António Guterres, United Nations Secretary-General in his first speech of the year highlighted the need for global cooperation in nowadays’ challenges, like the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change.
The virtual event to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the first meeting of the UN General Assembly was held in London and was co-hosted by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office of the United Kingdom.
“The work of the General Assembly has helped to boost global health, literacy and living standards and to promote human rights and gender equality,” said Mr Guterres.
“Over the past 75 years, we have achieved more together than we could have apart,” added Volkan Bozkir, President of the 75th General Assembly. “As we move into the next 75 years and our world becomes ever more connected, let us tighten those bonds, so we can best protect and deliver for the peoples we serve.”
One of the hot-topic of the commemoration was the pandemic, which was described by the Secretary-General as a human tragedy: nearly two million COVID-19 deaths have been reported worldwide as of Sunday, according to data from the World Health Organisation (WHO). Mr Guterres emphasised the need for greater action in the face of pressing issues, including the pandemic and climate change.
“We have seen this most recently in vaccine nationalism, as some rich countries compete to buy vaccines for their own people, with no consideration for the world’s poor,” he said. “Meanwhile, the global response to the climate emergency has been utterly inadequate.”
Climate action is another top priority of the UN and according to Mr Guterres, the pandemic also can be an opportunity to achieve a more sustainable and equitable world, as outlined in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.
“The central objective of the United Nations this year is to build a global coalition for carbon neutrality by the middle of the century,” he announced. “We need meaningful cuts now, to reduce global emissions by 45 per cent by 2030, compared with 2010 levels.”
According to last year’s global survey, climate action is a top priority for the world’s people, among other sorely important areas like better access to healthcare, education, safe water and sanitation. Even 97 per cent majority called for improved international cooperation to address global challenges.
“We all need to find new ways of doing things, so our progress is not at the expense of our planet but by us working together,” added Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, UK Minister of State, reminding that the UK will be the co-host of the delayed global climate change conference, known as COP26, to be held in Glasgow, Scotland, in November 2021.