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The war in Ukraine, which threatens a nuclear disaster and highlights the divisions of the UN, takes center stage in the General Assembly

United Nations — United Nations officials had hoped that this year’s General Assembly in New York — the first annual meeting held by the world body’s nearly 200 nations since the coronavirus pandemic hit—would take a broad approach to the many crises facing humanity right now. But with the war on Ukraine threatening to add a nuclear disaster to that long list, it is hard to imagine the UNGA having much attention to spare on the other hot-button issues.

After two years of video and hybrid meetings, the World Series of diplomacy returns to New York this week: Representatives from 193 governments gathered in the iconic General Assembly Hall, including more heads of state than ever, according to the White House.

They are meeting this year as the ongoing war in Ukraine presents Europe with a very real nuclear threat. On Monday, Ukraine once again accused Vladimir Putin’s regime of “nuclear terrorism” after a Russian missile hit near a nuclear power plant in the south of the country.

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Leaders meeting at UN headquarters in the coming days will hear a direct video appeal from Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to help defend their nation from Russian aggression.

UN delegations had to vote on whether Zelenskyy should be allowed to address the assembly from his home country since, this year, speakers must be there in person. Russia objected, but the other members voted to allow it due to “ongoing foreign invasion, aggression, military hostilities that do not allow safe departure and return” to Ukraine.

Putin will not attend the General Assembly.

However, Ukraine’s first lady, Olena Zelenska, will be in New York this week. Underlining a focus on Ukraine, she is set to launch her charity, the Olena Zelenska Foundation, to raise funds for medicine, education and humanitarian aid for Ukraine at an event Thursday night at the Metropolitan Opera.

“Never before has Ukraine sent a representative to the US to ask the American people for help,” said historian and CBS News contributor Dr. Amanda Foreman.

Climate change

Despite the heavy focus on the Ukraine war and the global food crisis it has caused, world leaders will also meet on record. floods in pakistan continues to take a heavy toll, both financially and in human lives, and right after hurricane fiona crashed into the Dominican Republic, causing “catastrophic” damage. A massive storm it also arrived in Alaska earlier this week.

“Don’t flood the world today, don’t drown it tomorrow”, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres told reporters last weekwarning that his recent visit to flood-ravaged Pakistan had offered him a worrying glimpse into a “future of permanent and pervasive climate chaos on an unimaginable scale”.

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Guterres is expected to highlight the climate crisis in his opening speech at the high-level debate on Tuesday, saying geopolitical divisions are paralyzing “the global response to the dramatic challenges we face.”

Reform a crippled UN

UN General Assemblies have brought news, and traffic jam — since 1945. Since then, 13 US presidents have used speeches to the assembly to define America’s place in the world, as President Biden is expected to do with his speech on Wednesday.

The United States is leading the chorus in favor of UN reform at a time when the world body seems bogged down by the structure created when it was founded after World War II. UN rules, which give the Security Council’s permanent members the unilateral ability to block resolutions, have left it unable to stop the war in Ukraine or prevent the war from wreaking havoc on global supply chains and distribution. food.

On Wednesday, Mr. Biden will focus on renewing engagement with all regions of the world with a message emphasizing that “respect for the fundamental principles of the international order is needed now more than ever.” according to john kirbythe US National Security Council Strategic Communications Coordinator.

“Right now, the United Nations is facing a crisis of confidence,” US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield said. “It is a crisis of confidence caused by Russia’s unprovoked war in Ukraine. Even when the world was facing the threat of climate change, a pandemic, a world food crisis, one of the permanent members of the Security Council invaded his neighbor. “

“This war tests the fundamental principles on which the UN was founded, but our response to Russia’s flagrant violations cannot be to abandon the fundamental principles of this organization that we believe in so strongly,” he said, adding that the General Assembly “is not dominated” by Ukraine.

Guterres was to open the high-level sessions on Tuesday with a “sober, substantive and solutions-focused briefing on the state of our world, where geopolitical divisions put us all at risk,” according to UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric. .

The UN Security Council will hold a side meeting Thursday on Ukraine’s sovereignty and Russia’s responsibility, with the US Secretary of State and the Ukrainian and Russian Foreign Ministers in attendance. The United States will seek to highlight the atrocities being committed in Ukraine, to further isolate Russia.

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But Guterres has not expressed optimism about possible breakthroughs during that meeting.

“Anything that can help rebuild trust is helpful, but it would be naive to think that we are close to the possibility of a peace agreement.” told CBS News at a news conference.

Former UN chief Dag Hammarskjold once said: “The United Nations was not created to take us to heaven, but to save us from hell.”

This week will give world leaders time to reflect on the urgency of that goal.

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