Statement attributable to the Secretary-General on the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize

Copenhagen, Denmark – 11 October 2019

I have said often that winds of hope are blowing ever stronger across Africa. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed is one of the main reasons why.

His vision helped Ethiopia and Eritrea achieve a historic rapprochement, and I was honored to witness the signing of the peace agreement last year.

This milestone has opened up new opportunities for the region to enjoy security and stability, and Prime Minister Ahmed’s leadership has set a wonderful example for others in and beyond Africa looking to overcome resistance from the past and put people first.

THE SECRETARY-GENERAL — MESSAGE ON INTERNATIONAL DAY OF THE GIRL CHILD

11 October 2019

Today, more than 1 billion girls younger than 18 are poised to take on the future. Every day, they are challenging stereotypes and breaking barriers. Girls are organizing and leading movements to tackle issues such as child marriage, education inequality, violence and the climate crisis. As the theme of this year’s observance underscores, they are proving to be unscripted and unstoppable.

On this International Day, we celebrate achievements by, with and for girls since the adoption of the landmark Beijing Declaration and Platform of Action – a comprehensive policy agenda for the empowerment of women and girls. Across nearly 25 years, we have seen more girls attending and completing school, fewer getting married or becoming mothers while still children themselves, and more gaining the skills they need to excel in the workplace. 

It is no longer acceptable for girls to have to scale-back their dreams or be made to believe they were unreachable in the first place. Yet many are still held back by harmful gender norms that influence everything they do: if, when and whom they marry, whether they attend and complete school, access health services or earn a living, and so much else.  Two hundred million girls and women are subjected to female genital mutilation.  Three of four victims of human trafficking are women and girls.  Conflicts trap millions in violence, uncertainty and despair.  

To ensure that all girls can reach their potential, we need concerted efforts and investments in their health, safety and 21st-century skills. Every year of secondary schooling a girl receives boosts her earning power by as much as 25 per cent. If all girls and boys complete secondary education, 420 million people could be lifted out of poverty.  The benefits unfold across generations.

We need to uphold the equal rights, voices and influence of girls in our families, communities and nations. Girls can be powerful agents of change, and nothing should keep them from participating fully in all areas of life.  

الأمين العام – رسالة بمناسبة اليوم العالمي للموئل

٧ تشرين الأول/أكتوبر ٢٠١٩

         اليوم العالمي للموئل هو مناسبة لتسليط الضوء على الدور المحوري الذي تؤديه مدننا ومجتمعاتنا المحلية في تحقيق أهداف التنمية المستدامة. فالمدن الخاضعة للتخطيط المحكم والإدارة الذكية يمكن أن تقودنا صوب النمو الشامل للجميع والتنمية المنخفضة الانبعاثات.

         وفي الوقت نفسه، يمكن للتوسع الحضري السريع والعشوائي أن يخلق العديد من التحديات أو يؤدي إلى تفاقمها، ومن بينها أزمة المناخ.

         ويركز الاحتفال باليوم العالمي للموئل هذا العام على مشكلة النفايات – والإمكانات التي تنطوي عليها التكنولوجيات الرائدة في تحويل النفايات إلى ثروة.

         ويبدأ الحل من الخطوات الصغيرة التي باستطاعة الأفراد اتخاذها لتغيير الطريقة التي تعمل بها مدننا. فيجب علينا أن نخفض كمية النفايات التي ننتجها وأن نبدأ، في الوقت نفسه، في النظر إليها باعتبارها موردا قيما يمكن إعادة استخدامه وتدويره لأغراض من بينها توليد الطاقة.

         وفي مقدور التكنولوجيات الرائدة أن توفر أفضل وأبخس الحلول لهذه التحديات اليومية. فعلى سبيل المثال، يمكن أن يساعد التشغيل الآلي والذكاء الاصطناعي في فرز النفايات القابلة للتدوير بمزيد من الكفاءة. وباستطاعة أجهزة الاستشعار في وسائل التعليب الذكي أن تساعد على الحد من هدر الأغذية، في حين تعين تكنولوجيات مبتكرة أخرى في تحويل النفايات العضوية إلى طاقة متجددة وسماد عضوي. ويمكن للمواد الجديدة – مثل المواد البلاستيكية المتطورة القابلة للتحلل الحيوي – أن تحد من وطأة الأثر البيئي.

         ولكن ما زال يتعين علينا أن نستثمر بقدر أكبر بكثير إذا أردنا أن نحسن إدارة النفايات.

         وبفضل ريادة المدن واتساع نطاق استخدام التكنولوجيات الرائدة، يمكننا أن نحقق تقدما كبيرا في سبيل التنمية الحضرية المستدامة.

THE SECRETARY GENERAL — MESSAGE ON WORLD HABITAT DAY

7 October 2019

World Habitat Day highlights the central role our cities and communities play in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.  Well-planned and smartly managed cities can steer us towards inclusive growth and low-emission development.

At the same time, rapid and unplanned urbanization can generate or exacerbate many challenges, including the climate crisis.

This year’s observance focuses on the problem of waste – and the potential of frontier technologies to transform waste into wealth.

Solutions begin with small steps individuals can take to alter the way our cities function.  We must reduce the amount of waste we produce, and, at the same time, start seeing it as a valuable resource that can be re-used and recycled, including for energy.

Frontier technologies can offer better and cheaper answers to these daily challenges.   For example, automation and artificial intelligence can help sort recyclables more efficiently. Sensors in smart packaging can help reduce food waste, while other innovative technologies are turning organic waste into renewable energy and compost. And new materials – such as advanced biodegradable plastics – can reduce environmental impact.

But we still need to invest much more if we are to improve waste management.

With cities in the lead and frontier technologies in widespread use, we can achieve make major advances on the road to sustainable urban development.

THE SECRETARY- GENERAL — MESSAGE ON INTERNATIONAL DAY OF NON-VIOLENCE

2 October 2019

This International Day of Non-Violence marks the 150th anniversary of the birth of Mahatma Gandhi, the renowned global icon of peace. His vision continues to resonate across the world, including through the work of the United Nations for mutual understanding, equality, sustainable development, the empowerment of young people, and the peaceful resolution of disputes.

In today’s turbulent times, violence takes many forms: from the destructive impact of the climate emergency to the devastation caused by armed conflict; from the indignities of poverty to the injustice of human rights violations to the brutalizing effects of hate speech.

Indeed, online and off-line, we hear loathsome rhetoric directed at minorities and anyone considered the “other”. To address this growing challenge, the United Nations has launched two urgent initiatives: a plan of action against hate speech and another on the protection and safety of religious sites. And last week, I issued a global call for a decade of action to deliver the Sustainable Development Goals, our roadmap away from violence and towards peace, prosperity and dignity on a healthy planet.

Gandhi constantly highlighted the gap between what we do, and what we are capable of doing. On this International Day, I urge each and every one of us to do everything in our power to bridge this divide as we strive to build a better future for all.

STATEMENT BY THE SPECIAL ENVOY ON THE RELEASE OF DETAINEES IN YEMEN

Amman, 30 September 2019 

The Special Envoy for Yemen, Martin Griffiths, welcomes the initiative by Ansar Allah to unilaterally release detainees. He calls on all parties to ensure the safe return of the released detainees to their homes.

“I hope this step will lead to further initiatives that will facilitate the exchange of all the conflict-related detainees as per the Stockholm Agreement” Mr. Griffiths added.

“I also welcome the previous steps taken by the Government of Yemen and the Arab Coalition that led to the release of Yemeni minors and supported their reintegration with their families”, Mr. Griffiths said.

The Special Envoy calls on the parties to work together to expedite the release, transfer and repatriation of conflict-related detainees adding that the detainees and their families have endured profound pain and suffering. “I invite the parties to meet in the nearest opportunity and to resume the discussions on future exchange as per their commitments to the Stockholm agreement”, he said.

The Special Envoy expresses his gratitude to the International Committee of the Red Cross for their valuable role in the release of the detainees.

Prolonged conflict would make Yemen the poorest country in the world, UNDP study says

September 26, 2019 – New York

Yemen will become the poorest country in the world if its conflict goes on through 2022, a new report by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) projects.

Since 2014, war has driven poverty in Yemen from 47 percent of the population to a projected 75 percent by the end of 2019. If fighting continues through 2022, Yemen will rank as the poorest country in the world, with 79 percent of the population living under the poverty line and 65 percent classified as extremely poor, the report, Assessing the Impact of War in Yemen on Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), says.

Read: Assessing the Impact of War in Yemen on Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

The report, released Thursday and produced for UNDP by the Pardee Center for International Futures at the University of Denver, says that in the absence of conflict Yemen could have made progress toward achieving the SDGs, the global anti-poverty framework agreed in 2015 with a target date of 2030. But more than four years of fighting has set back human development by 21 years—and Yemen would be unlikely to achieve any of the SDGs even if the war were to stop today.

“The war has already made Yemen the largest humanitarian disaster in the world, and now threatens to make its population the poorest in the world,” said UNDP Administrator, Achim Steiner. “UNDP’s work with support from international partners and as part of the UN’s overall engagement – is focused on helping Yemenis keep institutions and businesses running to ensure they have the solid footing needed to recover when peace returns.”

Using cutting-edge data modeling and open-source information, the report finds that Yemen’s war will have more than tripled the proportion of the population living in extreme poverty if fighting persists. It will skyrocket from 19 percent of the population in 2014 to a projected 65 percent in 2022.

The intensity of poverty has also surged, with Yemen projected by 2022 to have the largest poverty gap—the distance between average income and the poverty line—in the world.

The surge in poverty across Yemen is driven by factors attributed to war, including a breakdown of the economy that has seen US$89 billion in lost economic activity since 2015.

The conflict has disrupted markets and institutions and destroyed social and economic infrastructure, while inequalities have sharply increased. Gross domestic product per capita has plummeted from US$3,577 to US$1,950, a level not seen in Yemen since before 1960. Yemen is now ranked as the world’s second most unequal in the world in terms of income, surging past 100 other countries in inequality levels in the last five years.

The report, launched at a United Nations General Assembly side event co-hosted by Germany and UNDP, also identifies spikes in malnutrition across Yemen. Twenty-five percent of the population was malnourished in 2014, but the report estimates that this figure is now closer to 36 percent and could reach nearly 50 per cent if fighting continues through 2022. By the end of 2019, caloric intake per person will have fallen by 20 per cent from 2014 levels.

The report contains especially dire projections if the war continues for the next decade. If fighting continues through 2030, 78 percent of Yemenis will live in extreme poverty, 95 percent will be malnourished, and 84 percent of children will be stunted.

UNDP released the report as United Nations agencies, NGOs, and international partners are seeking to expand urgent humanitarian and development work across Yemen to save lives, meet humanitarian needs, and support resilience in the country, and as UN-backed peace talks continue.

“This report is a reminder that Yemen cannot afford to wait. We must act now,” Ambassador Jürgen Schulz, Deputy Permanent Representative of Germany to the United Nations, said. “Without a political solution, we will see Yemen disappear right before our eyes. That’s why there is no alternative to the efforts of Special Envoy Martin Griffiths to advance an inclusive political process.”

More than 80 percent of Yemen’s roughly 30 million people now require humanitarian assistance and protection. The report launched today argues that if Yemen remains at war through 2030, the costs will be borne by generations to come, with poverty seeding ever more deeply, institutions decimated, and Yemen more vulnerable to an ongoing and vicious cycle of conflict and suffering.

UNDP works across Yemen to help people meet their most basic needs, restore livelihoods, support communities, and advance peacebuilding.

Press contacts:

UNDP New York HQ: Theodore Murphy, theodore.murphy@undp.org +1-718-915-2097
UNDP Yemen: Leanne Rios, Leanne.rios@undp.org +1-703-953-7029
UNDP Amman Hub: Noeman Al Sayyad, Noeman.Alsayyad@undp.org +962 7 9567 2901

The Deputy Secretary-General Remarks at the Launch of the Global Alliance of Regional Women Mediator Networks

New York, 26 September 2019

Members of the Regional Women Mediator Networks, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, dear friends,

It is a great pleasure to be here to launch the Global Alliance of Women Mediator Networks.

I congratulate everyone involved on this step. And I am delighted that so many of you are here to show your support.

This Global Alliance will further promote women’s meaningful participation in peacemaking – an issue that is very close to my heart.

Women’s participation in all decisions that affect their families, communities and countries is a basic right. It is central to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, our roadmap for peaceful and inclusive societies on a healthy planet.

But it is also critical to the success of our efforts to build sustainable peace. There is plenty of evidence that when women are meaningfully involved, peace talks are more likely to address root causes and yield more sustainable results.

But we continue to make peace in a way that ignores this.

It is time to walk the talk and put women where they belong: at the peace table.

Excellencies, dear friends,

In my travels, I regularly meet women who are actively working to bring peace to their communities and to their countries.

In July, I visited Afghanistan together with my colleagues, the heads of the Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, UN Women, and the United Nations Population Fund – the third visit of its kind.

We heard strong calls for peace from Afghan women.

We also heard of the need for greater inclusion and participation of women in the Afghan peace process. Afghan women recognized this as essential not only to secure progress made on women’s rights, but as the only path to durable peace.

As one woman told us: “It’s an illusion if you think that you are going to give away people’s rights, and then have any realpeace.”

Their message to the United Nations and the international community was clear. They have capacity, ideas, political leadership. They need us to use our positions to push the door open and provide the space to contribute.

Next year marks the 25-year anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform of Action, and the 20-year anniversary of Security Council resolution 1325 on women, peace and security. There is global recognition that we are not moving fast enough to realize the vision of these landmark agreements on gender equality and women’s empowerment.

This network is one way to speed up progress towards our goals.

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

The United Nations’ has long recognized the importance of pursuing inclusive peace processes, understanding the gender dimensions of conflict and working with civil society organizations.

We have worked successfully with regional networks of women mediators in several peace processes.

We worked with the Mediterranean Network of Women Mediators and the Nordic Women Mediators network to facilitate the participation of Libyan women political leaders in the Palermo Peace Conference in November 2018.

Together with the African Union, we also supported members of the Network of African Women in Conflict Prevention and Mediation – Femwise – to undertake advocacy and solidarity missions to Burundi, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan.

I commend the Member States and regional organizations that are supporting the work of these regional networks and urge others to join.

The Global Alliance’s most valuable asset is its members, many of them gathered here today: women experienced in mediating conflicts at the local level; women who have led or participated in formal peace processes; women with expertise on a peace processes and their implementation.

Exchanging and sharing this experience will enrich all concerned: mediation networks, communities, countries and regions engaged in mediation efforts.

The Global Alliance should finally put an end to the excuse that there is a lack of women qualified to participate in peaceprocesses.

I encourage all delegations to lead by example, by appointing more women leaders and more women mediators, including to bilateral and regional mediation initiatives.

The United Nations will do its part by ensuring women play meaningful roles at all levels and all stages of peace processes,including implementation and monitoring.

We look forward to continuing our collaboration with the Global Alliance and its member networks.

Thank you.

THE SECRETARY-GENERAL — REMARKS FOR THE COMMEMORATION OF THE INTERNATIONAL DAY FOR THE TOTAL ELIMINATION OF NUCLEAR WEAPONS

26 September 2019

The elimination of nuclear weapons has been the United Nations’ highest disarmament priority from day one.

We strive for a world free of nuclear weapons because we know these weapons pose a unique and potentially existential threat to our planet.

We know any use of nuclear weapons would be a humanitarian catastrophe.

Much progress has been made in reducing the danger of nuclear weapons – largely under the leadership of the nuclear-weapon States, especially those possessing the world’s largest arsenals.

Sadly, I fear that not only has that progress come to a halt, it is going in reverse.

Relations between nuclear-armed States are mired in mistrust.

Dangerous rhetoric about the utility of nuclear weapons is on the rise.

A qualitative nuclear arms race is underway.

The painstakingly constructed arms control regime is fraying.

Divisions over the pace and scale of disarmament are growing.

I worry that we are slipping back into bad habits that will once again hold the entire world hostage to the threat of nuclear annihilation.

With last month’s expiration of the landmark Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty – or INF, the world lost an invaluable brake on nuclear war.

I strongly encourage the United States and the Russian Federation to extend the so-called ‘New Start’ agreement to provide stability and the time to negotiate future arms control measures.

I also repeat my call on all State Parties to work together at the 2020 Review of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons to ensure the NPT remains able to fulfil its fundamental goals – preventing nuclear war and facilitating the elimination of nuclear weapons.

Today serves [as] an important reminder of the imminent threat of nuclear weapons and the need to find common solutions.

One key priority of the disarmament agenda I launched last year is to help States return to unity in preventing the use of nuclear weapons and bringing about their elimination.

There are many pathways to a world free of nuclear weapons.

The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons remains the cornerstone of the nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation regime.

The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons represents the concerns of many States about the growing threat of nuclear weapons.

And the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty remains a long-overdue measure to prevent the qualitative and quantitative development of nuclear weapons.

Our focus must be on taking steps in eliminating nuclear weapons and doing so in good faith.

I once again call on all States to fully implement their commitments related to the non-proliferation and disarmament of nuclear weapons.

Failure to do so will only further undermine the regime.

I also call on those States possessing nuclear weapons to engage in the urgent dialogue needed to prevent their use and agree on near-term practical steps in nuclear disarmament.

Nuclear weapons present an unacceptable danger to humanity.

Let us not forget that the only real way to eliminate the threat of nuclear weapons is to eliminate nuclear weapons themselves.

Thank you.

THE DEPUTY SECRETARY-GENERAL — REMARKS AT UNITED NATIONS (UN) GLOBAL COMPACT CEO ROUNDTABLE

New York, 26 September 2019

Distinguished business leaders,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Dear friends,

Thank you for being here for this year’s UN Global Compact CEO Roundtable on financing for the Sustainable Development Goals.

Four years into the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, we are not where we need to be, and we are faced with the existential threat of climate change.

We face a $2.5 trillion annual SDG investment gap — a gap that is all the more acute in the world’s most vulnerable countries and regions.

At the current rate of investment, it will be impossible to achieve the SDGs by 2030.

This is bad for people, bad for society, bad for the environment and bad for business.

Since 2015, businesses have undergone rapid transformations to align with the Sustainable Development Goals and Paris Agreement:

Companies and investors are increasingly committed to partnering around the goals of the 2030 Agenda and the Paris Agreement.

I am encouraged to see the progress being made by many in this room to align your investment strategies with the SDGs.

Last Sunday, 130 banks from 49 countries holding assets of over 47 trillion US dollars signed the Principles of Responsible Banking committing to align their business strategies with the SDGs.

Earlier this month an SDG-linked bond valued at 1.5 billion US dollars was issued for the first time.

This was oversubscribed, by almost three times, signalling that the market is ready for sustainable investing.

At Monday’s Climate Action Summit, businesses lifted their ambition.

Energy companies such as Orsted and Iberdrola committed to going carbon neutral by 2050.

The shipping industry and port cities came together to launch the “Getting to Zero” Coalition. This initiative aims to achieve zero carbon emissions for ships and marine fuels on the high seas by 2030.

Food systems and consumer companies moved to put biodiversity conservation and regeneration at the heart of their supply chains.

19 companies with annual revenues of more than 500 billion US dollars, launched the “One Planet Business for Biodiversity” initiative.

Globally significant companies like Danone, Kellogg, Mars, and Nestlé have committed to shift business operations towards biodiversity protection, regenerative farming, and reversing the damaging deforestation trends by food companies.

But more needs to be done

We need to tackle the hardest to reach sectors: from oil and gas to steel, cement and aluminium; we need to find and scale alternatives.

We must ensure that the rapid technology revolution and evolution to 5G utilizes recycled wastewater and renewables to cool and power its data centres.

We also must entirely transform our transport and energy infrastructures – we know how to do this, but costs must still come down and CEO’s need to partner with national and subnational governments to build the systems we need in place. Urgently. At scale.

Lastly, we need to identify successful means by which to transition out of these high-emitting sectors.

We cannot ignore the fact that, with transitions and change, come job losses. We must ensure that there are safety nets in place and that skill-building is prioritized for low-emission sectors.

While interest in sustainable investing is growing, it is still hampered by misaligned incentives and regulations, narrowly interpreted fiduciary duties, and challenges in identifying, measuring and reporting on sustainable investments.

This prevents the transition to sustainable investing from happening with the urgency the world needs.

The challenge is clear.

To address the SDG investment gap, money needs to flow efficiently into sustainable technologies and innovative financial mechanisms.

Investors and companies must recognize the key development challenges in the emerging and frontier markets where they operate, and the risks they present for business. At the same time, they must see these markets as a source of potential growth for enterprises that are taking action in support of the SDGs.

Making this necessary shift is a challenge not just for the private sector. Development agencies, multilateral finance institutions, regulatory and trade agencies all stand behind this.

They must also lead from the front towards a more sustainable future.

As stewards of trillions of dollars of investment, you have a responsibility to consider how the long-term issues outlined in the SDGs will affect your business.

Through your supply chains and foreign direct investments, your companies can help financial flows reach those that are most in need – to improve the ecosystems and livelihoods of billions across the world’s emerging economies.

Asset owners and investment managers also have a critical role to play, and many have started to move, which is very encouraging.

For example, at Monday’s Climate Action Summit, the Net Zero Asset Owner alliance—representing USD 2.4 trillion—was announced. Its members have committed to transitioning their investment portfolios to climate neutrality by 2050.

This is impressive. Now let us bring the rest of the community along to rethink investment mandates and practices to respond to the opportunities and to broader environmental and societal trends.

As we move ahead, creating better conditions for gender equality and women’s increased participation in the workforce will help to unlock the resources we need into the economy.

2020 and the decade of action present a real opportunity.

As we review the progress we have made in four years, it is time to step up on financing for development and take concrete actions in the next decade to achieve the SDGs.

We must bravely tackle the hardest to impact sectors and we must develop just transition strategies.

Investors will need to build a closer dialogue with their portfolio companies, policymakers, regulators, and civil society to address the real impact of their investments.

Enlightened investors and companies are beginning to take leadership on the SDGs.

That is why the UN Secretary-General will launch a CEO-led initiative on October 16th— the Global Investors for Sustainable Development alliance.

This alliance seeks to scale up private investment for the SDGs and take coordinated action on some of the structural roadblocks that currently restrict long-term investment towards the Goals.

I invite you to take up the Secretary-General’s call for a decade of action for the delivery of Agenda 2030.

As you leave here today let us not forget our ultimate goal: to create a more prosperous, just, equitable and sustainable world for all.

Thank you.