Ten priorities for the Secretary-General in 2021

February 17, 2021

Every year, the UN sets the critical issues to be included in its annual work agenda. This year’s most relevant topics are echoed in the UN Secretary-General’s 2021 priorities, who voiced them to the Member States, on January 28, 2021. 

1. Response to COVID-19: “Science is succeeding, but solidarity is failing. Governments have a responsibility to protect their populations, but COVID-19 cannot be beaten one country at a time.”

1.1. Prioritize healthcare workers and those most at risk everywhere.

1.2. Protect healthcare systems from collapse in the poorest countries.

1.3. Ensure enough supply and a fair distribution of the vaccine, and  having manufacturers prioritize their COVAX supply.

1.4. Share excess doses with the COVAX facility.

1.5. Make licenses widely available to scale up manufacturing.

1.6. Boost vaccine confidence.

2. An economic inclusive and sustainable recovery:The world cannot heal from the virus if economies are on life support. An inclusive and sustainable recovery must start now.

2.1. Makeassive investments in healthcare systems everywhere.

2.2. Increase universal healthcare coverage.

2.3. Promote mental healthcare.

2.4. Raise social protection.

2.5. Create decent work.

2.6. Get children back to school safely. 

2.7.  Scale up financial support, including debt service and debt relief programs.

3. Making Peace with Nature:2021 is a critical year for climate and biodiversity. Last month, I called on all Member States to declare a climate emergency in their countries.

3.1. Build a global coalition to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, representing at least 90% of emissions. 

3.2. Governments must submit Nationally Determined Contributions to cut global emissions by 45 % by 2030 compared with 2010 levels. 

3.3. Achieve a breakthrough on adaptation. 

3.4. Meet all financial commitments,including the  commitment by developed countries to mobilize $100 billion annually for climate action in developing countries. 

3.5. Adopt transformational policies, including phasing out coal by 2040, end subsidies to fossil fuels, and integrate carbon neutrality into all policies and decisions.

4. To tackle the pandemic of poverty and inequality:People’s chances in life depend on their gender, race, family and ethnic background, whether they have a disability, and other factors. These injustices feed each other, cause people to lose trust in governments and institutions.

4.1. A New Social Contract among countries.

4.2. Education and digital technology must be the two great equalizers.

4.3. Reforms to labour markets and forceful efforts against corruption, tax havens, money-laundering and illicit financial flows.

4.4. Address the systemic injustices of our time.

5. Reverse the assault on human rights:My Call to Action for Human Rights, the Plan of Action on Hate Speech and the Initiative to Safeguard Religious Sites were all issued before Covid-19. Today, the pandemic has triggered a human rights crisis of its own.

5.1. Stand up against the surge of neo-Nazism and white supremacy.

5.2. Fully promote and protect all human rights.

6. Achieve gender equality:Women’s equal leadership and representation is the game changer we need.” 

6.1. Make a change in entrenched structures and societal models.

6.2. Invest in the care economy.

6.3. Take greater, targeted measures to overcome the approaches and attitudes that systemically deny women their rights.

7. To heal geopolitical rifts and find common ground:To address today’s roiling peace and security threats, we need to find a bridge back to common sense.

7.1. Member States should pressure all relevant parties to end wars.

7.2. Recognize the need for African peace-enforcement and counter-terrorism operations.

7.3. Ensure every peacekeeping mission and  their members has access to full resources and the necessary equipment to fulfil their duties.

7.4. Reach a global cease-fire.

7.5. Intensify the UN system and the country’s efforts to prevent crises.

8. To reverse the erosion of the nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation regime:The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons entered into force. (…) Despite this step, we should all be alarmed by the deteriorating relations among nuclear-weapon states.

8.1. Aim for nuclear-weapon states to find a common ground at the 2021 review conference of the Treaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.

8.1. Create support from all States in regards to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. 

9. To seize the opportunities of digital technologies while protecting against their growing dangers:The world entered the digital age decades ago, but a core challenge remains: closing the digital divide.

9.1. Provide affordable, meaningful and safe access to the Internet by 2030.

9.2. Get all schools online as quickly as possible.

9.3. Strengthen cybersecurity and promote responsible behaviours.

9.4. Achieve a ceasefire in cyberspace, including and end to cyberattacks on vital infrastructure.

9.5. Address the digital spread of hatred, exploitation and disinformation.

9.6. Come to terms with the use of our data.

9.7. Advance efforts to build appropriate international standards and tax regimes.

9.8. Establish a ban on lethal autonomous weapons.

10. A reset for the 21st century:Our governance of critical global commons, not just public health but also peace and the natural environment, needs to be reinforced and re-imagined.

10.1. Promote a more inclusive and networked multilateralism.

10.2. Establish a New Global Deal among countries to ensure power, benefits and opportunities are shared more broadly and fairly.

10.3. Give developing countries a larger voice in global decision-making.

10.4. Young people must also be at the table – as designers of their own future, not as recipients of decisions.


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