Speaking on 10 Mayin London to an audience of some 1500 convened by Britain's UN Association, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres addressed the need for the United Nations to reshape itself to deal with contemporary "mega trends" and the realities brought into view by the "fourth industrial revolution." He spoke for about 26 minutes, followed by Q/A for a little over a half hour.
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18 March 2017: Rima Khalaf quit as Executive Secretary of the Beirut-based West Asian Regional Commission of ECOSOC after she was ordered to remove from the agency's web site a report accusing Israel of practicing "apartheid" in its treatment of Palestinians. The report was written by Richard Falk, a former appointee of the Human Rights Commission known for his extremist views See here for a video on him from UN Watch, a pro-Israeli organization based in Geneva. The Palestinian organization promoting a boycott of Israel welcomed the report and Khalaf's resignation as a principled act. See here. The following is Khalf's letter of resignation two weeks before the end of her current contract:
I have carefully considered your message conveyed through the Chef de Cabinet and assure you that at no point have I questioned your right to order the withdrawal of the report from our website or the fact that all of us working in the Secretariat are subject to the authority of its Secretary-General. Nor do I have any doubts regarding your commitment to human rights in general, or your firm position regarding the rights of the Palestinian people. I also understand the concerns that you have, particularly in these difficult times that leave you little choice.
I am not oblivious to the vicious attacks and threats the UN and you personally were subjected to from powerful Member States as a result of the publication of the ESCWA report “Israeli Practices towards the Palestinian People and the Question of Apartheid”. I do not find it surprising that such Member States, who now have governments with little regard for international norms and values of human rights, will resort to intimidation when they find it hard to defend their unlawful policies and practices. It is only normal for criminals to pressure and attack those who advocate the cause of their victims. I cannot submit to such pressure.
Not by virtue of my being an international official, but simply by virtue of being a decent human being, I believe, like you, in the universal values and principles that have always been the driving force for good in human history, and on which this organization of ours, the United Nations is founded. Like you, I believe that discrimination against anyone due to their religion, skin color, sex or ethnic origin is unacceptable, and that such discrimination cannot be rendered acceptable by the calculations of political expediency or power politics. I also believe people should not only have the freedom to speak truth to power, but they have the duty to do so.
In the space of two months you have instructed me to withdraw two reports produced by ESCWA, not due to any fault found in the reports and probably not because you disagreed with their content, but due to the political pressure by member states who gravely violate the rights of the people of the region.
You have seen first hand that the people of this region are going through a period of suffering unparalleled in their modern history; and that the overwhelming flood of catastrophes today is the result of a stream of injustices that were either ignored, plastered over, or openly endorsed by powerful governments inside and outside the region. Those same governments are the ones pressuring you to silence the voice of truth and the call for justice represented in these reports.
Given the above, I cannot but stand by the findings of ESCWA’s report that Israel has established an apartheid regime that seeks the domination of one racial group over another. The evidence provided by this report drafted by renowned experts is overwhelming. Suffice it to say that none of those who attacked the report had a word to say about its content. I feel it my duty to shed light on the legally inadmissible and morally indefensible fact that an apartheid regime still exists in the 21st century rather than suppressing the evidence. In saying this I claim no moral superiority nor ownership of a more prescient vision. My position might be informed by a lifetime of experiencing the dire consequences of blocking peaceful channels to addressing people’s grievances in our region.
After giving the matter due consideration, I realized that I too have little choice. I cannot withdraw yet another well-researched, well-documented UN work on grave violations of human rights, yet I know that clear instructions by the Secretary-General will have to be implemented promptly. A dilemma that can only be resolved by my stepping down to allow someone else to deliver what I am unable to deliver in good conscience. I know that I have only two more weeks to serve; my resignation is therefore not intended for political pressure. It is simply because I feel it my duty towards the people we serve, towards the UN and towards myself, not to withdraw an honest testimony about an ongoing crime that is at the root of so much human suffering. Therefore, I hereby submit to you my resignation from the United Nations. "
12 March 2017: The UN Department of Public Information continues to harass blogger Matthew Russell Lee because it finds him irritating. A year after evicting him from a small shared office in the UN Press area -- and thus depriving him of easy access to the headquarters complex -- DPI seems to be moving to exclude him from access even to events open to the Press. The eviction from his office in early 2016 was without any warning or due process, and seems to have been impelled by Lee's coverage of the bribery scandal that led to the arrest of former General Assembly president John Ashe (who was later found dead in his home-gym, ostensibly the victim of an accident). The prime mover in his eviction seems to be DPI Under-Secretary-General Cristina Gallach (seen here in an interaction with Lee during a UN Press briefing).
Since the eviction, Lee claims he has been prevented from covering official UN events ranging from "formal General Assembly meetings to a January 27 event about the Holocaust." On 24 January, he had to leave a discussion of propaganda before it concluded because his "non-resident" Press pass requires him to leave the building by 7 in the evening. Lee recounts that on January 17, "for an event involving Gallach herself as a speaker, despite having been invited -- not by the UN -- and having its RSVP confirmed, Inner City Press was stopped by UN Security and not allowed to enter." Other journalists at the UN offer Lee little support because he has accused the office-holders of the UN Correspondent's Association (UNCA) of being corrupt too. He has posted video of a physical confrontation with one of them outside Cipriani restaurant in Manhattan.
Lee's rather incoherent reporting on his various travails has led many observers to dismiss him as a troublemaker, but that is to miss the important point that a public institution like the UN cannot exclude and mistreat a journalist because he offends the sense of decorum of some of its bureaucrats.
20 January 2017: A leaked memo to staff from the Executive Office of the Secretary-General sets out the principles that will guide its work and explains the roles of members of the core team Antonio Guterres has assembled on the 38th floor.
No changes are foreseen in the role of the Chef de Cabinet, Ribeiro Viotti of Brazil; he will continue to be the primary coordinator of the work-flow into and out of the EOSG. The Deputy SG, Amina Mohammed of Nigeria, will lose the enhanced role assigned to former DSG Jan Elisasson of Sweden, who carried much of the slack created by Ban Ki-moon's incompetence.
The memo defines for the first time the roles envisaged for the newly created posts of Policy Adviser held at the level of Under-Secretary-General by Kyung-wha Kang of South Korea, and the Assistant Secretary-General for Strategic Coordination held by Fabrizio Hochschild of Chile. The following is the full text of the memo (not officially authenticated but generally accepted to be genuine).
Terms of Reference for the New/Revised EOSG Posts and Units
These Terms of reference will go into effect on 1 January 2017 upon the inauguration of Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, and will be reviewed six months after implementation
Principles that Guide the EOSG
• The Secretary-General, Deputy Secretary-General, Chef de Cabinet, Senior Adviser on Policy and the Assistant Secretary-General for Strategic Coordination will function as a team and expect the staff of the Executive Office to do likewise.
• The role of EOSG will not be operational, nor will it supplant the functions of line departments. Rather it will aim to empower and draw upon the work of the Departments as well as Agencies, Funds and Programs, fostering cooperation between them in pursuit of the priorities set by Member States and the Secretary-General.
• EOSG will be forward-looking, open to new ideas and welcoming of dissenting views, drawing on and commissioning research and inputs from a wide variety of internal and external sources to support senior decision-making and strategic thinking.
• Strategic communications will be an integral part of EOSG functions, both internally for clarity of the leadership message within the United Nations family and externally for the maximum impact in public perception.
• Based on the work of Departments, Agencies, Funds and Programs, consultation with Member States and others, the EOSG will lead the development, dissemination and oversight of implementation of the vision and strategy of the Secretary-General on cross-cutting priority issues requiring a joined up, coherent United Nations effort involving multiple parts of the Organization.
The Deputy Secretary-General
• The functions of the Deputy Secretary-General will revert to those spelled out in General Assembly resolution 52/12B, with a special focus on sustainable development, including the management of the reform of the United Nations development system, financing for development, humanitarian-development nexus, climate change, migration, global health and related issues.
The Chef de Cabinet
• The functions of the Chef de Cabinet will include the management of the EOSG, overview of Secretariat management reform, interface with Member States, senior appointments, supervision of the Assistant Secretary-General for Strategic Coordination and the units that fall under his or her purview, supervision of the Special Adviser on Improving United Nations Response to Sexual Exploitation and Abuse, and chairing of the Management Committee.
Senior Adviser on Policy
• Support the Secretary-General in maintaining a holistic overview and strategic oversight of policy matters across all pillars of the work of the United Nations.
• Initiate and lead horizontal and vertical integration for system~wide coherence on conflict prevention policies, tools and operations.
• With the support of the Assistant Secretary-General for Strategic Coordination, monitor emerging global issues and brewing crises, analyzing their implications for the United Nations and advising the Secretary-General on appropriate options and responses.
• Ensure that relevant policy opportunities and challenges are identified and addressed in a timely manner.
• Ensure that fresh thinking and outside perspectives are introduced into the policy-making process, including through close links with the United Nations University and other United Nations and external research entities and by commissioning research where needed.
• Undertake ad hoc assignments as requested in support of specific policy priorities of the Secretary-General.
• Liaise closely with the Deputy Secretary-General and with the Assistant Secretary-General for Strategic Coordination to ensure that prevention and other priorities of the Secretary-General are integrated into key decision-making processes.
• Liaise closely with the Director of Strategic Communications and with the Spokesperson of the Secretary-General, assist in developing communication messages and strategies related to key policy initiatives. ·
Assistant Secretary-General for Strategic Coordination
• Reporting through the Chef de Cabinet and working closely with the line Departments, support the Secretary-General and the Deputy Secretary-General with analysis and advice across the political, peacekeeping, development, humanitarian, human rights and rule of law portfolios.
• Oversee and ensure strategic coordination, coherence and integrated information and analysis in the work of the Political, Peacekeeping, Humanitarian and Human Rights Unit (PU); the Strategic Planning and Monitoring Unit (SPMU); the Rule of Law Unit (RoLU); and the Sustainable Development Unit (SDU), which formally reports to the Deputy Secretary-General and collaborates closely with the Assistant Secretary-General.
The four units will function as the Strategic Coordination Team (SCT) under the oversight of the Assistant Secretary-General for the purposes of providing fully integrated information and analysis to support senior decision-making. The four teams will work closely together to provide fully integrated information and analysis to support senior decision-making.
• Provide the secretariat support for the newly-established Executive Committee (EC) as the primary decision-making forum of the Secretary-General, by maintaining a forward agenda that corresponds to the priorities of the Secretary-General, commissioning policy options from relevant United Nations entities, drawing on the UNOCC, overseeing consultations, providing substantive support, quality control and follow-up, liaising closely with the Senior Adviser on Policy.
• Chair the Deputies Committee (DC), which discusses the EC agenda towards agreement, for onward proposal for endorsement or further discussion and decision-making by the EC.
Strategic Planning and Monitoring Unit
• Reporting through the Assistant Secretary-General and the Chef de Cabinet, and working closely with the relevant line Departments and the Senior Adviser on Policy where appropriate, support the Secretary-General with priority-setting, forward planning, strategic analysis, enterprise risk management, and ensuring strategic direction in budget proposals and strategic 'planning frameworks.
• Coordinate the drafting of the Annual Report of the Secretary-General on the Work of the Organization.
• Coordinate the production of key strategic reports that cut across sectors and units.
• Prepare planning papers and monitor the work of the United Nations on key issues as requested.
• Support senior management in setting strategic priorities and direction for budget formulation and allocation of resources so as to ensure effective, efficient and strategic use of resources.
• Support the Secretary-General in designing and organizing senior management retreats and similar strategic planning meetings of the senior leadership.
• In close collaboration with Political Unit, support analysis and planning for United Nations conflict response efforts, with a particular focus on new and transitioning peace operations, by preparing strategic considerations and options on the basis of information and advice from the system; translating the guidance of the Secretary-General into strategic directives that set out overall parameters for potential United Nations engagement; ensuring that the strategic directives and relevant planning policies of the Secretary-General are adhered to across the lifetime of an operation; and enhancing integrated conflict analysis and planning capacity across the system.
Political, Peacekeeping, Humanitarian and Human Rights Unit
• Reporting through the Assistant Secretary-General and Chef de Cabinet, and working closely with the relevant line Departments, provide the Secretary-General with situational awareness, trend analysis and advice on emerging and ongoing issues of interest and concern across the political, peacekeeping, humanitarian and human rights portfolios;
• Support senior management decision-making on country situations and relevant thematic files.
• Ensure effective and coordinated United Nations system analysis, reporting and response on situations of interest and concern to the Secretary-General.
• Ensure high-quality and well-coordinated inputs to the public and private communications of the Secretary-General and diplomatic engagement with Member States and others.
• Ensure that human rights concerns are adequately reflected in the above work, including through continued mainstreaming of the Human Rights Up Front approach.
Sustainable Development Unit
• Reporting to the Deputy Secretary-General, and in close collaboration with the Assistant Secretary-General for Strategic Coordination, support the strategic engagement of the Secretary-General and Deputy Secretary-General on sustainable development, including financing for development, climate change, migration, global health and related issues.
• Support the Deputy Secretary-General in overseeing implementation of and continued global advocacy for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the United Nations-supported Climate Action Agenda.
• Monitor progress in the follow up to United Nations summits and conferences and internationally-agreed development goals, particularly in the context of Africa and LDCs, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, and the G-20.
• Follow major intergovernmental debates and meetings related to the development pillar, including in the United Nations General Assembly, ECOSOC and major conferences, and maintain substantive communication on development issues with different parts of the United Nations system, Member States, and other stakeholders including civil society.
• Serve as primary conduit for and honest broker vis-a-vis the United Nations development system to help relevant entities align their strategies and messages and to ensure that initiatives, policies and documents reflect the priorities of the Secretary-General.
• Sustain effective action on the global health agenda, including the new approach to cholera in Haiti.
• Follow up to the United Nations Summit for Refugees and Migrants including the intergovernmental process leading to an international conference on migration in 2018 and related initiatives.
Rule of Law Unit
• Reporting through the Assistant Secretary-General and the Chef de Cabinet, serve as the EOSG focal point for legal questions, the rule of law; counter-terrorism and prevention of violent extremism; international justice and accountability; organized crime and drugs.
• Develop system-wide strategies, policy direction, best practice materials and guidance for the Organization in promoting rule of law and maintain a repository of such material.
• Prepare the Annual report of the Secretary-General on Strengthening and coordinating United Nations rule of law activities.
• Support the intergovernmental dialogue on the rule of law.
• Enhance partnerships between the United Nations, Member States and the many other actors engaged in rule of law activities."
List of Posts
A list at the end of the memo notes the following posts as part of the EOSG:
USG Senior Adviser on Policy
ASG for Strategic Coordination
D 2 Director of PU (Political Unit)
D 2 Director of DU (Sustainable Development Unit)
D 2 Director of SPMU (Strategic Planning and Monitoring Unit)
D l Chief of Rule or Law Unit (RoLU)
D 2 Director of Strategic Communications
D 2 Director of Office/Management Reform
D 1 Chief of Senior Appointments
D l Chief of Management and Administration
D 1 Chief of Scheduling and Travel
D l Special Assistants (to SG, DSG, USG)
P 5 Senior Officers (Political Affairs, Development, etc.)
P4 Officers (Political Affairs, Development, etc.)
15 February 2017 – Secretary-General António Guterres is obviously finding it hard to accommodate competing demands for top UN posts from China, Russia and the other Permanent members of the Security Council. China wants the top Peacekeeping job that France has held for 20 years. Russia wants the top political post that the United States now holds.
Guterres signaled his quandary on 14 February by announcing the establishment of an internal review team that will recommend changes to the UN Secretariat peace and security strategy, functioning and architecture. The team will be headed by Tamrat Samuel of Eritrea, a veteran UN insider. The team is expected to report by June and its report will then be subject to consultations with member States.
Pending the completion of that process, the Secretary-General has extended by one year the current contracts of Jeffrey Feltman, as Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Oscar Fernandez-Taranco, as Assistant-Secretary-General for Peacebuilding Support, and Atul Khare, as Under-Secretary-General for Field Support.
Also, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, of France has been appointed for a one-year term to head the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, replacing his compatriot Hervé Ladsous.
Lacroix is currently the Director for the UN and International Organizations section of the French Foreign Ministry and will be hard to displace whatever the ultimate dispensation is at the Department of Peacekeeping Operations.
Another factor that must be taken into account is the interest formally expressed by the new United States Ambassador Nikki Haley in the reform of UN Peacekeeping. It is now an $8 Billion+ expense, outweighing the UN Regular budget by more than a third.
November 2016: According to a story published by the Russian website Sputnik, the Secretary-General designate Antonio Guterres could take as long as six months to appoint his own cabinet-level team. The story cited Russia's UN ambassador Vitaly Churkin and coincided with Guterres' meeting with Russian president Vladimir Putin.
Both Russia and China are said to have asked for prominent posts at UN Headquarters in New York in the Peace/Security area. At present a Chinese national heads the Department for Economic and Social Affairs; Beijing is rumored to want the post of Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Affairs that has been a "French post" since Kofi Annan's first term 20 years ago. No Russian holds a cabinet-level post in New York.
14 October 2016: The day after the General Assembly appointed Antonio Guterres of Portugal to be the 9th Secretary-General of the United Nations, he announced a five-member transition team to help prepare for his 1 January 2017 assumption of office. Three of its members have worked with Guterres at UNHCR, where he was High Commissioner until December 2015. The team leader is a longtime aide to Ban Ki Moon. The members of the team are:
Kyung-wha Kang (Republic of Korea), currently Assistant-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, will be the team leader. She has served as Director General of International Relations at the ROK Foreign Ministry and as Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Melissa Fleming (USA), currently Head of Communications at UNHCR, will be Senior Adviser to Guterres and spokesperson for the transition team. She has previously worked for the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The general expectation is that Fleming will replace Ban’s chief spokesman Stéphane Dujarric.
Michelle Gyles-McDonnough (Jamaica), currently UNDP Deputy Assistant Administrator and Deputy Regional Director Designate for Asia and the Pacific, will be Senior Adviser. She is a lawyer who has previously been adviser to the Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS).
João Madureira (Portugal), currently Minister Counsellor in the Permanent Mission of Portugal to the UN, will be a Senior Adviser.
Radhouane Nouicer (Tunisia), currently Regional Adviser for the Yemen Humanitarian Crisis, will be Senior Adviser. He served at UNHCR for over 18 years in the field and as Director of the Middle East and North Africa Bureau.
9th Secretary-General took office on 1 January 2017. For details on the appointment process see here.
INDEPENDENT NEWS AND COMMENT ON WORLD AFFAIRS
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16 May 2017: "In order for the participating countries along the Belt and Road to fully benefit from the potential of enhanced connectivity, it is crucial to strengthen the links between the Initiative and the Sustainable Development Goals," Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told an international gathering in Beijing. "As projects under the initiative unfold, let us work together to uphold international environmental and social standards, and to ensure that the benefits reach beyond cities into rural areas."
He added, "With the initiative expected to generate vast investments in infrastructure, let us seize the moment to help countries make the transition to clean-energy, low-carbon pathways -- instead of locking in unsustainable practices for decades to come."
Neither SDGs nor inclusive development is a prominent part of China's One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative, which has geopolitics and trade as its primary focal points.
The Secretary-General also reminded affluent nations that development aid continued to be necessary. "As the Belt and Road attracts public and private funding, let us recognize that countries will still need official development assistance," he said; "I urge donors to fulfil their long-standing commitments, namely the Addis Ababa Plan of Action. And just as the initiative opens new corridors for goods, let us also keep open the channels for dialogue, so that any possible tensions among the countries touched by this undertaking can give way to mutual benefit."
In a tactful but effective way, Mr. Guterres managed to pack the OBOR agenda with the critical developmental concerns of the United Nations.
11 May 2017: Secretary-General Antonio Guterres held a joint press conference at the London Somalia Conference with British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and Somali president Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed Farmajo. The following is the full text of the message from the Spokesman's office to the Press. (See our comment at the end.)
"Thank you very much first of all, to the Government of the United Kingdom, to Boris Johnson, for having had the initiative of this conference, and to the President of Somalia for having created the political conditions that allowed it to happen.
"And this conference was an unmitigated success. This conference has created the conditions for an opportunity to materialize. An opportunity that we cannot miss. An opportunity to take Somalia out of decades of conflict, of poverty, and of terrible suffering from Somali people. An opportunity to defeat terrorism and to establish peace. An opportunity to allow for the build up of national Somali institutions and lay the foundations of a normal economic and social development process.
"And this opportunity is possible because we have in Somalia a President of the Government that has a strategy and a plan of action that makes sense and deserves the support of the international community. But now, for the opportunity not to missed, the international community needs to come together and to massively support Somalia.
"First of all, responding to the appeals to increase humanitarian aid, to be able to face the dramatic challenge of food and security and disease in the country.
"Second, to fully support the Government in the build up of national institutions in particular, as it was mentioned by the Foreign Secretary, the national army and the national police force that need to be built in a coordinated way and under the strategy of the Somali Government.
"The international community needs also to be able - in between, before those national institutions are able to fully protect the Somali people - the international community must give strong and predictable, financial and equipment supports to AMISOM, to the Mission of the African Union, which with enormous sacrifice and enormous courage has been fighting [Al-] Shabaab, in very dramatic circumstances, but creating the conditions that allow this conference and this opportunity to take place.
"AMISOM deserves a much stronger support and a much more predictable support from the international community.
"And finally, it is very important for us all to be able to support the new National Development Plan of Somalia - to create the conditions for it to be possible - through all the instruments of development cooperation, including with the necessary technical mechanisms to be put in place and the guarantees of sustainability, including an effective process of debt relief.
"If the international community is able to respond to the challenge, I’m sure that this opportunity will not be missed and I’m sure that Somalia will be the success story we need in our troubled world.
Question about the training of the national army and police force of Somalia.
"Secretary-General: I think that what we have witnessed until now in Somalia is an effort by different countries, training different groups, in different parts of the country, with different doctrines. And that is a recipe for disaster, it’s not a recipe to form a true national army and a true national police force.
"What I think is important in this conference is the recognition that there must be a coordinated effort in which training takes place, in close articulation with the strategy of the Government, and the Government plan, in order to build one army, with one doctrine, and with the links and the forms of cohesion that an army needs to have in order to be able to fight with success an insurgency or any terrorist group.
"Now, that takes time, it is true. And that is why we believe it is necessary, in between, to go on supporting AMISOM. But not only with a ‘business as usual’ approach: I do believe we need to make sure that support is given in a more effective and predictable way, and to also create the conditions for AMISOM, together with the Somali forces, to be able in the near future to take the appropriate offensive actions that are necessary to reduce Al-Shabaab’s influence, namely in the south of the country.
"So, the two things go together: at the same time, support AMISOM until conditions are met for AMISOM to go down and build up national institutions, army and police force, but in a coordinated and effective way, and not with different kinds of actions in different places that will not lead to the creation of the institutions the country needs.
It is mystifying to receive this when the people who sent it presumably are the same ones that denied me UN Press accreditation, cut off my access to UN Web TV and took me off the list of the daily UN Documents distribution.
The content of the message is equally intriguing. Somalia has been on the international agenda since the days of the "Cold War" (when it was a vicious tyranny allied to Moscow). It has been a UN responsibility for over three decades, a place considered high risk for UN International staff to even visit for much of that time.
During that period the European Union's various mafias have used the seas off Somalia as a dumping ground for toxic waste and other criminal elements have run profitable piracy and gun-running businesses.
It is good that Mr. Guterres wants to unify training of the Somali national army, but the current arrangements are not from choice. The factions and tribes that have made the country ungovernable -- with considerable help from the criminal elements noted above -- have to be brought together first before they can be forged into an instrument of national control and policy. Perhaps the Europeans have decided to make that possible. If so, it is good news and worthy of a shout or two from the UN roof top. But it remains to be seen if that has happened. Impossible to tell from the excerpt of the Press Conference.
19 February 2017: In a wide-ranging talk to the annual gathering of the world's top security officials at Munich, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres repeatedly referred to "fragile States," the multiplication of conflicts, their inter-relationship and "root causes" without once mentioning drug trafficking, money laundering and their role in shaping the disastrous terrorist conflicts ravaging the world. There was no mention of the multi-trillion dollar illicit drain of funds from developing countries, a problem the African Group, and more recently the Group of 77 has specifically asked him to address. The only reference to illicit drain of resources was in answer to a question from the audience.
The inter-linkages he did mention were those between the "global mega-trends" of "climate change, population growth, urbanization, many times chaotic urbanization, food insecurity, water scarcity, massive movements of people." He pointed to "dramatic consequences, namely the competition for resources, increasing the probability of conflicts to take place and generating dramatic humanitarian situations."
The avoidance of the truth about the international situation was particularly vivid when he noted that the wealth of the eight richest men in the world equaled that of the poorest half of humanity. That comparison by the British charity OXFAM neatly directs attention away from those who run the global black market with its command center in London's financial district. The illicit flow of funds from developing countries is estimated at over $7 trillion in just the first decade of the 21st Century. For details see here.
The following is the full transcript of the speech on 18 February, along with his answers to questions from the audience. Key issues are highlighted in red.
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, it is indeed a great pleasure for me to be back in Munich now in this new capacity.
We live in a dangerous world. We are witnessing a multiplication of new conflicts, old conflicts seem never to die – be it in Afghanistan or Somalia – and these conflicts are becoming more and more interlinked and linked to a new threat of global terrorism. If one looks from Nigeria to Mali to Libya, Israel-Palestine, Syria, Somalia, Yemen, Afghanistan, it is clear that all these crises are connected to each other. Fighters moving from one place to another and sometimes going back to countries of origin, namely here in Germany, representing a huge threat to our common global security.
Now, many of these conflicts were borne of the fragility of states. In the beginning, they were internal conflicts, sometimes asymmetric, normally with huge violations of international humanitarian law and huge suffering, displacement of populations, but then other states become involved – either as parties to the conflict or supporters of the parties to the conflict. They internationalize, [become] interlinked, more strongly, and the truth is that they have been developing in a world where power relations became unclear.
I lived the Cold War, the bipolar world. I lived as Prime Minister [during] the period of a unipolar world. Now, yet we are not in a multipolar world, we are in a kind of chaotic situation, probably leading to a multipolar world. But in these chaotic situations with unclear power relations, impunity and unpredictability have been the name of the game. And it is in this context that I believe that we need and, I’ve said it several times, a surge in diplomacy for peace. Members States will have to assume the leading role, but I presume the Secretary-General of the United Nations can, using his good offices, be an added value in that surge, acting as a catalyst, sometimes a convener, but always as a bridge-builder and an honest broker. And trying to make countries understand, especially those that are involved as parties to a conflict or as supporters of the parties to a conflict, that independently of their differences, their contradictions, their different perspectives, the truth is that the danger for them and the danger for us all, let’s say Syria, for instance not only the suffering of the Syrian people, not only the destabilization of the region, Iraq, refugees in Jordan and Lebanon – but the threat feeding global terrorism, the threat to us all is such and the threat to the countries involved is such that I believe the intelligent thing to is to come together and put an end to this kind of conflict.
It will not be easy. We will also need a lot of preventive diplomacy, a lot of efforts in mediation, and we especially need to have a strategy to address the root causes of these kinds of conflicts in the world.
There are things that are obvious: the alignment of the sustainable and inclusive development with the sustaining peace agenda. It is clear that development is an important element in the prevention of conflicts, especially if it is inclusive and sustainable.
It is clear that we need to address the fragility of states and to support states, institutions, civil societies, to become stronger, more resilient that will help diminish the tendency for states to be involved in conflict situations.
It is also very important to understand the linkages with what I would call today’s global mega-trends. If one looks at climate change, population growth, urbanization, many times chaotic urbanization, food insecurity, water scarcity, massive movements of people – all of these trends are becoming also more and more interlinked, enhancing each other, strengthening each other, and there have been dramatic consequences, namely the competition for resources, increasing the probability of conflicts to take place and generating dramatic humanitarian situations.
And I would say climate change and population growth are probably the two key elements. And in climate change, the commitment of the international community to stick to the Paris Agreement and to be more ambitious than the Paris Agreement was and to make sure that we stay the course in regard to it is absolutely essential. And I would say on population growth that new attention needs to be focused on that, especially in Africa. And for me, a key condition to address it is the combination of education and the empowerment of women and girls. This is probably the best way to be able to address the problems of excessive population growth that is impacting dramatically in some parts of the world.
At the same time, it is important to recognize that the asymmetric effects of globalization are also contributing to these problems of global peace and security. Globalization has been an incredible generator of wealth, of prosperity, improving living conditions mostly everywhere in the world, decreasing absolute poverty quite substantially.
But globalization had its losers. Globalization – it was asymmetric, as I said – and there is, in some parts of the world, in several communities, the feeling that they were left behind, that nobody was taking care of them, and this has generated with the increase of inequalities.
Fortune has just published that the eight richest persons in the world have a wealth that is similar to the wealth of half of the poorest part of the world’s population. And, of course, too excessive of inequalities are also an generator of instability and unrest. And all of this has undermined the confidence between peoples and public opinion and their political establishments, and also the confidence in relation to international organizations.
We see huge pockets of youth unemployment, and I believe that is probably the biggest threat in relation to our global security. There is nothing worse than a young man or woman [who has] graduation from university, not having chance to find a job, not having any hope, nothing worse than this situation and nothing better for the recruitment of violent extremist organizations or of terrorist organizations.
And at the same time, this lack of confidence between peoples and their political establishments is something that needs to be looked at, not as blaming the people, but as trying to understand the reasons and trying to figure out why these rust belts of this world are generating a huge change in the geography of politics. Understanding the people, understanding their concerns, their anxieties and fears, and caring for them, and trying to find solutions for them is absolutely essential to re-establish the confidence between political establishments and populations.
The philosopher that has more influenced my political life has been Habermas, and for Habermas, one of his contributions to thinking is that one of the key elements of a modern democracy is the permanent interflow of communication between political societies and civil societies, and the fact that that flow of communication has an impact on the political decisions and an impact on the change of that action that might be necessary in political decisions, independently of the electoral moment of the electoral periods.
Now, the challenge for us is: how do we get into this interflow of communication in a digital era? With the new information and communication technologies, in a world in which everything goes at enormous speed, but we absolutely need to preserve the capacity of countries, of governments, of institutions, to have long-term strategies, to have visions for the future. And one of the worst worrying symptoms of today’s difficulties in the world is that there are so few countries that show the capacity to present a long-term strategy in relation to their own objectives.
So, in this context of a lack of confidence of people in relation to their own institutions, there is also a lack of confidence of people in relation to multilateral institutions. And when one needs to respond to global challenges, more and more global capacity, more and more multilateral instruments, the truth is that for the EU [European Union], for the UN, for other organizations, we also feel that lack of confidence. And the only responsive reform – we need to deeply reform our international institutions in order to be able to meet the expectations of the peoples of this world.
In the case of the UN, we are engaging in three areas of reform.
First, the peace and security strategy, operational setup, and architecture. We are investing essentially in peacekeeping- we need to be able to shift more and more resources to prevention and peace-building. On the other hand, the operational setup in peacekeeping takes place in countries where there is no peace to keep, and there is, I think, a solid debate that needs to be engaged on about this puzzle – robust peacekeeping, peace enforcement, counter-terrorism. How can these things be linked in operational setups around the world and how can we ensure that way that we operate is effective and meets the requirement of populations and the protection of populations? And how can we use partnerships with other entities, taking profit of our competitive advantages – the EU, the AU [African Union], other organizations around the world?
And finally, the structures: our structures are also dysfunctional in the UN in relation to the capacity to manage the peace continuum from prevention to conflict resolution to peacekeeping to peacebuilding and to long-term development.
The second area of reform: the UN development system. We are too fragmented. We need coordination and accountability and we need to make sure that independent capacity of evaluation is established to measure not only our agencies’ performance according to our mandates, but how they perform in relation to contribution to our global goals that were fixed in the summits of last year, in climate change and in the Sustainable Development Goals.
And then, management reform. The rules and regulations of the UN have been made – if there was a conspiracy to make sure that we would not be able to operate, that conspiracy would lead exactly to the rules we have. And we need to engage with Member States to make them understand that it is not [by] micromanaging the Organization that we are going to be effective and cost-effective – that we need to have flexibility, that we need to have simplifications of procedures, to have decentralization of decisions, to have, again, transparency and accountability in order to be able to deliver.
Allow me a last observation as we are here in this Munich conference.
We have a situation in which we are completely obsessed with the crises of today and with the need to respond to them. But I think that we need to also consider that the problems of peace and security in the future will have new dimensions for which we need to be prepared.
Today, cyberspace is already a major concern for us all. Let’s be clear: we lack the multilateral instruments to address the problems of cyberspace. But we have artificial intelligence, genetic engineering, that are there, enormous progress in the private sector, enormous potential for a generation of well-being for mankind – or for man and women-kind. But at the same time, huge risks in many dimensions – in security dimensions, but also in ethical dimensions. And there is a lack of knowledge in government, in international organizations, about what these new areas represent, the private sector being clearly ahead with scientific and technological breakthroughs that really are changing the nature of relations in our world. To develop a capacity of analysis, of discussion, and to be able to think about models of governance for these new areas of scientific and technological development that will be essential in our lives in ten years’ time, is absolutely crucial. I believe that when people will meet herein 10 or 20 years’ time in Munich, we will probably be discussing other things in relation to the priorities of today, but I hope we don’t get to those discussions too late and [having done] too little.
Q: [On Syria]
SG: I think peace is only possible when none of the parties to the conflict think they can win. I’m not sure we are yet there in Syria. I’m afraid that some might still think, and I think it’s a total illusion, that they might win that war, so I’m not optimistic about the short-term solution for the Syria crisis.
But I believe the effort should be to convince those that are relevant to the parties to the conflict – and we have the United States, Russia, we have Turkey, we have Saudi Arabia, we have Qatar, we have Jordan, we have a number of countries – and, too, some of these countries have been directly involved, either in the conflict or in supporting the parties to the conflict, and to convince each of these countries that the Syria conflict has become a terrible threat for them – not only for us all, but for them – and that it s in their best interest to stop the conflict independently of the different perspectives that they have about the conflict is, I think, absolutely necessary, and I believe that we are not yet there.
And so I think it is essential to put on track the political process. I hope that Geneva will be possible. It was very important to have in Astana a ceasefire, but the political process is essential. And also, I think it’s important to say that there is no way we can defeat Daesh if we don’t find a political, inclusive solution for Syria and for Iraq.
The idea that we can fight terrorism and let populations feel marginalized – not represented, angry – is, in my opinion an illusion. To defeat terrorism, it is necessary to fight terrorists on the ground, but it is necessary to eliminate the situations that allow for them to easily recruit new people and to replace those that are eventually killed in anti-terrorist action. And one of the things we will be doing in our UN reform, and I hope to have the General Assembly’s support for that, is to reform the UN counter-terrorism structure and to make sure that we are much more effective in support to Member States in this regard. The UN is not going to fight terrorism on the ground, but we have 38 organizations in the UN dealing with counter-terrorism and, as you can imagine, this is not the right way to do it. So we are going to present to the General Assembly a project of reform to bring things more effectively together and to establish more effective mechanisms of coordination and command.
Q: [On the proposal for Salam Fayyad to serve as the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in Libya]
SG: As I said several times, I think it was a serious mistake. I think that Mr. Fayyad was the right person in the right place at the right time, and I think that those who will lose will be the Libyan people and the Libyan peace process. And I believe that it is essential for everybody to understand that people serving the UN are serving in their personal capacities. They don’t represent a country or a government – they are citizens of the world representing the UN Charter and abiding by the UN Charter.
Q: [On the role of market economies and development aid in the eradication of poverty]
SG: I think, for the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, we have to combine a number of instruments. For me, the most important instrument is to support countries to generate their own resources, and that has to do with tax reform. It also has to do with the capacity to create environments for investment to be attracted, and it also has to do with our capacity to work together, to fight against tax evasion collectively, to fight against illicit financial flows and money laundering, to support countries in their effort for themselves to reform their tax systems and to make the environment more friendly to business.
On the other hand, development aid is also essential. It is a relatively small part of the total, but it is also essential. In many countries, there is no other way. We have situations of fragility in the world in which it is obvious that the private sector will not be coming so soon because of the extreme fragility of those situations, and there, development aid is an absolute must. But then we have to empower the international financial institutions to leverage more resources and to facilitate access to capital markets and to private sector investment, so it’s combining all these instruments that we’ll be able to eradicate poverty.
But let’s not forget one thing. The biggest contribution for the dramatic reduction of poverty in the last decades was China. We can discuss whether China is or is not a market economy, but we should not forget that China, from the statistical point of view, we really had a fantastic improvement in the [reduction of the] number of absolute poor, but that extraordinary result comes largely from the Chinese contribution.