United Nations
United Nations 30 Sep 2020

António Guterres (UN Secretary-General) on accelerating the end of the COVID-19 pandemic

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Remarks by António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations, at the High-Level event on Accelerating the end of the COVID-19 pandemic: Taking new solutions to scale to save lives, protect health systems and restart the global economy.


Around the world, nearly 1 billion people live with a mental disorder. Every 40 seconds, someone dies from suicide. And depression is now recognized as a leading cause of illness and disability among children and adolescents.

All of this was true, even before COVID-19. We are now seeing the consequences of the pandemic on people's mental well-being, and this is just the beginning. Many groups, including older adults, women, children and people with existing mental health conditions are at risk of considerable medium- and long-term ill-health if action is not taken.

Addressing mental health is central to achieving Universal Health Coverage. It deserves our commitment. Too few people have access to quality mental health services. In low- and middle-income countries, more than 75 per cent of people with mental health conditions receive no treatment at all. And, overall, governments spend on average less than 2 per cent of their health budgets on mental health. This cannot go on.

We can no longer ignore the need for a massive scale-up in investment in mental health. We must act together, now, to make quality mental health care available for all who need it to allow us to recover faster from the COVID-19 crisis.
Corruption is criminal, immoral and the ultimate betrayal of public trust.
It is even more damaging in times of crisis - as the world is experiencing now with the COVID-19 pandemic.
The response to the virus is creating new opportunities to exploit weak oversight and inadequate transparency, diverting funds away from people in their hour of greatest need.
Governments may act in haste without verifying suppliers or determine fair prices.
Unscrupulous merchants peddle faulty products such as -- defective ventilators, poorly manufactured tests or counterfeit medicines.
And collusion among those who control supply chains has led to outrageous costs of much-needed goods, skewing the market and denying many people life-saving treatment.
We must work together to stop such thievery and exploitation by clamping down on illicit financial flows and tax havens; tackling the vested interests that benefit from secrecy and corruption; and exercising utmost vigilance over how resources are spent nationally.
Together, we must create more robust systems for accountability, transparency and integrity without delay.
We must hold leaders to account.
Businesspeople must act responsibly.
A vibrant civic space and open access to information are essential.
And we must protect the rights and recognize the courage of whistle-blowers who expose wrongdoing.
Technological advances can help increase transparency and better monitor procurement of medical supplies.
Anti-corruption bodies need greater support and empowerment.
The United Nations itself continues to prioritize transparency and accountability, in and beyond the COVID-19 response.
For many people in all regions, corruption has been a long-standing source of distrust and anger against their leaders and governments.
But corruption in the time of COVID-19 has the potential to seriously undermine good governance around the world, and to send us even farther off-track in our work to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.
I urge all governments and all leaders to be transparent and accountable, and to use the tools provided by the United Nations Convention against Corruption.
As an age-old plague takes on new forms, let us combat it with new heights of resolve.
The award of this year's Nobel Prize for Peace to the United Nations World Food Programme recognizes the right of all people to food, and our common quest to achieve zero hunger.

In a world of plenty, it is a grave affront that hundreds of millions go to bed hungry each night.

The COVID-19 pandemic has further intensified food insecurity to a level not seen in decades.

Some 130 million people risk being pushed to the brink of starvation by the end of this year.

This is on top of the 690 million people who already lack enough to eat.

At the same time, more than 3 billion people cannot afford a healthy diet.

As we mark the 75th anniversary of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, we need to intensify our efforts to achieve the vision of the Sustainable Development Goals.

That means a future where everyone, everywhere, has access to the nutrition they need.

Next year, I will convene a Food Systems Summit to inspire action towards this vision.

We need to make food systems more resistant to volatility and climate shocks.

We need to ensure sustainable and healthy diets for all, and to minimize food waste.

And we need food systems that provide decent, safe livelihoods for workers.

We have the know-how and the capacity to create a more resilient, equitable and sustainable world.

On this World Food Day, let us make a commitment to "Grow, Nourish, and Sustain. Together".
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought renewed attention to the importance of strengthening disaster risk reduction.

Many countries are facing multiple crises simultaneously.

We will see more of this.

Extreme weather events have risen dramatically over the past two decades.

Yet, we have seen little progress on reducing climate disruption and environmental degradation.

Bad situations only get worse without good disaster risk governance.

Disaster risk isn't the sole responsibility of local and national authorities.

COVID-19 has shown us that systemic risk requires international cooperation.

Good disaster risk governance means acting on science and evidence.

And that requires political commitment at the highest level to deliver on the Sustainable Development Goals and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction.

To eradicate poverty and reduce the impacts of climate change, we must place the public good above all other considerations.

For these reasons and more, this year's International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction is all about strengthening disaster risk governance to build a safer and more resilient world.

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