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At world leaders summit Guterres seeks $500 billion annual funds, financial reforms

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres seeks enhanced development funding (Photo: IANS)

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Monday renewed his call for the reform of the “outdated, dysfunctional and unfair” World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and for a $500 billion stimulus fund for the world organisation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Speaking at the opening of the SDG Summit, Guterres said that in the dark global scenario of “people crushed under the grinding wheels of poverty”, climate change and conflict, the SDGs “carry the hopes, dreams, rights and expectations of people everywhere”.

The faltering SDGs — the 17 lofty goals hoping to cure the world’s ills from poverty and hunger to climate change and inequality, while bringing about peace and justice by 2030 –“need a global rescue plan”, he said.

The SDG Summit is being held at the mid-way point between the adoptions of the goals in 2015 and the 2030 deadline to reach them in order to evaluate progress and recharge commitments to them.

Guterres said he was calling for “a new Bretton Woods moment, and the development of practical solutions” by next September when he is convening a “Summit of the Future”.

The conference held at Bretton Woods in the US in 1944 established the World Bank and the IMF and set up the foundations of the international monetary system — some of which have atrophied — in the aftermath of World War II and reflecting the power structure of the period.

Guteress’ calls are embedded in the draft of a political declaration that the summit is expected to adopt.

The reform of the multilateral banking system and aid agencies as well as increasing funding for development in a world devastated by the Covid pandemic and the Ukraine war is a rallying cry of the Global South.

General Assembly President Dennis Francis said, “I challenge you all to demonstrate emboldened leadership by using this Summit to announce groundbreaking commitments to support and to complete the 2030 [SDG]  Agenda,” which he called “a true blueprint for humanity”.

Recharging the SDGs will bring “a sense of confidence that UN-led multilateralism delivers”, he added.

Francis warned that despite the commitments made in the SDGs, “alarmingly, 1.2 billion people were still living in multi-dimensional poverty as of 2022” and “it is estimated that approximately 8 per cent of the global population — or 680 million people — will still be facing hunger in 2030”.

The SDG Summit with about 150 presidents, prime ministers, princes and monarchs kicked off the beginning of their annual gathering in New York putting the focus on development and climate change, while the harrowing Ukraine war which the world body is powerless to stop festers.

The General Assembly’s high-level meeting starts Tuesday with the first address by Brazil’s President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, to be followed by US President Joe Biden’s address.

Biden will be the only top leader of a permanent member of the Security Council this week at the UN.

Presidents Xi Jinping of China, Vladimir Putin of Russia and Emmanuel Macron of France, and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak of Britain are skipping the summits, as is Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India.

The General Assembly is more political and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will figure prominently there.

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky will be there in person this time — a much-adulated figure — after having been given a special dispensation last year to speak through a video link.

He will speak during the opening session of the Assembly meeting, and the next day at the Council’s meeting on Ukraine, where he will likely come face to face with Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov as makes his stinging denunciation of Moscow.

The spotlight turns next to climate change on Wednesday.

Guterres convened the Climate Ambition Summit to turbocharge action and funding to meet what he has repeatedly called the “existential threat” to humanity.

He has demanded that all leaders, especially those from the industrialised countries, leave aside the rhetoric and come with concrete plans and commitment for keeping global warming under 1.5-degree Celsius.

“This is not a time for posturing or positioning. This is not a time for indifference or indecision. This is the time to come together for real, practical solutions,” he said.

As with development, Guterres seeks to involve the private sector in fighting climate change.

Representatives of businesses will be participating at several events throughout the week on the two topics.