Amidst ‘high political tension’, UN chief appeals to G20 leaders for stronger commitment to climate action, economic cooperation 

28 June 2019

The annual G20 summit of leaders from the largest and fastest-growing economies, got underway on Friday in Osaka, Japan, against a backdrop of what UN Secretary-General António Guterres described as “a moment of high political tension”.

“We have global warming, but we have also global political warming, and this can be seen in relation to trade and technology conflicts, it can be seen in relation to situations in several parts of the world, namely the Gulf”, he told reporters before addressing the summit, referring to recent attacks on oil tankers around the Strait of Hormuz and the Gulf of Oman, which have heightened tensions between Iran and the United States.

UN Japan/Takashi Okano | Secretary-General António Guterresaddresses the media at the G20 Summit in Osaka, Japan. (28 June 2019)

Turning to “uncertainties about the global economy”, he pointed to trade conflicts, high debt levels, potentially unstable financial markets and the risk of global growth slowdown.

In the UN chief’s view, it “will be very difficult to have a breakthrough in relation to some of the most difficult challenges that the international community is facing”.

‘Rescue the planet’

The Secretary-General spotlighted the urgency of addressing climate changeas a main priority.

Painting a picture of “heat waves in Europe, drought in Africa, storms happening also in Africa and the Caribbean” and a “multiplication” more intense, more frequent natural disasters “with worsening humanitarian consequences” he repeated his passionate refrain that “climate change is running faster than what we are”.

“All the analyses that can be made show the situation, in practical terms, is worse than what we could have forecasted, and the political will has been failing”, he said, calling it “a paradox that needs to be addressed”.

Avowing his belief in climate science, Mr. Guterres cited the landmark Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report of last October, which spells out that by the end of the 21st Century, temperatures must not exceed 1.5 degrees Celsius  above pre-industrial levels.

This necessitates the world reaching carbon neutrality by 2050, which requires more ambition by governments and others.

He spoke about the UN’s September Climate Action Summit in New York where he will appeal to world leaders for a stronger commitment for climate action, including by “putting a price on carbon, ending subsidies to fossil fuels, [and] not accepting the idea that we still have an acceleration of the construction of coal power plants”, all of which are “absolutely essential to rescue the planet”.

2030 Agenda

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is another main challenge where “we are lagging behind”, according to the UN chief.

Countries need to do more, mobilizing their own internal resources, improving their governance, reducing corruption, implementing the rule of law — UN chief

“If we project the different Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the evolution since the beginning until now to 2030, we will be more or less at midway of what the international community has determined when the Agenda 2030 was approved”, he said, arguing the need to accelerate resource mobilization. “Countries need to do more, mobilizing their own internal resources, improving their governance, reducing corruption, implementing the rule of law”.

Mr. Guterres highlighted that G20 nations represent 80 per cent of climate change emissions and appealed for a stronger commitment to international financial and economic cooperation.

Iran, China, US and the digital economy

After delivering his prepared text, the UN chief took questions on a variety of subjects, including rising tensions between the United States and Iran, where he reiterated his support for the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action(JCPOA), commonly known as the Iran nuclear deal.

“I have always believed and will go on believing that the JCPOA is a very important instrument…and it was a factor of stability, and that it will be very important to preserve it”, he stated. “Obviously, it is essential to de-escalate the situation in the Gulf” to avoid a confrontation that “the world couldn’t afford”.

When asked to what extent the UN chief held President Trump responsible for disagreements among the G20 leaders, he stressed the importance of dialogue between the presidents of China and the US, saying theirs was “probably the most relevant bilateral meeting that will take place”.

On the digital economy, the UN chief spoke of the recently concluded high-level panel on the digital cooperation, noting the “huge impact” that it – along with artificial intelligence – will have on the global economy.

“We will see a massive destruction of jobs and the massive creation of jobs, but the jobs will be different,” he said, adding that there must be “a strong commitment” by countries to guarantee the education, social protection and job creation needed to “minimize the negative impacts” and “optimize the positive contributions of the fourth industrial revolution”.

‘Summon the spirit of San Francisco’, says General Assembly President on UN Charter anniversary

26 June 2019

Reaffirming faith in human rights, promoting social justice and saving the world from the “scourge of war”: just some of the founding principles of the United Nations, which appear in the Organization’s bedrock Charter, signed exactly 74 years ago in San Francisco.

To mark the occasion, a special event took place in the General Assembly Hall at UN Headquarters in New York, on Tuesday, which also served as an opportunity to launch activities commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Organization, which will be celebrated next year.

UN Photo/Amanda Voisard
Senior UN officials holding copies of the UN Charter at UN HQ in New York

In her opening address, María Fernanda Espinosa, President of the General Assembly, reminded delegates that the Charter, when it was signed in 1945, carried the “hopes of a world tired by war”. While it is easy to see the Charter as an “idealistic endeavour from another time”, she said, its founders were not dreamers, but hard-headed leaders who “weighed the downside of compromise against the benefits of cooperation and the heavy cost of war.”

Today, she continued, “we can summon the spirit of San Francisco”, which was on show at the signing of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in 2015, and just a few weeks later, at the signing of the historic Paris Agreement on confronting the global climate crisis. That spirit is needed now “more than ever”, she added.

The General Assembly President was followed by Fabrizio Hochschild Drummond, Assistant Secretary-General for Strategic Coordination and the senior UN official responsible for organizing the commemoration of the UN’s 75th anniversary next year.

Mr. Hochschild referred to a Tweet posted by UN Secretary-General António Guterres on Wednesday morning, declaring that, 74 years on, the Charter “still represents the best path we have for securing global peace, development and human rights.”

The reason it was still necessary to take to Twitter and invoke the Charter, said Mr. Hochschild, was due to a loss of collective memory of the suffering that made global cooperation so compelling to the diplomats who came together on America’s west coast, back in 1945.

Referring to the planned 2020 celebrations of the Charter, Mr. Hochschild said that we are at a “defining moment in the history of our institution, of humanity, and how we deal with this, will impact on the welfare of our children, our grandchildren, and of course on the planet, our only home.”

The Secretary-General, he continued, believes a “forward-looking, inclusive youth-driven global dialogue” is the best way to celebrate the anniversary of the UN, and a shared vision of the future.

The opening remarks by the senior UN officials were followed by a symbolic signing of a copy of the Charter, by representatives of the original?? Member States in the room, as well as non-member States which received a standing invitation to participate as observers, at the birth of the General Assembly.

A display of the text of the Preamble to the Charter in all six official languages, was installed at UN Headquarters on Tuesday, and will remain in place, as an expression of renewed commitment to the Charter ahead of the 75th anniversary.\

Only four women were among the 850 international delegates who signed the charter. For this episode of UN Gender Focus, Paulina Greer spoke to three researchers who are helping to uncover women’s contribution to the origins of the UN

 

 

Peace in the Gulf ‘at a critical juncture’ says DiCarlo, urging continuation of Iran nuclear deal.

26 June 2019

The Iran nuclear deal must “continue to work for all”, despite moves by both the United States and Iran which have destabilized the “hard-won” 2015 agreement, the UN Political Affairs chief told Security Council members on Wednesday.

This is especially true at time when both countries continue their diplomatic war of words over recent attacks around the crucial oil shipping lanes of the Gulf, said Under-Secretary-General Rosemary DiCarlo, describing events as “a reminder that we are at a critical juncture.”

The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) – reached by Iran, China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, the US and the European Union – sets out rigorous mechanisms for monitoring restrictions placed on Iran’s nuclear programme, while paving the way for the lifting of UN sanctions against Iran.

Ms. DiCarlo described it as the result of “12 years of intense diplomatic efforts and technical negotiations”, regarded by UN Secretary-General António Guterres as a major success of “multilateralism, nuclear non-proliferation, dialogue and diplomacy.”

With the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) stating in its latest report that Iran is abiding by its commitments, she said the UN chief was concerned at the US decision in May, not to extend waivers so that Iran can continuing trading oil, and other waivers directly relating to the JCPOA. The US withdrew from the deal just over a year ago, but some oil buyers were allowed to keep taking limited volumes.

US actions “may impede the ability of Iran and other Member States to implement certain of its provisions”, said the Political Affairs chief, adding that Mr. Guterres also regretted Iran’s announcement this May, that it would not commit to the agreed limits on enriched uranium, unless other JCPOA signatories agreed to work round the increased US sanctions, within 60 days.

Iran raised the stakes higher by announcing last week it would pass it’s agreed limits on enriched uranium by 27 June: “Such actions are not in the interests of the participants of the Plan and may not help preserve it’, she said. “The Secretary-General encourages Iran to continue implementing all its nuclear-related commitments despite the considerable challenges it faces.”

Ms DiCarlo said the UN chief welcomed initiatives from other countries – including all the Security Council Permanent Members to save the deal, “which should be given full effect as a matter or priority.”

“It is essential that the Plan continues to work for all its participants, including by delivering tangible economic benefits to the Iranian people”, she added.

Ballistic missiles, arms to Yemen, inconclusive thus far

Turning to provisions in the JCPOA, Ms. DiCarlo said there were “divergent views” from Member States over whether Iran had breached the agreement in various test firing and test flights, since December.

With reference to ballistic missiles deployed by Houthi rebels in Yemen, against Saudi Arabia, she said that some components analyzed by the UN showed it was likely they had been supplied from outside Yemen, after 2015. Regarding other military hardware and explosives, she said the Secretariat was “confident” that some arms analyzed from the battlefield, showed they were of “Iranian manufacture” but it was impossible to tell if they were transferred after Iran had committed to the deal.

Iran, US, EU weigh in

Iran’s Ambassador to the UN, Majid Takht Ravanchi told the Council that “the US withdrawal from the JCPOA and re-imposition of sanctions” had rendered the deal “almost fully ineffective…Iran alone cannot, shall not and will not take all of the burdens anymore, to preserve the JCPOA”, he declared.

With the European powers working hard to save the deal and the Iranian 60-day deadline to them of 8 July looming, The UN Ambassador for the European Union, Joao Vale de Almeida, warned that there was “no credible, peaceful alternative”.

Jonathan Cohen, acting US Ambassador, said the Iran’s “defiance of the Security Council and its reckless behaviour threatening peace and security globally must not be downplayed in the name of preserving a deal that doesn’t fully cut off Iran’s path to a nuclear weapon.”

UN Photo/Loey Felipe
Rosemary DiCarlo, Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, briefs the Security Council meeting on non-proliferation. (26 June 2019)