Michael W. Cappello joins General Fusion to lead Fusion Demonstration Plant Deployment

VANCOUVER, British Columbia, Jan. 23, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — General Fusion announced today the appointment of Michael Cappello as Senior Vice President, Prototype Deployment.

In his new position, Mr. Cappello will lead the company's Fusion Demonstration Plant deployment, managing all aspects of the prototype site selection and construction. He will also lead global Regulatory Affairs for General Fusion, including licensing the Fusion Demonstration Plant and supporting the development of a harmonized international framework for fusion power plants. Mr. Cappello comes to General Fusion from TAE Technologies (formerly Tri Alpha Energy), a U.S.–based fusion energy company where he recently served as Senior Vice President and Chief Engineer.

"Michael's success in managing large construction projects in the energy industry, together with his fusion technology commercialization experience and private company leadership skills, will be critical as we transition from the lab into the field with our Fusion Demonstration Plant," said Chief Executive Officer Christofer Mowry. "We are excited that he made the decision to join General Fusion and are certainly appreciative of his vote of confidence in our technology."

Mr. Cappello brings more than 35 years of global experience in the energy and power sectors to General Fusion, primarily in the fusion energy, industrial robotics, and nuclear power industries. His leadership experience spans construction of advanced fusion facilities, operation of commercial nuclear power plants, management of large U.S. Department of Energy facility projects, and growth of new industrial technology ventures. Mr. Cappello holds a Bachelor of Science in Engineering with Minors in Mathematics and Physics from Regis College.

About General Fusion

General Fusion is pursuing the fastest and most practical path to commercial fusion energy and is based in Vancouver, Canada, with locations in Washington D.C., and London, U.K. The company was established in 2002 and is funded by a global syndicate of leading energy venture capital firms, industry leaders, and technology pioneers. Learn more at www.generalfusion.com.

For more information:

Paul Sullivan
Office: +1 604 685 4742
Mobile: +1 604 603 7358
paul.sullivan@generalfusion.com

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Global Inequality Continues to Grow: UNDESA Report

Tribal women converge at the Boipariguda weekly market in Koraput District, in India’s Odisha state, to sell and buy farm produce. Indigenous communities remain at the centre of those affected by climate change, he said, disproportionately bearing the brunt of the crisis and facing higher risks. Credit: Manipadma Jena/IPS

By Samira Sadeque
UNITED NATIONS, Jan 23 2020 – More than 70 percent of the global population is currently living in parts of the world where income inequality has grown, according to a World Social Report 2020 launched by United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA)

The report, which was launched at the U.N. on Tuesday, identified four “megatrends” that impacts this inequality:  technological innovation, climate change, urbanisation and international migration.

“The report underscores that these mega trends can be harnessed for a more equitable and sustainable world or they can be left alone to divide us further,” Elliott Harris, U.N. Chief Economist and Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development at DESA, said at the launch. 

He added that the current climate crisis especially causes the slowdown in reducing inequality between countries and further “presents major obstacle to reduce poverty”.

Indigenous communities remain at the centre of those affected by climate change, he said, disproportionately bearing the brunt of the crisis and facing higher risks. 

“And it’s affecting intergenerational inequality as well,” he said. 

Technological innovation, digital division

With regards to technology, Harris said technological innovations are “pushing wage inequality upwards”. 

“Despite its immense promise, technological change creates winners and losers and its rapid pace brings additional new challenges,” he said. 

But the “digital divide” exists through access to technology and technological devices (or lack thereof). According to the report, almost 90 percent of the population of most developed countries have access to the Internet, while only 19 percent of the population in least developed countries have the same access. 

According to the U.N. Committee for Development Policy (CDP) data from 2018, the list of least developed countries includes many countries in Africa — a continent being lauded for its massive technological growth.

As a PwC report on Africa states, “disruptive innovation is transforming Africa’s economic potential, creating new target markets and unprecedented consumer choice”. It then begs the question how technological divide is perpetuating inequality in these countries. 

When asked, Harris acknowledged this growth but added those countries that are lagging behind have a lot of “catching up” to do.

“The fact remains that because of the rapid advancement of technological innovation, the time that its taking to establish a digital infrastructure is time at which the advanced countries continue to move ahead at increasingly rapid pace,” he told IPS. 

“The cycles of tech innovation are getting shorter and shorter,” he said, adding a hypothetical analysis that by the time a developing country has set up 5G, a developed country is already establishing 8G.

“And we need to make a really concerted effort to catch up really quickly,” he said, “we need a big jump; we can’t go progressively at the speed at which we did it in the past.” 

A vicious cycle?

Another notable observation made in the report was how those who are poor and remain without access to education or healthcare remain at the core of the struggle.

“Disparities in health and education make it challenging for people to break out of the cycle of poverty, leading to the transmission of disadvantage from one generation to the next,” read a part of the report.

This is especially concerning at a time when the world has a massive refugee population that only continues to grow, whether due to climate change or conflict. The U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR) states the current refugee crisis is “unprecedented” with a total of 70.8 million people forcibly displaced.  

For communities that remain in transit, it poses a challenge to establish access to health and education, which can thus hinder the process of breaking out the poverty cycle, thus perpetuating the gap between the poor and the rich. 

When asked, Harris said this vicious cycle is “a very serious concern that we have.” 

“The problem, of course, is [in] many cases the refugees are concentrated in places that do not have large amount of additional resources they can devote to support refugees and so they are very dependent on the support of the international community,” he told IPS. 

“It’s been relatively less difficult to mobilise support at the onset of the crisis when people have to flee,” he said, adding that maintaining that support when in some cases they’re in refugee camps or displaced from their homelands for years at a time” is what becomes challenging. 

He lauded the efforts by host countries for doing their best in hosting the refugees, and added that the international community has a responsibility to “step up and help these host countries.” 

Marta Roig, Chief of Emerging Trends and Issues in the Development Section, Division for Inclusive Social Development, DESA, was also present at the launch.

Top UN Court Orders Myanmar to Protect Rohingya from Genocide

International Court of Justice in The Hague consider the case against Myanmar. Credit: ICJ-CIJ/Wendy van Bree

Judges at the International Court of Justice in The Hague consider the case against Myanmar. Credit: ICJ-CIJ/Wendy van Bree

By External Source
UNITED NATIONS, Jan 23 2020 – Myanmar must take steps to protect its minority Rohingya population, the top UN court unanimously ruled on Thursday.

The International  Court of Justice  (ICJ) also ordered authorities to prevent the destruction of evidence related to genocide allegations.

The case against Myanmar was brought to the ICJ in November by The Gambia, on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), arguing that the mainly-Muslim Rohingya had been subjected to genocide.

The Rohingya primarily reside in Rakhine state in northern Myanmar, a majority Buddhist country.

“The Secretary-General strongly supports the use of peaceful means to settle international disputes.  He further recalls that, pursuant to the  (UN) Charter and to the Statute of the Court, decisions of the Court are binding and trusts that Myanmar will duly comply with the Order from the Court”

More than 700,000 members fled to neighbouring Bangladesh following a reported military crackdown in August 2017 during which numerous alleged human rights abuses were committed.

According to news reports, around 600,000 Rohingya remain inside the country, and remain extremely vulnerable to attacks and persecution, said the court.

In its ruling, the ICJ imposed “provisional measures” against Myanmar, ordering the country to comply with obligations under the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.

Myanmar is urged to “take all measures within its power” to prevent the killing of Rohingya, or causing bodily or mental harm to members of the group, including by the military or “any irregular armed units”.

The country also has to submit a report to the ICJ within four months, with additional reports due every six months “until a final decision on the case is rendered by the Court.”

 

Aung San Suu Kyi testimony

Last December, Myanmar’s de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, testified at the start of court proceedings on behalf of her country and described the case as “an incomplete and misleading factual picture” of events in Rakhine state.

She told the court military leaders would be put on trial if found guilty, stressing that “if war crimes have been committed, they will be prosecuted within our own military justice system.”

Thursday’s ruling amounts to a rejection of those arguments, and the ICJ’s orders are binding on Myanmar, despite being provisional.

The court’s orders are subject to assessment by the UN Security Council., although a final judgement in the case is expected to take years, according to news reports.

 

Court decision is binding: UN Secretary-General

UN chief António Guterres has welcomed the court decision, his spokesman said in a statement.

“The Secretary-General strongly supports the use of peaceful means to settle international disputes.  He further recalls that, pursuant to the  (UN) Charter and to the Statute of the Court, decisions of the Court are binding and trusts that Myanmar will duly comply with the Order from the Court,” it said.

The Secretary-General will transmit the notice about the provisional measures to the UN Security Council.

 

Role of the Court

The ICJ is the principal judicial organ of the United Nations and is commonly known as the world court.

It settles legal disputes submitted by States and gives advisory opinions on legal questions referred by UN entities.

The Court is composed of 15 judges, elected to nine-year terms, and is based in The Hague, in the Netherlands.

 

Myanmar rights expert concludes mission

Relatedly, an independent human rights expert on Thursday concluding her final mission as the UN Special Rapporteur on Myanmar.

Yanghee Lee’s last request to enter the country was denied by the Government, and she visited Thailand and Bangladesh to gather information about the situation in Myanmar from both sides of the border.

“Myanmar’s denial of access has not dissuaded me from doing everything I can to impartially report to the international community accurate first-hand information that has been provided to me during my visits to the region,” she said.

“My mission and the end of my tenure come at a critical time for human rights in Myanmar and I will continue to strive to do my utmost to improve the situation.”

Ms. Lee was appointed by the UN Human Rights Council in 2014 and conducted biannual visits to Myanmar until she was denied entry from December 2017.

She will deliver her final report to the Geneva-based Council in Geneva in March.

This story was originally published by UN News

Blue Innovation in the Commonwealth

By Patricia Scotland
Jan 23 2020 – With 95 per cent of the ocean still unexplored by humans, we are only just beginning to understand its profound influence on life on earth, including its effect on global climate and ecosystems.

As we do so, more and more countries are exploring the immense potential of the ‘blue economy’ to build wealth, create jobs and improve lives, and how this can be done in ways which protect ocean health and promote sustainability.

The value of ocean assets (including natural capital) is conservatively estimated at US$24 trillion, and the worldwide ocean economy is worth around US$2.5 trillion per year. Yet all this is at risk with ocean systems increasingly vulnerable to the negative impacts of climate change, habitat destruction, pollution and overfishing.

Diversification of traditional sectors such as shipping, commercial fishing and ports to make them more sustainable can unlock further opportunities for innovation which, alongside emerging sectors such as offshore renewable energy, offer attractive prospects for impact investors.

The nations of the Commonwealth are particularly rich in such promising opportunities for innovation and investment. Of our 53 Commonwealth countries, 46 have a coastline, 24 are small island developing states, and three border great lakes. More than a third of the world’s national coastal waters and 42 per cent of all coral reefs lie within Commonwealth jurisdictions.

The governments of these countries have come together and adopted the Commonwealth Blue Charter, through which they commit to active cooperation on tackling ocean-related challenges and on fulfilling pledges on sustainable ocean development. Through its Action Group on Sustainable Blue Economy, championed by Kenya, the Commonwealth family of nations is working together to identify good practices, and to connect countries with partners that can help accelerate and scale up such initiatives to make them more attractive to investors.

Examples of innovative developments unfolding in Commonwealth countries are:

    Blue fashion: The garment and accessory industries are among the most polluting and wasteful in the world. There has been a surge of interest in how their negative impact can be reduced through the use of marine materials to develop bio-alternatives that are more sustainable and which also add value.

    In Kenya, for example, designers and manufacturers are excelling in the US$50 billion African fashion industry, producing high quality fish leather items made from discarded fish skin. To showcase this, the Commonwealth recently worked with partners to stage a ‘blue fashion show’ in Nairobi, and similar international initiatives are being considered.

     
    Blue bonds and debt swaps: Seychelles has pioneered a number of innovative financing mechanisms, including a ‘debt swap’ programme, supported by the Nature Conservancy. The project has seen US$30 million of Seychelles’ foreign debt exchanged for commitments to ocean conservation programmes.

    Seychelles also launched the world’s first sovereign ‘blue bond’ last year, raising US$15 million from international investors. Of this, US$3 million is earmarked for grants to support blue economy development and climate change adaptation projects, disbursed through the Seychelles Conservation and Climate Adaptation Trust. The remaining US$12 million provides loans for blue economy projects through the Seychelles Development Bank.

    The Commonwealth Fund for Technical Cooperation supported Seychelles in developing its strategic policy framework on the blue economy for the period 2018 to 2030, termed the ‘Blue Economy Roadmap’ and Commonwealth advisers continue to assist with implementation.

     
    Alternatives to plastics: A growing number of countries, including the UK and Vanuatu as co-champions of the Commonwealth Blue Charter Action Group on Marine Plastic Pollution, have banned or are planning to ban various forms of single-use plastics. Investment and research towards developing more affordable and readily available sustainable alternatives will help such initiatives to succeed and become adopted more widely.

    Recognising this, the Association of Commonwealth Universities, through the Blue Charter Fellowship programme, is sponsoring research by a scientist in Bangladesh on coconut husk cutlery as a substitute for plastic knives and forks. The project includes market analysis and development of policy options by which the government could encourage adoption of the product.

    Already, 48 emerging scientists have been awarded Blue Charter fellowships at top Commonwealth universities to explore innovative ways of tackling marine plastic pollution.

Such examples demonstrate how promising and practical opportunities are already being developed. Substantial technical support and financial backing within robust regulatory environments are essential if there is to be the kind of far-reaching impact that is really needed. To achieve this, it will be necessary for countries to adopt ‘whole-of-government’ approaches to the blue economy, embedding the concept in national development strategies, and engaging all sectors rather than a single agency.

The Commonwealth and UNCTAD toolkit on youth entrepreneurship in the blue and green economy offers guidance for policymakers in formulating comprehensive national strategies, with a focus on optimising the regulatory environment and improving business skills.

Transition from traditional maritime economies to sustainable blue economies takes time to achieve, but important groundwork is already being laid. By working together in mutual support and cooperation, Commonwealth countries are helping to accelerate progress towards economic growth and prosperity which, through imaginative and innovative approaches, is harmonised with sustainable use and good stewardship of our ocean and its resources.

To find out more about the Commonwealth Blue Charter, visit: https://bluecharter.thecommonwealth.org/

This piece was first published on www.17globalgoals.com

Leprosy Re-emerges as a Global Health Challenge

Sattamma, a daily labourer in the Rangareddy district of southern India’s Telangana state, says that even though she no longer has Hansen’s Disease, she remains discriminated against because of it. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

By Stella Paul
HYDERABAD, India , Jan 23 2020 – Fifteen years ago, Sattamma – a daily labourer in the Rangareddy district of southern India’s Telangana state – was abandoned by her husband after she was diagnosed with Hansen’s Disease.

Last October, while her neighbours were celebrating Diwali, Sattamma was homeless again as her landlord threw her out of the house after he discovered her past disease.

“My husband said I was a danger to him. But it was so many years ago (I had leprosy). I have been cured and living without any scar or pain. Why would anyone still treat me like this?” asks a visibly-perplexed Sattamma who says finding work has become harder since her eviction.

Discrimination against leprosy, however, isn’t experienced by a scattered few: the world over, men and women affected by leprosy are increasingly being subjected to stigma and bias regardless of their current health status.

In Nigeria, Lilibeth Nwakaego runs a non-profit organisation called Leprosy Disability Initiative, which provides legal and emotional support to the leprosy-affected people who have been stigmatised by society. According to her, the roots of stigma are so deep, it often frustrates even the most determined.

“As a lawyer and a woman, I can tell you this: leprosy-affected people like me are sent straight to hell once the community discovers about our sickness. It is meaningless and cruel but it exists and it is continuously increasing,” she tells IPS.

“The discrimination towards leprosy-affected is like leprosy itself: you fight it in one place and end it, but it surfaces in another.”

Re-emergence of an “eliminated” challenge

In 1993, multi-drug therapy (MDT) was introduced worldwide which has since reduced the prevalence of Hansen’s Disease by more than 99 percent. As a result, most countries announced they had eliminated the disease – this is a target of less than one case per 10,000 people as set by the World Health Organisation.

However, almost a decade later, new cases are continually surfacing globally, including in India, Brazil and Indonesia – the world’s three-most affected countries. 

  • One person is diagnosed with leprosy roughly every four minutes in India, accounting for 60 percent of all new leprosy cases annually.
  • Brazil, which has the second-highest burden of leprosy, has reported over 28,000 new cases annually.
  • Indonesia with 16,826 new cases being reported each year, is third on the list.

However, each of these countries has reported high levels of stigma and discrimination – experienced by leprosy-affected people.

Legal and constitutional discrimination

In the last decade, India has also seen a rise in several potentially deadly diseases, including tuberculosis, heart disease, diabetes and diarrhoea. Compared to this, the number of leprosy cases is truly minuscule. Yet the social stigma and bias against the leprosy-affected is extremely high, courtesy of a large number of laws which allow and aid such acts, says Vagavathalli Narsappa – head of Association for Leprosy-Affected (APAL) – a pan-Indian organisation based in Hyderabad.

“The irony is that when it comes to stigma, the law is truly equal for all. For example, a leprosy-affected person cannot contest a local election, or, can be forcibly removed from office even after winning. It is as if you have committed a violent crime…This is even more ridiculous because such a person can contest state/national elections,” Narsappa tells IPS.

The government seems to be well-aware of  the discriminatory laws as well. In August 2019, India’s health minister Harsh Vardhan wrote to his colleagues in the law and justice, and social justice and empowerment ministries seeking the amendment of 108 laws that discriminate against persons affected by Hansen’s Disease.

“Even though the disease is now fully curable, it is disturbing to learn that there still exist 108 discriminatory laws against persons affected by leprosy, including three Union and 105 state laws. The National Leprosy Eradication Programme (NLEP) has achieved enormous success in leprosy control, particularly in the last four decades,” the health minister said in a letter shared with the media.

In July 2018, the Supreme Court of India had also directed the government to end 119 laws that it considered discriminatory. The court also directed the government to run a countrywide awareness drive on Hansen’s Disease.

However, little has been done since then, says Narsappa.

“The only big step that we saw is repealing the law which allowed divorce on the ground of leprosy,” he tells IPS, referring to the Elimination of Discrimination against Persons Affected by Leprosy (EDPAL) Bill – commonly known as the Divorce Bill — which was passed by India’s parliament in February 2019.

  • In Brazil, similar demands have been raised to provide equal rights and treatment of leprosy-affected people especially of children who are often denied schooling.
  • However, the country has no discriminatory laws as of now, according to Alicia Cruz – a United Nations expert who visited the country in 2019.

In Indonesia, the social discrimination has been discouraging the leprosy-affected from seeking treatment, says Al Qadri, deputy head of the Leprosy Association (Permata), an NGO that works for the welfare of leprosy patients.

“Because of embarrassment and  fear of stigma, those who are suffering from the disease do not go to the health clinics in time. They hide until its too late and the disease has taken an advanced form,” Qadri says.

There is hope in hopelessness

In India, a portion of government jobs are reserved for persons with disabilities. However, leprosy-affected people who have disabilities are often denied the benefits of this policy. Narsappa of APAL recalls how he was denied a job with the local government.

“After being rejected three times, I visited the District Collector (a senior government official) whose office had announced a vacancy. But instead of hearing my plea, he told me, ‘you can still walk and move, why do you think you deserve this job?’ From his tone, I could sense that my past (disease) was the real issue,” says Narsappa who is now actively advocating for leprosy-affected people’s right to employment and old age pension – another government program which often fails to reach the leprosy-affected.

A strong ground movement is also in the making for calling for the land rights of the leprosy-affected.

Maya Ranvare, an executive member of APAL who is leading the movement in Maharashtra state of western India, says that though there are over 70 colonies across India, few of the residents have an individual ownership.

“Our cities are expanding so fast! We worry that tomorrow, our land will be grabbed by illegal real estate developers and we will not be able to do anything,” Ranavare tells IPS.

Activists like Ranavare are now approaching the state human rights commission to instruct the government to give land ownership certificates to leprosy colony residents. Last month, in Ratnagiri – a neighbouring district, the government started the process after being instructed by the commission, she reveals.

“Our fight today is the fight for our basic rights to equality, employment and land. But we also need a set of common, fair laws that makes all of these possible,” says Ranavare.

Tipping Point on Menstrual Banishment in Nepal

It is easy to be cynical about recent reports of actions taken to end chhaupadi, the traditional practice in parts of western Nepal of segregating menstruating women.

Credit: NYAYA HEALTH NEPAL

By Marty Logan
KATHMANDU, Jan 23 2020 – It is easy to be cynical about recent reports of actions taken to end chhaupadi, the traditional practice in parts of western Nepal of segregating menstruating women.

Since December, hundreds of the chhau sheds where women live during their periods have been demolished after the Home Ministry ordered district officials to strictly enforce laws that bar the practice. Local officials have warned they will withhold social security payments to anyone found to be involved in the practice of menstrual banishment.

Hundreds of the chhau sheds where women live during their periods have been demolished after the Home Ministry ordered district officials to strictly enforce laws that bar the practice. Local officials have warned they will withhold social security payments to anyone found to be involved in the practice of menstrual banishment

We have heard such threats from officialdom before, and many of the recently dismantled sheds were likely previously broken and rebuilt. But something does feel different now about the campaign to end the practice that has killed more than a dozen women and girls in the past decade, most of them from exposure to cold, a snakebite or suffocation from fires to warm the windowless sheds in winter.

Is this a tipping point? Could be. More positive news comes from Nyaya Health Nepal, the NGO that runs Bayalpata Hospital in Achham. It has 58 community health workers (CHWs), who are the hospital’s link to residents in the facility’s catchment area. Of them, 29 have not practised chhaupadi since working with Bayalpata and, according to the hospital, of the remaining 29, 25 have given up the practice since they started working there.

Initial interventions were done as sporadic informal discussions with CHWS, says Aradhana Thapa, healthcare design director at the hospital. They were followed by regular discussions in 2017, and then by interventions in 2018-19.

“We started with baby steps, to understand the issue and help provide a safe platform for CHWs to openly discuss and support each other. Last year we added a few more interventions, including social mapping and reaching more pregnant women,” added Thapa in an email interview.

The mapping found that 66% of the 14,000 women of reproductive age in the hospital’s catchment area practise chhaupadi, compared to 50% of the CHWs before Bayalpata’s intervention. CHWs are required to have at least Grade 10 education, which is far above the district average, so does that higher level of education not explain the hospital’s success in helping CHWs give up sheds?

“Education, understanding of menstruation as a biological phenomenon universal to the general population, is allowing this change (in attitude about chhaupadi) to take place,” says Thapa. “However, there needs to be a trigger for that final decision. For many CHWs, that point was that they wanted to give up the practice themselves before preaching to other women.”

Many activists say that chhaupadi is just the most extreme form of the menstrual segregation that occurs throughout Nepal among women of all socio-economic groups, in rural and urban areas.

In December, Parbati Raut of Achham became the last reported victim of the practice. But for the first time, an arrest was made over the death – of the woman’s brother-in-law Chhatra Raut, for banishing her to the shed. Unofficial reports from Achham say that he is out on bail, punished only with having to report to police twice monthly for three months.

A 2005 Supreme Court decision outlawed chhaupadi, and a 2017 national law made forcing a woman to use a shed punishable by up to 3 months in jail or a fine of Rs3,000. Yet, these changes, along with various local regulations that punish the practice or reward women who reject it, have failed to end it.

In one ward in Achham senior citizens’ allowances were reduced as punishment. It was effective because older family members have the strongest ties to beliefs that underlie chhaupadi, such as that not going to the shed once a month will anger gods and result in sickness, or worse, in a village.

CHWs have leveraged such local initiatives in order to give up the practice, particularly campaigns to destroy huts that are led by women. “It is the fact that these are led by local women that makes them so effective. I think it’s peer influence, pressure, that’s playing its part,” says Thapa.

For other CHWs, the decision was driven by practical considerations — absence of caretakers for their children, in cases where the women do not live with their in-laws and their husbands had to be away for work. Says Thapa: “They ended up sitting at home to ensure care for their children.”

 

This story was originally published by The Nepali Times

UN Plans to Launch a “Decade of Action” to Deliver Development Goals by 2030

Secretary-General António Guterres briefs the General Assembly meeting on his Priorities for 2020 and the Work of the Organization. Credit: UN / Mark Garten

By Antonio Guterres
UNITED NATIONS, Jan 23 2020 – 2020 marks the 75th anniversary of the United Nations. I draw tremendous strength from all that we represent and all that we have achieved together.

Yet anniversaries are not about celebrating the past; they are about looking ahead. We must cast our eyes to the future with hope. But we must also do so without illusion.

I want to speak to you in stark and simple terms about the challenges we face. I see “four horsemen” in our midst — four looming threats that endanger 21st-century progress and imperil 21st-century possibilities.

The first horseman comes in the form of the highest global geostrategic tensions we have witnessed in years.

Devastating conflicts continue to cause widespread misery. Terrorist attacks take a merciless toll. The nuclear menace is growing. More people have been forced from their homes by war and persecution than at any time since the Second World War. Tensions over trade and technology remain unresolved. The risk of a Great Fracture is real.

Second, we face an existential climate crisis. Rising temperatures continue to melt records. The past decade was the hottest on record. Scientists tell us that ocean temperatures are now rising at the equivalent of five Hiroshima bombs a second.

One million species are in near-term danger of extinction. Our planet is burning.
Meanwhile, as we saw at COP25, too many decision-makers continue to fiddle. Our world is edging closer to the point of no return.

The third horseman is deep and growing global mistrust. Disquiet and discontent are churning societies from north to south. Each situation is unique, but everywhere frustration is filling the streets. More and more people are convinced globalization is not working for them.

As one of our own reports revealed just yesterday, two of every three people live in countries where inequality has grown. Confidence in political establishments is going down.

Young people are rising up. Women are rightly demanding equality and freedom from violence and discrimination.

At the same time, fears and anxieties are spreading. Hostility against refugees and migrants is building. Hatred is growing.

The fourth threat is the dark side of the digital world.

Technological advances are moving faster than our ability to respond to – or even comprehend – them. Despite enormous benefits, new technologies are being abused to commit crimes, incite hate, fake information, oppress and exploit people and invade privacy.

We are not prepared for the profound impact of the Fourth Industrial Revolution on the labour market and the very structure of society. Artificial intelligence is generating breathtaking capacities and alarming possibilities.

Lethal autonomous weapons — machines with the power to kill on their own, without human judgement and accountability — are bringing us into unacceptable moral and political territory.

These four horsemen – epic geopolitical tensions, the climate crisis, global mistrust and the downsides of technology – can jeopardize every aspect of our shared future.

That is why commemorating the 75th anniversary with nice speeches won’t do.
We must address these four 21st-century challenges with four 21st-century solutions.

Let me take each in turn. First, peace and security, that I mentioned. There are some signs of hope.

Last year, conflict was prevented in the wake of several critical elections, from the Democratic Republic of the Congo to Madagascar …from Mali to the Maldives and beyond.

Despite hostilities in Yemen, the fragile cease-fire in Hodeidah is holding. A constitutional committee in Syria has taken form, even if it is still facing meaningful obstacles.

A peace agreement in the Central African Republic is being implemented. And the recent Berlin conference on Libya brought key players around the peace table at a critical moment, committing to “refraining from interference in the armed conflict or in the internal affairs of Libya” and urging “all international actors to do the same”.

All of these efforts require patience and persistence. But they are essential and save lives. As we look ahead, we have our work cut out for us.

We see Gordian Knots across the world — from the Gulf to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, from the Sahel and Lake Chad to Venezuela.

Security Council resolutions are being ignored. Outside interference is fueling fires.
And we are at risk of losing pillars of the international disarmament and arms control [architecture] without viable alternatives.

Yes, the United Nations continues to deliver life-saving aid to millions of people in desperate need. But temporary relief is no substitute for permanent solutions.

Prevention must orient all we do as we engage across the peace continuum. We must strengthen our mediation capacity and our tools for sustaining peace, leading to long-term development.

Our Action for Peacekeeping initiative is enhancing performance and safety. We are becoming more effective in the protection of civilians, and we have more female peacekeepers than ever before.

The 20th anniversary of Security Council resolution 1325 on women, peace and security is also an opportunity to further match words with deeds.

At the same time, we know peacekeeping is not enough where there is no peace to keep. We need to create the conditions for effective peace enforcement and counter-terrorism operations by our regional partners, under chapter VII of the Charter and with predictable funding.

This is especially true in Africa, from the Sahel to Lake Chad. And we must focus on the roots of crisis and upheaval — combatting the drivers of violence and extremism – from exclusion to economic despair, from violent misogyny to governance failures.

Last year, I launched first-of-its-kind action plans to combat hate speech and to safeguard religious sites.

This year, I will convene a conference on the role of education in tackling hate speech.
And we must continue to advance the Agenda for Disarmament.

I call on all State Parties to work together at the 2020 Review of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons to ensure the NPT remains able to fulfil its fundamental goals – preventing nuclear war and facilitating the elimination of nuclear weapons.

The second “horseman” is the threat of climate catastrophe. We must respond with the promise of climate action.

We are at war with nature. And nature is fighting back hard. One cannot look at the recent fires in Australia – at people fleeing their homes and wildlife consumed by the flames – without profound sadness at today’s plight and fear for what the future may bring.

Meanwhile, air pollution combined with climate change is killing, according to the World Health Organization, 7 million people every year.

Gradual approaches are no longer enough. At the next climate conference — COP26 in Glasgow – Governments must deliver the transformational change our world needs and that people demand, with much stronger ambition – ambition on mitigation, ambition on adaptation, and ambition on finance.

Every city, region, bank, pension fund and industry must completely reimagine how they operate to keep temperature rise to 1.5 degrees. The scientific community is clear. We need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 45 per cent from 2010 levels by 2030, and reach net zero emissions by 2050.

The main obligation rests on the main emitters. Those countries that contributed most to this crisis must lead the way.

If they dither, we are doomed. But I still believe the climate battle is a battle we can win.
People get it. Technology is on our side. Scientists tell us it is not too late.

Economists and asset managers tell us climate smart investments are the key to competing and winning in the 21st century.

All the tools and knowledge to move from the grey economy to the green economy are already available. So let us embrace transformation – let us build on the results of last September’s Climate Action Summit — and let us make the commitments to make Glasgow a success.

Together with Glasgow, we have two other opportunities to act decisively this year.
First, the Oceans conference in Lisbon in June.

The world’s oceans are under assault from pollution, overfishing and much else.
Plastic waste is tainting not only the fish we eat but also the water we drink and the air we breathe.

We must use the Lisbon conference to protect the oceans from further abuse and recognize their fundamental role in the health of people and planet.

For example, based on the success of several national initiatives, it is time for a global ban on single-use plastics.

Second, the Biodiversity conference in Kunming in October. The rate of species loss is exponentially higher than at any time in the past 10 million years.

We must make the most of the Kunming conference to adopt a post-2020 global biodiversity framework.

Living in harmony with nature is more important than ever. Everything is interlinked.

To help vanquish the third horseman — global mistrust —we must build a fair globalization.

We have a plan. It’s called the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and all of your governments pledged to make it a reality.

The good news is that I hear tremendous enthusiasm for the SDGs wherever I go —from political leaders at the national and local levels, to entrepreneurs, investors, civil society and so many others.

We see concrete progress – from reducing child mortality to expanding education, from improving access to family planning to increasing access to the internet.

But what we see is not enough. Indeed, we are off track. At present course, half a billion people will still be living in extreme poverty by 2030.

And the gender gap in economic participation would have to wait more than 250 years!
That is unacceptable.

For all these reasons, we are launching a Decade of Action to deliver the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. The Decade of Action is central to achieving a fair globalization, boosting economic growth and preventing conflict.

We will leverage the reformed United Nations Development System to engage partners from the local to the global: To mobilize a movement for the Sustainable Development Goals.

To unlock financing. To generate the ambition, innovation and solutions to deliver for everyone, everywhere.

Throughout the Decade of Action, we must invest in the eradication of poverty, social protection, in health and fighting pandemics, in education, energy, water and sanitation, in sustainable transport and infrastructure and in internet access.

We must improve governance, tackle illicit financial flows, stamp out corruption and develop effective, common sense and fair taxation systems.

We must build economies for the future and ensure decent work for all, especially young people. And we must put a special focus on women and girls because it benefits us all.

The 25th anniversary of the Beijing Platform is an opportunity to rethink economic, political and social systems from an equality perspective.

It’s time to drive women’s equal participation in decision-making and end all forms of violence against women and girls. We must dismantle obstacles to women’s inclusion and participation in the economy, including through valuing unpaid care work.

And we must listen and learn from so many women around the world who have been driving solutions.

I will convene, on an annual basis, a platform for driving the Decade of Action. The first SDG Action Forum in September will highlight progress and set the trajectory for success.

So let us make the 2020s the Decade of Action and let us make 2020 the year of urgency. And, as we do so, let us spare no effort to rebuild trust.

I make a special appeal to all Member States: Listen to people. Open new channels for all to be heard and find common ground.

Respect freedom of peaceful assembly and expression. Protect civic space and freedom of the press.

And let us harness the ideas and energy and sense of hope of young people —in particular young women — demanding change and constructive solutions.

Fourth, to address the dark side of digital world, we must steer technology for positive change.

I see several areas for action — starting with the global labor market. Automation will displace tens of millions of jobs by 2030. We need to redesign education systems. It’s not just about learning but learning how to learn, across a lifetime.

We need more innovative approaches to social safety nets and rethinking the concept of work, and the lifelong balance among work, leisure and other activities. We also must usher in order to the Wild West of cyberspace.

Terrorists, white supremacists and others who sow hate are exploiting the internet and social media. Bots are spreading disinformation, fueling polarization and undermining democracies.

Next year, cybercrime will cost $6 trillion. Cyberspace itself is at risk of cleaving in two.
We must work against digital fragmentation by promoting global digital cooperation.

The United Nations is a tailor-made platform for governments, business, civil society and others to come together to formulate new protocols and norms, to define red-lines, and to build agile and flexible regulatory frameworks.

Some responses may require legally-binding measures. Others may be based on voluntary cooperation and the exchange of best practices.

This includes support for existing processes and institutions like the Open-Ended Working Group on information and telecommunications in the context of security, and the Group of Government Experts on advancing responsible behavior in cyberspace and within the General Assembly.

I believe consensus has been built to strengthen the Internet Governance Forum to serve as a central gathering point to discuss and propose effective digital policies.

Following up on the Report of the High-level Panel on Digital Cooperation, I will soon present a Roadmap for Digital Cooperation covering internet connectivity, human rights, trust and security in the age of digital interdependence.

At the same time, we need a common effort to ensure artificial intelligence is a force for good. Despite last year’s important step within the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, we are still lurching toward a world of killer machines acting outside human judgment or control.

I have a simple and direct plea to all Member States: Ban lethal autonomous weapons now. These are the four big threats — and four big solutions I see in the year ahead.

Across this work, the promotion and protection of all human rights must be central. I am deeply concerned about the different ways in which respect for human rights is being eroded around the world.

As I have repeatedly underscored, the Charter compels us to place people and their rights at the heart of our work. That is why, next month in Geneva, I will launch a call for stepped up global action on human rights and human dignity.

In order to meet all these challenges, we must continue to make the United Nations fit for the challenges of our new age.

That is why from day one, and with your support, I have pursued wide-ranging reforms rooted in flexibility, transparency and accountability.

In 2020, we will build on our progress. Indeed, we already began the year with a major success.

On January 1st — for the first time in UN history — we achieved gender parity across our senior-most ranks of full-time Under-and Assistant-Secretaries-General taken together.

We did it two years ahead of schedule. And I plan to keep going — ensuring greater inclusion and parity at all levels of the Organization.

I appeal for your support in removing out-dated regulations and byzantine procedures that stand in the way. I am equally committed to making 2020 a year of meaningful progress for more equitable geographical distribution and greater regional diversity among staff of the United Nations.

We have launched a Secretariat-wide strategy to do so. But, as you know, reaching gender parity and diversity targets also depends on the ability to fill vacant posts — and that largely depends on resources.

I am also determined to build on our efforts to prevent and end sexual harassment.
A specialized investigation team in the Office of Internal Oversight Service is already up and running.

A new sexual harassment policy is being incorporated into respective frameworks across the wider UN family. A centralized, system-wide screening database is in place to deny the ability of sexual harassers to sneak back into the system.

Our strategy to combat sexual exploitation and abuse is also advancing, including through greater assistance and support to victims.

In the broadest sense, I am determined to make the United Nations a workplace leader in ensuring all staff are respected, all have a voice, and all are enabled to do their best.

We are making progress on our new disability inclusion strategy. And I am strongly committed to ensuring equality and non-discrimination for LGBTI staff in the UN system and our peacekeeping operations.

The year ahead will be pivotal for our common future. I want people around the world to be a part of it. Too often, governments and international institutions are viewed as places that talk —not places that listen.

I want the United Nations to listen. In this 75th anniversary year, I want to provide as many people as possible the chance to have a conversation with the United Nations.

To share their hopes and fears. To learn from their experiences.

To spark ideas for building the future we want and the United Nations we need. We are launching surveys and dialogues around the world to do so.

And we are giving a priority to the voices of young people. Together, we need to listen.
And together, we need to act.

At this 75th anniversary milestone, let us make the difficult yet vital decisions across our agenda that will secure a peaceful future for all.