Security Council Paralysed by Divisions, Global Governance Failing to Manage Climate, New Technology Threats, Secretary-General Tells Doha Forum, Urging Deep Reforms

Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks to the Doha Forum in Doha, Qatar today: 

Your Highness, Sheikh Tamim bin-Hamad Al Thani, thank you very much for convening the Doha Forum.  Your theme, Building Shared Futures, could not be more timely.

Recent events, from the COVID-19 pandemic to the climate crisis and the digital revolution, have shone a spotlight on one fact:  We are all deeply interconnected.  No man is an island, as the poet wrote.  Today, to be gender sensitive, I would say no one is an island.

And indeed today, no island is just an island.  Melting ice in Antarctica causes floods and droughts across Africa.  Hunger in Haiti is inflamed by bombs in the Black Sea.  Humanity shares one destiny and one planet.

And today, the planet is being hit by a perfect storm.  Geopolitical divides.  Global inequalities.  Raging conflicts.  Rising poverty and hunger.  Climate chaos.  Crushing debt and skyrocketing prices.  New technology without governance or guardrails.

Our world is in a difficult moment of transition.  For decades, despite terrible conflicts, geopolitical relations were relatively stable, based on alliances around the two cold war super-Powers.  Today, after a short period of unipolarity, we are moving towards a multipolar world.

This brings new opportunities for leadership, justice and balance in global relations — but it also creates complexity.  And we need strong multilateral institutions to manage that complexity in order to avoid chaos.  But today, those institutions are weak and outdated. They are caught in a time warp, reflecting the reality of 80 years ago.

Social, economic and political relations have changed dramatically since then.  We need a serious effort to bring global structures up to date, rooted in equality and solidarity and based on the United Nations Charter and international law.

Take the Security Council.  The preeminent forum for the peaceful resolution of international disputes is paralysed by geostrategic divisions.  This fact is undermining solutions from Ukraine to Myanmar to the Middle East.  The horrific attacks by Hamas on 7 October, followed by the relentless Israeli bombardment of Gaza, were met by a resounding silence from the Council.

After more than one month, the Council finally passed a resolution, which I welcome.  But that delay comes at a cost.  The Council’s authority and credibility were severely undermined.  And the resolution is not being implemented.

Last week, I delivered a letter to the President of the Security Council, invoking Article 99 of the Charter of the United Nations for the first time since I became Secretary-General in 2017.  I wrote that there is no effective protection of civilians in Gaza.  As a matter of fact, during my mandate the number of civilian casualties in Gaza in such a short period is totally unprecedented.

The health care system is collapsing.  I expect public order to completely break down soon and an even worse situation could unfold, including epidemic diseases and increased pressure for mass displacement into Egypt.  I said that we are facing a severe risk of collapse of the humanitarian system.  The situation is fast deteriorating into a catastrophe with potentially irreversible implications for Palestinians as a whole and for peace and security in the region.

And I urged the Security Council to press to avert a humanitarian catastrophe and I reiterated my appeal for a humanitarian ceasefire to be declared.  Regrettably, the Security Council failed to do it, but that does not make it less necessary.  So, I can promise I will not give up.

I thank His Highness and the Government of Qatar for their mediation role, particularly in the agreement on a humanitarian pause, increased humanitarian assistance, and the release of hostages.

Beyond the Security Council, global governance is failing to manage two existential threats.  First, climate.  We need far more ambition to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and ensure climate justice.  Despite promises and pledges, our climate is in breakdown.  Emissions are at an all-time high.  And fossil fuels remain a major cause.

Renewable energy is cheap, clean, and infinite.  It can meet the world’s growing energy demand without poisoning our environment and suffocating our planet.  I urge fossil fuel companies to use their enormous resources to lead the renewables revolution.

And I urge leaders at COP28 [Twenty-eighth Session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change] in Dubai to agree on deep cuts to emissions, in line with the 1.5°C limit.  That is the only road not only to climate sustainability, but economic sustainability. The proposal I made, the Climate Solidarity Pact, calls on big emitters to make extra efforts to cut emissions and wealthier countries to support emerging economies to do so.

And we also need deep reforms to our global financial architecture.  We must have more ambition on reduction of emissions, but also more ambition on climate justice because developing countries that are not contributing to climate change are the ones that are paying the heaviest price.

For those financial changes to take place, the Bretton Woods system must be made truly universal and representative of today’s economic reality and not of the economic reality of the post-WWII.  Multilateral development banks must change their business model and leverage far more private finance at reasonable cost for developing countries to invest in climate action and the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Second, we must face up to the threat posed by new technologies.  Artificial intelligence could provide solutions to many global challenges.  But without adequate regulation, it will also lead us into deep and troubled waters.  AI is already supercharging hate speech and division, enabling data harvesting and mass surveillance, and exacerbating vast inequalities.  To help advance the search for solutions, I have appointed a multistakeholder High-Level Advisory Body on AI which will provide preliminary recommendations by the end of this year. 

These technologies cry out for governance.  And I believe that governance should be networked and inclusive, flexible and agile, and that the UN should be at the centre of the network as the only organization that combines legitimacy, universality and diversity.

This month marks the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  But we are not living up to the promise of this landmark document.  Reforms to global governance must be grounded in the Universal Declaration and the enduring values of the UN Charter.

Next September’s Summit of the Future is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for these important decisions to look seriously into the reform of our global multilateral governance system.  We have put forward a series of proposals to Member States and I look forward to their engagement and support.

A Global Digital Compact would mitigate the risks of digital technologies and help to harness their benefits for the good of humanity. Reforms of the global financial architecture would enable Governments in developing countries to be able to invest in education, health, jobs and social protection for their people instead of being drowned in debt and without fiscal space to act.

Reforms to the Security Council, and a proposed New Agenda for Peace, would help to prevent and resolve conflict, deliver equity and justice, have no double-standards, rebalance geopolitical relations, and give developing countries a greater voice on the international stage.

As the forces of fragmentation gain ground, we must build bridges and find shared solutions to global challenges.  We need the solidarity that is evident here at the Doha Forum to advance these ambitious agendas.  Now is truly the time for building shared futures — uniting behind solutions and transforming our world for good.

For information media. Not an official record.