HomeWorldUN chief: The world is 'gridlocked' and equity is slipping away

UN chief: The world is ‘gridlocked’ and equity is slipping away

By EDITH M. LEDERER, Associated Press

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — In an alarming assessment, the head of the United Nations warned world leaders Tuesday that nations are “paralyzed in a colossal global dysfunction” and are neither ready nor willing to meet the challenges that threaten the future. of humanity and the planet. . “Our world is in peril and at a standstill,” he said.

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

He also warned of what he called “a forest of red flags” around new technologies despite promising advances in curing disease and connecting people. Guterres said social media platforms are built on a model “that monetizes outrage, anger and negativity” and buys and sells data “to influence our behavior.” Artificial intelligence, he said, “is compromising the integrity of information systems, the media and, indeed, democracy itself.”

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.

Political cartoons about world leaders

Political Cartoons

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

Guterres made sure to start on a hopeful note. He showed a photo of the first UN-chartered ship carrying grain from Ukraine — part of the Ukraine-Russia deal that the United Nations and Turkey helped broker — to the Horn of Africa, where millions are on the brink of famine. it is, he said, an example of promise and hope “in a world full of confusion.”

He stressed that cooperation and dialogue are the only way forward to maintain world peace, two fundamental principles of the UN since its founding after World War II. And he warned that “no single power or group can make decisions.”

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

It is rarely that easy. Geopolitical divisions are undermining 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 the North and the South, between the privileged and the rest, is becoming more dangerous every 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 sanctions to trade.

Before the global gathering opened, leaders and ministers wearing masks to prevent a COVID-19 super-spread event roamed the assembly hall, chatting individually and in groups. It was a sign that despite the fragmented state of the planet, the United Nations remains the key meeting place for presidents, prime ministers, monarchs and ministers.

Nearly 150 heads of state and government are on the most recent list of speakers, a high number that reflects that the United Nations remains the only place not only to express their views, but also to meet in private to discuss challenges on the global agenda and hopefully make some progress.

The 77th session of the General Assembly of world leaders is meeting under 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 fissures between major powers in a way not seen since the Cold. War.

At the top of the agenda for many: the Russian 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 of the country now occupied by Russia.

The leaders of many countries are trying to prevent a wider war and restore peace in Europe. However, diplomats do not expect any progress this week.

The loss of important grain and fertilizer exports from Ukraine and Russia has triggered a food crisis, especially in developing countries, and inflation and rising costs of living in many others. Those issues are also high on the agenda.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, traditionally the first speaker, called for an immediate ceasefire in Ukraine, the protection of civilians and “the maintenance of all channels of dialogue between the parties.” He opposed what he called “unilateral or one-sided” Western sanctions, saying they have damaged economic recovery and threatened the human rights of vulnerable populations.

The president of Senegal, Maky Sall, who chairs the 55-nation African Union, and took the podium next, called for “de-escalation”, the cessation of hostilities and “a negotiated solution to avoid the catastrophic risk of a potentially global conflict” . He called for a “high-level mediation mission” and said the union is 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. Many affluent 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 prosper, affordable food must reach the table of every family.” , said.

“Globally, this calls for collective action to ensure fair access to affordable food and speed up the movement of staple foods to countries that need them,” Abdullah said.

The death of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II and her funeral in London on Monday, attended by many world leaders, created last-minute headaches for the high-level meeting. Diplomats and UN staff have scrambled to deal with changing travel plans, the timing of events and the logistically complicated schedule of speeches by world leaders.

There is an exception to in-person speeches. Despite objections from Russia and some allies, the assembly voted last Friday to allow Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to pre-record his speech due to reasons beyond his control: the “ongoing foreign invasion” and military hostilities that require carry out its “national defense”. and security duties.” His address will be shown on 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 speech was postponed to Wednesday morning.

Edith M. Lederer is chief UN correspondent for The Associated Press and has been covering international affairs for more than half a century. For more AP coverage of the UN 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.

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