A few days before the start of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) in New York, slated for upcoming week, the Portuguese politician and diplomat capitalized on his stay in Havana to bring to the forefront a pivotal challenge for the future of humanity.
“We are at a dramatic moment in history”, Guterres said on Friday in an exclusive interview with Prensa Latina, a moment in which it is critical to raise “the voices of the Global South”.
In his interview, the UNSG addressed a great number of issues including the possibilities of achieving the SDGs, contribution that science, technology and innovation can make, as well as the deep inequalities that mark today’s world.
Prensa Latina: The G77+China Summit brings together the largest and most diverse group of nations around the globe just a few days before UNGA starts off in New York, what does this mean for the UN?
António Guterres: It is so important because it is the voice of the South, the Global South. We are facing up a dramatic moment in history. We have great challenges ahead… climate change, and the existing deep inequalities. At the same time, developing countries are also facing up with an overly hard situation. Many have in impossible to pay debt, they do not have access to the funds needed to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Africa, for instance, pays more in debt service than in education and health budgets.
At this time, the voice of the Global South is indispensable for the deep reforms needed in the international financial architecture. We have institutions that were established after the World War II. Many of the countries that are present in here now did not exist back then and had no voice.
We need to reform institutions so that they correspond to today’s economy and today’s world with a new balance of power, and make the entire financial system much more capable of supporting developing countries to guarantee the SDGs are being achieved.
The G77+China Summit, which is being held before the SDGs Summit in New York, is quite important to give a strong impetus for an essential change that we want to approve in the United Nations to boost reforms and to boost the mobilization of resources in support of the global south.
Prensa Latina: Regarding this challenge, the Summit´s main topic is unavoidable: science, technology and innovation at the service of development…
António Guterres: This topic is pivotal because we need science, innovation and technologies to be at the service of all. However, many of these are increasing inequalities nowadays.
If we look at the digital divide, in the countries of the North everyone has access to Internet, in the countries of the South, on the contrary, many people do not have access to Internet. In the case of Covid-19 vaccines, Cuba had the extraordinary capacity to develop vaccine doses and even distribute them to other countries that needed them as well, but the truth is that technological innovation was in the great North and the vaccines were not distributed equally worldwide. When we look at Artificial Intelligence (AI), the investment is concentrated in a small group of nations, especially those in the North, and the very important benefits that can come out of science and technology in those areas can dramatically increase inequalities. Therefore, this Summit is very important to give a boost to equity and justice in the development of science and technology.
According to the Cuban President Díaz-Canel, he said that 90% of investment in innovation in the pharmaceutical sector is concentrated on diseases typical of the countries of the North and only 10% on diseases typical of the countries of the South. This problem needs to be rebalanced and the momentum of this Summit is vital.
Prensa Latina: What actions are currently needed in order to progress in the fulfillment of the 2030 Agenda?
António Guterres: I do believe there has to be a double effort: the effort from the countries in terms of governance, the effective mobilization of resources and investment in line with the SDGs, but at the same time we need a set of measures.
We propose a set of measures to stimulate the SDGs, referring to debt, to the reform of multilateral banks so that they have more resources, distribute them more effectively to the South and mobilize private financing at an acceptable cost for the South as well.
It is also the redistribution of the special drawing rights in a much fairer way… It is a whole set of measures that we are proposing today, which I hope these have a strong impetus at UNGA so that they can be put into practice. Because one thing is to approve declarations and another one is to transform declarations into concrete actions.
Prensa Latina: And by 2030, will we be able to say: “we have accomplished”?
António Guterres: We live in hope, but we must recognize that, at present, we are not doing so. Right now, injustice and inequalities are preventing the SDGs from moving on as they should.
Prensa Latina: Every year a vast majority of nations pass a resolution at the UN opposing the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the United States on Cuba. What is your opinion on these unilateral sanctions and the fact that Washington continues to ignore the call of the international community?
António Guterres: Our position is very clear. It is the position of clearly stating the content of such a resolution, hoping this is finally put into practice and that Cuba can have an international economic environment favorable to its development, something that is so necessary for the Cuban people.
Prensa Latina: How do you assess the results of Cuba’s pro tempore presidency of the G77+China?
António Guterres: I think it was a very successful presidency, which developed different activities in multiple areas and achieved a very broad consensus in the G77 -which is a very diverse group- in relation to the central objectives we have together, especially in the framework of achieving more justice and more equity in the international economic-financial order.