U.N. Secretary General: Pope Francis Is Great Ally in Climate, Migration, Peace

Antonio Guterres
AP Photo/Mary Altaffer

ROME — The United Nations Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, said Monday he looks forward to congratulating Pope Francis personally for his important work in environmentalism, multilateralism, and immigration.

In an interview with the Italian daily La Stampa, Guterres, who has been described as the Vatican’s “ally” at the United Nations, reiterated his opposition to the pro-sovereignty movement as well as his shared worldview with Pope Francis.

“I wanted to meet with the Holy Father to express my appreciation for his work,” said Guterres, who will soon visit the pope. “He is a strong voice on the climate crisis, on poverty and inequality, on multilateralism, on the protection of refugees and migrants, on disarmament and many other important issues.”

“Through his work, the Pope is contributing to reaching many of our objectives, including the Sustainable Development Goals, combating climate change and promoting a culture of peace,” he added.

Having formerly been the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Guterres also expressed strong opinions on the need for greater openness to migrants.

The number of people who are forcibly displaced is “shocking and harrowing,” he said. “Conflicts have become more complex, and combined with trends such as climate change, population growth, rapid urbanization, and food insecurity, we can unfortunately anticipate that forced displacement and humanitarian needs will continue to increase.”

“I believe we have to fulfil the promises of responsibility-sharing set out in the Global Compact on Refugees,” he said. “We must reestablish the integrity of the international refugee protection regime.”

“Cooperation and international solidarity are key to bring sustainable solutions to the men, women and children affected,” Guterres said, while praising “the new policies” of Italy’s new leftist Government.

Regarding climate change, the U.N. General Secretary said he is “disappointed with the results of COP25, which just concluded in Madrid,” because the international community “lost an important opportunity to show increased ambition on mitigation, adaptation and finance to tackle the climate crisis.”

“We must not give up and I will not give up,” he said. “I’m more determined than ever to work for 2020 to be the year in which all countries commit to do what science tells us is necessary to reach carbon neutrality in 2050 and a no more than 1.5-degree temperature rise.”

“The climate crisis is a race against time for the survival of our civilization,” he added. “It is unfortunately a race that we are losing.”

“While many people already face the dire consequences of the climate crisis, the reality of an environment that is becoming uninhabitable is still not obvious to everyone,” he said. “But we can still reverse the trends. Solutions exist.”

Mr. Guterres also underscored his conviction that the way forward involves a move away from nationalism toward a more multilateral international society.

“Contrary to what is often said, we need greater international solidarity and more multilateralism,” he said. “We need to work together to address issues of peace and security, to promote sustainable development, to advance human rights, to reduce inequalities and to avoid a climate catastrophe.”

We need a universal system that respects international law and is organized around strong multilateral institutions. But this multilateralism needs to adapt to the challenges of today and tomorrow,” he added.

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