UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Tuesday that the world is in big trouble and needs collective action across the board.
“Our world is in big trouble. Divides are growing deeper. Inequalities are growing wider. And challenges are spreading farther,” Guterres said while addressing the UN General Assembly before the opening of the General Debate.
“We need action across the board,” he said.
At the same time, he warned that the international community is gridlocked in colossal global dysfunction, saying it is “not ready or willing to tackle the big dramatic challenges of our age.”
He said crises like the conflict in Ukraine, climate emergency and biodiversity loss, and the dire financial situation of developing countries threaten the very future of humanity and the fate of the planet.
Progress on all these issues and more are being held hostage to geopolitical tensions, he added.
“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.
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 Group of 20 (G20), he said.
“At one stage, international relations seemed to be moving toward a G2 world; now we risk ending up with G-nothing. No cooperation. No dialogue. No collective problem-solving,” said Guterres. “But 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.”
This coalition of the world must urgently overcome divisions and act together. It starts with the core mission of the United Nations — achieving and sustaining peace, said Guterres.
“We are seeing 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,” he said.
At the same time, conflicts and humanitarian crises are spreading. The funding gap for the UN Global Humanitarian Appeal stands at 32 billion U.S. dollars, the widest ever, he said.
Upheaval abounds — in Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Horn of Africa, Haiti, Libya, Iraq, Israel and Palestine, Myanmar, the Sahel, and Syria. The list goes on, he noted.
Meanwhile, nuclear sabre-rattling and threats to the safety of nuclear plants are adding to global instability. Last month’s review conference of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty failed to reach consensus and a nuclear deal with Iran remains elusive, he added.
“We need much more concerted action everywhere anchored in respect for international law and the protection of human rights. In a splintering world, we need to create mechanisms of dialogue and mediation to heal divides,” said Guterres. “We are committed to making the most of every diplomatic tool for the pacific settlement of disputes, as set out in the United Nations Charter: negotiation, inquiry, mediation, conciliation, arbitration and judicial settlement.”
“There is another battle we must end: our suicidal war against nature,” he said.
The climate crisis is the defining issue of our time. It must be the first priority of every government and multilateral organization. And yet climate action is being put on the back burner, despite overwhelming public support around the world, he lamented.
Global greenhouse gas emissions need to be slashed by 45 percent by 2030 to have any hope of reaching net-zero emissions by 2050. And yet emissions are going up at record levels — on course to a 14 percent increase this decade, he noted.
“We have a rendezvous with climate disaster,” warned Guterres. The hottest summers of today may be the coolest summers of tomorrow. Once-in-a-lifetime climate shocks may soon become once-a-year events.