António Guterres will discuss climate change, refugees, nuclear disarmament, and religious freedom with the pontiff.
Secretary General of the United Nations António Guterres is scheduled to travel to Rome and meet with Pope Francis, whom the UN representative praised in a recent interview as “a strong voice on the climate crisis, on poverty and inequality, on multilateralism, on the protection of refugees and migrants, on disarmament and many other important issues.”
These issues will be the topics of the conversation between the two world leaders as they collaborate to “build bridges.”
In an interview with Vatican News, Guterres outlined several of the UN’s concerns — not least of which is climate change, the topic of the COP25 conference, in Madrid. Guterres expressed his disappointment that the conference concluded without any formal agreement on the subject between world powers. The Secretary General renewed his commitment to carbon neutrality, stating:
“All countries must commit to cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 45 per cent from 2010 levels by 2030, and to achieving net zero CO2 emissions by 2050. Here, I must welcome the European Union’s commitment to reach carbon neutrality by 2050 and I urge countries worldwide to follow this example of climate action.”
As Pope Francis has been an outspoken proponent of carbon neutrality, he is expected to weigh in on the subject with Guterres. Pope Francis has also been one of the most prolific voices in the call for refugee protection, another topic the two will discuss.
Guterres suggested that reform is needed in all aspects of refugee life, from migration to resettlement. He cited migration as a dangerous practice, which often requires refugees to put their lives in the hands of those who should not be trusted:
“And we have to collaborate to counter the smugglers and criminals who enrich themselves on the backs of vulnerable people. Deadly shipwrecks cannot become the new normal. Solutions should also address the root causes leading to these dangerous journeys.”
On the other side, those refugees who do reach their destinations are often subjected to underfunded accommodations and disorganized services. Guterres called for “a real commitment to sharing responsibilities” and asked that all Member States show their solidarity with the countries who are on the “frontlines.”
In November, Pope Francis addressed an international symposium on disarmament and development, where he stated, “Weapons that result in the destruction of the human race are senseless even from a tactical standpoint.” Guterres agrees with Pope Francis and is expected to discuss worldwide nuclear disarmament with the pontiff. In the Vatican News interview, he commented:
“It is absolutely essential to bring nuclear disarmament back to the heart of the international agenda. It is also essential to make sure that the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, or NPT, maintains its status as a fundamental pillar of the global order.”
The Secretary General also brought up cyber attacks, which he worries could cause international incidents by “undermining trust and encouraging States to adopt offensive postures for the hostile use of cyberspace.” It is unclear if he will seek Pope Francis’ guidance on this topic, but he did express his desire to see the UN address this concern.
Another topic Guterres is expected to bring to Pope Francis is the worldwide increase in religious persecution, which has led to attacks on Christians, Muslims, and Jews alike. He called the recent declaration by Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of al-Azhar “an extremely important contribution for peaceful coexistence, mutual respect and understanding between different religious communities in the world.”