Launching New Agenda for Peace Policy Brief, Secretary-General Urges States to “Preserve Our Universal Institution” amid Highest Level of Geopolitical Tension in Decades
Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks at the launch of the policy brief on the New Agenda for Peace, in New York today:
I am pleased to join you today to present our policy brief: “The New Agenda for Peace”. This is the latest in our series of policy briefs expanding on the recommendations in Our Common Agenda.
We are on the verge of a new era. The post-cold war period is over, and we are moving towards a new global order and a multipolar world. The policy brief on a New Agenda for Peace outlines my vision of multilateral efforts for peace and security, based on international law, for a world in transition.
This new era is already marked by the highest level of geopolitical tensions and major Power competition in decades. Many Member States are growing sceptical of whether the multilateral system is working for them. Violations of international law are becoming more common. Deep and, in some cases, justified grievances about double standards and unmet commitments are undermining cooperation.
At the same time, the world faces new and developing threats that require urgent, united action. Conflicts have become more complex, deadly and harder to resolve. Last year saw the highest number of conflict-related deaths in almost three decades. Concerns about the possibility of nuclear war have re-emerged. New potential domains of conflict and weapons of war are creating new ways in which humanity can annihilate itself.
Inequalities within and between States are growing, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Human rights are under attack across the world, including a pernicious pushback against women’s rights. Distrust in public institutions is mounting, fuelled by exclusion and marginalization. Terrorism remains a global scourge. The climate emergency is intensifying competition for resources and exacerbating tensions.
And the Russian Federation’s invasion of Ukraine has made it even more difficult to address these challenges. If every country fulfilled its obligations under the Charter [of the United Nations], the right to peace would be guaranteed. But when countries break those pledges, they create a world of insecurity for everyone.
The very tenets of multilateralism and the collective security system have been questioned: the Charter and international law; regional security architectures; nuclear disarmament and de-escalation. Frameworks for global cooperation have not kept pace with this new global landscape.
The UN75 Declaration [Declaration on the commemoration of the seventy-fifth anniversary of the United Nations] asked me to consider global threats — and to make concrete recommendations on how to address them.
The policy brief on the New Agenda for Peace outlines an extensive and ambitious set of recommendations that recognize the inter-linked nature of many of these challenges. It is framed around the core principles of trust, solidarity and universality that are foundational to the Charter and to a stable world.
This policy brief is also part of my commitment to link actions for peace with the Sustainable Development Goals. If we achieve the vision set out in the 2030 Agenda, our world will be more peaceful and secure as well as more sustainable.
The New Agenda for Peace presents 12 concrete sets of proposals for action, in five priority areas. I will go through these priorities briefly.
First, we need strong measures to bolster prevention at the global level, by addressing strategic risks and geopolitical divisions.
The nuclear disarmament and arms control regime is eroding; non-proliferation is being challenged; and a qualitative race in nuclear armaments is under way. Reducing the existential risk posed by nuclear weapons is an urgent priority — but it is not enough. We must do everything possible to eliminate this risk — by eliminating nuclear weapons.
This policy brief therefore calls on Member States to urgently recommit to pursuing a world free of nuclear weapons and to reinforce the global norms against their use and proliferation. Pending their total elimination, States possessing nuclear weapons must commit to never use them.
We also need to step up preventive diplomacy at the global level in the face of growing fragmentation and the potential emergence of geopolitical blocs with different trade rules, supply chains, currencies and Internets.
The policy brief calls on all countries to prioritize diplomacy — particularly when States disagree — and to make full use of my good offices to bridge divides so that humanity does not become collateral damage in an all-out geopolitical competition between major Powers. The United Nations, as the only truly universal platform, must be at the centre of these efforts.
The policy brief also calls for investment in regional security architectures that can rebuild trust between Member States and support diplomacy at the global level.
Second, this policy brief sets out a vision for preventing conflict and violence, and sustaining peace that applies to everyone, in all countries, at all times.
It calls for a paradigm for prevention that addresses all forms of violence; focuses on mediation; promotes social cohesion; prioritizes the links between sustainable development, climate action and peace; and is anchored in full respect for all human rights — civil, political, economic, social and cultural.
That requires a comprehensive view of the peace continuum and a holistic approach that identifies root causes and prevents the seeds of war from sprouting. The stagnation and reversal of progress on more than half the SDG [Sustainable Development Goal] targets has serious implications for global peace and security. It is no coincidence that countries affected by conflict are farthest behind on the SDGs.
We must accelerate the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, recognizing that prevention and sustainable development are interdependent and mutually reinforcing. Access to education and health care are proven development pathways that strengthen the social contract and human security.
The policy brief also calls for the transformation of gendered power dynamics across the board, including in peace and security. Incrementalism has not delivered the women, peace and security agenda. Governments must take targeted steps, including the introduction of quotas, to ensure women’s meaningful participation and leadership in decision-making, eradicate all forms of violence against women and uphold women’s rights.
The New Agenda for Peace also calls on Member States to reduce military spending and ban inhumane and indiscriminate weapons.
The third priority area is to update our approach to peace operations, recognizing the realities of today’s conflicts.
United Nations peacekeeping represents multilateralism in action, giving all those who contribute a direct stake in our collective security. It has contributed to saving millions of lives by helping to preserve ceasefires, protect civilians from violence and supporting parties to conflict to return to the peace table.
But longstanding unresolved conflicts, driven by complex domestic, geopolitical and transnational factors, and a persistent mismatch between mandates and resources, have exposed its limitations. Peacekeeping operations cannot succeed where there is no peace to keep.
Nor can they achieve their goals without clear, prioritized and realistic mandates from the Security Council, centred on political solutions. Missions must have adequate resources and the full political support of the Security Council, with active, continuous engagement with all parties.
The policy brief calls for a serious, broad-based reflection on the future of United Nations peacekeeping operations, with a view to moving towards nimble, adaptable models with appropriate exit strategies in place. The fragmentation of conflicts, which often involve non-State armed groups, criminal gangs, terrorists and opportunists, has increased the need for multinational peace-enforcement, counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency operations.
The policy brief calls on Member States to recognize this need and urges the Security Council to authorize peace-enforcement action by regional and subregional organizations. This action should be fully in line with the Charter and international humanitarian and human-rights law, backed by inclusive political efforts to advance peace.
There is no continent in greater need of this new generation of peace-enforcement missions than Africa. The proliferation of non-State armed groups, including terrorist groups, operating across borders presents a major and growing threat in several parts of the continent.
The New Agenda for Peace therefore reiterates my call for peace-enforcement missions and counter-terrorism operations, led by African partners with a Security Council mandate under Chapters VII and VIII of the Charter and with guaranteed funding including through assessed contributions.
Decisions on this are long overdue. The New Agenda for Peace is a critical opportunity for Member States to begin the process of updating multilateral peace operations for today’s world.
The fourth priority area is to prevent the weaponization of emerging domains and technologies and promote responsible innovation.
From artificial intelligence to emerging biological risks, new technologies — and the complex interaction between them — present a host of new threats that go far beyond our current governing frameworks. While there is broad agreement that international law applies in cyberspace, there is still a lack of clarity on how it applies — including in relation to the cyberdimensions of conflict.
The policy brief on a New Agenda for Peace puts forward detailed proposals for Member States to tackle the extension of hostilities to cyberspace and outer space. Infrastructure essential for public services and to the functioning of society must be declared off-limits to malicious cyberactivity. It also calls on Member States to adopt, by 2026, a legally binding instrument to prohibit lethal autonomous weapons systems that function without human control.
It highlights the need for new national strategies to mitigate the peace and security implications of artificial intelligence (AI). And it calls for a multilateral process to develop norms, rules and principles around military applications of AI, while ensuring engagement with stakeholders from industry, civil society and other sectors.
I welcome calls from some Member States, and from industry experts and the scientific community, to consider the creation of a new global body to mitigate the peace and security risks of AI while harnessing its benefits to accelerate sustainable development. To inform discussions, I am convening a high-level advisory body to outline options on global AI governance, which will report back by the end of the year.
The fifth priority area is updating our collective-security machinery to restore its legitimacy and effectiveness.
The world needs collective-security structures that represent the geopolitical realities of today and the contributions made by different regions to global peace. The New Agenda for Peace provides a generational opportunity to address this critical issue.
The policy brief recommends urgent reforms to the Security Council to make it more just and representative, and the democratization of its procedures. It proposes revitalizing the work of the General Assembly and reforming the disarmament machinery.
It also proposes enhancing the role of the Peacebuilding Commission. The Security Council in particular should more systematically seek the advice of the Commission on the peacebuilding dimensions of the mandates of peace operations. Prevention at the global level also requires efforts to right the injustices and inequities built into our global financial architecture, which are addressed in our dedicated policy brief.
Before I close, allow me to say a few words about the final two policy briefs expanding on the recommendations in Our Common Agenda.
The policy brief on transforming education will propose an overhaul of education systems to better equip individuals and societies with new skills, capacities and mindsets for our rapidly changing world. At its core it will be a call for the creation of true learning societies in every country, built on comprehensive systems of lifelong learning; on a rethink of what and how we learn; and on scaled-up international cooperation to ensure access for all to education as a global public good.
The policy brief on UN 2.0 will set out my vision for a modernized United Nations that harnesses state-of-the-art skills and approaches to empower Member States in accelerating the 2030 Agenda. We intend to shift expertise to areas that are vital in the twenty-first century: data, digital innovation, strategic foresight and behavioural science.
We will also foster a more forward-thinking and inclusive culture across the United Nations, increasing support for creativity, agility, geographic diversity, gender equality and youth empowerment.
The purpose of all the policy briefs in the series is to support your deliberations in preparation for the Summit of the Future next year. The Summit will be an occasion to address the serious risks and significant opportunities we face; to deliver on unmet commitments while rising to new challenges; and to restore trust in each other and in multilateral action, through a pact for the future that updates global systems and frameworks to make them fit for the challenges of today and tomorrow.
I urge you to agree on a scope for the Summit that is clear, streamlined and comprehensive, focused on new challenges and filling gaps in the multilateral system.
Peace is the driving force behind the work of the United Nations. Today’s new threats to peace create new demands on us. This policy brief on the New Agenda for Peace is our attempt to meet those demands. I urge Member States to debate it and to engage with our proposals.
Time and again the United Nations has demonstrated its convening power as a platform for broad-based coalitions and effective diplomacy. Deep disagreements have been transcended to take collective action against critical threats. Our Organization is, and must remain, central to multilateralism.
In our fractured, troubled world, it is incumbent upon States to preserve our universal institution, in which they all have a stake. The time to act is not when the divisions and fractures have engulfed us. The time to act is now. Thank you.