UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, speaking ahead of the General Assembly leaders summit, said the divisions in the world are “the widest since at least the Cold War”.
United Nations (United States) (AFP) – The United Nations General Assembly is back in person after the pandemic, but in a world more crisis-ridden than ever, with the war in Ukraine set to pit the West against Russia.
About 150 world leaders will be in New York for a week of diplomacy, with all but one required to come in person to speak – Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has granted an exception as he leads the fight against the Russian invaders.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, speaking before the summit that officially begins on Tuesday, said the divisions in the world are “the widest they have been since at least the Cold War.”
“Our world is full of war, battered by climate chaos, disillusioned with hate and disgraced by poverty, hunger and inequality,” Guterres said.
“As the cracks deepen and trust evaporates, we need to work together to come up with solutions.”
For the past two years, the annual traffic jam in midtown Manhattan has been a quieter affair with leaders allowed to send in videos.
The General Assembly voted on Friday to allow Zelensky to speak by video. Seven countries voted against including Russia, saying the right should extend to all leaders, with Russian President Vladimir Putin, as well as Chinese President Xi Jinping, not planning to travel to New York.
It is expected, however, that many enemies of the United States, including Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and Venezuelan Nicolas Maduro, are in defiance of vociferous protests from their opponents in the United States.
Richard Gowan, who tracks the United Nations for the International Crisis Group, said Zelensky’s speech “will get 1,000 times more attention than most speeches given by other leaders in person.”
“But Zelensky has to be careful. Many non-Western politicians resent the West’s focus on Ukraine and fear that the war will distract international attention from issues such as the global food crisis.
UN vehicles carry inspectors around the Russian-controlled Zaporizhia nuclear plant in Ukraine on September 1, 2022
The US ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas Greenfield, acknowledged those concerns, saying that despite discussions about Ukraine, “it won’t be the only thing we’re dealing with.”
“We cannot ignore the rest of the world, what is happening in the rest of the world, the impact of climate change, the impact of the pandemic and conflicts elsewhere in the world,” she said.
On Tuesday, Foreign Minister Anthony Blinken will co-chair a summit on food security with the African Union, the European Union and Spain, where soaring global prices – exacerbated by the invasion of major grain-producing Ukraine – have triggered new famines around the world.
French President Emmanuel Macron’s office said it would seek “dialogue with our partners from the south to avoid planting the idea that the West is against the rest.”
– Climate pressure –
Despite the shift toward normalcy, the Assembly’s schedule faltered with the death of Queen Elizabeth II. US President Joe Biden, who used to be one of the first speakers on Tuesday and who would have led the food summit, will speak instead Wednesday.
As Covid concerns persist, the United Nations is still limiting the size of delegations and requiring masks to be worn at the towering headquarters on the East River.
Prime Minister Liz Truss, who took office two days before Britain’s longest-reigning monarch died, will fly after the funeral to the United Nations on her first overseas trip since taking office.
The Church of Saint-Michel is seen on a small island in Lake Serry-Boncon in the French Alps in August 2022 after drought lowered water levels by 14 metres amid growing global concerns about climate change.
The UN summit will be a new occasion to build momentum for global action on climate change, amid increasing indications that the planet is descending to dangerous levels of warming.
“We’re running out of time to waste,” said Ambassador Walton Wibson of Antigua and Barbuda, chair of the Alliance of Small Island States.
“Our islands are exposed to more severe and more frequent climate impacts, and recovery is coming at the expense of our development,” he said.
Guterres said he would use the week to speak frankly with leaders amid tacit hopes for more progress on climate during the upcoming climate summit, COP27, in Egypt in November.