UNITED NATIONS – (Associated Press) – In a worrying assessment, the head of the United Nations warned world leaders Tuesday that countries are “entangled in massive global dysfunction” and are not ready or prepared to meet the challenges that threaten the future of humanity – and 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 António Guterres was keen to stress that there is hope. But his comments reflected a tense and anxious world. He cited the war in Ukraine and escalating conflicts around the world, the climate emergency, the dire financial situation of developing countries, and setbacks in UN 2030 goals including ending extreme poverty and quality education for all children.
He also warned of what he called a “forest of red flags” about new technologies despite promising advances in treating diseases and connecting people. Guterres said social media platforms are based on a model that “generates anger, anger and negativity” and buys and sells data to “influence our behaviour.” He said AI “threatens the integrity of information systems, the media, and democracy itself.”
Guterres said the world lacks even the beginning of a “global architecture” to deal with the ripples caused by these new technologies due to “geopolitical tensions”.
His opening remarks came as leaders from around the world gathered at the United Nations headquarters in New York after three years of pandemic interruptions, including an all-virtual meeting in 2020 and a mixed meeting last year. The halls of the United Nations are once again filled this week with delegates who reflect the world’s cultures. Several faces were visible, although all delegates are required to wear masks except when speaking to ward off the coronavirus.
Guterres was keen to begin with a note of hope. He showed a picture of the first UN-chartered ship carrying grain from Ukraine – part of a deal between Ukraine and Russia that the UN and Turkey helped broker – to the Horn of Africa, where millions of people are on the brink of starvation. He is, he said, an epitome of promise and hope “in a world teeming with turmoil.”
He stressed that cooperation and dialogue is the only way forward to maintain world peace – two fundamental principles of the United Nations since its founding after World War II. He warned that “no single force or group can make the decision.”
“Let us act as one, as an alliance of the world, as a United Nations,” he urged the leaders gathered in the vast General Assembly Hall.
It’s seldom that easy. Guterres said geopolitical divisions undermine the work of the UN Security Council, international law, people’s trust in democratic institutions, and most forms of international cooperation.
The Secretary-General said: “The discord between developed and developing countries, between North and South, between the privileged and the rest, is becoming more and more serious by the day.” “It is the roots of geopolitical tensions and mistrust that poison every area of global cooperation, from vaccines to sanctions to trade.
Before the opening of the global meeting, leaders and ministers wearing masks to avoid the COVID-19 super-distributor event roamed the assembly hall, speaking individually and in groups. It was a sign that despite the fragmented state of the planet, the United Nations remains the principal gathering place for presidents, prime ministers, kings and ministers.
There are nearly 150 heads of state and government on the recent list of speakers, a significant number that reflects that the United Nations remains the only place not just to give their views but to meet privately to discuss challenges on the global agenda – and hopefully some progress.
The 77th General Assembly of world leaders is taking place in the shadow of Europe’s first major war since World War II – the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, which has unleashed a global food crisis and opened divisions among the major powers in a way not seen since the cold. war.
High on the agenda for many: Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24, which not only threatens the sovereignty of its smaller neighbor but has raised fears of a nuclear catastrophe at Europe’s largest nuclear plant in the southeast now occupied by Russia.
Leaders in many countries are trying to prevent a wider war and restore peace in Europe. However, diplomats do not expect any breakthroughs this week.
The loss of important grain and fertilizer exports from Ukraine and Russia has led to a food crisis, especially in developing countries, and inflation and a rising cost of living in many other countries. These issues are high on the agenda.
In a moving speech to Parliament, French President Emmanuel Macron said that no country could stand on the sidelines in the face of Russian aggression. He accused those who remain silent of being “in some way complicit in a new cause of imperialism” that tramples on the existing world order and makes peace impossible.
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, a traditional first speaker, called for an immediate ceasefire in Ukraine, the protection of civilians and the “preservation of all channels of dialogue between the parties”. He opposed what he called “unilateral or unilateral” Western sanctions, saying that they harmed economic recovery and threatened the human rights of vulnerable populations.
Ascending to the next podium, Senegal’s President Macky Sall, who heads the 55-nation African Union, called for a “de-escalation”, a cessation of hostilities and a “negotiated solution to avoid the catastrophic danger that could result from a potential global conflict”. He called or “a high-level mediation mission” and said the union was ready to contribute.
Jordan’s King Abdullah II said the pandemic, exacerbated by the crisis in Ukraine, has disrupted global supply chains and increased hunger. He said that many rich countries experiencing empty food shelves for the first time are “discovering a truth that people in developing countries have known for a long time – for countries to thrive, affordable food must reach every family’s table.”
“At the global level, this requires collective measures to ensure equitable access to affordable food, and to speed up the movement of foodstuffs to countries in need,” Abdullah said.
The death of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II and her funeral in London on Monday, which several world leaders attended, caused a last-minute headache for the high-level meeting. Diplomats and UN staff were quick to deal with changes in travel plans, the timing of events and the logistically complex schedule of speaking for world leaders.
There is one exception for personal letters. After objections from Russia and some allies, the council voted last Friday to allow Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to pre-record his speech for reasons beyond his control – “ongoing foreign invasion” and military hostilities that require him to carry out his “national defense and security duties.” His address will be presented Wednesday afternoon .
The President of the United States, who represents the host country of the United Nations, is traditionally the second speaker. But Joe Biden attended the Queen’s funeral, and his address was postponed to Wednesday morning.
Edith M. Lederer is the Associated Press’s chief UN correspondent and has covered international affairs for more than half a century. For more AP coverage of the United Nations General Assembly, visit https://apnews.com/hub/united-nations-general-assembly
Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.