Speaking at the 12th ASEAN-UN Summit, Secretary-General António Guterrespainted a picture of many in the Global South, “battered” by COVID and the climate crisis – restricting access to food, energy, and finance – and global insecurity triggering new conflicts while making it increasingly difficult to end old ones.
He also drew attention to a global economy divided into two parts – led by the United States and China – with two different sets of rules, currencies, internets, and conflicting strategies on artificial intelligence.
“This decoupling must be avoided at all costs”, he said, noting that member States of the regional bloc are “particularly well-placed to help bridge it”.
He upheld the need to find multilateral solutions, weather geopolitical storms, and get the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) back on track, saying that “regional organizations, including ASEAN, have a vital role to play”.
The political, security, human rights and humanitarian situation in Myanmar is “sliding ever deeper into catastrophe”, the UN chief continued, condemning the escalating violence, disproportionate use of force, and “appalling human rights situation” in the country.
Recalling that under international law, indiscriminate attacks on civilians may constitute war crimes, he repeated his call that the Myanmar authorities “release all political prisoners and launch an inclusive process immediately to return to the democratic transition” as “the only route to lasting peace and security”.
Welcoming ASEAN’s Five-Point Consensus, he urged all countries to “seek a unified strategy” centred on the needs and aspirations of the people of Myanmar and advocated for open borders, protection, and assistance to refugees from there.
“No refugee should be forced to return to suffering and danger”, he said, reiterating the need for “urgent action by the Myanmar authorities” to create conditions for the voluntary return of almost one million Rohingya refugees.
“The humanitarian situation in Myanmar remains desperate”, he continued, reaffirming the UN’s close coordination with the ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on Disaster Management and other humanitarian partners.
Fresh from the UN COP27 climate conference in Egypt, he said that he had urged leaders there that high-emitting countries must “meet the urgency of this moment”.
The UN chief reminded that developed economies must cut emissions by 45 per cent by 2030 to reach carbon neutrality by mid-century; mobilize their annual $100 billion pledge to support developing countries in addressing climate impacts and building resilience and adaptation; and come to an agreement on compensating countries “that did nothing to create this crisis”.
He also promoted a historic Climate Solidarity Pact between developed and emerging economies that combines their capacities and resources for the benefit of humankind.
“Wealthier countries, multilateral development banks and technological companies must provide financial and technical assistance at scale so emerging economies can transition to renewable energy”, he said.
While commending the ASEAN countries that have already risen to the challenge for a just transition to renewables, the top UN official urged those that have not, to raise their climate ambition, starting with eliminating new coal investments and phasing out coal power by 2030 for the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries, and 2040 for all others.
Debt relief, restructuring
The UN chief said that the crisis in accessing food, energy and finance will be his top priority at next week’s G20 summit in Bali.
“I am pushing G20 leaders to adopt an SDG stimulus that will provide governments of the Global South with the investments and liquidity they need, and speed up debt relief and debt restructuring”, he informed the meeting.
“We are also working with all stakeholders to extend the Black Sea Grain Initiative, and to increase supplies of fertilizers, which cost up to three times more than before the pandemic”.
ASEAN’s ‘essential role’
In closing, the Secretary-General expressed gratitude for ASEAN’s “strong partnership and steadfast commitment to multilateralism and regional cooperation”.
He also highlighted the countries’ “essential role” in advancing human rights, fundamental freedoms and inclusive political participation as well as in the development of a strong global economy.
“The United Nations will remain your resolute partner throughout the challenges ahead,” assured the UN chief.