UNITED NATIONS (AP) – Warning that the world is in “great danger,” the UN chief said leaders meeting in person for the first time in three years must address conflicts and climate disasters, increasing poverty and inequality — and address divisions among major powers that have worsened since the invasion Russia to Ukraine.
In speeches and remarks before the leaders’ meeting began on Tuesday, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres noted the “tremendous” task of not only saving the planet, “which is already on fire,” but also dealing with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. He also referred to the “lack of access to finance for developing countries to recover – a crisis we haven’t seen in a generation” which saw land wasted in the areas of education, health and women’s rights.
Guterres will deliver his State of the World address at the opening of the annual global high-level meeting on Tuesday. UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said it would be a “sober, objective and focused report card” for a world “where geopolitical divisions put us all at risk”.
“There will be no sugar coating in his remarks, but he will identify reasons for hope,” Dujarric told reporters on Monday.
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.
However, there are approximately 150 heads of state and government on the list of recent speakers. This is a sign that despite the fragmented state of the planet, the United Nations remains the primary gathering place for presidents, prime ministers, kings and ministers not only to express their views but to meet privately to discuss challenges on the global agenda – and hopefully some progress.
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.
At Monday’s meeting to advance the UN’s 2030 goals – including ending extreme poverty, ensuring quality education for all children and achieving gender equality – Guterres said that the world’s many pressing risks make it tempting to align our long-term development priorities to one side. “
But the Secretary-General said some things cannot wait – among them education, decent jobs, full equality for women and girls, universal health care and action to tackle the climate crisis. He called for financing, public and private investment, and above all peace.
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.
The global gathering, known as the General Debate, was completely hypothetical in 2020 due to the pandemic, and mixed in 2021. This year, the 193-member General Assembly returns to only personal speeches, with one exception – Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Despite objections from Russia and a few allies, the council voted last Friday to allow the Ukrainian leader 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”.
By tradition, Brazil spoke first for more than seven decades because it volunteered at early General Assembly sessions when no other country had done so.
The President of the United States, who represents the host country of the United Nations, is traditionally the second speaker. But Joe Biden is attending the Queen’s funeral, and his address has been postponed to Wednesday morning. Senegalese President Macky Sall is expected to take Biden’s position.
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.
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