UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres projected a gloomy picture of a world in “great peril” on Wednesday as he demanded immediate action on many fronts, from climate change to raging conflicts.
At a news conference ahead of the General Assembly’s high-level meeting that starts next week, he said: “Our world is blighted by war, battered by climate chaos, scarred by hate, and shamed by poverty, hunger, and inequality; conflicts and unrest continue to rage.”
The global response to these “dramatic challenges” have been paralysed by the “geostrategic divides (that)are the widest they have been since at least the Cold War”, he said.
Guterres said that in his speech to the Assembly’s general debate, which will figure a parade of monarchs, heads of state and government and ministers, he “will address these issues with concrete recommendations and a call to action”.
“This year’s general debate must be about providing hope and overcoming the divisions that are dramatically impacting the world,” he said.
“That hope can only come through the dialogue and debate that are the beating heart of the United Nations and that must prevail next week against all divisions,” he added.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, as well as key figures like Russian President Vladimir Putin and and Chinese President Xi Jinping, will not be at the UN session but will be meeting at the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit in Uzbekistan this week.
Guterres said that the war in Ukraine has devastated that country and ricocheted into a global food and financial crisis,
He had spoken to President Putin just before coming to the news conference.
They discussed the agreement to allow the export of foodgrains through Black Sea ports reached through is efforts, the safety of the Ukrainian Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant that is under Russian control and is facing attacks in the area, and the prisoners of war, he said.
But he was sceptical about an end to the war calling the odds “minimal at the present moment”.
“It would be naive to think we are close to the possibility of a peace deal,” he said.
He said attempts will continue to widen the deal on exports to include ammonia, an essential ingredient for agriculture.
Guterres’s area of focus as Secretary General has been combatting climate change and he highlighted the immediacy of the problem through catastrophic floods in Pakistan.
“I have just returned from Pakistan, where I looked through a window into the future: A future of permanent and ubiquitous climate chaos on an unimaginable scale,” he said.
“What is happening in Pakistan demonstrates the sheer inadequacy of the global response to the climate crisis, and the betrayal and injustice at the heart of it,” he said.
But he blamed the G20 countries, which includes developing countries like India, Indonesia and South Africa.
“G20 countries are responsible for 80 per cent of emissions,” he said, adding: “If one-third of G20 countries was under water today, as it could be tomorrow, perhaps they would find it easier to agree on drastic cuts to emissions.”
However, targeting the G20, which is made up of both major developed and emerging countries, skirts the greater responsibility of the major greenhouse emitters by disregarding the per capita emissions.
For example, the per capita carbon dioxide emission in tonnes is 1.8 for India, and 2.3 for Indonesia compared to 6.1 for the Euro area, Portugal for 4.3 and 14.7 for the United States, according to World Bank figures for 2019.
Guterres appealed to international financial institutions and to nations “not to lose one moment in providing Pakistan with the financial resources that are necessary for the gigantic tasks” ahead for its recovery.
(Arul Louis can be contacted at email@example.com and followed at @arulouis)