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UNGA78: UN chief brushes off key leaders’ absence, says delivery paramount

With several high-profile world leaders opting out of the UN General Assembly’s annual opening session next week, Secretary-General António Guterres has said that he cares less about who comes to New York and more about what gets done, especially to revive the lagging Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“This is not a Vanity Fair. This is a political body in which governments are represented,” he told UN News in an exclusive interview. 

“What matters is that [countries] are represented by someone that can [rise to] the present moment,” he said, and added: “So I’m not so worried about who’s coming. What I’m worried [about] is making sure the countries that are here … are ready to assume the commitments necessary to make the Sustainable Development Goals that unfortunately are not moving in the right direction a reality.”

Here, Mr. Guterres emphasized the need to reform the current “unjust, dysfunctional and outdated” global finance system to ensure the achievement of the SDGs by 2030.

He recalled his $500 billion SDG Stimulus proposal to support developing nations to make sure they have the resources they need to achieve the SDGs.”

Action on climate change

The UN chief further said that his 2023 Climate Ambition Summit will provide an opportunity for countries, businesses, and civil society to step up their efforts to reign in runaway climate change. 

In a notable departure from standard practice where countries are front and centre, this Summit will give a platform to what the Secretary-General referred to as “frontliners”, those that are the most committed to climate action, and can share the best practices.

“We are moving to 2.6-2.8°C of global temperature rise by the end of the century,” he warned, stressing the urgency of returning to the goal of limiting the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.

“It is still possible with political will – but a lot needs to be done,” Mr. Guterres emphasized.

Pushing for peace in Ukraine

As for the ongoing war in Ukraine, the Secretary-General reiterated that the central objective is to secure peace, which is just and in line with the UN Charter and international law.

However, he cautioned against undue optimism, acknowledging that current conditions may not favour a “serious dialogue” on peace.

“I think the parties are far from that possibility at the present moment, but we will never, never stop our efforts to make sure that peace comes to Ukraine,” he stressed.

Spotlight on public health

Mr. Guterres also spoke about the unprecedented three ministerial-level talks next week on global public health: pandemic preparedness, universal health coverage, and tuberculosis.

“Universal health coverage is an essential objective of the UN,” he said and added that “it requires not only the UN system to work, but also requires financial systems to be much fairer than they are today.

Mr. Guterres also stressed that “one of the things that I believe is essential is increase the resources and the power of the World Health Organization.”

 

Full interview transcript to follow.

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