António Guterres: 'Vaccinate everybody everywhere sooner rather than later'

António Guterres
António Guterres Copyright euronews
By Stefan Grobe
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In a wide-ranging interview with Euronews on the pandemic, climate, migration and violence against women, UN secretary general António Guterres made a case for strengthening international institutions and the multilateral framework. It's either a breakdown or a breakthrough, he said.

The COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, migration: these are some of the top issues that the United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres discussed with EU leaders when they were meeting in Brussels for a two-day European summit.

Euronews caught up with António Guterres after the meeting. 

Stefan Grobe, Euronews: Just a few days ago, you were re-appointed to a second five-year term in New York. That basically means two things. Number one, that people are happy with what you're doing, and two, that you like the job. So, tell me, what's going to be the focus of your second term?

António Guterres: I'd say probably the main focus will be the following. We are witnessing the enormous fragility of societies and planet pandemic, climate, lawlessness into cyberspace. Even the risks of nuclear proliferation. And the truth is that we need more international cooperation and more multilateral approaches to deal with these problems. But for that, we need to strengthen our multilateral system and we need to make sure that for some global commons, climate is a good example, health is another example, and the preparedness in relation to pandemics, we need to strengthen the multilateral governance mechanisms.

Stefan Grobe, Euronews: The biggest challenge for all of humanity right now is the pandemic. You told the European Parliament that the situation can go either way, a breakdown or a breakthrough. What did you mean by that?

António Guterres: Well, it's very simple. If we don't manage to vaccinate everybody everywhere sooner rather than later, and if the virus mutates - and it's mutating at a certain moment - and don't make vaccines, then it's useless, If we keep the huge inequality between developed countries and developing countries in the recovery projects, we might have a collapse of many aspects of the global economy. On the contrary, if you are able to vaccinate everybody everywhere and you defeat the virus and at the same time address the problems of debt of liquidity of developing countries and guarantee that developing countries can also recover from the pandemic, we might have a breakthrough.

Euronews: There are obviously huge gaps in health care, in social protection. But I think the most urgent thing, and you mentioned it, is vaccine inequality. How can we step up these efforts? You mentioned that. You said we need a global plan, but this is urgent. This is immediate.

António Guterres: We need to double vaccination production capacity and we need to ensure an equitable distribution of vaccines. That is why I've suggested at the G20 level, for instance, in which all the main countries are to have an emergency task force of the governments, of the countries that produce vaccines or can produce them. If there is enough technological support and if licenses are made available and the supply chains are put in place in order to double that production capacity, dealing with a farmer to make sure that it happens and at the same time using COVAX to have an equitable distribution of vaccines everywhere.

Euronews: Another global fragility is the climate. You have commended the European Union for its Green Deal. Now, critics say this is not enough. It's too little, too late. What's your response?

António Guterres: From the point of view of the objectives, Europe is on track. What is needed now? What we must have is the policies and the measures to transform those objectives into reality. And that is one area of concern. The recovery packages that are being implemented in Europe and everywhere are still putting a lot of money on fossil fuels, are still not doing enough for renewable energy. We are not yet shifting taxation from income to carbon. We are not yet able, even if Europe has announced that it will not be financing more coal power plants in the world. But still, there are coal power plants being built in different parts of the world. So, I mean the targets are ok, we need to make sure that policy is implemented, guarantee that those targets will be reached and obviously we need to do everything to make the rest of the world do the same.

Euronews: Another topic. One that you have devoted a lot of energy to throughout your career in public service, that is the plight of refugees. Now, the pandemic has made the situation of migrants worse. In your talks with EU leaders, did you get the impression that this is a topic that is going to be tackled in an appropriate way going forward?

António Guterres: I think there is still a long way to go. But one thing for me is obvious. When you have a European Union in which trade is free, in which I can go from Brussels to Copenhagen or from Brussels to Lisbon without showing my passport and without showing any other ID and using the same currency, it is clear that it is not possible to look into asylum and into migration on a country-by-country basis. We must have a European approach to asylum and to migration, because if not, competition amongst countries will make it impossible to manage. And if there is not a European approach to immigration and asylum, and if there is not an effective cooperation between Europe and countries of origin and countries of destination, these flows will go on being managed by smugglers and traffickers.

Euronews: I'd like to mention a programme where the European Union is the most important partner of the United Nations, and that is the Spotlight Initiative against violence against women. It's a relatively recent programme, so tell us about it.

António Guterres: Well, first of all, it's important to say that one in each four euros that we spend in the UN comes from European taxpayers and I want to express my gratitude for that. And Europe is today the largest, Team Europe is the largest humanitarian donor and the largest provider of official development assistance to development. The European Union is giving financial support, financially supporting a programme that we are managing in the UN, the Spotlight Initiative, which aims, as you mentioned, to fight violence against women and girls. And that programme is by far the largest programme in the world with these objectives. Just to give you an example, thanks to this programme, 650.000 women victims have been supported all around the world. Eighty-four new laws have been enacted in different countries. Exactly to protect women and girls in relation to violence. And if one looks at the number of convictions of perpetrators, we have seen an increase of 22 percent, which means the programme covers everything from support to victims. Enhancing legislation, acting with judicial systems, with the police forces, and at the same time sensitizing especially men and boys to make sure that they have a proper approach to masculinity. So, it's it's a wide-ranging set of initiatives that has been very effective in a moment in which, unfortunately, violence against women and girls is increasing.

Euronews: António Guterres, UN secretary general, thank you so much for a great global conversation.

António Guterres: Thank you very much.

Journalist • Stefan Grobe

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