Guterres: “We Must Fight Nationalism, Populism. What Divides Us”

From the worst crisis since World War II, the UN chief, António Guterres, believes that he will only get out with more union, so he calls to fight “nationalism and populism” of those who want to take advantage of the pandemic to increase the division and inequality.


In an interview with EFE, the former Portuguese prime minister reviews the global response to the coronavirus, asks for more help for developing countries, specifically for Latin America, and ensures that the countless examples of citizen solidarity that are being seen reinforce his faith in nature human. Now, he says, it is time for leaders to listen.

Question: The world is going through a particularly troubled time. The pandemic, conflicts, now the wave of protests in the US Do you think we are facing a change of era?

Answer: We are, I believe, in the most dramatic crisis since World War II and there will inevitably be changes, but it is not yet clear in what sense we are going to change. I hope that the world recognizes the fragility of our societies, of the planet, that it understands that humility is necessary, that solidarity and unity are essential and that multilateral institutions must be strengthened.

We must fight nationalism, populism, xenophobia, racism, which divides us. We must understand that – with climate challenges, pandemics, the evolution of science and technology – we need to be much stronger and we will only be much stronger with unity and with the prospect of greater global governance, of a more shared sovereignty, of stronger multilateral institutions.

But this is something that is not yet guaranteed. Many are going to try to take advantage of the current situation to weaken multilateral institutions, to accentuate nationalisms, to accentuate selfishness, to increase inequalities. We need to unite to recover from COVID-19 and all other problems with a strategy of more sustainability and more inclusion.

If we achieve this there will be a change and a change for the better. If we don’t make it, there will be a change, but unfortunately a change for the worse.

Q: Precisely in this crisis there are countries that do the opposite. USA announced a few days ago his break with the World Health Organization, for example, what is your response?

A: That it is necessary to reinforce, not to weaken the multilateral institutions and that it is necessary to reinforce the capacity to coordinate the response to the pandemic.

Right now we have to support the World Health Organization, ensure that it has the necessary funds for all the action it has in developing countries, to allow us to be able to defeat this pandemic as quickly as possible.

Q: In the face of protests against racism in the United States, what is your message for the protesters and for President Donald Trump?

A: In situations like this, it is necessary that the States have the capacity to hear the concerns, the claims of the peoples, their hopes. And at the same time that the peoples demonstrate peacefully and that the authorities respond with restraint, avoiding violence. That is the most important.

At the same time, it must be understood that diversity is a wealth, not a threat. It is a wealth that needs to be cultivated, that needs a very strong investment in social cohesion.

I think this is very important in all parts of the world where we see a greater distance between peoples and governments. Trust must be rebuilt and the cohesion of our societies, the social contract, must also be rebuilt.

Q: Spain has been one of the places hardest hit by the pandemic, while your country, Portugal, has been one of the ones that has best managed the crisis. What can be learned from what Portugal has done?

A: I think it is important to see that the countries that were able to act earlier, to take strong action earlier, were the ones that have been the most successful up to now in the containment of COVID-19. But let’s not forget that the pandemic has epicenters that move. It started in China, Europe, here in the United States, now Latin America. And a new wave can reach the global North. We must guarantee that the action does not end (…) and not to think that the successes that were achieved in the past allow us to forget the need to maintain a strong determination.

Q: Latin America is a new epicenter. Do you think countries are rushing with the reopening?

A: For developing countries this is a very dramatic situation, because on the one hand there is COVID-19 and the impact on the deaths and suffering of the people, and on the other hand there is the impact of the economic crisis, and for many it is also a threat to their lives.

Balance needs to be found, but balance cannot be based on giving the pandemic free rein. Balance must guarantee a strong will to fight the pandemic and Latin America is the new epicenter. 800,000 infected, more than 38,000 dead and in countries many of which have health systems that are not strong enough. I believe that Latin America naturally needs adequate strategies to combat the crisis, but great solidarity from the international community, especially from the countries of the North, from developed countries, to allow Latin America to have the resources to combat the pandemic and lessen the economic and social impacts.

Q: Do you have a number in your head about the financial support the region needs?

A: We have been affirming from the beginning that a boost corresponding to two digits of the economy, a minimum of 10%, is necessary. And this is true globally. We are seeing it in developed countries, in the United States and in Europe, which corresponds more or less to the dimension of the recovery and combat programs to the pandemic. I believe that this is the volume of resources that should be available to developing countries.



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