Tuesday, September 20, 2022 | 8:19 a.m.
The United Nations chief warned that the world faces a “great danger” and leaders meeting in person for the first time in three years must address conflicts and climate catastrophes, a rise in poverty and inequality, and manage divisions between great powers. that have gotten worse since Russia invaded Ukraine.
In speeches and statements before the leaders’ meeting began on Tuesday, Secretary-General António Guterres pointed to the “immense” task of not only saving the planet, “which is literally on fire,” but also dealing with the persistent COVID-19 pandemic. He also mentioned “a lack of access to financing for developing countries to recover, a crisis not seen in a generation” that has led to a setback in education, health and women’s rights.
Guterres will deliver his “state of the world” address at the opening of the annual summit on Tuesday, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said. It will be a “solemn, robust, solutions-focused wake-up call” for a world “where geopolitical divisions put us all at risk.” “Your speech from him will be unceremonious, but it will point out reasons for hope,” Dujarric told reporters on Monday.
The 77th General Assembly of world leaders is taking place in the shadow of the first major war in Europe since World War II, the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, which has triggered a global food crisis and opened up fractures between the great powers on an unprecedented scale. since the Cold War.
However, nearly 150 heads of state and government will speak at the meeting. That is an indication that despite the divisions, the United Nations remains the crucial forum for presidents, prime ministers, monarchs and ministers not only to express their opinions but to hold private meetings and discuss challenges on the global agenda, and hopefully to make progress.
For many, the first thing on that agenda is Russia’s February 24 invasion of Ukraine, which not only threatens the sovereignty of its smaller neighbor but has raised fears of a catastrophe at Europe’s largest nuclear power plant. , in the southeast of the country and now occupied by Russia.
Leaders of many countries try to stop the war from spreading and restore peace to Europe. However, diplomats were not expecting any major breakthroughs this week.
The loss of important Ukrainian and Russian grain and fertilizer exports has triggered a food crisis, especially in developing countries, and pushed up inflation and the cost of living in many others. These issues are among the highest priorities of the summit.
At a meeting Monday to push for the United Nations’ 2030 goals, which include ending extreme poverty, ensuring quality education for all children and achieving gender equality, Guterres said many of the world’s pressing dangers make it “tempting to set aside our long-term development priorities.”
However, she affirmed, some things cannot wait, such as education, decent employment, full equality for women and girls, complete healthcare and measures to combat the climate crisis. She called for public and private investment and financing, and above all for peace.
The death of Queen Elizabeth II and her funeral in London on Monday, attended by many world leaders, has created last-minute complications for the summit. Diplomats and UN staff have tried to square the changes in travel plans, schedules and logistical details of the interventions of world leaders.
The global meeting, known as the General Debate, was held virtually in 2020 due to the pandemic and in a hybrid format in 2021. This year, the 193-member General Assembly is held with face-to-face speeches with one exception: the president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
Despite the objections of Russia and a few allies, the assembly voted last Friday in favor of the president recording his speech in advance for reasons beyond his control, the “ongoing foreign invasion” and military hostilities that force him to to carry out its “national security and defense duties”.
By tradition, Brazil is the first country to speak for seven decades because in the first sessions of the General Assembly it volunteered to start when no one else did.
The president of the United States, who represents the UN host country, is usually the second speaker. But Joe Biden has traveled to Britain for the queen’s funeral and his speech has been postponed to Wednesday morning. The president of Senegal, Macky Sall, is scheduled to speak in the strip that Biden was to occupy.