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UN chief warns world is going out of track

UNITED NATIONS, Jan. 17, 2018

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned on Tuesday that the world has gone retro progressive as peace remains elusive.

“I took office last year calling for us to make 2017 a year for peace. One year later, we must recognize that peace remains elusive,” Guterres told an informal meeting where he presented his priorities for 2018. “In fundamental ways, the world has gone in reverse.”

Conflicts have deepened and new dangers have emerged; global anxieties about nuclear weapons are at the highest since the Cold War; climate change is moving faster; inequalities are growing, he said. “We see horrific violations of human rights. Nationalism, racism and xenophobia are on the rise.”

Those are all indications that the world needs greater unity and courage — unity and courage to meet today’s most urgent needs, to ease the fears of the people and set the world on track toward a better future, he said.

He listed 12 priorities for 2018, including an all benefiting globalization, combatting climate change, fighting terrorism, migration, and de-nuclearization. He highlighted one cross-cutting imperative: the empowerment of women.

The UN chief appealed for the promotion of a true “new deal” for globalization that is fair for all. “Poverty and inequality are not unavoidable, nor is the unequal distribution of the benefits of globalization,” he said. “It’s not by chance if eight individuals possess as much wealth as half the poorest population in the world.”

The secretary-general called for an enhanced ambition on climate action. He warned that commitments to the Paris Agreement on climate change are insufficient to achieve the goal of limiting global temperature rise in this century below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, or even lower, to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

In 2016, carbon dioxide emissions rebound for the first time in three years, and the past five years were the hottest on record, he noted.

Guterres asked member states to take the advantage of human mobility, claiming that migration is a positive phenomenon which helps promote economic growth, reduce inequalities, and address demographic challenges. The adoption of a global pact on migration is one of the priorities of the United Nations in 2018, he said.

The UN chief asked for efforts to achieve the de-nuclearization of the Korean Peninsula “without sleep-walking our way into calamity.” He welcomed the firm decisions of the Security Council in response to the nuclear tests and ballistic missile launches by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) and requested for the full implementation of relevant Security Council resolutions.

The council’s unity also paved the way for diplomatic engagement, he said. He welcomed the reopening of inter-Korean communication channels, especially for the military-to-military dialogues.

“This is critical to lower the risk of miscalculation or misunderstanding and to reduce tensions,” he added. He said he was also encouraged by the decision of the DPRK to participate in the upcoming Winter Olympics in the Republic of Korea. He himself will personally be present at the opening ceremony, he said.

“We need to build on these small signs of hope, and expand diplomatic efforts to achieve the peaceful denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula in the context of regional security,” he said.

At a news conference later Tuesday, Guterres cautioned that such symbols of goodwill might create delusions for people. “My only concern is sometimes that we look at these symbols of goodwill and positive indications, and we forget that the main problem is yet to be solved,” he said.

“I believe war is avoidable. What I’m worried is that I’m not yet sure that peace is guaranteed,” he said. The UN chief saw unprecedented challenges for UN peacekeeping. “Many times ill-equipped, our peacekeepers are now deliberately targeted. This situation is not sustainable. It is time to sound an alarm.”

“Our missions are increasingly deployed in difficult environments where there is little peace to keep,” he added. The secretary-general expressed his determination to “improve how peacekeeping performs, to better protect ourselves and the populations we serve.”

He noted that there are distinct links between conflicts and the spread of terrorism and stressed the importance of globally coordinated responses to defeat terrorism and the need to address the root causes of the scourge.

“We must avoid approaches that feed the grievances and narratives that may generate the very violence we seek to eliminate,” he said. Guterres emphasized the role of women in addressing today’s global challenges and therefore the importance of empowerment of women and girls.

“Women’s meaningful participation in peace and security has been proven to make peace more sustainable. Women’s equal participation in the labor force and equal pay would unlock trillions of dollars for our economies,” he said. To achieve such gains, however, a greater action is needed, particularly the empowerment of women and girls. “Power is the heart of the matter.”


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