, for truth and for justice.

[Ends]