António Guterres (UN Secretary-General) on his priorities for 2022 -General Assembly, 56th plenary meeting, 76th session
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Briefing by António Guterres, United Nations Secretary-General, on his priorities for 2022.

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Excellencies,

We begin another year in the grips of a global pandemic.

COVID-19 continues to upend lives, plans and hopes.

The only certainty is more uncertainty.
 
Meanwhile, inequalities are growing.

Inflation is rising. 

The climate crisis, pollution and biodiversity loss rage on.

We face a cauldron of political unrest and ferocious conflicts. 

Mistrust among world powers is reaching fever pitch.

And the information superhighway is clogged with hatred and lies, giving oxygen to the worst impulses of humanity.

Excellencies,

We all know this.

Now is not the time to simply list and lament challenges. 

Now is the time to act.

All these challenges are, at heart, failures of global governance. 

From global health to digital technology, many of today's multilateral frameworks are outdated and no longer fit for purpose.

They do not protect critical global public goods that are intended to support humanity's wellbeing – from the global economy and finance systems to the health of our planet.
 
Nor are multilateral frameworks delivering on our common aspirations for peace, sustainable development, human rights and dignity for all.

My report on Our Common Agenda is a starting point to addressing these challenges and threats, based on unity and solidarity.

Developing countries need this more than ever.

Excellencies,

I want to begin the year by raising five alarms – on COVID-19, global finance, climate action, lawlessness in cyber space, and peace and security.

We face a 5-alarm global fire that requires the full mobilization of all countries.

First, we must go into emergency mode in the COVID-19 battle.

Omicron is yet another warning.  

The next variant may be worse.

Stopping the spread anywhere must be at the top of the agenda everywhere.

At the same time, the virus cannot be used as cover to undermine human rights, shrink civic space and stifle press freedom.

Governments have also imposed disproportionate restrictions that penalize developing countries – for example, what I described some time ago as "travel apartheid".

Our actions must be grounded in science and common sense. 

The science is clear: Vaccines work.  Vaccines save lives.

Last October, the World Health Organization unveiled a strategy to vaccinate 40 per cent of people in all countries by the end of last year, and 70 per cent by the middle of this year.   

We are nowhere near these targets.

Vaccination rates in high-income countries are seven times higher than in the countries of Africa.  At this rate, Africa will not meet the 70 per cent threshold until August 2024. 

Manufacturers worldwide are now producing 1.5 billion doses per month.

But the distribution is scandalously unequal – and we need to convert vaccines into vaccinations everywhere. 

Instead of the virus spreading like wildfire, we need vaccines to spread like wildfire.

We need all countries and all manufacturers to prioritize vaccine supply to COVAX and create the conditions for the local production of tests, vaccines and treatments in so many countries able to do it around the world.  

This includes pharmaceutical companies more rapidly sharing licenses, know-how and technology. 
  
We must also fight the plague of vaccine misinformation. 

And we must do much more to ready our world for the next outbreak in line with the recommendations of the independent panel on pandemic preparedness, including by strengthening the authority of the World Health Organization.  
 
Excellencies,

Second, we must go into emergency mode to reform global finance.

Let's tell it like it is: the global financial system is morally bankrupt.

It favours the rich and punishes the poor.

One of the main functions of the global financial system is to ensure stability, by supporting economies through financial shocks.

Yet faced with precisely such a shock – a global pandemic – it has failed the Global South.

Lopsided investment is leading to a lopsided recovery.

Low-income countries are experiencing their slowest growth in a generation. 

Sub-Saharan Africa could see cumulative economic growth per capita over the next five years that is 75 per cent less than the rest of the world.  

Many middle-income countries are ineligible for debt relief despite surging poverty, and the growing impact of the climate crisis.

Women and girls, who represent the majority of poor in most regions, are paying a high price in lost healthcare, education and jobs. 

Unless we take action now, record inflation, soaring energy prices and extortionate interest rates could lead to frequent debt defaults in 2022, with dire consequences for the poorest and most vulnerable.

The divergence between developed and developing countries is becoming systemic – a recipe for instability, crisis and forced migration.

These imbalances are not a bug, but a feature of the global financial system.

They are inbuilt and structural.

They are the product of a system that routinely ascribes poor credit ratings to developing economies, starving them of private finance.

Credit ratings agencies are de facto decision-makers in the global financial system.

They should be accountable and transparent. 

Developing countries also suffer from a lack of transparency around, in several circumstances, Official Development Assistance, climate finance, and more.

This enables re-labeling and double-counting.

These imbalances are also the result of a disconnect between the real and the financial economies; between working people and money markets. 

We requested and applauded the International Monetary Fund's decision to issue Special Drawing Rights last year.

But according to the rules, the vast majority of those SDRs went to the biggest and richest economies that need them least. That is why redistribution is so important.

And so are the efforts such as the creation of the IMF Resiliency and Sustainability Trust that we fully support to address injustices by providing more long-term, low-cost funding to poor and vulnerable countries.

Excellencies,
Since the start of the pandemic, I have called for reform of the global financial system to support the needs of developing countries, through an inclusive and transparent process.

To build a strong recovery, governments need the resources to invest in people and resilience, through national budgets and plans anchored in the Sustainable Development Goals.

All countries must be able to invest in strong health and education systems, job creation, universal social protection, gender equality and the care economy, and a just transition to renewable energy. 

This requires a serious review of global financial governance mechanisms, which are dominated by the richest economies in the world.

Financial metrics must go beyond Gross Domestic Product, to assess vulnerability, climate, and investment risks.
Credit ratings should be based on comparable fundamentals and evidence, rather than harmful preconceptions.

Reforming the global financial architecture requires an operational debt relief and restructuring framework.

It means redirecting Special Drawing Rights to countries that need help now.

It requires a fairer global tax system, in which some of the trillions amassed by billionaires during the pandemic are shared more broadly.

It means addressing illicit financial flows, which drain more than $88 billion annually from Africa alone.

It requires boosting the resources of Multilateral Development Banks so they can better support developing economies, both directly and by leveraging private investment.

In 2022, I will continue pushing for these fundamental reforms, and use the convening power of the United Nations to boost investment in the SDGs.  

We must rescue the Agenda 2030 and I count on your support. <...>