‘Our world is in peril,’ UN secretary general warns general assembly


In an alarming assessment on Tuesday, the head of the United Nations warned world leaders that nations were “stuck in a colossal global dysfunction” and unready or unwilling to address the challenges that threaten humanity’s future – and that of the planet. “Our world is in danger – and paralyzed,” he said.

Speaking at the opening of the annual high-level meeting of the General Assembly, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres stressed that there is still hope. But his comments reflected a tense and worried world. He cited the war in Ukraine and multiplying conflicts around the world, the climate emergency, the poor financial situation of developing countries and setbacks to the UN’s 2030 goals, including an end to extreme poverty and quality education for all children.

He also warned of what he called a “red flag forest” around new technologies, despite promising advances in curing disease and connecting people. Guterres said that social media platforms are built on a model “that monetizes outrage, anger and negativity.” Artificial intelligence, he said, “compromises the integrity of information systems, the media, and even democracy itself.”

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The world lacks even the beginning of a “global architecture” to deal with the ripples caused by these new technologies due to “geopolitical tensions,” Guterres said.

1st full NY meeting since 2019

His opening remarks came as leaders from around the world convened again at the UN headquarters in New York after three years of pandemic disruptions, including an all-virtual meeting in 2020 and a hybrid meeting last year. This week, the halls of the United Nations are once again filled with delegates who reflect the cultures of the world. Many faces were visible, although all delegates are required to wear masks except when speaking to ward off the coronavirus.

Guterres made sure he started with a glimmer of hope. He showed video of the first UN-chartered ship transporting grain from Ukraine – part of the Ukraine-Russia deal that the UN and Turkey helped broker – to the Horn of Africa, where millions of people have been displaced face a famine. It is an example of promise and hope “in a world in turmoil,” he said.

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He stressed that the only way forward is cooperation and dialogue – two fundamental UN principles since its inception after World War II. And he warned that “no single power or group can call the shots”.

“Let us work as one, as a coalition of the world, as a united nations,” he urged the leaders gathered in the vast General Assembly Hall.

Geopolitical divisions undermine the work of the UN Security Council, international law, people’s trust in democratic institutions and most forms of international cooperation, Guterres said.

“The divergence between developed and developing countries, between North and South, between the privileged and the rest is becoming more dangerous by the day,” said the Secretary-General. “It is at the root of the geopolitical tensions and lack of trust that poison every area of ​​global cooperation, from vaccines to trade sanctions.

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Almost 150 executives speak

Nearly 150 leaders are on the latest list of speakers, a high number that reflects the United Nations is the only place where they not only voice their views but also come together privately to address challenges on the global agenda discuss – and hopefully make some progress.

At a meeting Monday to promote the UN’s 2030 goals — including ending extreme poverty, ensuring a quality education for all children and achieving gender equality — Guterres said the world’s many pressing dangers make it “tempting.” to put aside our long-term development priorities. “

But the UN chief said some things couldn’t wait – including education, decent 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 most importantly, peace.

After two years of holding the session virtually or in a hybrid format, 157 heads of state and government officials are expected to attend the UN General Assembly in person. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

The death of Queen Elizabeth and her funeral on Monday in London, attended by many leaders, have caused a last-minute headache for the high-level meeting. Diplomats and UN officials have grappled with changes in travel plans, the timing of events and the logistically complicated speaking schedule for world leaders.

The global gathering, known as the General Debate, was entirely virtual in 2020 because of the pandemic and hybrid in 2021. This year, the 193-member General Assembly is returning to speaking in person only, with one exception – Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Despite objections from Russia and some allies, last Friday’s assembly voted to allow the Ukrainian leader to pre-record his speech for reasons beyond his control — the “ongoing foreign invasion” and military hostilities forcing him to its “national defense and security missions.”

The US President, representing the host country at the United Nations, is traditionally the second speaker. But Joe Biden attended the Queen’s funeral, so his speech was pushed back to Wednesday morning.



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