United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres eats food along with Minister for Religious Affairs Noorul Haq Qadri during his visit to the Baba Guru Nanak Dev shrine at Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur on Tuesday.—AFP
United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres eats food along with Minister for Religious Affairs Noorul Haq Qadri during his visit to the Baba Guru Nanak Dev shrine at Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur on Tuesday.—AFP

LAHORE: United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres has said the veto power of five permanent members of the Security Council is against the “spirit of equilibrium” and claimed that the UN is taking steps to ensure equality among the people as well as states.

Terming the Kartarpur corridor a great peace initiative, the UN chief expressed the hope that it would help in establishing sustainable peace between Pakistan and India.

Mr Guterres, who arrived here from Islamabad on Monday night, spent a busy day in Punjab where he administered polio drops to children at a kindergarten in Lahore’s DHA, interacted with students’ representatives at the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS), visited the Sikh sacred place Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in the Kartarpur area of Narowal district before returning to see Badshahi mosque and Shahi Qila in the evening, where he was hosted at Shahi Kitchen by Governor Chaudhry Mohammad Sarwar.

The UN chief during these visits also spoke his mind on Kashmir, youth participation in political systems and international organisations, lack of political will to reverse climate emergency, and gender equality.

While interacting with LUMS students, Mr Guterres said: “…the veto power right to five permanent members of the Security Council is against the spirit of equilibrium.” However, he explained that there was no equality at the international level among countries. He admitted that elimination of inequality would be a long process. He claimed that the UN was taking steps to ensure equality among the people as well as states but said: “Power has to be taken, it is not given”.

Hopes Kartarpur corridor will help establish an abiding peace between Islamabad and Delhi

The secretary-general declared climate change as defining issue of the era but regretted at the missing political will to wage a war on it. “We do not have the political will to reverse the climate emergency we live in despite being citizens of a global world,” he said.

Referring to the challenges of record increase in levels of air, land and sea pollutions, rising temperatures, and melting of glaciers, the UN chief said the nature was striking back with enormous power while “we are yet indecisive on the decisions needed to reverse the process”.

Calling for containing the rise in temperature to 1.5 degrees Celsius in the next decade, Mr Guterres believed mobilization of youth was important to counter the challenge because the climate change would impact younger generation more in coming decades.

He said the UN’s ‘Youth Climate Summit’ in September last was meant to make politicians understand that things have to be changed on climate.

Supporting the single-use-plastic ban, he argued they posed a great threat to environment and urged the governments to ban it across the world.

Mr Guterres called for more youth participation within political systems and international organisations saying “the presence of youth is absolutely essential in power corridors where decisions are made, policies are defined and actions are implemented.”

He admitted that his generation failed to achieve the desired goals of reversing emergency in climate chan­­ge, fair distribution of resou­r­­ces among all segments of societies, regulating new te­­chnologies and avoiding conflicts.

He said that though globalisation brought “enormous benefits” to the world, it was also responsible for leading to higher poverty levels posing a threat to social cohesion.

Calling upon the governments to formulate economic and social strategies under which globalisation worked for all and none was left be­­hind, the UN secretary gen­­eral warned that “if things moved in the current manner, the Sustainable Develop­ment Goals for 2030 will not be achieved”.

Expressing the hope that women’s presence in world bodies would introduce compassion required to control the permanent cycles of conflict, he disclosed that the UN was evolving a strategy for equal roles of men and women in all world bodies by 2028.

Earlier, while administering polio drops to children in Lahore, Mr Guterres offered full support to the governm­ent in its fight against polio.

Responding to a question, he said civic space was shrin­king in many societies as more human rights activists were in jails today, but added that young people could play a vital role in safeguarding human rights in societies.

On the human rights situation in India-held Kashmir, the UN chief said the people of Kashmir had every right to humane treatment and protection of their political rights and fundamental freedoms. He said human rights were not just political rights but there were also economic and social rights.

Hailing the Kartarpur pro­­­ject as an ample proof of Pak­is­­tan’s desire for peace, Mr Guterres expre­ssed the hope that it would help in establishing a sustainable peace between Pakistan and India, besides ensuring easy access to the Indian Sikh community to visit the sacred place.

He visited different sections of Gurdwara Darbar Sahib and met Sikh pilgrims.

Our Narowal correspondent also contributed to this report

Published in Dawn, February 19th, 2020