Secretary-General’s Address to the General Assembly – World


[trilingual, as delivered] [scroll further down for all-English version]

Mr. President of the General Assembly, Excellencies,

I am here to sound the alarm: The world must wake up.

We are on the edge of an abyss — and moving in the wrong direction.

Our world has never been more threatened.

Or more divided.

We face the greatest cascade of crises in our lifetimes.

The COVID-19 pandemic has supersized glaring inequalities.

The climate crisis is pummeling the planet.

Upheaval from Afghanistan to Ethiopia to Yemen and beyond has thwarted peace.

A surge of mistrust and misinformation is polarizing people and paralyzing societies, and human rights are under fire.

Science is under assault.

And economic lifelines for the most vulnerable are coming too little and too late — if they come at all.

Solidarity is missing in action — just when we need it most.

Perhaps one image tells the tale of our times.

The picture we have seen from some parts of the world of COVID-19 vaccines … in the garbage.

Expired and unused.

On the one hand, we see the vaccines developed in record time — a victory of science and human ingenuity.

On the other hand, we see that triumph undone by the tragedy of a lack of political will, selfishness and mistrust.

A surplus in some countries. Empty shelves in others.

A majority of the wealthier world vaccinated. Over 90 percent of Africans still waiting for their first dose.

This is a moral indictment of the state of our world.

It is an obscenity.

We passed the science test.

But we are getting an F in Ethics.


The climate alarm bells are also ringing at fever pitch.

The recent report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was a code red for humanity.

We see the warning signs in every continent and region.

Scorching temperatures. Shocking biodiversity loss. Polluted air, water and natural spaces.

And climate-related disasters at every turn.

As we saw recently, not even this city — the financial capital of the world — is immune.

Climate scientists tell us it is not too late to keep alive the 1.5 degree goal of the Paris Climate Agreement.

But the window is rapidly closing.

We need a 45 per cent cut in emissions by 2030. Yet a recent UN report made clear that with present national climate commitments, emissions will go up by 16% by 2030.

That would condemn us to a hellscape of temperature rises of at least 2.7 degrees above pre-industrial levels – a catastrophe.

Meanwhile, the OECD just reported a gap of at least $20 billion in essential and promised climate finance to developing countries.

We are weeks away from the UN Climate Conference in Glasgow, but seemingly light years away from reaching our targets.

We must get serious. And we must act fast.


COVID-19 and the climate crisis have exposed profound fragilities as societies and as a planet.

Yet instead of humility in the face of these epic challenges, we see hubris.

Instead of the path of solidarity, we are on a dead end to destruction.

At the same time, another disease is spreading in our world today: a malady of mistrust.

When people see promises of progress denied by the realities of their harsh daily lives…

When they see their fundamental rights and freedoms curtailed…

When they see petty — as well as grand — corruption around them…

When they see billionaires joyriding to space while millions go hungry on earth…

When parents see a future for their children that looks even bleaker than the struggles of today…

And when young people see no future at all…

The people we serve and represent may lose faith not only in their governments and institutions — but in the values that have animated the work of the United Nations for over 75 years.

Peace. Human rights. Dignity for all. Equality. Justice. Solidarity.

Like never before, core values are in the crosshairs.

A breakdown in trust is leading to a breakdown in values.

Promises, after all, are worthless if people do not see results in their daily lives.

Failure to deliver creates space for some of the darkest impulses of humanity.

It provides oxygen for easy-fixes, pseudo-solutions and conspiracy theories.

It is kindling to stoke ancient grievances. Cultural supremacy. Ideological dominance. Violent misogyny. The targeting of the most vulnerable including refugees and migrants.


We face a moment of truth.

Now is the time to deliver.

Now is the time to restore trust.

Now is the time to inspire hope.

And I do have hope.

The problems we have created are problems we can solve.

Humanity has shown that we are capable of great things when we work together.

That is the raison d’être of our United Nations.

But let’s be frank. Today’s multilateral system is too limited in its instruments and capacities, in relation to what is needed for effective governance of managing global public goods.

It is too fixed on the short-term.

We need to strengthen global governance. We need to focus on the future. We need to renew the social contract. We need to ensure a United Nations fit for a new era.

That is why I presented my report on Our Common Agenda in the way I did.

It provides a 360 degree analysis of the state of our world, with 90 specific recommendations that take on the challenges of today and strengthen multilateralism for tomorrow.

Our Common Agenda builds on the UN Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and the Paris Climate Agreement.

It is in line with the mandate I was given by the UN75 Declaration to seek a pathway to a better world.

But to reach that land of our promises, we must bridge Great Divides.


I see 6 Great Divides — 6 Grand Canyons — that we must bridge now.

First, we must bridge the peace divide.

For far too many around the world, peace and stability remain a distant dream.

In Afghanistan, where we must boost humanitarian assistance and defend human rights, especially of women and girls.

In Ethiopia, where we call on parties to immediately cease hostilities, ensure humanitarian access and create the conditions for the start of an Ethiopian-led political dialogue.

In Myanmar, where we reaffirm unwavering support to the people in their pursuit of democracy, peace, human rights and the rule of law.

In the Sahel, where we are committed to mobilizing international assistance for regional security, development and governance.

In places such as Yemen, Libya and Syria, where we must overcome stalemates and push for peace.

In Israel and Palestine, where we urge leaders to resume a meaningful dialogue, recognizing the two-State solution as the only pathway to a just and comprehensive peace.

In Haiti and so many other places left behind, where we stand in solidarity through every step out of crisis.


We are seeing an explosion in seizures of power by force.

Military coups are back.

And the lack of unity among the international community does not help.

Geo-political divisions are undermining international cooperation and limiting the capacity of the Security Council to take the necessary decisions.

A sense of impunity is taking hold.

At the same time, it will be impossible to address dramatic economic and development challenges while the world’s two largest economies are at odds with each other.

Yet I fear our world is creeping towards two different sets of economic, trade, financial, and technology rules, two divergent approaches in the development of artificial intelligence — and ultimately the risk of two different military and geo-political strategies, and this is a recipe for trouble. It would be far less predictable than the Cold War.

To restore trust and inspire hope, we need cooperation. We need dialogue. We need understanding.

We need to invest in prevention, peacekeeping and peacebuilding. We need progress on…


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