Today We Must Begin ‘Moving Recommendations in Our Common Agenda from Ideas to Action — from Abstract to Concrete’, Secretary-General Tells General Assembly
Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks to the General Assembly’s consultation on Our Common Agenda/Summit of the Future, in New York today:
In the 18 months since the report on Our Common Agenda, we have made important progress. You have been fundamental to that progress.
The breakthrough on loss and damage; the recognition on the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment; the Transforming Education Summit; the Global Accelerator on Jobs and Social Protection; and the decision to establish a United Nations Youth Office are all significant steps towards the transformations we need. But, they are clearly only the beginning. We need to go further and deeper.
On climate, on conflict, on inequality, on food insecurity, on nuclear weapons — we are closer to the edge than ever. And yet, our collective problem-solving mechanisms do not match the pace or scale of the challenges.
The present forms of multilateral governance, designed in and for a bygone era, are clearly not adequate to today’s complex, interconnected and rapidly changing and dangerous world. The fragmentation of our global response and the fragmentation of our world are feeding off each other.
Today, we are here to start the job of moving the recommendations in Our Common Agenda from ideas to action — from abstract to concrete.
At the outset, I want to stress that Our Common Agenda is aimed at turbocharging the 2030 Agenda and making the Sustainable Development Goals real in the lives of people everywhere. Because, halfway to 2030, we are far off track.
We will only make up lost ground by addressing the gaps and challenges that have emerged since 2015 — including gaps in intergovernmental cooperation. The Sustainable Development Goals Summit in September will be the centrepiece of our work this year and must mark significant progress.
Member States must come with a clear commitment to rescue the Sustainable Development Goals — setting out their national vision for transformation, grounded in concrete plans, benchmarks and commitments.
An ambitious Political Declaration must recognize the far-reaching changes needed at both national and global levels. It must prioritize and mobilize investment and action across the core transitions required to achieve the Goals.
The Sustainable Development Goals Summit must make our commitment to leaving no one behind a reality in law and policy. And it must include measures to ensure international systems relating to finance, trade, debt and technology work for developing countries – not against them.
I repeat my call on G20 [Group of 20] countries to agree on a global Sustainable Development Goals stimulus of at least $500 billion a year to support countries of the Global South, by the Sustainable Development Goals Summit.
Our Common Agenda must build on the Sustainable Development Goals Summit. My report includes many proposals; we now need to look into the substance and detail.
Throughout this year, the Secretariat will issue a series of 11 policy briefs with concrete ideas for your consideration. The proposals in the briefs will be strongly linked to the Sustainable Development Goals, responding to your observations during the five thematic consultations last year.
A first brief on the New Agenda for Peace will offer proposals that address all forms and domains of threats, articulating a vision of our work on peace and security for a world in transition and a new era of geopolitical competition.
It will take a holistic view of the peace continuum, from prevention, conflict resolution and peacekeeping to peacebuilding and sustainable long-term development.
It will set out a comprehensive approach to prevention and peacebuilding, linking peace, sustainable development, climate action and human rights, and drawing on the approaches and expertise of women and young people.
The proposals will address the challenges faced by peacekeeping and recognize the need for a new generation of peace-enforcement missions and counter‑terrorist operations, led by regional forces, with guaranteed, predictable funding. And the African Union is an obvious partner in this regard.
The brief will include proposals to bring disarmament and arms control back to the centre of debate on peace and security, and to address threats from emerging technologies including artificial intelligence and cyberwarfare.
Two policy briefs on finance will aim to advance the crucial discussions underway on a fairer and more effective global economy. One will advance our work on metrics that go beyond gross domestic product (GDP), so that decisions on debt relief, concessional funding and international cooperation take account of vulnerability, well-being, sustainability and other vital measures of progress.
Our current metrics simply ignore many important contributions to society, such as the care economy, while presenting harmful practices like deforestation and overfishing as beneficial. That paradoxically comes when we measure gross domestic product.
The second brief will make proposals for root and branch reforms to the global financial architecture so that it delivers effectively and fairly for everyone, and particularly the Global South. This brief will look at the radical transformation that is needed for globalization to benefit all.
Proposals will include strengthening the voice of the Global South in financial governance; creating a global financial safety net and a debt architecture that makes debt relief and restructuring available to all vulnerable countries, including middle-income ones; and aligning the objectives of the financial system with the Sustainable Development Goals.
It will propose ways to change the business model of multilateral development banks so they assume greater risk, and can massively leverage private funds to help developing countries accelerate the transition to renewable energy and invest in the Sustainable Development Goals.
The Bridgetown Agenda that emerged from a collaboration between the Government of Barbados and the United Nations is making important progress in this area. The aim is to make finance work for people, planet and prosperity — aligned with the 2030 Agenda.
A policy brief on our commitment to the needs of future generations will include a proposal for the appointment of an envoy to serve as their global voice. It will suggest content to inform a political declaration defining our duties to the future, and a dedicated intergovernmental forum to share experiences and advance implementation. This brief will also set out ideas to make full use of our unprecedented capacity to forecast and understand the impact of current policies and activities.
A policy brief on improving the international response to complex global shocks will include proposals to convene and coordinate key players quickly in the event of an emergency, with access to the right data, expertise, resources and capacities.
There is no intention to set up new institutions or to infringe on the mandates of existing bodies. But, this brief will propose guidelines to mobilize a coherent global response through an emergency platform. And this should provide high-level political leadership to coordinate effective multilateral action, advocacy and accountability.
A brief on global digital cooperation will offer ideas on maximizing and sharing the benefits of digital technology while protecting against the harms it can cause. These ideas will build on our earlier road map, inspired by a vision of an inclusive, open, free and secure digital future for all, based on one global Internet.
A global digital compact will aim to move towards a vision of technology as a motor for human progress that can only deliver its full benefits when we deal with the harm it can cause. Linked with this, we will issue a brief on information integrity.
Delivering a new social contract means restoring trust in each other and in the facts underpinning our decisions. We need an information ecosystem that is inclusive and safe for all. This brief will further strengthen our focus on how mis- and disinformation are impacting progress on global issues — including the climate crisis.
A brief on the peaceful, secure and sustainable use of outer space, its assets and its activities will look at harnessing the opportunities offered by space tools for delivering the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement, and addressing threats and emerging risks.
The proposals in the brief will reinforce the centrality of Member States in governing space, while suggesting ways to further engage with non-governmental stakeholders. And this brief will include recommendations on peace and security, on space traffic coordination, space debris, space resources and our renewed efforts to explore deep-space.
Following up on the Transforming Education Summit, we will issue a policy brief on reimagining and accelerating progress on education. Building on my vision statement and Summit report, it will include proposals to put education at the top of political agendas at national, regional and global levels, and to accelerate the transformation of financing for education.
The proposals will cover six key areas: the purpose of education; the learning environment; the teaching profession; harnessing digital transformation; investing in education; and multilateral support for quality education for all — according to Sustainable Development Goal 4.
Another brief will set out steps towards more systematic participation by young people in decision-making processes at the global level. Establishing the new United Nations Youth Office was an important step forward. But we must build on it.
And so the brief will emphasize key areas for action, from safeguarding and protecting young people to making sure they have a strong voice in decision-making at the national and global levels. This also holds true inside the United Nations system, including in preparations for decisions to be taken by the General Assembly, the Economic and Social Council and in some matters the Security Council itself.
Finally, we will consider how to strengthen the capacities of the United Nations for the twenty-first century — and build a UN 2.0. It is not enough for the United Nations to have the right agenda. It also needs the expertise to work with Member States to execute that agenda. And like Member States, we need new skills, new expertise, new strategies and programmes.
The policy brief on UN 2.0 will look at how we can strengthen our expertise in data, digital, innovation, foresight and behavioural science — and build a United Nations system that can better support Members States in the years to come.
And all policy briefs will include an analysis on their impact in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, and will be necessarily informed by the Charter of the United Nations and the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, in the spirit of my Call to Action for Human Rights. Gender equality will obviously be a cross-cutting theme. Each brief will include specific language to promote the rights of women and girls.
In addition to this series of policy briefs, I look forward to the recommendations from the High-Level Advisory Board on Effective Multilateralism and how we can fill the most consequential gaps in global governance, guided by the Charter of the United Nations and the 2030 Agenda.
The Co-Chairs, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Stefan Löfven, will share their preliminary thinking with you tomorrow. The Board will publish its report in April. Many of the proposals included in these policy briefs will contribute to your preparations for the Summit of the Future next year. The Secretariat is entirely at the disposal of cofacilitators to support their critical work in the development of the intergovernmental process.
The Summit of the Future will be a generational opportunity to reinvigorate global action, recommit to our fundamental principles and develop multilateral frameworks that work for today’s world and move us in to the future we want.
One of the key objectives of Our Common Agenda is to tackle the obstacles and impediments to the 2030 Agenda; to fill the gaps and take on emerging challenges coming at us with daunting speed and frequency.
The Summit of the Future will be the platform to address these issues, highlight and address the costs of short-term thinking and create guardrails around the impact of new technologies.
I hope it will result in a Pact for the Future that will encompass action towards a fair and just global financial system, a commitment to a safe, peaceful and sustainable planet, putting technology at the service of humanity and protecting future generations.
I urge you to play a full role in the consultations on Summit preparations, and in the Preparatory Ministerial Meeting in September. These will be important opportunities to identify the key tracks, principles and outcomes of the Summit.
While that outcome will be intergovernmentally agreed by Member States, your preparations will be enriched by the views of civil society, academia, the private sector, local and regional government and others. You will take the decisions. But, you will take inspiration, energy and ideas from many other areas. Many of proposals in Our Common Agenda are aimed at strengthening existing work and mandates in the face of new challenges. Work is well under way on these tracks.
The Global Accelerator on Jobs and Social Protection is taking forward ideas on women’s economic inclusion, green and digital job creation, youth labour guarantees and a global fund for social protection. The Accelerator has been endorsed by the G7 and G20 and a partnership has been established with the World Bank to expand social protection to 1 billion people by 2025.
Work also continues on the five transformative measures for gender equality, with a strong focus on support to Member States at the country level. A United Nations task team is supporting Member States in tackling discriminatory laws and regulations.
More broadly, a new vision for rule of law is being developed that aims to put people at the centre of justice systems. The new vision will reinforce the centrality of the rule of law in our activities and bolster the links among rule of law, human rights and development.
We are moving ahead with preparations for the World Social Summit in 2025. This will be an opportunity for a different form of global deliberation based on inclusion, trust and listening, with a focus on tackling inequalities and strengthening people’s agency, opportunities and rights. It will address the key social challenges we face on jobs, education, housing and social protection. The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) has noted the proposal and I encourage Member States to lend their support.
And we have made progress on plans for the proposed biennial summit between the members of the G20, Economic and Social Council, leaders of international financial institutions and myself as Secretary-General. Member States have taken note of the proposal and discussions are underway with the Indian presidency of the G20.
This is a rich agenda of work. It is challenging for us all. But, it is essential to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and securing our collective future.
There are many complex negotiating processes and initiatives underway this year. Intergovernmental processes are demanding and time-consuming — but they are essential if we are to move forward together, united around our common goals.
This must be the year when we lay the foundations for more effective global cooperation that can deal with today’s challenges, as well as new risks and threats down the line.
My entire team and I — including Under-Secretary-General Guy Ryder — are at your disposal. As we work together for a better present and a more promising future, I count on your continued engagement and support.