By Antonio Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations*
BANGKOK, Thailand, Nov 4 2019 – We are facing tense and turbulent times around the globe. Rising inequality is a danger everywhere. Trade and technology tensions are building. Growth forecasts are being revised down. Unease and uncertainty are going up. This is a global phenomenon. No region is immune.
As I said at the opening of the United Nations General Assembly, I see another concern emerging on the horizon, the possibility of a Great Fracture – with the two world’s largest economies splitting the globe into two – each with its own dominant currency, trade and financial rules, its own internet and artificial intelligence capacities, and its own zero sum geopolitical and military strategies.
We must do everything possible to avert this Great Fracture and maintain a universal system – a universal economy with universal respect for international law; a multipolar world with strong multilateral institutions.
I firmly believe the nations of ASEAN are well-positioned to play a key role in the solution of this question. I fully appreciate ASEAN’s steadfast support for multilateralism and a rules-based international order.
We are also grateful for the collective contribution of more than 5,000 peacekeepers to UN operations, including a growing number of women.
Strong economic development in ASEAN countries has improved lives and lifted millions out of poverty. But it is important to recognize that there are still people being left behind.
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is our shared blueprint for a fair globalization. Yet our world is far off track in meeting the Goals. Together, we have identified many complementarities between ASEAN’s Vision 2025 and the 2030 Agenda.
The United Nations stands ready to support ASEAN to urgently accelerate progress across all the SDGs, in particular through our collective efforts on peace and justice, decent work and climate action.
I know you also keenly understand the interconnections of the climate crisis with sustainable development, peace and human security. Indeed, the climate emergency is the defining issue of our time.
Four of the ten countries most affected by climate change are ASEAN Member States. This region is highly vulnerable, particularly to rising sea-levels, with catastrophic consequences for low-lying communities, as recently published research illustrated.
Seventy percent of global population that will be more affected by rising sea-levels are in countries both within ASEAN and countries that will be represented at summits later this week.
I thank you for your important contributions to September Climate Action Summit. If our world is to avoid climate catastrophe, far more is needed by all to heed the call of science and cut greenhouse emissions by 45 percent by 2030; reach carbon neutrality by 2050; and limit temperature rise to 1.5 degrees by the end of the century.
I have been strongly advocating for more progress on carbon pricing, ensuring no new coal plants by 2020, and ending the allocation of trillions of dollars of taxpayers’ money for fossil fuel subsidies that serve only to boost hurricanes, spread tropical diseases and heighten conflict.
I am particularly worried about the future impact of the high number of new coal power plants still projected in some parts of the world, including several countries in East, South and South East Asia.
At the same time, developed countries must fulfil their commitment to provide $100 billion a year from public and private sources by 2020 for mitigation and adaptation in developing countries.
I count on your leadership to undertake the concrete actions necessary to confront the world’s climate emergency. We are closely following the work of the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights as well as ASEAN’s Commission on the Rights of Women and Children, that have our full support.
The United Nations will continue to work with ASEAN in key human rights areas such as freedom of expression, the right to a healthy environment and conducting business in a way that fully respects human rights – a very important initiative by Thailand recently.
We look forward to ASEAN’s further efforts to deepen trust in the region towards sustainable peace, security, and complete and verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
I remain deeply concerned about the situation in Myanmar, including Rakhine State, and the plight of the massive number of refugees still living increasingly in difficult conditions.
It remains, of course, Myanmar’s responsibility to address the root causes and ensure a conducive environment for the safe, voluntary, dignified and sustainable repatriation of refugees to Rakhine State, in accordance with international norms and standards.
To facilitate dialogue with refugees and pursue confidence building measures.
To ensure humanitarian actors have full and unfettered access to areas of return, as well as communities in need;
To approve without delay Quick Impact Projects focused on livelihoods, infrastructure, basic services and protection; to allow for a rapid solution for those still internally displaced in the country.
All these steps are in line with the recommendations of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State which needs urgent follow-up in its entirety. I welcome ASEAN’s recent engagement with Myanmar and encourage its continued efforts.
In the broader region, I am encouraged by ASEAN Member States and China’s ongoing efforts to conclude a Code of Conduct on the South China Sea.
The United Nations has consistently called on all parties to resolve disputes through peaceful dialogue, in accordance with international law, including the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.
Finally, the United Nations will also continue to provide technical support for ASEAN’s comprehensive strategies for counter-terrorism and preventing violent extremism, including by involving women, youth and civil society.
Let me conclude by once again expressing my great appreciation for our Comprehensive Partnership.
Together, let us keep building on this vital partnership to ensure dignity and opportunity for the people of the ASEAN region and beyond.
*Excerpts from an address to the ASEAN Summit on ‘Advancing Partnership for Sustainability’ in Bangkok, Thailand last week.