Warning that poverty and hunger are rising around the world, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has asked the G20 nations led by India to come up with a package offering investments and debt relief to nations of the Global South to help achieve the UN’s development goals.
Unveiling his proposal for a ‘New Agenda for Peace’ during a briefing on his priorities for this year, Guterres told the General Assembly on Monday that by the time of the summit on the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in September, “I urge the G20 to agree on the global SDG Stimulus that I proposed at last November’s G20 Summit to support the countries of the Global South”.
His New Agenda proposals covered a gamut of issues that included preventing a nuclear holocaust, reforms of the economic infrastructure, new technologies, social media and bigotry.
Guterres projected a gloomy picture of the world “staring down the barrel of a confluence of challenges unlike any other in our lifetimes” with wars, economic inequalities,Aclimate change and “epic geopolitical divisions”.
His most serious warning was about the threat of a nuclear war, pointing out that the “Doomsday Clock” of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists that purports to show the likelihood of a nuclear holocaust was at 90 seconds to midnight.
“We are at the highest risk in decades of a nuclear war that could start by accident or design” from “the 13,000 nuclear weapons held in arsenals around the world,” he said.
“Nuclear-armed countries must renounce the first use of these unconscionable weapons,” he said.
India has declared that it will not use nuclear weapons first, as has China, but others with atomic weapons have not adopted the policy.
Guterres also called attention to “the dangers posed by new technologies”.
He said that the New Agenda should include “international bans on cyberattacks on civilian infrastructure, and internationally agreed limits on lethal autonomous weapons systems”, a reference to robots and drones.
He suggested a new type of counterterrorist operations by regional force under Security Council mandates as he unveiled his proposal for a New Agenda for Peace with a warning that humanity is facing its “darkest hour”.
He said, “The New Agenda for Peace must recognize the need for a new generation of peace enforcement missions and counter-terrorist operations, led by regional forces, with a Security Council mandate under Chapter VII” of the UN Charter that provides for action on threats to peace.
The prospect for peace is diminishing in the Russian invasion of Ukraine while “the chances of further escalation and bloodshed keep growing”, he said
“I fear the world is not sleepwalking into a wider war.A I fear it is doing so with its eyes wide open,” Guterres said.
In dealing with poverty and inequalities, he said “the global financial architecture does not need a simple evolution; it needs a radical transformation”.
“A new determination to ensure developing countries have a far greater voice in global financial institutions” and “a new commitment to place the dramatic needs of developing countries at the centre of every decision and mechanism of the global financial system, were needed”.
Focusing on the Abrahamic faiths, Guterres said, “antisemitism, anti-Muslim bigotry, the persecution of Christians, racism and white supremacist ideology are on the march” but left out the attacks on and threats faced by minorities belonging to religions like Hinduism, Sikhism and Bahaism.
More broadly, he said, “Ethnic and religious minorities, refugees, migrants, indigenous people and the LGBTQI-plus (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex and other) community are increasingly targeted for hate, online and off”.
He said that many in positions of power profit by sowing division and hatred and “weaponise cultural differences”.
“Social media platforms use algorithms that amplify toxic ideas and funnel extremist views into the mainstream” and “advertisers finance this business modela while “some platforms tolerate hate speech – the first step towards hate crime”, Guterres said.
He said that all stakeholders should agree to a Code of Conduct for information integrity on digital platforms.
The UN chief said that “everyone with influence on the spread of mis- and disinformation on the internet – governments, regulators, policymakers, technology companies, the media, civil society -” should act.
(Arul Louis can be contacted at email@example.com and followed at @arulouis)