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UN: the main challenges and key dates in 2024

António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations, outlined the priorities for 2024 and beyond to the UN General Assembly on 7 February.

It is a long and detailed agenda — but the varied challenges are connected by a common thread. Peace,” he told a press conference on 8 February.

On issues of peace and security — we face rising conflict and geopolitical divisions.  On issues of peace within communities — we see rising polarisation,” he continued.  “On issues of peace with justice — we have rising inequalities.  On issues of peace with nature, we have rising global emissions and global temperatures.”

Responding to crises and conflicts

To take action and “make a real and positive difference to people’s lives”, the UN chief said that in 2024 the UN will continue to respond to crises and conflicts as a priority.

The nuclear threat, the climate emergency and the dangers posed by unchecked artificial intelligence are all “existential challenges,” Mr. Guterres added.

No fewer than 181 million people in 72 countries need humanitarian aid and protection today.

Addressing threats to peace and security

The 11 UN peacekeeping missions deployed around the world contribute to the protection of civilians and the consolidation of peace, and are the subject of a discussion on their reform.

The Summit of the Future, scheduled for 22 and 23 September, will be one of the major events of 2024 and serves as an opportunity to strengthen multilateralism. The Secretary-General said he hopes the summit will lead to the approval of key aspects of his New Agenda for Peace, which sets out 12 major proposals on peace and security, unveiled in July 2023.

The Summit of the Future will focus on the necessary reform of the multilateral system to meet today’s major challenges, by filling the gaps in global governance and reaffirming existing commitments, in particular to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the UN Charter.

Taking climate action in 2024

Closely linked to managing the growing number and severity of climate-related crises, there will be no let-up in mobilisation for climate action in 2024. The Secretary-General has called on national governments to prepare new economy-wide national climate action plans to tackle the climate emergency.

The transition to renewable energies, to drastically reduce global greenhouse gas emissions, remains at the heart of the UN agenda in 2024. In addition to the next UN Climate Change Conference, COP29, which will take place from 11 to 22 November 2024 in Baku, Azerbaijan, the reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) will continue to set the benchmark.

The UN is also focusing on financing green transitions for developing countries, such as  through the proposed Climate Solidarity Pact put forward by the Secretary-General. It urges major emitters to make extra efforts to cut emissions and for wealthier countries to support emerging economies to do so.

Working towards sustainable development

At the UN’s 2023 SDG Summit, leaders adopted an action-oriented Political Declaration to improve access to finance for developing countries.

The declaration called for immediate action to implement the Secretary-General’s global SDG Stimulus plan, which calls for a massive increase in financing to achieve the SDGs and expresses strong support for reform of the international financial architecture.

Here again, the Summit of the Future will be crucial. It will build on the SDG Summit and should result in a “Pact for the Future” that will be adopted by Heads of State and Government, geared towards action by emphasising global solidarity with current and future generations.

The UN Civil Society Conference on 9 and 10 May in Nairobi, the 69th of its kind since 1947, will welcome 1,500 participants and will prepare for the Summit of the Future.

Major international meetings and conferences are also planned throughout 2024, including:

Defending human rights

The UN continues its commitment to protect and promote human rights.

In addition to Summit of the Future, human rights will be at the heart of the UN Code of Conduct for information integrity on digital platforms currently being developed, as well as the UN’s progress towards a global governance framework on artificial intelligence.

The UN continues to play a key role in the fight against racism, xenophobia, homophobia and all forms of hate speech. These are the subject of a UN strategy and action plan. A ceremony in the hall of the UN General Assembly will be held on April 12 in New York to mark the 30th commemoration of the genocide perpetrated against the Tutsi in Rwanda, a few days after the International Day of reflection dedicated to this genocide each year on 7 April.

Reforming global governance

To take action on climate change and achieve the SDGs, “a serious conversation will be needed between developed and developing countries, between rich and emerging economies, between North and South, East and West,” said Mr. Guterres at his press conference on 8 February.

These efforts will require “reforming institutions that were built by a bygone world, for a bygone age.  Starting with reform of the Security Council and the Bretton Woods institutions,” says the Secretary-General. He adds that the aim is to limit the risks, which have multiplied with the increasing multipolarity of the world.

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