UN chief determined to address pandemics, int'l financial system governance deficits in 2022

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United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Thursday in his end-of-year press stakeout that he is determined to address the deficits in the governance of both pandemics and international financial system.

"We have a serious governance problem with respect to the prevention, detection and response to pandemics. And we have a serious governance problem in relation to the international financial system," the UN chief told reporters virtually.

"I am determined that 2022 must be the year in which we finally address the deficits in both governance systems," he stressed. "In making those much-needed reforms, we will move to a much more fair, peaceful and sustainable world."

In his opening remarks, the top UN official listed a number of serious problems facing today's world, including the COVID-19 pandemic, inequalities, the burden on developing countries and climate crisis.

On the pandemic, Guterres said that "COVID-19 is not going away," while warning that 98 countries have not been able to meet that end-of-year target of vaccination.

"Forty countries have not yet even been able to vaccinate 10 percent of their population. In lower-income countries, less than 4 percent of the population are fully vaccinated," he added.

"Transmissions show no sign of letting up. This is driven by vaccine inequity, hesitancy and complacency," said the secretary-general.

Two months ago, the World Health Organization (WHO) unveiled a strategy to vaccinate 40 percent of people in all countries by the end of the year, and 70 percent by the middle of next year.

"At current rates, Africa will not meet the 70 percent threshold until August 2024," warned Guterres.

The UN chief underscored that vaccine inequity is giving variants "a free pass to run wild -- ravaging the health of people and economies in every corner of the globe."

"We cannot defeat a pandemic in an uncoordinated way," he pointed out.

"Countries must take concrete action in the coming days to make greater progress to achieve WHO's global 40 percent target, and be far more ambitious in their efforts to reach 70 percent of people in all countries by the middle of 2022," said the secretary-general.

On economies, the UN chief said that "countries and economies are getting squeezed from all sides -- especially in the developing world."

"Lopsided COVID-19 recovery efforts are accelerating inequalities and increasing stresses on economies and people," he added.

The secretary-general said that defaults will become inevitable for lower income countries that already bear much higher borrowing costs.

"The need to service an ever-mounting and more expensive debt will leave developing countries with little fiscal space for recovery, job creation, climate action, reimagining education and reskilling and training workers, and so much more," he spelled out.

"Today's global financial system is supercharging inequalities and instability," underscored the secretary-general. "It is a system that allows credit rating agencies to undermine the credibility of developing countries with good growth prospects and vital development needs, and makes private finance become risk averse."

Referring to the United States, the secretary-general said that "inflation here in the United States has risen to a 40-year high and we see it growing elsewhere."

"As the (U.S.) Federal Reserve indicated just yesterday, interest rates will rise with it -- and that will place even greater fiscal constraints on the countries that need help the most," he stressed.

Talking about inequalities, Guterres noted that "inequalities keep widening. Social upheaval and polarization keep growing. And the risks keep increasing."

"This is a powder keg for social unrest and instability. It poses a clear and present danger to democratic institutions," he stressed, adding that "it is time to clearly assume the need for reform of the international financial system."

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