UN Secretary-General Urges SCO to Leverage Influence for Peace, Warns of Global Existential Threats

ASTANA — The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) — the largest regional organization in the world — has the power and the responsibility to push for peace, said UN Secretary-General António Guterres during his address at the SCO Plus session on July 4 in the Kazakh capital. 

UN Secretary-General António Guterres during his address at the SCO Plus session on July 4 in the Kazakh capital. Photo credit: UN Kazakhstan

Guterres highlighted the Summit’s taking place under difficult global conditions, including wars, geopolitical divides and the crisis of trust. He said these global challenges cannot be solved “on a country-by-country basis.”

Call for multilateralism and peace

The UN Secretary-General reiterated that this is the moment to reaffirm a collective commitment to multilateralism, with the UN at its center, guided by the principles set out in the UN Charter, international law, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

“The central goal of our multilateral system must be peace – a precondition for sustainable development and the enjoyment of human rights,” he said. 

Guterres emphasized the urgent need for peace across the Middle East, beginning with a humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza. He called for a clear commitment and roadmap to a two-state solution, highlighting that every day counts as children in Gaza suffer and die, experiencing severe injuries and trauma and losing their parents and homes. 

Guterres also stressed the importance of peace in Ukraine based on the UN Charter and international law. He called for peace from Sudan to the Sahel, the Democratic Republic of the Congo to Somalia, Myanmar to Haiti, and Afghanistan. He urged the establishment of an inclusive government in Afghanistan that respects human rights and integrates into the international community, emphasizing that all countries should unite to prevent Afghanistan from “becoming a hotbed of terrorism” again.

Addressing the climate emergency

In his address, Guterres outlined two existential threats to humanity, with the first being the climate emergency, stating, “2023 was the hottest year on record – but it could be one of the coolest years of the future.”

“The gathering impacts of the crisis are already hitting your countries hard, from melting glaciers to deadly floods, storms, droughts and extreme heat. Unless we act now, this is just a taste of what is to come,” he said. 

Guterres urged all governments to submit new Nationally Determined Contributions by next year. These plans should fully align with the goal of limiting long-term global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius and include absolute emissions reduction targets for 2030 and 2035.

“They must reflect how countries will contribute to the global transitions essential to keeping 1.5 degrees within reach — ending deforestation, tripling renewable energy capacity, and cutting the global production and consumption of fossil fuels by at least thirty percent by 2030. It also means all countries ending the use of coal power completely by 2040 at the latest,” Guterres said. 

Guterres emphasized that financing is crucial to achieving these goals. He highlighted the need to enhance Multilateral Development Banks’ lending capacity and reform their business models to facilitate the flow of more private capital into climate action. 

He said developed countries must articulate their strategies for doubling financing for adaptation and fulfilling all their commitments. This includes making substantial contributions to ensure the new Loss and Damage Fund is operational this year. He also emphasized the crucial role of South-South cooperation in advancing these efforts.

The threat of digital technologies

The second existential threat, according to Guterres, is posed by digital technologies. He called for full engagement of governments, working with tech companies, academia, and civil society, to agree on AI risk management frameworks and monitoring and mitigating harm. 

“The Advisory Body on AI that I appointed has identified five priorities for inclusive, safe AI. First, creating an International Scientific Panel on AI – comparable to the IPCC’s role on climate. Second, a regular policy dialogue between national, regional and industry representatives. Third, developing common AI ethics and standards to safeguard human rights, safety, and interoperability. Fourth, principles and arrangements to govern the data used to train AI algorithms. And fifth, supporting developing countries to build capacity — and creating a global fund for that purpose. To help deliver this agenda, the Advisory Body has identified the need for a small, dynamic, and flexible United Nations AI Office reporting directly to me. I count on your strong engagement and support,”  he said. 

In conclusion, the UN Secretary-General urged participants to avoid further fragmentation, emphasizing the importance of global unity in addressing shared challenges and preventing the dysfunction of multilateralism. 

Guterres highlighted that the upcoming Summit of the Future, to be held in New York this September, will consider essential reforms to the global financial architecture to ensure it represents today’s world and is responsive to current challenges. 

He also noted that proposed reforms to the Security Council and a New Agenda for Peace would help prevent and resolve conflicts, rebalance geopolitical relations, and give developing countries a proportionate voice on the global stage. He invited participants to join the Summit in New York.

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