People's Stories Democracy

Address to the United Nations General Assembly
by Antonio Guterres
Secretary-General of the United Nations
19 Sep. 2023
Just nine days ago, many of the world’s challenges coalesced in an awful hellscape. Thousands of people in Derna, Libya lost their lives in epic, unprecedented flooding.
They were victims many times over. Victims of years of conflict. Victims of climate chaos. Victims of leaders – near and far – who failed to find a way to peace.
The people of Derna lived and died in the epicentre of that indifference – as the skies unleashed 100 times the monthly rainfall in 24 hours … as dams broke after years of war and neglect … as everything they knew was wiped off the map.
Even now, as we speak, bodies are washing ashore from the same Mediterranean Sea where billionaires sunbathe on their super yachts.
Derna is a sad snapshot of the state of our world – the flood of inequity, of injustice, of inability to confront the challenges in our midst.
Our world is becoming unhinged. Geopolitical tensions are rising. Global challenges are mounting. And we seem incapable of coming together to respond.
We confront a host of existential threats – from the climate crisis to disruptive technologies – and we do so at a time of chaotic transition.
For much of the Cold War, international relations were largely seen through the prism of two superpowers. Then came a short period of unipolarity. Now we are rapidly moving towards a multipolar world. This is, in many ways, positive. It brings new opportunities for justice and balance in international relations. But multipolarity alone cannot guarantee peace.
At the beginning of the 20th century, Europe had numerous powers. It was truly multipolar. But it lacked robust multilateral institutions and the result was World War I.
A multipolar world needs strong and effective multilateral institutions. Yet global governance is stuck in time. Look no further than the United Nations Security Council and the Bretton Woods system. They reflect the political and economic realities of 1945, when many countries in this Assembly Hall were still under colonial domination.
The world has changed. Our institutions have not. We cannot effectively address problems as they are if institutions do not reflect the world as it is. Instead of solving problems, they risk becoming part of the problem. And, indeed, divides are deepening. Divides among economic and military powers. Divides between North and South, East and West.
We are inching ever closer to a Great Fracture in economic and financial systems and trade relations; one that threatens a single, open internet; with diverging strategies on technology and artificial intelligence; and potentially clashing security frameworks.
It is high time to renew multilateral institutions based on 21st century economic and political realities – rooted in equity, solidarity and universality and anchored in the principles of the United Nations Charter and international law. That means reforming the Security Council in line with the world of today.
It means redesigning the international financial architecture so that it becomes truly universal and serves as a global safety net for developing countries in trouble.
I have no illusions. Reforms are a question of power. I know there are many competing interests and agendas. But the alternative to reform is not the status quo. The alternative to reform is further fragmentation. It is reform or rupture.
At the same time, divides are also widening within countries. Democracy is under threat. Authoritarianism is on the march. Inequalities are growing. And hate speech is on the rise.
In the face of all these challenges and more, compromise has become a dirty word. Our world needs statesmanship, not gamesmanship and gridlock.
As I told the G20, it is time for a global compromise. Politics is compromise. Diplomacy is compromise. Effective leadership is compromise. Leaders have a special responsibility to achieve compromise in building a common future of peace and prosperity for our common good.
Over the past year, we have shown the promise of multilateral action. With important new agreements on safeguarding biodiversity … on protecting the high seas … on climate loss and damage … on the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment.
We have all the tools and resources to solve our shared challenges. What we need is determination.
Determination is in the DNA of our United Nations – summoning us with the first words of the Charter: “We the peoples of the United Nations… determined”: Determined to end the scourge of war. Determined to reaffirm faith in human rights. Determined to uphold justice and respect international law. And determined to promote social progress and better lives for all people.
It falls to us -- through our actions – to apply that determination to the challenges of today being faithful to the Charter of the United Nations.
It starts with determination to uphold the Charter’s pledge for peace. Yet instead of ending the scourge of war, we are seeing a surge of conflicts, coups and chaos. If every country fulfilled its obligations under the Charter, the right to peace would be guaranteed.
When countries break those pledges, they create a world of insecurity for everyone. Exhibit A: Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The war, in violation of the United Nations Charter and international law, has unleashed a nexus of horror: lives destroyed; human rights abused; families torn apart; children traumatized; hopes and dreams shattered.
But beyond Ukraine, the war has serious implications for us all. Nuclear threats put us all at risk. Ignoring global treaties and conventions makes us all less safe. And the poisoning of global diplomacy obstructs progress across the board.
We must not relent in working for peace – a just peace in line with the UN Charter and international law. And even while fighting rages, we must pursue every avenue to ease the suffering of civilians in Ukraine and beyond.
The Black Sea Initiative was one such avenue. The world badly needs Ukrainian food and Russian food and fertilizers to stabilize markets and guarantee food security and I will not give up on my efforts to make it happen.
Around the globe, old tensions fester while new risks emerge. Nuclear disarmament is at a standstill while countries develop new weapons and make new threats.
Across the Sahel, a series of coups is further destabilizing the region as terrorism is gaining ground. Sudan is descending into full-scale civil war, millions have fled and the country risks splitting apart. In eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, millions are displaced and gender-based violence is a horrific daily reality. In Haiti, a country that suffered centuries of colonial exploitation is today overwhelmed by gang violence – and still awaits international support.
In Afghanistan, a staggering 70 per cent of the population needs humanitarian assistance with the rights of women and girls systematically denied. In Myanmar, brutal violence, worsening poverty, and repression are crushing hopes for a return to democracy. In the Middle East, escalating violence and bloodshed in the Occupied Palestinian Territory is taking a terrible toll on civilians.
Unilateral actions are intensifying and undermining the possibility of a two-State solution -- the only pathway to lasting peace and security for Palestinians and Israelis. Syria remains in ruins while peace remains remote. Meanwhile, natural disasters are worsening the man-made disaster of conflict.
In the face of these mounting crises, the global humanitarian system is on the verge of collapse. Needs are rising. And funding is drying up. Our humanitarian operations are being forced to make massive cuts. But if we don’t feed the hungry, we are feeding conflict. I urge all countries to step up and to fund fully the Global Humanitarian Appeal.
The peace and security architecture is under unprecedented strain. That is why - in the context of the preparations for the Summit of the Future – we put forward ideas for the consideration of Member States for a New Agenda for Peace, based on the Charter and international law.
It provides a unifying vision to address existing and new threats for a world in transition. Calling on States to recommit to a world free from nuclear weapons, and to end the erosion of the nuclear disarmament and arms control regime. Bolstering prevention at the global level by maximizing the capacity and convening power of the UN and our good offices to bridge geo-political divides.
Bolstering prevention at the national level by linking actions for peace with progress on the Sustainable Development Goals.
Putting women’s leadership and participation at the centre of decision-making, and committing to the eradication of all forms of violence against women.
Calling for a broad-based reflection on peacekeeping and make it nimbler and more adaptable, with forward-looking transition and exit strategies from the start.
And supporting peace enforcement action by regional organizations – notably the African Union -- with Security Council clear mandates and predictable funding.
Determination for peace also requires new governance frameworks for emerging threats – from artificial intelligence to lethal autonomous weapons systems that function without human control.
Peace is inextricably linked to sustainable development. We see a familiar pattern around the world: the closer a country is to conflict, the farther it is from the Sustainable Development Goals.
The UN Charter calls on us to be determined in promoting social progress. In 21st century terms, that means achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. Yet inequality defines our time.
From cities where skyscrapers tower over slums; To countries that are forced to choose between serving their people, or servicing their debts. Today, Africa spends more on debt interest than on healthcare.
Yesterday’s SDG Summit was about a global rescue plan to scale up support from billions to trillions. The international financial architecture remains dysfunctional, outdated and unjust. The deep reforms that are needed won’t happen overnight. But we can take determined steps now to help countries weather crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic.
By urgently advancing the SDG Stimulus of 500 billion dollars per year and relieving the financial burden on developing and emerging economies.
By scaling up development and climate finance -- increasing the capital base and changing the business model of Multilateral Development Banks. By ensuring effective debt relief mechanisms and channelling emergency financial support towards those in greatest need.
We must be determined to tackle the most immediate threat to our future: our overheating planet. Climate change is not just a change in the weather. Climate change is changing life on our planet. It is affecting every aspect of our work.
It is killing people and devastating communities. Around the world, we see not only accelerating temperatures, we see an acceleration in sea levels rising – glaciers receding – deadly diseases spreading – the extinction of species –– and cities under threat. And this is only the beginning.
We have just survived the hottest days, the hottest months, and the hottest summer on the books. Behind every broken record are broken economies, broken lives and whole nations at the breaking point. Every continent, every region and every country is feeling the heat.
But I’m not sure all leaders are feeling that heat. Actions are falling abysmally short. There is still time to keep rising temperatures within the 1.5 degree limits of the Paris Climate Agreement.
But that requires drastic steps now – to cut greenhouse gas emissions, and to ensure climate justice for those who did least to cause the crisis but are paying the highest price.
We have the receipts. G20 countries are responsible for 80 per cent of greenhouse emissions. They must lead.
They must break their addiction to fossil fuels, stop new coal, and heed the International Energy Agency’s findings that new oil and gas licensing by them is incompatible with keeping the 1.5 degree limit alive.
To stand a fighting chance of limiting global temperature rise, we must phase out coal, oil and gas in a fair and equitable way – and massively boost renewables. This is the only path to affordable renewable energy for all and importantly many in Africa still lack electricity.
So, the fossil fuel age has failed. If fossil fuel companies want to be part of the solution, they must lead the transition to renewable energy. No more dirty production. No more fake solutions. No more bankrolling climate denial.
I have laid out a Climate Solidarity Pact, in which all big emitters and are asked to make extra efforts to cut emissions; and wealthier countries support emerging economies with finance and technology to do so.
For example, Africa has 60 per cent of the world’s solar capacity – but just 2 per cent of renewable investments.
I have also put forward an Acceleration Agenda to supercharge these efforts. Developed countries must reach net zero as close as possible to 2040, and emerging economies as close as possible to 2050 in line with common but differentiated responsibilities.
Immediate steps include: An end to coal – by 2030 for OECD countries and 2040 for the rest of the world. An end to fossil fuel subsidies. And a price on carbon. Developed countries must also finally deliver the $100 billion for developing country climate action, as promised; Double adaptation finance by 2025, as promised; And replenish the Green Climate Fund, as promised. All countries must work to operationalize the loss and damage fund this year. And ensure universal Early Warning coverage by 2027.
Tomorrow, I will welcome credible first movers and doers to our Climate Ambition Summit. COP28 is around the corner.
Climate chaos is breaking new records, but we cannot afford the same old broken record of scapegoating and waiting for others to move first.
And to all those working, marching and championing real climate action, I want you to know that you are on the right side of history and that I am with you. I won’t give up this fight of our lives.

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World leaders need to prioritize humanitarian funding as acute hunger hits record levels
by WFP, ActionAid, Oxfam, agencies
Sep. 2023
World leaders need to prioritize humanitarian funding as acute hunger hits record levels
As needs skyrocket globally, the World Food Programme (WFP) is urging donor governments to prioritize funding for humanitarian operations.
WFP is in the midst of a crippling funding crisis that is forcing the organization to scale back life-saving assistance at a time when acute hunger is at record levels. Almost half of WFP country operations have already cut - or plan to cut soon - the size and scope of food, cash and nutrition assistance programmes.
UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Martin Griffiths on skyrocketing humanitarian needs and the fact that donor funding is not keeping pace.
“It is a cruel reality that in many humanitarian operations, aid agencies are scraping along with very little funding right at a time when people’s needs compel them to scale up.. 250 million people affected by conflict, natural disasters, the impact of the climate crisis, displacement and other crises have received less than 30 per cent of the humanitarian funding required to address their urgent needs. We need donors to step up".
Aug. 2023
World leaders need to prioritize humanitarian funding as acute hunger hits record levels, by Carl Skau - Deputy executive director of the World Food Program
The United Nations World Food Program has been forced to cut food, cash payments and assistance to millions of people in many countries because of “a crippling funding crisis” that has seen its donations fall by about half as acute hunger is hitting record levels.
Carl Skau, deputy executive director of the World Food Program, told a news conference that at least 38 of the 86 countries where WFP operates have already seen cuts or plan to cut assistance soon — including Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen and West Africa.
He said humanitarian needs were “going through the roof” in 2021 and 2022 because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine and its global implications. “Those needs continue to grow, those drivers are still there,” he said, “but the funding is drying up. So we’re looking at 2024 being even more dire.”
“The largest food and nutrition crisis in history today persists,” Skau said. “This year, 345 million people continue to be acutely food insecure while hundreds of millions of people are at risk of worsening hunger.”
Carl Skau said conflict and insecurity remain the primary drivers of acute hunger around the world, along with climate change, unrelenting natural disasters, persistent food price inflation and mounting debt stress — all during a slowdown in the global economy.
He called on donors to “step up and support us through this very difficult time.”
Mr. Skau said that in March, WFP was forced to cut rations from 75% to 50% for communities in Afghanistan facing emergency levels of hunger, and in May it was forced to cut food for 8 million people — 66% of the people it was assisting. Now, it is helping just 5 million people, he said.
In Syria, 5.5 million people who relied on WFP for food were already on 50% rations, Skau said, and in July the agency cut all rations to 2.5 million of them. In the Palestinian territories, WFP cut its cash assistance by 20% in May and in June. It cut its caseload by 60%. And in Yemen, he said, a huge funding gap will force WFP to cut aid to 7 million people as early as August.
In West Africa, where acute hunger is on the rise, Skau said, most countries are facing extensive ration cuts, particularly WFP’s seven largest crisis operations: Burkina Faso, Mali, Chad, Central African Republic, Nigeria, Niger and Cameroon.
He said cutting aid to people who are only at the hunger level of crisis to help save those literally starving or in the category of catastrophic hunger means that those dropped will rapidly fall into the emergency and catastrophe categories, “and so we will have an additional humanitarian emergency on our hands down the road.”
“Ration cuts are clearly not the way to go forward,” Skau said.
He urged world leaders to prioritize humanitarian funding and invest in long-tern solutions to conflicts, poverty, development and other root causes of the current crisis.
July 2023
Big business’ windfall profits rocket to “obscene” $1 trillion a year amid cost-of-living crisis; Oxfam and ActionAid renew call for windfall taxes.
A windfall tax could generate $941 billion —money that now could be used to tackle poverty and climate change. While profits soared, one billion workers across 50 countries took a $746 billion real-term pay cut in 2022. Oxfam and ActionAid are calling for permanent windfall taxes on windfall profits across all sectors.
722 of the world’s biggest corporations together raked in over $1 trillion in windfall profits each year for the past two years amid soaring prices and interest rates, while billions of people are having to cut back or go hungry.
Analysis by Oxfam and ActionAid of Forbes’ “Global 2000” ranking shows they made $1.09 trillion in windfall profits in 2021 and $1.1 trillion in 2022, with an 89 percent jump in total profits compared to average total profits in 2017-2020.
For this analysis, windfall profits are defined as those exceeding average profits in 2017-2020 by more than ten percent.
45 energy corporations made on average $237 billion a year in windfall profits in 2021 and 2022.
Governments could have increased global investments in renewable energy by 31 percent had they taxed at 90 percent the massive windfall profits that oil and gas producers funneled to their rich shareholders last year.
There are now 96 energy billionaires with a combined wealth of nearly $432 billion ($50 billion more than in April last year).
Food and beverage corporations, banks, Big Pharma, and major retailers also cashed in on the cost-of-living crisis that has seen more than a quarter of a billion people in 58 countries hit by acute food insecurity in 2022.
Extreme wealth and extreme poverty have increased simultaneously for the first time in 25 years.
18 food and beverage corporations made on average about $14 billion a year in windfall profits in 2021 and 2022, enough to cover the $6.4 billion funding gap needed to deliver life-saving food assistance in East Africa more than twice over.
Oxfam estimates that one person is likely to die of hunger every 28 seconds across Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and South Sudan. Global food prices rose more than 14 percent in 2022.
28 drug corporations made on average $47 billion a year in windfall profits, and 42 major retailers and supermarkets made on average $28 billion a year in windfall profits.
Nine aerospace and defense corporations raked in on average $8 billion a year in windfall profits even as 9,000 people die every day from hunger, much of that driven by conflict and war.
“People are sick and tired of corporate greed. It’s obscene that corporations have raked in billions of dollars in extraordinary windfall profits while people everywhere are struggling to afford enough food or basics like medicine and heating,” said Oxfam International interim Executive Director Amitabh Behar.
“Big business is gaslighting us all —they’re hiking prices to make monster profits, plundering people under the cover of a polycrisis.”
“A few increasingly dominant corporations are monopolizing markets and setting prices sky-high to line the pockets of their rich shareholders. Big Pharma, energy giants and big supermarket chains shamelessly fattened their profit margins throughout both the pandemic and cost-of-living crisis. Most worryingly —in the absence of regulation, including progressive taxation— governments have invited this,” Behar said.
There is a growing body of evidence that corporate profiteering is playing a significant role in supercharging inflation, echoing fears that corporations are exploiting the cost-of-living crisis to boost profits margins —a trend dubbed “greedflation” and “excuseflation”.
Christine Lagarde, the President of the European Central Bank, suggested in May that corporations are engaging in “greedflation”, while the IMF last week published a study showing that corporate profits account for nearly half the increase in Europe’s inflation over the past two years.
Huge corporate profits have coincided with the degradation of pay and conditions for workers. Oxfam estimates that top-paid CEOs across four countries enjoyed a real-term 9 percent pay hike in 2022, while workers’ wages fell by 3 percent.
One billion workers in 50 countries took an average pay cut of $685 in 2022, a collective loss of $746 billion in real wages compared to if wages had kept up with inflation.
Oxfam and ActionAid are calling on governments to claw back gains driven by profiteering. A tax of 50 to 90 percent on the windfall profits of 722 mega-corporations could generate between $523 billion and $941 billion both for 2021 and 2022.
This is money that could be used to help people struggling with hunger, rising energy bills and poverty in rich countries, and to provide hundreds of billions of dollars to support countries in the Global South.
For example: An injection of $400 billion into the fund for loss and damage agreed to at COP27 last year. Loss and damage finance needs are urgent, with estimates saying that low- and middle-income countries could face costs of up to $580 billion annually by 2030.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres has called on rich countries to impose windfall taxes on fossil fuel companies and redirect the money to vulnerable countries suffering worsening losses from the climate crisis.
Cover the financing gap ($440 billion) to provide universal social protection coverage and healthcare to more than 3.5 billion people living in low- and lower- middle-income countries, and the financing gap ($148 billion) to provide universal access to pre-primary, primary and secondary education in these same countries. This would support the hiring of millions of new teachers, nurses and healthcare workers across the Global South.
“Enough is enough. Government policy should not allow mega-corporations and billionaires to profiteer from people’s pain. Governments must tax windfall profits of corporations across all sectors —and invest that money back in helping people and deterring future profiteering. They must put the interests of their great majorities ahead of the greed of a privileged few,” said ActionAid Secretary-General Arthur Larok.
“Taxing windfall profits is smart economic policy —it’s a very clear and direct source of money for development and tackling climate change. Piling more loans onto poorer countries is what makes absolutely no sense when debt is accelerating the climate crisis”.

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