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Inequality starts at the top, UN chief tells world leaders during Mandela Lecture

Secretary General of the United Nations Antonio Guterres speaks during a Security Council meeting about the situation in Syria at UN Headquarters in New York City. File picture: Carlo Allegri/Reuters

Secretary General of the United Nations Antonio Guterres speaks during a Security Council meeting about the situation in Syria at UN Headquarters in New York City. File picture: Carlo Allegri/Reuters

Published Jul 18, 2020

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New York - United Nations Secretary-General Antonio

Guterres on Saturday accused world powers of ignoring inequality

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in global institutions, but said the coronavirus pandemic has

created a "generational opportunity" to build a more equal,

sustainable world.

Delivering the annual lecture for the Nelson Mandela

Foundation via internet, Guterres pushed for a so-called New

Global Deal to ensure power, wealth and opportunity are shared

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more broadly and fairly at the international level.

"The nations that came out on top more than seven decades

ago have refused to contemplate the reforms needed to change

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power relations in international institutions," Guterres said.

"The composition and voting rights in the United Nations

Security Council and the boards of the Bretton Woods system are

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a case in point."

"Inequality starts at the top: in global institutions.

Addressing inequality must start by reforming them," he added.

The Bretton Woods system includes the International Monetary

Fund and the World Bank.

He said the pandemic has revealed, like an x-ray, "fractures

in the fragile skeleton of the societies we have built."

"It is exposing fallacies and falsehoods everywhere: the lie

that free markets can deliver healthcare for all; the fiction

that unpaid care work is not work; the delusion that we live in

a post-racist world; the myth that we are all in the same boat,"

said Guterres during the virtual lecture.

"Because while we are all floating on the same sea, it's

clear that some are in superyachts while others are clinging to

the floating debris," said Guterres, a former Socialist prime

minister of Portugal.

The coronavirus has infected more than 14 million people and

there have been nearly 600 000 known deaths worldwide, according

to a Reuters tally. The UN has appealed for $10.3

billion to help poor states, but has received only $1.7 billion.

Guterres said rich countries have "failed to deliver the

support needed to help the developing world" and that the

pandemic has "brought home the tragic disconnect between

self-interest and the common interest; and the huge gaps in

governance structures and ethical frameworks."

He said a changing world needs new social protection

policies with safety nets including universal health coverage

and the possibility of a universal basic income.

Guterres concluded: "Now is the time for global leaders to

decide: Will we succumb to chaos, division and inequality? Or

will we right the wrongs of the past and move forward together,

for the good of all?" 

Reuters

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