The Munich Security Conference kicked off Friday as a “special edition” with world leaders attending the annual event virtually because of the pandemic.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres, WHO Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus, US President Joseph Biden, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron, and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson were among the participants.
The conference, also called the ‘Davos for Defense’, provides a platform to discuss transatlantic, foreign, and security policies. This year, the fight against the pandemic and climate change were key issues.
The multi-day conference that has taken place every year in Munich in February since 1963 was now an online event, scheduled to wrap up after just three hours on Friday.
In his statement, entitled ‘Priorities for Global Action’, the Secretary-General urged that 2021 must be the year to get on track. The recovery from the pandemic should be seen as an opportunity. One of the top priorities should be a global vaccination plan. “Countries need to share excess doses and provide the $6.8 billion needed for the COVAX initiative. We also need at least a doubling of global manufacturing capacity, through sharing of licenses and technology transfer”, Guterres argued.
He suggested that the G20 is well placed to establish an Emergency Task Force to prepare such a Global Vaccination Plan, bringing together countries, companies, international organizations and financial institutions.
In his speech, Guterres also highlighted another urgent global priority: to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions by mid-century. He stressed that there is reason for hope as countries representing more than 65 per cent of emissions and more than 70 per cent of the world economy have committed to net zero greenhouse emissions by 2050. “Let’s expand this coalition to 90 per cent by the November Climate Conference in Glasgow”, he stated.
The Secretary-General also urged Member States to ease geopolitical tensions and enhance diplomacy for peace. Otherwise, it would be impossible to solve the biggest problems “when the biggest powers are at odds.”
Turning to global governance, Guterres highlighted the need for further reforms. “We do not need new bureaucracies. But we do need to strengthen multilateralism so that the world has an inclusive multilateralism that engages businesses, cities, universities and movements for gender equality, climate action and racial justice.”
He concluded by saying that “many believe that growing multipolarity in the world will guarantee peace.”
The organizers of the Munich Security Conference hope that the meeting can take place in person later in 2021 – pandemic permitting.