UNITED NATIONS, New York: Warning that the world is in “great peril,” the UN chief says leaders meeting in person for the first time in three years must tackle conflict and climate disasters, to rising poverty and inequality – and to resolve the great power divisions that have deepened since Russia invaded Ukraine.
In speeches and remarks leading up to the start of the leaders’ meeting on Tuesday, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres cited the “tremendous” task not only of saving the planet, “which is literally on fire”, but of dealing with the persistence of COVID-19. 19 pandemic. He also pointed to “a lack of access to finance for developing countries to recover – a crisis not seen in a generation” that has lost ground for education, health and women’s rights.
António Guterres delivered his “state of the world” address at the opening of the annual high-level global gathering on Tuesday. UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said it contained “a sober, substantial and solutions-oriented assessment” for a world “where geopolitical divisions put us all at risk”.
In an alarming assessment, António Guterres told world leaders that nations are “stuck in a colossal global dysfunction” and are unprepared or unwilling to address major challenges that threaten the future of humanity and the fate of the world. planet.
Speaking at the opening of the annual high-level meeting of the General Assembly, the UN chief highlighted the war in Ukraine, the increase in conflicts in the world, the climate emergency, the financial situation disaster in developing countries and the recent setbacks in progress on such goals as the eradication of extreme poverty and the provision of quality education to all children.
“Our world is in peril – and paralyzed,” said António Guterres.
But he said there was hope.
Emphasizing that cooperation and dialogue are the only way forward, he warned that “no power or group alone can make the decisions”.
“Let us work together, as a coalition of the world, as a united nation,” he urged the leaders gathered in the vast hall of the General Assembly.
The 77th meeting of the General Assembly of world leaders meets under the shadow of Europe’s first great war since World War II – the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, which sparked a global food crisis and opened fissures between the great powers in a way not seen since the Cold War.
Yet nearly 150 heads of state and government are on the latest list of speakers. It is a sign that despite the fragmented state of the planet, the United Nations remains the main gathering place for presidents, prime ministers, monarchs and ministers not only to express their views, but also to meet privately to discuss challenges on the global agenda – and hopefully make some headway.
At the top of this agenda for many: Russia’s February 24 invasion of Ukraine, which not only threatens the sovereignty of its smaller neighbor but has raised fears of a nuclear disaster at Ukraine’s largest nuclear power plant. Europe in the southeast of the country, now occupied by Russia.
The leaders of many countries are trying to prevent a wider war and restore peace in Europe. Diplomats, however, do not expect any breakthrough this week.
The loss of important grain and fertilizer exports from Ukraine and Russia has triggered a food crisis, particularly in developing countries, as well as inflation and the rising cost of living in many many others. These questions are on the agenda.
At a meeting on Monday to promote the UN’s 2030 goals – including ending extreme poverty, ensuring quality education for all children and achieving gender equality – António Guterres said the many pressing perils around the world make it “tempting to set aside our long-term development priorities”. ”
But the UN chief said some things couldn’t wait, including education, dignified jobs, full equality for women and girls, comprehensive healthcare and action to tackle the climate crisis . He called for public and private funding and investment, and above all for peace.
The death of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II and her funeral in London on Monday, which many world leaders attended, created last-minute headaches for the high-level meeting. Diplomats and UN staff have scrambled to cope with changes in travel plans, the calendar of events and the logistically complex schedule of speeches by world leaders.
The global gathering, known as the General Debate, was fully virtual in 2020 due to the pandemic, and hybrid in 2021. This year, the 193-member General Assembly is returning to in-person speeches only, with one exception. : Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Despite objections from Russia and some allies, the assembly voted last Friday to allow the Ukrainian leader to pre-record his speech for reasons beyond his control – the “ongoing foreign invasion” and military hostilities that require it to carry out its “national defense and security missions”.
By tradition, Brazil has spoken first for more than seven decades because, in the first sessions of the General Assembly, it has volunteered to go first when no other country has done so.
The US president, representing the host country of the United Nations, is traditionally the second speaker. But Joe Biden is attending the Queen’s funeral, and his speech has been pushed back to Wednesday morning. Senegalese President Macky Sall is expected to take Biden’s place.