Diamond Light
Newsletter of the Aquarian Age Community
2020 No. 2
Index | Back Issues

Introduction to the 2020 Report on the Work of the United Nations

By António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations*


In 1945, world leaders gathered in San Francisco to sign the Charter of the United Nations, which gave birth to an organization that represented new hope for a world emerging from the horrors of the Second World War. Our founders were in no doubt about the kind of world that they wished to banish to the past.

In 2020, as the United Nations celebrates 75 years since the Charter’s signing, we have an opportunity to reflect on our shared progress, as well as our common future. Our vision and values – based on equality, mutual respect and international cooperation – helped us to avoid a Third World War, which would have had catastrophic consequences for life on our planet. For 75 years, we have forged productive cooperative relationships for global problem-solving and the common good. We have put in place vital norms and agreements that codify and protect human rights, set ambitious goals for sustainable development and charted a path towards a more balanced relationship with the climate and the natural world. Billions of people have emerged from the yoke of colonialism. Millions have been lifted out of poverty.

Today, day in and day out, around the clock, around the world, the United Nations is helping to save millions of lives every year. Women and men of the United Nations are assisting 80 million refugees and displaced people and enabling more than 2 million women and girls to overcome complications from pregnancy and childbirth. Over 40 political missions and peacekeeping operations comprising 95,000 troops, police and civilian personnel strive to bring and keep the peace and to protect civilians. Our electoral assistance now extends to 60 countries each year, and our help for victims of torture reaches 40,000 people. Some 7,500 monitoring missions every year seek to protect human rights, make violations known and hold perpetrators accountable.

Yet these efforts have not been enough to hold back the tides of fear, hatred, inequality, poverty and injustice. Moreover, early in 2020, we were brought to our knees by a microscopic virus: the virus responsible for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has taken a horrific toll on individuals, communities and societies, with the most vulnerable disproportionately affected.

The pandemic has demonstrated the fragility of our world. It has laid bare risks ignored for decades: inadequate health systems; gaps in social protection; structural inequalities; environmental degradation; the climate crisis.

The United Nations family mobilized quickly and comprehensively, leading on the global health response, continuing and expanding the provision of life-saving humanitarian assistance, establishing instruments for rapid responses to the socioeconomic impact and laying out a broad policy agenda in support of the most vulnerable communities and regions. But the setback to the fundamental Charter goals of peace, justice, human rights and development has been deep and may be long-lasting.

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, the world was not on track to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by the target date of 2030. Now, we face the deepest global recession since the Second World War and the broadest collapse in incomes since 1870. Approximately 100 million more people could be pushed into extreme poverty. Already in its fifth year of implementation, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development remains humanity’s blueprint for a better future. In January 2020, the United Nations launched a decade of action to accelerate implementation; the COVID-19 pandemic has made the decade of action both more challenging and more urgent.

With the onset of the pandemic, the United Nations called for massive global support for the most vulnerable people and countries – a rescue package amounting to at least 10 per cent of the global economy. Developed countries have stepped up support for their own people, but we are promoting mechanisms of solidarity to ensure that the developing world will also benefit, including through a debt standstill, debt restructuring and greater support through the international financial institutions. This rescue package has yet to fully materialize.

This failure of solidarity compounds a much-longer-standing struggle to secure the financing necessary for the success of the 2030 Agenda, complicated by slow growth and high debt. We must act now to maintain progress made on sustainable development. We share a common fate. Only with true solidarity and unity will we achieve our shared goals and uphold our values.

As we grapple with the effects of COVID-19, we have an opportunity to build a more equal world. This means creating a new social contract – integrating education, employment, sustainable development and social protection – based on equal rights and opportunities for all. ….We also need a global new deal in which global governance and financial and trade systems are rebalanced and decisions are guided by standards of sustainability…COVID-19 is a human tragedy, but it has also created a generational opportunity. Let us make the commitment to build back better, upholding the vision and resolve reflected in the Charter signed 75 years ago, which continues to guide our way forward together. 

* See the Full 2020 Report HERE.