Calling for Reinvigorated Multilateralism, Secretary-General Tells BRICS Summit, in Fracturing World with Overwhelming Crises, No Alternative to Cooperation

Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks at the BRICS [Brazil, Russian Federation, India, China and South Africa] Summit, in Johannesburg today:

Let me begin by thanking President Cyril Ramaphosa.  We take great inspiration from the Rainbow Nation’s extraordinary path to unity through action and justice.  That is what our world needs:  unity for action, and unity for justice.

We are confronting existential challenges.  The climate crisis is spiralling out of control.  A global cost-of-living crisis is raging.  Poverty, hunger, and inequalities are growing against the objectives of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  New technologies are raising red flags, without a global architecture to deal with them.  Geopolitical divides and conflicts are multiplying with profound global implications, especially the impacts from the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

We are moving towards a multipolar world, and that is a positive thing.  But, multipolarity in itself is not enough to guarantee a peaceful or just global community. To be a factor of peace, equity, and justice in international relations, multipolarity must be supported by strong and effective multilateral institutions.

Look no further than the situation in Europe at the dawn of the last century.  Europe was multipolar — but it lacked strong multilateral mechanisms.  The result was the First World War.

As the global community moves towards multipolarity, we desperately need — and I have been vigorously advocating for — a strengthened and reformed multilateral architecture based on the UN Charter and international law.

Today’s global governance structures reflect yesterday’s world.  They were largely created in the aftermath of the Second World War when many African countries were still ruled by colonial Powers and were not even at the table.  This is particularly true of the Security Council of the United Nations and the Bretton Woods institutions.

For multilateral institutions to remain truly universal, they must reform to reflect today’s power and economic realities, and not the power and economic realities of the post-Second World War.  In the absence of such reform, fragmentation is inevitable.

We cannot afford a world with a divided global economy and financial system, with diverging strategies on technology including artificial intelligence and with conflicting security frameworks.

The IMF [International Monetary Fund] estimates that such a fracture could cost 7 per cent of global GDP [gross domestic product] — a cost that would be disproportionately born by low-income countries, mainly in Africa.

And so, I have come to Johannesburg with a simple message:  in a fracturing world with overwhelming crises, there is simply no alternative to cooperation.  We must urgently restore trust and reinvigorate multilateralism for the twenty-first century.

This requires the courage to compromise in the reforms that are necessary for the common good.  It requires full respect for the UN Charter, international law, universal values, and all human rights — social, cultural, economic, civil and political.  And it requires much greater solidarity.

Of course, none of this is easy.  But, it is essential.  And is essential especially for Africa.  The African continent, a historic victim of slavery and colonialism, continues to confront grave injustices.  On average, African countries pay four times more for borrowing than the United States and eight times more than the wealthiest European countries.

And African countries account for just 4 per cent of global greenhouse-gas emissions, but is an epicentre of climate chaos suffering disproportionally impacts of climate change.

Looking ahead, I see two priorities for action and justice. First, on the economic front:  Redesigning today’s outdated, dysfunctional and unfair global financial architecture is necessary, but I know it won’t happen overnight.  Yet, we can — and must — take practical action now.

The Sustainable Development Goals’ Stimulus I have proposed, an effective debt workout mechanism, and other steps necessary to multiple the resources available for developing countries are vital for sustainable development in Africa and to give options to African Governments to support the development of their peoples.

We must also drastically step-up climate action and climate justice.  I have put forward a Climate Solidarity Pact in which developed countries provide financial and technical support to help emerging economies — in Africa and beyond — to promote an equitable and just transition to renewable energy.

And I have presented an Acceleration Agenda to boost these efforts — with developed countries committing to reach net-zero emissions as close as possible to 2040 and developing countries as close as possible to 2050.

Developed countries must also finally keep their promises to developing countries by meeting the $100 billion goal, doubling adaptation finance, replenishing the Green Climate Fund, and operationalizing the loss and damage fund this year.  As a matter of justice, Africa must be considered a priority in all these efforts.

We will not solve our common challenges in a fragmented way. Together, let us work to advance the power of universal action, the imperative for justice and the promise of a better future.  Thank you.

For information media. Not an official record.