At ‘Our Common Agenda’ Talks, Secretary-General Says Summits on Future, Sustainable Development Goals ‘Last, Best Chance’ to Manage, Solve Global Challenges
Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks to the General Assembly consultation on Our Common Agenda, in New York today:
Mr. President of the General Assembly, may I first of all express my enormous gratitude and appreciation for what has been your determined and effective leadership in the conduct of this process. I must confess I never expected things to move so well and this was entirely due to your leadership and to the cooperation of all Member States. So, please accept my thanks and I think that your direction of this process has been the most important condition for the success of the process.
It’s almost a year since I presented the report on Our Common Agenda. During that year, the need for the proposals in the report has only increased. In addition to the triple planetary crisis of climate breakdown, air pollution and biodiversity loss, and the immense suffering caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, conflicts are raging around the world.
The ripple effects of the war in Ukraine have contributed to surging food and energy prices that are affecting dramatically the developing countries in particular. The negotiations that led to the agreements reached in Istanbul last month progressively had an impact on global markets bringing the prices of food and fertilizer products down, close to levels they had been at before the war, levels that were already substantially high.
But, it is important to understand that there is a difference in relation to the quotations published, relative to the way the different exchanges work and the prices at the bakery. There is a long way between the two, in time, and also there are supply chain disruptions, high costs of transportation, high costs of energy, which of course will make the effective reduction that we are witnessing in the global prices of food products and fertilizers. There will be a long time for them to be reflected in the consumers tables. We should have no illusions about that — the efforts and the pressure over societies — especially in the developing world, will remain very high.
And indeed, developing countries are being squeezed dry. Without resources to invest in recovery from the pandemic and deal with the impact of the war, the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals have been thrown further off course.
The global economic forecast is perilous. Four countries have already defaulted on their debts; many others face the risk of default. Financing for development is drying up, or being diverted elsewhere. Meanwhile, overwhelming evidence of climate catastrophe is mounting by the day. Half of humanity is now in the danger zone from drought, heatwaves, floods, wildfires and other extreme climate conditions. And yet, global greenhouse‑gas emissions are at their highest levels in human history — and rising.
Geopolitical competition has intensified. The risk of nuclear confrontation is now more acute than it has been in decades. New variants of COVID-19 are again disrupting lives and livelihoods, and setting back global recovery. And the suffering in the Horn of Africa, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan, Yemen, Libya, Afghanistan, Haiti and many other places continues without cease. Global shocks are unabated and growing; we don’t know where the next one will come from. Business as usual will almost certainly guarantee a future of constant crises and devastating risks.
The report provides a framework and an opportunity to unite the international community around solutions to the situation. Our Common Agenda was intended as a wake-up call. One year on, we must ask ourselves: Have we woken up? Today, I will update you on progress towards implementing the proposals.
Our Common Agenda is first and foremost a booster shot for the Sustainable Development Goals, to get back on track for sustainable growth and resilience in today's very challenging circumstances. But, it also goes beyond the Sustainable Development Goals, addressing challenges and gaps in multilateral frameworks that have become more urgent since 2015.
The ideas in the report fall into four broad categories: A New Global Deal to redistribute power and resources, and a renewal of the social contract; a focus on the future, with steps to enhance youth engagement and to take future generations into account in policy decisions; an effort to deliver public goods and manage global shocks and crises more effectively; and an upgrading of the United Nations, so that we are better equipped to support Governments in finding and implementing multilateral solutions.
I want to thank you, the Member States, for your strong engagement and support for the report. Thank you to the 166 co-sponsors of the General Assembly resolution on the follow-up to the report. And I reiterate my gratitude to the President of the General Assembly for convening 20 discussions on all aspects of Our Common Agenda. And thank you to the many Member States that provided detailed and thoughtful feedback.
Not every Government supports every detail of the proposals. But, the debates forged a great deal of common ground. Overall, there is broad agreement that we must move forward together with urgency on Our Common Agenda. I am pleased to see that work has started on many of the proposals. The United Nations system is moving forward on issues on which you have given us a green light, with a division of labour in place.
For example, we are coordinating action on the proposals relating to jobs and social protection through the Global Accelerator. This brings together the combined capacities of the United Nations system, with a key role for the International Labour Organization (ILO). We have made progress in developing an approach that goes beyond gross domestic product (GDP), putting a value on sustainability, equality and resilience. We will share a proposal on this in due course.
We are conducting a review of the United Nations system’s ability to deliver on gender equality across all its mandates and programmes. And preparations are well advanced for the Transforming Education Summit in September — the largest‑ever gathering of learners and teachers. The Transforming Education Summit will be an opportunity to mobilize ambition, action, solidarity and solutions; to reimagine education systems fit for the future; and to generate fresh momentum for Sustainable Development Goal 4 and the 2030 Agenda overall. And I believe that everybody agrees that the pre-Summit was a remarkable success with the extremely meaningful participation of all Member States. We are also moving forward where we can, on some of the other ideas in the report.
During the upcoming session of the General Assembly, in consultation with Member States, I will present my view on the reform the international financial architecture to tackle historic weaknesses and inequalities. This will include short-term actions to provide immediate relief to highly indebted developing countries and long-term measures to guarantee resilience and debt sustainability. This will be critical to pave the way towards the Summit and deliver concrete results, to take forward the New Global Deal and for developing countries to invest in the 2030 Agenda.
Given the seriousness of the global socioeconomic outlook, I also intend to explore with Member States a timeline for the proposed Biennial Summit among the members of the G20, Economic and Social Council, International Financial Institutions and myself, as Secretary-General, with an inclusive approach. We are also developing measures to ensure legal identity for all, and end statelessness; and working on a road map for the development and effective implementation of international law. Efforts are ongoing to re-establish the Scientific Advisory Mechanism. We are advancing the internal transformation towards a United Nations 2.0.
Our five agendas for change across the United Nations family are fostering a new culture and new capabilities in data, digital, innovation, behavioural science and strategic foresight. We are launching new initiatives to unleash the potential of data for people, planet and the Sustainable Development Goals. A United Nations Behavioural Science Week engaged thousands of people across the United Nations, Member States and academia on how to translate scientific method into impact for the people we serve. We are also advancing inter-agency consultations on how to strengthen long-term outcomes in our programmes, including through a Futures Lab.
You, the Member States, are also hard at work. Last week the General Assembly adopted a historic resolution declaring the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment, demonstrating your commitment to this important goal. In areas that require immediate action, the co-facilitators appointed by the President of the General Assembly are developing proposals. I look forward to hearing their perspectives.
Consultations are well under way on a proposed Youth Office, under the stewardship of the Permanent Representatives of Egypt and Guyana. Establishing this office will send a clear signal to young people that the United Nations wants them to have a strong voice in decisions that will affect their futures. The Permanent Representatives of the Netherlands and Fiji are developing an elements paper for a Declaration for Future Generations — a major step towards the proposed Summit of the Future. The Permanent Representatives of New Zealand and Oman are leading negotiations on the modalities resolution that would enable that the Summit of the Future to take place.
I would now like to speak in some detail about the Summit of the Future. This Summit is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to reinvigorate global action, recommit to fundamental principles, and further develop the frameworks of multilateralism so they are fit for the future. This Summit should maximize the booster effect for the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals. The Summit of the Future will also be the moment to agree on concrete solutions to challenges that have emerged or grown since 2015.
The outcome of a successful Summit of the Future will, I hope, be an intergovernmentally negotiated Leaders’ Pact for the Future. Heads of State and Government will be able to commit to this Pact at the high-level week of the General Assembly. At the heart of this Pact should be a commitment to reinvigorate the multilateral system and make it fit for the challenges of today and tomorrow. It must reaffirm our fundamental belief in the Charter of the United Nations. And it should refocus our efforts on meeting our existing commitments in the 2030 Agenda and the Paris Agreement; addressing threats to international peace and security; and realizing our ambitions on human rights, international justice, and gender equality.
The Pact for the Future must demonstrate to the world that while we face daunting challenges, we can overcome them with cooperation, compromise and global solidarity. We must show that through an emphasis on our shared humanity and a strengthened multilateral system, we can put the world on a better path. Member States will decide on the issues to be included in the Pact for the Future.
Allow me today to set out several proposed tracks and possible outcomes. First, I hope to submit for your consideration a New Agenda for Peace. This is a direct response to your request in the “United Nations 75” Declaration to promote peace; better address, and I quote: “all forms and domains of threats”; and enhance the United Nations toolbox to prevent the outbreak and escalation of hostilities on land, at sea, in space and in cyberspace. The broad support from Member States for this important track reflects the urgency with which we need to collectively address traditional and emerging threats to peace and security.
Second, a Global Digital Compact, based on shared principles for an open, free and secure digital future. I have asked my new Tech Envoy to support you in agreeing on the level of ambition for such a Compact. This could include connecting those not yet connected; equitable use of digital public goods; avoiding fragmentation of the Internet; providing people with options for how their data is used; safeguarding human rights in digital spaces; introducing accountability for disinformation and misleading content; and aligning the regulation of artificial intelligence with our universally shared values.
Third, a Declaration on Future Generations. This would include a commitment to thinking and acting now on behalf of future generations; establishing mechanisms to take their interests and needs into account; and making full use of our capacity to foresee future risks and impacts. I hope we can build on the progress made by the Permanent Representatives of the Netherlands and Fiji, and that agreement will be reached at the Summit to appoint an Envoy for Future Generations.
Fourth, outer space. I hope the Summit will achieve a high-level political agreement on the peaceful, secure and sustainable use of this vital domain. This could include a commitment to negotiate an international instrument on the prevention of an arms race in outer space; common principles for the governance of outer space activities; and measures to accelerate agreement on the removal of space debris, and to coordinate space traffic. This track would make full use of existing intergovernmental processes mandated to deal with outer space, without duplicating them.
Fifth, the Emergency Platform. The world has paid a high price for our ad hoc responses to recent global shocks, from the COVID-19 pandemic to the war in Ukraine. No single organization exists to gather stakeholders in the event of such a global crisis. The United Nations is the only organization that could fulfil this role. In recent weeks, we convened parties to conflict, the shipping industry, insurance firms and chambers of commerce around the Black Sea Grain Initiative. Despite this success, we do not have yet the mechanisms we need. I hope Member States will agree on arrangements to manage future global crises in a fast and coordinated way.
While my report describes this as an Emergency Platform, the title is far less important than the purpose. We are open to consider flexible and with variable geometry in order to make sure that we are able to address the different kinds of crises the world will be facing. I will provide further thinking on this to you in the coming months.
Sixth, more effective multilateral arrangements. The High-Level Advisory Board on Effective Multilateralism is working on recommendations on some of the issues I have mentioned, and many more. The Board is independent. Its recommendations will be offered as inputs, and I hope you will consider taking them forward to the Summit of the Future. I will leave the board’s co-chairs, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Stefan Löfven, to brief you on their work later today.
In addition to these tracks, I hope you will consider including several other issues in the Pact for the Future, on grounds of their importance. These include a general commitment to integrity in public information; a commitment to ensuring meaningful youth engagement at the United Nations; and a commitment to metrics that go beyond gross domestic product and take vulnerability into account.
While these ideas may not require full preparatory tracks, I hope the Summit outcome will reflect our collective progress. Human rights and gender equality will be cross-cutting themes of the Summit of the Future, with a consistent focus on a renewed social contract that includes marginalized groups and leaves no one behind. The seventy-fifth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights next year will be an opportunity for fresh thinking to feed into the Summit of the Future.
The Summit could also consider the specific human rights proposals included in Our Common Agenda, from safeguarding human rights in digital spaces, to the five transformative measures for gender equality. The Pact for the Future will be intergovernmentally negotiated and agreed. But, multistakeholder engagement will be essential on many of these issues. For example, a Global Digital Compact will be meaningless without the input of technology companies and scientists.
The Summit outcomes will be strengthened by the views of civil society, academia, the private sector, local and regional Government, and others. Inclusion of a wide range of voices is not only the right thing to do, but also the only way we will arrive to meaningful solutions to be considered by Member States in the intergovernmental process.
In closing, allow me to say a few words about the links between the proposed Summit of the Future, and the second Sustainable Development Goals Summit. The Sustainable Development Goals Summit will take place here in New York at the midpoint of implementation of the 2030 Agenda next year. It will enable the global community to review progress on the Sustainable Development Goals, recommend policies, and launch initiatives to regain momentum and accelerate implementation. In a word, to rescue the Sustainable Development Goals.
We see these two meetings as twin summits, with the same overall objective: to create conditions for a sustainable, equitable and inclusive future. The Summit of the Future must lift the outcomes of the Sustainable Development Goals Summit towards 2030 and beyond. Together with the Paris Agreement, these summits are our last, best chance to deliver on people’s demand for a multilateral system that manages and solves global challenges in a timely, effective and fair way.
Every day we wait leads us closer to a global breakdown — both physical and political. But, while the problems before us are unprecedented, they are not insurmountable. Our Common Agenda attempts to correct our course, guided by the Charter of the United Nations, to build the safer, more resilient and inclusive world set out in the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals.