Skip to main content

Climate Change ‘Absolute’ United Nations Priority, Secretary-General Tells Pacific Island Leaders, Stressing ‘Your Voices’, Experiences Pivotal

Following are UN Secretary‑General António Guterres’ remarks at the meeting with Pacific Islands Forum leaders, in New York today:

I know you have travelled far — but your concerns truly are at the heart of our work.  It starts with climate change.  Pacific Islands are on the front line.  Allow me to tell you the United Nations has many priorities.  For me, at the present moment, there is a [single] priority, an absolute priority:  climate change.  I am very concerned.  It will be the central concern to ensure countries enhance their ambitions over the next two years.  For the moment, unfortunately we are going too slow regarding what we promised in Paris.  And what we promised in Paris was not enough.

As we look to COP24 [twenty-fourth session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change] in November and the climate summit next year, our world needs to urgently step up action.  Your voices and experiences are pivotal as we push for increased ambition around the globe.

Those voices are reinforced by my Special Envoy for the Ocean, Peter Thomson, who continues his activities, including following up on outcomes of the United Nations Ocean Conference.  Your region is also vulnerable to disasters and I commend recent Government‑led responses to such tragedies.

Climate change is also a security issue — and I thank you for articulating an expanded concept of security for the Pacific region that includes climate change at the recent PIF [Pacific Islands Forum] Summit in Nauru.  My High Representative has fully briefed me on your discussions.

I know you continue to advance a broad range of national efforts to prevent conflict.  The United Nations fully supports Prime Minister Hou’s [Ricky Nelson Houenipwela] leadership in taking peacebuilding priorities forward in the Solomon Islands.  And I congratulate the Government of Papua New Guinea and the Autonomous Bougainville Government for progress on implementing the Bougainville Peace Agreement.

Sustainable peace and sustainable development are two sides of the same coin.  I appreciate your robust regional approach to the implementation and follow‑up of the 2030 Agenda [for Sustainable Development] and the SAMOA [Small Island Developing States Accelerated Modalities of Action] Pathway, that are two phases of the same reality.

I know several countries are moving closer to meeting the graduation criteria from the category of least developed countries.  The United Nations system is committed to ensure that graduating countries have the support to continue a sustained path to development and prosperity.  This is today a central discussion for us.

Graduation cannot mean a loss of support.  Many countries that graduate continue to face shocks.  It is important that the international community, including international financial institutions, continues to recognize this.

Gender empowerment is a high priority — and I commend your action to end gender‑based violence in the Pacific, strengthen women’s political and economic participation and deepen women’s rights.  We must also continue our efforts to expand opportunities for young people and ensure their vital voice in decision‑making.

As I said in my speech to the General Assembly, we need a reformed, reinvigorated and strengthened United Nations, in a reformed, reinvigorated and strengthened multilateral system.  I am grateful for your support for our reform efforts.  We will continue to seek your inputs and perspectives, including in shaping the outcomes of the ongoing review of the United Nations’ multi‑country offices.  I know you are, and I am, concerned about the efficiency of our support in the Pacific region.

With these brief words, let me thank you once again for your leadership and commitment.  You can count on the full support of the United Nations — and me personally — as we work together for a safer, more secure, prosperous future for the people of the Pacific region and, indeed, around the world.

For information media. Not an official record.