Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks to the General Assembly on taking the oath of office, in New York today:

This is a solemn moment.  I find myself experiencing a whirlwind of emotions and thoughts.

I am deeply honoured and grateful for the trust you have placed in me to serve as the Secretary-General of the United Nations for a second term.  Serving the United Nations is an immense privilege and a most noble duty.

I am also very grateful to Portugal for having nominated me again.  I am a committed multilateralist, but I am also a proud Portuguese.  All I have learned and become has been forged by working together with the people of my country.  It is a great honour for me to have with us today the President of Portugal.

I am acutely aware of the immense responsibilities you are entrusting me [with] at such a critical moment in history — dare I say, at the cusp of a new era.  We are truly at a crossroads, with consequential choices before us.  Paradigms are shifting.  Old orthodoxies are being flipped.

We are writing our own history with the choices we make right now.  It can go either way — breakdown and perpetual crisis, or breakthrough and the prospect of a greener, safer and better future for all.  There are reasons to be hopeful.

The pandemic has revealed our shared vulnerability, our interconnectedness and the absolute need for collective action.  We feel a new momentum everywhere for an unequivocal commitment to come together to chart a course towards a better future.

I pledge to you that I will do everything in my power during my second term in office to contribute to the positive, breakthrough scenario.

Les dix-huit derniers mois ont été uniques dans l’histoire des Nations Unies. Nous avons traversé la pandémie de COVID-19, qui continue de semer de grandes souffrances.

Des millions de familles ont perdu des êtres chers. Le monde a fait face à l’une des plus grandes menaces depuis la création des Nations Unies. Nous avons pu constater à quel point la pandémie a révélé les fragilités et les fissures de nos sociétés.

Pour ne donner que quelques exemples frappants: il est estimé que cent-quatorze millions d’emplois ont été perdus, plus de cinquante-cinq pour cent de la population mondiale se retrouve sans aucune forme de protection sociale, et pour la première fois depuis vingt ans, la pauvreté va probablement augmenter, avec entre cent dix-neuf et cent vingt-quatre millions de personnes tombées dans la pauvreté extrême en 2020.

Nous savons combien les femmes en particulier ont été affectées et combien les pays fragiles et à faible revenu souffrent en raison des énormes inégalités de notre système international.

Le fait que nous commençons seulement maintenant à nous unir pour faire des vaccins la priorité mondiale absolue en dit long. Il est crucial de s’assurer que la sortie de crise et la reprise socio-économique soient bien plus équitables.

Ensuite, nous avons bien sûr tous les autres défis mondiaux, que vous ne connaissez que trop bien, comme le dérèglement climatique, la perte de la biodiversité, la pollution environnementale, les inégalités croissantes, y compris de genre, le recul des droits humains, l’absence de régulation dans le cyberespace, une fracture numérique grandissante, l’évolution de la nature des conflits, la probabilité de futures pandémies et d’autres risques mondiaux existentiels.

Et dans la mise en œuvre des objectifs de développement durable notre feuille de route commune pour un monde meilleur nous avons constaté un recul des avancées, de la réduction de la pauvreté à l’éradication de la faim, en passant par l’accès à une éducation de qualité et l’égalité de genre.

Notre plus grand défi qui est en même temps notre plus grande opportunité est d’utiliser cette crise pour renverser la situation, pivoter vers un monde qui tire des leçons, qui promeut une reprise juste, verte et durable et qui montre le chemin via une coopération internationale accrue et efficace pour répondre aux problèmes mondiaux.

Force est de reconnaître que nous avons déjà commencé à faire certaines choses différemment depuis le début de la pandémie.

Aux Nations Unies, nous avons transféré nos opérations et notre travail en ligne sans perdre de temps, tout en continuant à soutenir les populations à travers le monde. Beaucoup d’autres ont fait de même. Nous n’aurions pas pu faire cela si la pandémie était arrivée il y a dix ans.

Donc en dépit de tous les aspects négatifs, il est aussi important de reconnaître et de bâtir sur les aspects positifs que nous avons connus.

Franchir cette étape demandera un effort réel pour renforcer ce qui fonctionne et du courage pour tirer les leçons de ce qui ne fonctionne pas. Cela nécessite que nous fassions de la prévention et de la préparation au sens large du terme une priorité de premier plan du système international. La vision stratégique que j’ai présenté montre en détail ce sur quoi je compte pour me concentrer pendant mon second mandat.

No doubt, the tasks ahead of us are colossal.  But I am confident that we can rise to the challenges we face for three reasons.

First, because of the incredible commitment I have witnessed time and again of United Nations colleagues serving tirelessly around the world, ensuring seamless business continuity during the challenging circumstances of the pandemic.  I know this has not been easy for most of our colleagues.

Let me start by paying wholehearted tribute to them, their hard work, often in dangerous or stressful situations, and often away from their families and loved ones.  Their sacrifice for the common cause is remarkable.  Let me also in particular remember and honour United Nations personnel, women and men, who lost their lives in the line of duty.

My colleagues are indeed the greatest asset we have, and we need to cherish and recognize this with deep gratitude and appreciation.  We are in this together, with unity in purpose and solidarity.

Second, despite all the differences and divides, we have shown that we can come together to agree on shared goals and solve common problems.  We have managed together to embark on an important reform process in the development, management, as well as peace and security areas of the United Nations.  The reform endeavours have equipped us better to tackle the current crisis.

Yet, it is also clear that continuous improvement needs to be the norm.  We need to consolidate the current reforms, build on their results and continue to develop new methods of work to be able to deliver to the world.

I have talked about a United Nations 2.0, and it is clear to me that we need to accelerate transformation through a quintet of change in the years ahead:  better data, analysis and communications; innovation and digital transformation; strategic foresight; stronger performance and results orientation; and a work culture that reduces unnecessary bureaucracy, simplifies and fosters a work of collaboration.

Equally, we need to strive for a much more aligned and integrated United Nations that works seamlessly across the various pillars of the Organization.  A United Nations that is transparent and accountable.  A United Nations that makes available more effectively its remarkable data set, analytical capacity, policy and normative developments, as well as its operational engagement — in a spirit of creativity and openness.  I count on your full support for this much needed next iteration of the [Organization].

Third, in the UN75 Declaration you have given me a mandate to report back to you on how to advance our common agenda to respond better to current and future challenges.  You did this in the realization that something fundamental has to change.  And indeed, I sense there is a momentum for some of the most profound transformations to take place.  Let us seize it together.

In a world that has changed so much, the promise, principles and values of the United Nations Charter endure.  But we also have to work together in entirely new ways to keep its promises alive.

The United Nations is an intergovernmental organization, and it harnesses the unique collective power of States in a world where they remain the publicly accountable actors with the responsibility to shape our policy options.

But in a world where the levers of change lie in many hands, the United Nations, and the States and people it serves, can only benefit from bringing others to the table.  Civil society, cities, the private sector and young people, to name a few, are critical voices that must be heard in a context of true gender equality.  They have essential capabilities and insights that we have to tap if we are to forge a path towards a more peaceful and prosperous future.

At its heart, this is about a growing number and diversity of actors working together to deliver global public goods, with the United Nations at the centre playing a catalytic and convening role to initiate more innovation, more inclusion, more cooperation and more foresight.

This is an incremental, organic process, one that repurposes and innovates the old structures and institutions while being open to and embracing new forms of collaboration.

En última instancia, esta transformación tiene que ver con solidaridad e igualdad.

La renovación de la solidaridad. A nivel nacional, a través de un contrato social reinventado. A nivel global a través de un multilateralismo más inclusivo, interconectado y efectivo. Y ambos se extienden para dar cabida a las generaciones futuras. Mi Llamada a la Acción para los Derechos Humanos seguirá siendo una guía importante en este ámbito.

Y la igualdad consiste en llegar a comprender mejor y gestionar mejor los bienes públicos globales: el creciente conjunto de preocupaciones compartidas del que depende nuestro bienestar como raza humana y que debemos presentar de un modo colectivo con mejores disposiciones de gobernanza. Espero que el informe de la Agenda Común contribuirá positivamente en este aspecto.

But equity needs to start now.  Vaccines need to be available for everyone everywhere, and we must create the conditions for sustainable and inclusive recovery both in the developed and developing world.  And there is still a long way to go.

All of this will, however, only be possible if we manage to overcome the current trust deficit that has a corrosive effect on societies and between countries.  In particular, we need to do everything we can to overcome current geostrategic divides and dysfunctional power relations.  There are too many asymmetries and paradoxes.  They need to be addressed head-on.

We also need to be aware of how power plays out in today’s world when it comes to the distribution of resources and technology.  Sophocles famously said that trust dies but mistrust blossoms.  We have the power to turn that idea around, resurrecting trust and combatting mistrust.  What we are living through today in terms of mistrust is, I hope, an aberration, but it cannot become the norm.

The norm is, and will continue to be, the foundations on which the United Nations Charter was built — an ultimate belief in multilateralism, and the aspirations of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  Norms that preserve human dignity must prevail, for our survival and development.

They are not just about words, but about human life.  Based in law and rooted in respect for humanity, they provide a vanguard against chaos and anarchy and a check on unhealthy dynamics of power.

I will give it my all to ensure the blossoming of trust between and among nations, large and small, to build bridges and to engage relentlessly in confidence-building.  I will also seek to inspire hope that we can turn things around, that the impossible might be possible.

The attitude is never to give up.  This is not idealistic or utopian, but grounded in knowledge of history when big transformations occurred and guided by the fundamental belief in the inherent goodness of people.  That breakthroughs are possible when we expect it the least and against all odds.  That is my unwavering commitment.

As regards my own role, throughout my whole life I have always seen public office, first and foremost, as a service, and I mean it in its most original form of serving people and the planet.  Let me repeat what I have said on previous occasions.  I must be at the service of all Member States equally, and with no agenda but the one anchored in the Charter of the United Nations.

We can only meet today’s complex challenges successfully with a humble approach — one in which the Secretary-General alone neither has all the answers, nor seeks to impose his views.  One in which the Secretary-General supports Member States and relevant stakeholders to lead the necessary changes and makes his good offices available, engaging tirelessly, making full use of the unique convening role of the United Nations, and working as a mediator, a bridge, a trust-builder and an honest broker to help find solutions that benefit everyone involved.

The Secretary-General must feel every day the acute responsibilities of the office, guided by the Charter and the task of making human dignity and peace with nature — including for future generations — the core of our common work and endeavour.

It is my intention to serve with humility, and as I said in my vision statement, in the spirit of building trust and inspiring hope.  This is our common mission.  It is in this spirit that I look forward to continued close cooperation with all of you in the years ahead.

Preserving human dignity calls upon us to draw upon our diversity and richness to imagine larger freedoms that can only be secured through common action.

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Author: Editor
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