By Yoshita Singh
United Nations, Sep 20 (PTI) UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Tuesday voiced concern that the international community is “not ready or willing” to tackle the “big dramatic challenges of our age”, warning that the world is in "peril and paralysed".
“Let’s have no illusions. We are in rough seas. A winter of global discontent is on the horizon. A cost-of-living crisis is raging. Trust is crumbling. Inequalities are exploding. Our planet is burning. People are hurting – with the most vulnerable suffering the most," Guterres said in his address to the world leaders gathered here for the opening of the General Debate of the 77th session of the UN General Assembly.
The United Nations Charter and the ideals it represents, he said, are in jeopardy.
"We have a duty to act. And yet we are gridlocked in colossal global dysfunction,” Guterres said.
The UN chief said, "The international community is not ready or willing to tackle the big dramatic challenges of our age. These crises threaten the very future of humanity and the fate of our planet. Crises like the war in Ukraine and the multiplication of conflicts around the globe. Crises like the climate emergency and biodiversity loss.
"Crises like the dire financial situation of developing countries and the fate of the Sustainable Development Goals. And crises like the lack of guardrails around promising new technologies to heal disease, connect people and expand opportunity," he said.
Guterres said progress on several issues is being held hostage to geopolitical tensions.
“Our world is in peril – and paralysed. Geopolitical divides are undermining the work of the Security Council, undermining international law, undermining trust and people’s faith in democratic institutions, undermining all forms of international cooperation. We cannot go on like this,” he said.
He said the world is witnessing the threat of dangerous divisions between West and South. “The risks to global peace and security are immense. We must keep working for peace in line with the United Nations Charter and international law.”
Guterres told the world leaders that even the various groupings set up outside the multilateral system by some members of the international community have fallen into the trap of geopolitical divides, like the G-20.
“At one stage, international relations seemed to be moving toward a G-2 world; now we risk ending up with G-nothing. No cooperation. No dialogue. No collective problem solving,” he said.
The UN chief underlined that the reality is that “we live in a world where the logic of cooperation and dialogue is the only path forward. No power or group alone can call the shots”.
“No major global challenge can be solved by a coalition of the willing. We need a coalition of the world,” he said.
Guterres said humanitarian crises are spreading – often far from the spotlight. The funding gap for the Global Humanitarian Appeal stands at USD 32 billion – the widest ever.
The UN chief listed the global upheaval across the world, including in Afghanistan, where the economy is in ruins, over half of all Afghans face extreme levels of hunger, while human rights – particularly the rights of women and girls -- are being trampled.
“In Myanmar, the appalling humanitarian, human rights and security situation is deteriorating by the day. Meanwhile nuclear saber-rattling and threats to the safety of nuclear plants are adding to global instability. The review conference of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty failed to reach consensus and a nuclear deal with Iran remains elusive,” he said.
On climate change, Guterres said the climate crisis is a case study in moral and economic injustice and the world must end “our suicidal war against nature”.
“The climate crisis is the defining issue of our time. It must be the first priority of every government and multilateral organisation. And yet climate action is being put on the back burner - despite overwhelming public support around the world,” he said.
“Let’s tell it like it is. Our world is addicted to fossil fuels. It’s time for an intervention. We need to hold fossil fuel companies and their enablers to account. That includes the banks, private equity, asset managers and other financial institutions that continue to invest and underwrite carbon pollution. And it includes the massive public relations machine raking in billions to shield the fossil fuel industry from scrutiny,” Guterres said.
The G20 emits 80 per cent of all greenhouse gas emissions. But the poorest and most vulnerable - those who contributed least to this crisis - are bearing its most brutal impacts, the UN chief said.
He said the fossil fuel industry is feasting on hundreds of billions of dollars in subsidies and windfall profits while household budgets shrink and the planet burns. "Fossil fuel interests need to spend less time averting a PR disaster - and more time averting a planetary one.”
With developing countries getting hit from all sides amid the global challenges, Guterres called for concerted action and for the launch of an SDG Stimulus - led by the G-20 to massively boost sustainable development for developing countries. “The upcoming G20 Summit in Bali is the place to start.”
Guterres said the Black Sea Grain Initiative, the agreement on the resumption of Ukrainian grain exports via the Black Sea amid the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war, is multilateral diplomacy in action.
“Ukraine and the Russian Federation - with the support of Turkiye - came together to make it happen -- despite the enormous complexities, the naysayers, and even the hell of war. Some might call it a miracle on the sea. In truth, it is multilateral diplomacy in action,” he said, adding that the Black Sea Grain Initiative has opened the pathway for the safe navigation of dozens of ships filled with much needed food supplies.
Guterres said much of the world's attention remains focused on the Russian invasion of Ukraine. "The war has unleashed widespread destruction with massive violations of human rights and international humanitarian law. The latest reports on burial sites in Izyum are extremely disturbing."
He also highlighted the “forest of red flags” across a host of new technologies, saying social media platforms based on a business model that monetises outrage, anger and negativity are causing untold damage to communities and societies.
“Hate speech, misinformation and abuse - targeted especially at women and vulnerable groups - are proliferating. Our data is being bought and sold to influence our behaviour - while spyware and surveillance are out of control - all, with no regard for privacy,” Guterres said.
Artificial intelligence is compromising the integrity of information systems, the media, and indeed democracy itself and quantum computing could destroy cybersecurity and increase the risk of malfunctions to complex systems. “We don’t have the beginnings of a global architecture to deal with any of this,” he said. PTI YAS SCY