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UN chief: Colonialism, patriarchy have created historic inequality

Antonio Guterres called for a new social contract and global deal while speaking at the 18th annual Nelson Mandela Lecture on Saturday.

FILE: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres at the Global Refugee Forum in Geneva, Switzerland on 17 December 2019. Picture: @UNGeneva/Twitter.

CAPE TOWN - United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the world is at breaking point and it is time for leaders to decide which path to follow.

Guterres called for a new social contract and global deal while speaking at the 18th annual Nelson Mandela Lecture on Saturday.

The virtual lecture organised by the Nelson Mandela Foundation took place under the theme ‘Tackling the Inequality Pandemic: A New Social Contract for a New Era’.

Guterres described inequality as an issue which “defines our time” and risks destroying the world’s economies and societies.

He said colonialism and patriarchy have created a historic inequality.

“The nations that came out on top more than seven decades ago have refused to contemplate the reforms needed to change power relations in international institutions. The composition and voting rights in the United Nations Security Council and the boards of the Bretton Woods system are a case in point.

“Inequality starts at the top: in global institutions. Addressing inequality must start by reforming them. And let’s not forget another great source of inequality in our world: millennia of patriarchy. We live in a male-dominated world with a male-dominated culture.”

He highlighted the struggles faced by women across the world.

“Everywhere, women are worse off than men, simply because they are women. Inequality and discrimination are the norm. Violence against women, including femicide, is at epidemic levels.”

Guterres said the coronavirus pandemic has created an opportunity to build a more equal and sustainable world.

As part of the new social contract, he suggests labour market policies be based on constructive dialogue between employers and workers to ensure human rights and fundamental freedoms.

“The response to the pandemic, and to the widespread discontent that preceded it, must be based on a New Social Contract and a New Global Deal that create equal opportunities for all and respect the rights and freedoms of all.”

WATCH: Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture

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