This writer believes strongly in the usefulness of the United Nations to the agenda of the whole world pertaining to peace, progress, and development. I have, therefore, taken keen interest in monitoring its activities as well as ‘’digesting’’ information on its activities. The United Nations is a product of two World Wars that ravaged the whole world in severe proportions. As a lover of peace and development who tries as much as possible to run away from trouble of any kind, and a well-wisher of the United Nations, this writer celebrates and identifies with the UN on the occasion of its 75th anniversary.
It takes the grace of God to recognize the importance of peace and peaceful conduct especially by someone like me who cannot watch a fowl slaughtered. I wonder how people aim a gun at a human being and shoot! ”Discretion is the better part of valour” is credited to Falstaff in King Henry the Fourth, Part One, by William Shakespeare and means caution is preferable to rash bravery. When it comes to violence, I am not brave at all. Consistently, I have pondered over how the world would have looked like today without the United Nations, its organs and affiliates. Having been privileged to understudy the UN system for months in 1986 at a period that ate into the 41st Session of the UN General Assembly held in New-York, I am in a position to express my opinion on how beneficial the establishment of the global organization has been to mankind.
I, therefore, say with every authority and unequivocally too that the organization has come a long way and should be supported to continue its good work commenced 75 years ago. Sometimes, actions may be taken as a result of ignorance hence the need for all who know the importance of the UN to assist in propagating its ideals. It is possible that views of the ordinary person on the streets on some nations may run contrary to the continued existence of this dignified organization, but we need to consider some basic facts, particularly its usefulness in the past 75 years to the 7 billion human beings inhabiting planet Earth.
MEMORY LANE: By a modalities resolution adopted by UN Member States will mark its 75th anniversary with a one-day high-level meeting of the UN General Assembly on Monday, 21 September 2020 on the theme, ‘The Future We Want, the UN We Need: Reaffirming our Collective Commitment to Multilateralism’. With the recent pandemic which has tremendously shaken the world’s life and habits, “Bridging Foundations for a LiveAble Future” emerges as a series of online conversation events intended to connect citizens of the world together around the most important challenges of our time. A statement from the UN Department of information indicates that the global body is engaging the world through dialogues that feature a survey for the purpose of evaluating its contributions to developments all over the world since that historic decision was made 75 years ago.
It states that: ‘’The United Nations is marking its 75th anniversary at a time of great challenge, including the worst global health crisis in its history. ‘’Will it bring the world closer together? Or will it lead to greater divides and mistrust? Your views can make a difference. ‘’In the aftermath of this unique context, most of us have questions: What is it that we, as humans, are currently experiencing? What contributions should and can we offer individually and collectively, while this different reality unfolds? We can change our relationship with our natural resources at large, with our planet and the rest of Mankind?’’
THE UN CHARTER …. We the peoples of the United Nations The UN Charter, as documented in UN records states that it is: ‘’an international treaty, that Charter codifies basic tenets of international relations—from the sovereign equality of states to prohibition of the use of force in any manner inconsistent with the purposes of the United Nations. The Charter consists of a Preamble and 111 articles grouped into 19 chapters. It commences with: ‘’We the peoples of the United Nations determined to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind, and to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small, and to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained, and to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom… The Charter of the United Nations was signed in San Francisco, California at the conclusion of the United Nations Conference on International Organization, and came into force on 24 October 1945. The Statute of the International Court of Justice is an integral part of the Charter.
UNITED NATIONS – THE BEST TOOL FOR INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS – PRESIDENT TRUMAN & FAR SIGHTED AMERICAN POLICY
IMPORTANCE: Going further, I should like to make an allusion to the December 11, 2006 speech of Secretary-General Kofi Annan, my role model whom I have come to admire so much for his brilliance and punchy speeches. In Truman Library speech, Annan says UN remains best tool to achieve key goals of international relations. Annan spoke in glowing terms about the contributions of the United States to the United Nations: ‘’I think it’s especially fitting that I do that here in the house that honours the legacy of Harry S Truman. ”If President FD Roosevelt was the architect of the United Nations, President Truman was the master-builder, and the faithful champion of the Organization in its first years, when it had to face quite different problems from the ones FDR had expected
‘’Truman’s name will forever be associated with the memory of far-sighted American leadership in a great global endeavor. And you will see that every one of my five lessons brings me to the conclusion that such leadership is no less sorely needed now than it was sixty years ago’’ (Now 75 years ago)
But, as Truman said, “ If we should pay merely lip service to inspiring ideals, and later do violence to simple justice, we would draw down upon us the bitter wrath of generations yet unborn.” And when I look at the murder, rape and starvation to which the people of Darfur are being subjected, I fear that we have not gone far beyond “lip service”. The lesson here is that high-sounding doctrines like the “responsibility to protect” will remain pure rhetoric unless and until those with the power to intervene effectively – by exerting political, economic or, in the last resort, military muscle – are prepared to take the lead. And I believe we have a responsibility not only to our contemporaries but also to future generations – a responsibility to preserve resources that belong to them as well as to us, and without which none of us can survive. That means we must do much more, and urgently, to prevent or slow down climate change. Every day that we do nothing, or too little, imposes higher costs on our children and our children’s children.’’
PEACE, DIGNITY & EQUALITY ON A HEALTHY PLANET — THE WORLD NEEDS SOLIDARITY……YOUR CONTRIBUTION COUNTS – UNITED NATIONS For nearly 75 years, the UN has led global efforts to achieve peace, dignity and equality on a healthy planet. By preventing conflict, vaccinating children, protecting refugees, feeding the hungry, addressing the climate emergency, empowering women, responding to humanitarian crises and more, the UN makes a difference in the lives of millions of people every day. #UN75. Let me now reproduce some facts about the United Nations and its usefulness.
MAINTAIN INTERNATION PEACE, SECURITY AND OTHER ROLES The United Nations came into being in 1945, following the devastation of the Second World War, with one central mission: the maintenance of international peace and security. The UN does this by working to prevent conflict; helping parties in conflict make peace; peacekeeping; and creating the conditions to allow peace to hold and flourish. These activities often overlap and should reinforce one another, to be effective. The UN Security Council has the primary responsibility for international peace and security. The General Assembly and the Secretary-General play major, important, and complementary roles, along with other UN offices and bodies.
PROTECT HUMAN RIGHTS — The term Human Rights was mentioned seven times in the UN’s founding Charter, making the promotion and protection of human rights a key purpose and guiding principle of the Organization. In 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights brought human rights into the realm of international law. Since then, the Organization has diligently protected human rights through legal instruments and on-the-ground activities.
DELIVER HUMANITARIAN AID — One of the purposes of the United Nations, as stated in its Charter, is “to achieve international co-operation in solving international problems of an economic, social, cultural, or humanitarian character.” The UN first did this in the aftermath of the Second World War on the devastated continent of Europe, which it helped to rebuild. The Organization is now relied upon by the international community to coordinate humanitarian relief operations due to natural and man-made disasters in areas beyond the relief capacity of national authorities alone.
PROMOTE SUSTAINABLE DEVELPMENT From the start in 1945, one of the main priorities of the United Nations was to “achieve international co-operation in solving international problems of an economic, social, cultural, or humanitarian character and in promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion.” Improving people’s well-being continues to be one of the main focuses of the UN. The global understanding of development has changed over the years, and countries now have agreed that sustainable development – a development that promotes prosperity and economic opportunity, greater social well-being, and protection of the environment – offers the best path forward for improving the lives of people everywhere.
UPHOLD INTERNATIONAL LAW .. The UN Charter, in its Preamble, set an objective: “to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained”. Ever since, the development of, and respect for international law has been a key part of the work of the Organization. This work is carried out in many ways – by courts, tribunals, multilateral treaties – and by the Security Council, which can approve peacekeeping missions, impose sanctions, or authorize the use of force when there is a threat to international peace and security, if it deems this necessary. These powers are given to it by the UN Charter, which is considered an international treaty. As such, it is an instrument of international law, and UN Member States are bound by it. The UN Charter codifies the major principles of international relations, from sovereign equality of States to the prohibition of the use of force in international relations.
Above: International Court of Justice: UN Photo
MAIN BODIES .. The General Assembly, the Secretariat, Economic and Social Council, Security Council, Trusteeship Council and the International Court of Justice.
As the world’s only truly universal global organization, the United Nations has become the foremost forum to address issues that transcend national boundaries and cannot be resolved by any one country acting alone. To its initial goals of safeguarding peace, protecting human rights, establishing the framework for international justice and promoting economic and social progress, in the seven decades since its creation the United Nations has added on new challenges, such as climate change, refugees and AIDS. While conflict resolution and peacekeeping continue to be among its most visible efforts, the UN, along with its specialized agencies, is also engaged in a wide array of activities to improve people’s lives around the world – from disaster relief, through education and advancement of women, to peaceful uses of atomic energy.
VIEWED FROM THE PRISM OF WOMEN: WHY WOMEN, PEACE AND SECURITY A 2013 publication by PEACE WOMEN notes that: “We the peoples of the United Nations determined to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind.” These opening words continue to serve as a reminder that the UN itself was created to help prevent war, and of the ruin, that war can bring upon the world. Since the UN’s creation, the international community has not seen a conflict with the same level of globally widespread catastrophe as the Second World War, which motivated governments toward its creation. Unfortunately, the “scourge of war” has not disappeared. Now, nearly 70 years after the Charter’s signing, ongoing violent conflicts continue to inflict unimaginable suffering around the world. Some, like the current crisis in Syria, resulting in over 70,000 deaths so far, have no end in sight. Although not every part of the world directly experiences widespread violent conflict, the implications of militarization touch every corner of the global village.
Over $1.7 trillion is spent globally on armaments, making up about 2.5 percent of the world’s GDP. Figures like these have prompted UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to stress several times that “the world is over-armed and peace is underfunded.” Women have voice and power to be agents of change. This informed the arrangement facilitated by UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina J. Mohammed themed: WOMEN ARISE FOR ALL a few months ago when COVID-19 appeared unstoppable. We are women leaders rising in solidarity to save lives and protect livelihoods. We call for all leaders in all countries and in all sectors to meet the human crisis of COVID-19. Stopping this pandemic and recovering from it is a shared responsibility requiring global solidarity. We must recover better. And we can, by building back better together. Women’s agency, voice and capacities, as well as a real gender perspective are critical to local dialogues, better policies and more equitable peace deals. The NGO cited above runs The Women, Peace and Security Agenda that has a transformative potential.’’
CHALLENGES: It continues: ‘’It is a powerful tool for moving from exclusive to democratic decision-making, from gender inequality to gender justice and from conflict and violence to sustainable and feminist peace. The Agenda is now recognized internationally, but there are still challenges. Patriarchy, inequalities, militarized masculinities and discriminatory power structures inhibit effective conflict prevention, inclusive peace, women’s rights and participation. To realize a transformative potential of the Women, Peace and Security Agenda, it is time to move from verbal commitments to action: Governments, the United Nations, civil society, the private sector and other actors must implement relevant commitments across all thematic areas! Ensuring a gender perspective and women’s participation, protection and rights is critical, including in prevention and disarmament, protection in displacement settings, peacekeeping, policy-making and reconstruction’’
IMPORTANCE OF HUMAN RIGHTS & THE RULE OF LAW: By way of recapitulation, I wish to quote again Kofi Annan: In short, human rights and the rule of law are vital to global security and prosperity. As Truman said, “We must, once and for all, prove by our acts conclusively that Right Has Might.” That’s why this country has historically been in the vanguard of the global human rights movement. No state can make its own actions legitimate in the eyes of others. When power, especially military force, is used, the world will consider it legitimate only when convinced that it is being used for the right purpose – for broadly shared aims – in accordance with broadly accepted norms. No community anywhere suffers from too much rule of law; many do suffer from too little – and the international community is among them. This we must change.’’
Kofi Annan went ahead to identify some fundamental lessons:
- First, we are all responsible for each other’s security.
- Second, we can and must give everyone the chance to benefit from global prosperity.
- Third, both security and prosperity depend on human rights and the rule of law.
- Fourth, states must be accountable to each other, and to a broad range of non-state actors, in their international conduct.
- My fifth and final lesson derives inescapably from those other four. We can only do all these things by working together through a multilateral system, and by making the best possible use of the unique instrument bequeathed to us by Harry Truman and his contemporaries, namely the United Nations.
OTHER ISSUES – IMPORTANCE OF MULTILATERAL INSTITUTIONS Said the former Secretary-General: ‘’In fact, it is only through multilateral institutions that states can hold each other to account. And that makes it very important to organize those institutions in a fair and democratic way, giving the poor and the weak some influence over the actions of the rich and the strong. That applies particularly to the international financial institutions, such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Developing countries should have a stronger voice in these bodies, whose decisions can have almost a life-or-death impact on their fate. And it also applies to the UN Security Council, whose membership still reflects the reality of 1945, not of today’s world. ‘’That’s why I have continued to press for Security Council reform. But reform involves two separate issues. ‘’One is that new members should be added, on a permanent or long-term basis, to give greater representation to parts of the world which have limited voice today. ‘’The other, perhaps even more important, is that all Council members, and especially the major powers who are permanent members, must accept the special responsibility that comes with their privilege. The Security Council is not just another stage on which to act out national interests. It is the management committee, if you will, of our fledgling collective security system.
SUPPORT OF THE UNITED STATES VERY IMPORTANT As President Truman said, “the responsibility of the great states is to serve and not dominate the peoples of the world.” He showed what can be achieved when the US assumes that responsibility. ‘’And still today, none of our global institutions can accomplish much when the US remains aloof. But when it is fully engaged, the sky’s the limit. The US has given the world an example of a democracy in which everyone, including the most powerful, is subject to legal restraint. Its current moment of world supremacy gives it a priceless opportunity to entrench the same principles at the global level.
As Harry Truman said, “We all have to recognize, no matter how great our strength that we must deny ourselves the license to do always as we please.” But that lead can only be maintained if America remains true to its principles, including in the struggle against terrorism. When it appears to abandon its own ideals and objectives, its friends abroad are naturally troubled and confused. ‘’And states need to play by the rules towards each other, as well as towards their own citizens. ‘’That can sometimes be inconvenient, but ultimately what matters is not convenience. ‘’It is doing the right thing.’’
FUTURE ROLE & THE FIGHT AGAINST POVERTY & INSECURITY The UN Charter indicates that: Saving future generations from the scourge of war was the main motivation for creating the United Nations, whose founders lived through the devastation of two world wars. Since its creation, the UN has often been called upon to prevent disputes from escalating into war, or to help restore peace following the outbreak of armed conflict, and to promote lasting peace in societies emerging from wars’’ Easily the greatest antagonist to development is poverty. The end of the Cold War witnessed a reduction in armaments and in weapons of annihilation. However, threats towards peace which were expected to subside are still prominent in practically all the regions of the world. The United States/Peoples Republic of China diplomatic relations is a cause for bother. Former Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, in a lecture titled “Peace and Security in a Pluralistic World,” delivered at the London School of Economics in 1994, said: “we live in a period where many of the major challenges facing many individual nations, as well as the international community as a whole, call for a renewed commitment to multilateralism.”
Emeka Anyaoku continued: ‘’Many of us had hoped that with the end of the Cold War, the threat of conflicts in many parts of the world would recede; and that, when conflict did occur, the international community would act in unison to address them more effectively, most particularly through a new and expanded role for a revitalized United Nations”. Evidently, security, democracy, and development are interwoven. Relative peace came to Cambodia, Central America, the Middle East, and South Africa, among others. The same cannot be said of Africa, though, and this inherent instability is a contributory factor to the pervasive poverty on the continent. Despite all these, the UN must continue to play a critical role in shaping a new global agenda.
CARRYING OUT ITS RESPONSIBILITIES The UN continues to be weighed down by its roles concerning preventive diplomacy, preventive disarmament and preventive genocide and responsibility to protect. UN’s records indicate that it must carry out: ‘’Early warning is an essential component of prevention, and the United Nations carefully monitors developments around the world to detect threats to international peace and security, thereby enabling the Security Council and the Secretary-General to carry out preventive action. Envoys and special representatives of the Secretary-General are engaged in mediation and preventive diplomacy throughout the world. In some trouble spots, the mere presence of a skilled envoy can prevent the escalation of tension. These envoys often cooperate with regional organizations. Complementing preventive diplomacy is preventive disarmament, which seeks to reduce the number of small arms in conflict-prone regions. Prevention requires apportioning responsibility and promoting collaboration between the concerned States and the international community. The duty to prevent and halt genocide and mass atrocities lies first and foremost with the State, but the international community has a role that cannot be blocked by the invocation of sovereignty. Sovereignty no longer exclusively protects States from foreign interference; it is a charge of responsibility where States are accountable for the welfare of their people. This principle is enshrined in article 1 of the Genocide Convention and embodied in the principle of “sovereignty as responsibility” and in the concept of the Responsibility to Protect.’’
IMPLEMENTING POLICIES ON INEQUALITY AS GUARANTEE FOR GLOBAL PEACE Beyond the United Nations, Member States must give serious consideration to the issue of insecurity and inequality. For instance, the FORD FOUNDATION has as its key activity attacking the scourge of inequality. The Foundation, in its publication expressed its commitment to challenging inequality. It assures that: ‘’We believe in the inherent dignity of all people. ‘’Yet around the world, billions of people are excluded from full participation in the political, economic, and cultural systems that shape their lives. We view this fundamental inequality as the defining challenge of our time, one that limits the potential of all people, everywhere. It identifies the cause of inequalities as:
- Entrenched cultural narratives that undermine fairness, tolerance, and inclusion
- Failure to invest in and protect vital public good such as education and natural resources
- Unfair rules of the economy that magnify unequal opportunity and outcomes
- Unequal access to government decision making and resources
- Persistent prejudice and discrimination against women, people with disabilities and racial, ethnic, and caste minorities.
- WHY INEQUALITY PERSISTS President Bill Clinton in his speech at the inaugural edition of the Nelson Mandela Foundation asserted that: One lesson we all have to learn from Mr Mandela is how to build a community across divisions of race, religion and tribe. We do live in a world so interdependent that more email is sent everyday than postal mail, and a sneeze in Hong Kong leads to a quarantine in Toronto. But the very advances that have brought our world together – transportation, open borders, the internet – have been exploited by terrorists to tear our world apart. So, this is an exciting, but still unequal and unstable world. Yes, globalization has lifted more people out of poverty in the last 20 years than any point in history, but half the world’s people still live on less than $2 a day and a billion of them will go to bed hungry tonight. But a billion of the world’s people are hungry, a billion of the world’s people cannot read a single word. In short, in our interdependent but unequal and unstable world, our simple job is to move from interdependence to an integrated global community, of shared benefits, shared responsibilities and shared values. (The inaugural lecture of the Annual Nelson Mandela Lectures was delivered in South Africa by President Bill Clinton in 2003)
COVID-19 – HUMANITY’S GREATEST PROBLEM All over the world, Coronavirus is causing the greatest headache with the UN rushing back to work out a roadmap to lift economies and save jobs after COVID-19. The “United Nations Framework for the immediate socio-economic response to COVID-19: Shared responsibility, global solidarity and urgent action for people in need” calls for protecting jobs, businesses and livelihoods to set in motion a safe recovery of societies and economies as soon as possible for a more sustainable, gender-equal, and carbon-neutral path—better than the “old normal”. Un Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is quoted as lamenting that: “This is not only a health crisis but a human crisis; a jobs crisis; a humanitarian crisis and a development crisis. And it is not just about the most vulnerable. This pandemic shows that we are all at risk because we are only as strong as the weakest health system. ‘’ Its unprecedented scale demands an unprecedented response.” Secretary-General Guterres, who presented his report on the socio-economic impacts of COVID-19 “Shared Responsibility, Global Solidarity” in March said “Everything we do during and after this crisis must be with a strong focus on building more equal, inclusive and sustainable economies and societies that are more resilient in the face of pandemics, climate change and the many other global challenges we face,” he said. This new framework released today sets the way United Nations entities will deliver this vision on the ground. Decisions made in the next few months will be crucial for the progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the UN’s framework for social and economic recovery stresses.
CRIPPLING DEBTS The UN must, in a nutshell, continue to take steps that will promote international cooperation in various areas in view of global commitments to the pursuit of a new social order in the developing world. But before that role could be played to generate empathy and put other African countries on the path of rectitude, Africans themselves must put in place a new social and economic order that must necessarily emphasize good governance and a very sound, virile and viable democratic culture.
Of the estimated 1.2 billion people living in abject poverty all over the world, Africa is host to about 300 million, which is grossly disproportionate to the overall population. The gap between the rich and the poor countries continues to widen.
On external debt service payments, Africa Report says: China is now the largest single lender to Africa, accounting for about 14% of the debt. It offers fast access to big loans, often with long repayment schedules and low interest – though not as often as many assume. Most countries in sub-Saharan Africa are being hit because they had borrowed in foreign currencies and are finding debt hard to finance after a significant depreciation. Sub-Saharan governments have issued over $80 billion in dollar bonds to investors hungry for yield. Total external debt for sub-Saharan Africa jumped nearly 150% to $583 billion in 2018 from $236 billion 10 years earlier, according to World Bank data. Many now worry the debt load is becoming unsustainable as the average public debt increased from 2010-2018 by 40% to 59% of GDP. According to research conducted as part of the Jubilee Debt Campaign in October 2018, African countries owed China US$10 billion in 2010, increasing to over $30 billion by 2016.
THE TASK AHEAD: Addressing the press last February on UN’s 75th anniversary celebrations, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres stated that: ‘’I want the United Nations, in this anniversary, essentially to listen — so we are marking our anniversary based on conversations in every corner of the world about the future we want and the United Nations we need. There is no doubt that people have much to say. The disquiet in streets and squares across the world is proof that people want to be heard. They want world leaders to answer their anxieties with effective action. That means addressing cascading challenges and breaking what I call the vicious circles that define our day. ‘’One such vicious circle is in the realm of peace and security — making conflicts longer, more lethal and more likely to erupt in the first place. Tensions were of course high as the last year ended, but we were moving in the right direction in a number of hotspots. We were seeing signs of de-escalation and some measure of progress. That’s all changed. I have spoken recently about winds of hope. ‘’But today a wind of madness is sweeping the globe. From Libya to Yemen to Syria and beyond — escalation is back. Arms are flowing and offensives are increasing. All situations are different but there is a feeling of growing instability and hair-trigger tensions, which makes everything far more unpredictable and uncontrollable, with a heightened risk of miscalculation. Meanwhile, Security Council resolutions are being disrespected even before the ink is dry. ‘’As we can see, problems feed each other. As economies falter, poverty remains entrenched. As future prospects look bleak, populist and ethnic nationalist narratives gain appeal. As instability rises, investment dries up, and development cycles down. When armed conflicts persist, societies reach perilous tipping points. ‘’And as governance grows weak, terrorists get stronger, seizing on the [vacuum.] ‘’In the year ahead I will press to break the vicious circles of suffering and conflict and to push for a strong surge of diplomacy for peace’’
CLIMATE CHANGE – A HUGE PROBLEM: The African Union is one of the UN’s leading strategic partners, and I look forward to discussing the continent’s efforts to “silence the guns”, as well as our shared work to address the full range of global challenges. Another clear vicious circle is exacerbating the climate crisis. As oceans warm, ice melts, and we lose the vital service the ice sheets perform — reflecting sunlight, thus further increasing ocean warming. And as ice melts and the oceans warm, sea levels rise and more water evaporates, fuelling ever greater rainfall, threatening coastal cities and deltas. Last year, ocean heat and mean sea level reached their highest on record. Scientists tell us that ocean temperatures are now rising at the equivalent of five Hiroshima bombs a second.
Ecosystems are suffering the fallout. A recent study found that ocean heat in 2019 was 228 Zetta Joules above the 1981-2010 average; a Zetta is a “1” followed by 21 zeroes. To put that in context, this rise in ocean heat last year is more than twenty times the amount of energy humanity has consumed since 2000. Meanwhile, as permafrost disappears, and as tundra thaws earlier and freezes later, vast amounts of methane — a far more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide — enter the atmosphere, accelerating global warming. And as forests burn, the world loses vital carbon sinks and emissions skyrocket. The smoke from Australia’s fires is now itself a literal vicious circle — circling the globe, releasing the equivalent of as much as six months of the country’s total carbon emissions in 2018.
What happens in Australia doesn’t stay in Australia — and the same can be said about any part of the world. A new climate crisis alert by the World Meteorological Organization today indicates that CO2 concentrations will reach new highs [in] 2020. The challenge for this year’s climate conference in Glasgow, COP 26, is clear: all countries must show more ambition on adaptation, mitigation and finance. And the big emitters must lead the way. We need a price on carbon, and an end to subsidies for fossil fuels. We are still seeing too many plans for coal plants — the addiction to coal remains dangerously strong. There is some good news. Awareness of the risks is growing. Announcements of climate action by Governments and the private sector are gathering steam. Investments are increasing.
Minds are changing. This year’s conferences on oceans, sustainable transport and biodiversity are further opportunities for action. But we need to keep up the pressure to break the vicious circle that is propelling both humankind and the natural world to the point of no return. Now is also the time to break the vicious circle of poverty and inequality and to shape a fair globalization leaving no one behind. The Sustainable Development Goals are, as you know, our blueprint. Development is a goal in its own right. But it is also our best form of prevention. We have just launched a Decade of Action to deliver the Goals — a great, global mobilization. Finance, of course, will be critical. We know that progress on one Goal can generate progress on all — the virtuous circle we know is possible and that can point the way toward growth and prosperity for all. This is crucial across all fronts — including education, gender equality, health and working together to confront new challenges such as the outbreak of the corona virus we are facing now. As we can see from the challenges I have outlined today, multilateral institutions are needed more than ever and must be tuned to the challenges of the twenty-first century.”
Terrific Headlines: Let us all embrace the United Nations for the sake of our today and tomorrow.