New UN chief at Davos seeks allies in business
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres delivers a speech during a session of the World Economic Forum, on Jan 19, 2017 in Davos. (Photo: AFP/Fabrice Coffrini)
Guterres took over from Ban Ki-moon on Jan 1 with an ambitious plan to reform the United Nations at a time when it is struggling to raise funds for its humanitarian work and to address global crises.
The UN chief singled out business as the "best allies" to shield the Paris climate deal from "the possibility of less supportive action of some governments", in a veiled reference to US President-elect Donald Trump.
Trump, who takes office on Friday, has expressed scepticism about climate change, raising fears that he will withdraw the United States from the Paris deal on combating global warming.
"I would say that the best allies of all those who want to make sure that the Paris agreements are implemented, the best allies today in the world are probably in the business sector and it is very important to fully mobilise them," Guterres said.
Businesses are leading the way by investing heavily in the new green economy, he argued, putting their money behind the Paris agreement's goal of moving the world away from fossil fuels.
The former Portuguese prime minister, who lead the UN refugee agency for a decade, described an "alignment" between business and the "strategic goals of the international community."
The United Nations is pushing a new development agenda that calls for the end of extreme poverty by 2030, along with improving education, health and the environment worldwide.
The so-called Agenda 2030, however, will require trillions of dollars in investments from governments, aid donors and businesses.
In his pitch for private sector support, Guterres said that implementing Agenda 2030 could generate US$30 billion per year in returns on investment.
"I believe that there is now an opportunity for a new platform of partnership, at a higher level," he told the gathering of the world's elite.
This partnership could help the United Nations push its new development agenda and address challenges in the future, he said.
Guterres cited genetic engineering, artificial intelligence and cyber-space as examples, arguing that cooperation with business could "allow for a fantastic increase in the well-being of people".