The UN Secretary-General acknowledged that the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund were born in 1945, a time when many countries lived under colonial rule.
In his address at the outset of the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) on Tuesday, the UN Secretary Antonio Guterres proposed "renewing international institutions for the 21st century" grounded in "equity, solidarity, and universality."
In a world marred by divisions - among economic and military powers, between the North and the South, and between the East and the West - there is no alternative but to reform these institutions, lest we face "further fragmentation," he warned, adding that this won't be easy because "reforms are a matter of power."
Guterres started by acknowledging that the United Nations, the World Bank (WB), and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) were born in 1945, a time when many present-day countries lived under colonial rule.
"The world has changed; our institutions haven't," he summarized, explaining that they are not effectively addressing the issue of growing divisions, which are not limited to countries or blocs but are also emerging within democracies, where "authoritarianism is on the rise."
He cited numerous global hotspots grappling with multidimensional crises - the Sahel, Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Haiti, Myanmar, Palestine, or Syria - coupled with natural disasters, demonstrating that "the global humanitarian system is on the brink of collapse."
Next, Guterres emphasized that inequality fuels discontent: "If we don't feed the hungry, we are feeding conflict," he stated, highlighting that the best weapon against conflicts is to support the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
In this context, he urged countries to make three immediate commitments: commit US$500 billion annually to implement these SDGs in impoverished nations - countries that spend more on servicing their debt than on healthcare; reshape the structures of multilateral development banks, and devise mechanisms to alleviate the debt burden on the most affected countries.
He didn't forget to mention climate goals and contrasted the fact that the G20's most industrialized nations are responsible for 80 percent of carbon emissions, while African nations, despite having 60 percent of the world's solar capacity, receive only 2 percent of investments in renewable energy.
Guterres also addressed gender inequalities, noting that in many countries, women "are still waiting for equal opportunities, equal pay, or even equal treatment under the law, hoping that their work is valued and their voices are heard."
He concluded by making a plea to turn Artificial Intelligence into a tool for knowledge access rather than citizen control, emphasizing the need for global bodies to oversee its development and application.