NNA - UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres issued a bleak warning about the state of the world on Tuesday in his opening address to the world body's annual high-level gathering in New York City.
Mr Guterres used his bully pulpit in front of the UN's famous green marble to criticise international leaders for failing to come together to address many of the world's most pressing issues.
“Global challenges are mounting, and we seem incapable of coming together to respond,” he said, referring to myriad crises including climate change, the recent earthquake in Morocco, flooding in Libya and coups in Africa.
The UN chief emphasised the urgent need to modernise multilateral institutions and reform the Security Council to better reflect the realities of today’s world.
“It’s reform or rupture,” Mr Guterres told the 78th UN General Assembly.
“The world has changed. Our institutions have not.”
He acknowledged the complexities of instituting global reforms amid competing interests and agendas.
“But the alternative to reform is not the status quo,” he said.
“It means redesigning the international financial architecture so that it becomes truly universal and serves as a global safety net for developing countries in trouble.”
The UN chief called for “global compromise” and said that if every country fulfilled its obligations under the UN Charter, the right to peace would be guaranteed.
Russia's invasion of Ukraine, a conflict that has drawn deep divides between the world body’s most powerful member states, has “unleashed a nexus of horror", Mr Guterres said.
“Lives destroyed, human rights abused, families torn apart, children traumatised, hopes and dreams shattered,” he added, warning the war has serious implications for the international community.
The UN chief also urged global leaders to address the climate crisis, gender inequality and extreme poverty.
He criticised G20 countries, which are responsible for 80 per cent of global greenhouse emissions.
“They must break their addiction to fossil fuels and heed the International Energy Agency’s findings that new oil and gas licensing by them is incompatible with keeping the 1.5°C limit alive,” he said.
“To stand a fighting chance of limiting global temperature rise, we must phase out coal, oil and gas in a fair and equitable way – and massively boost renewables.”
Although Mr Guterres primarily focused his speech on global challenges, he sought to remind the international community that the UN is still determined to find solutions.
“The world badly needs Ukrainian food and Russian food and fertilisers to stabilise markets and guarantee food security,” he said.
“I will not give up on my efforts to make it happened.”
Mr Guterres painted a grim image of unsustainable disparities, an unchecked climate crisis and ineffective leadership.
“Divides are widening within countries. Democracy is under threat. Authoritarianism is on the march. Inequalities are growing,” he said.
He also expressed concern about the growing digital divide that is “inflaming inequalities”.
“Generative artificial intelligence holds much promise – but it may also lead us across the Rubicon and into more danger than we can control,” he said.
He emphasised the necessity for a Global Digital Compact, involving governments, regional organisations, the private sector, and civil society, to address the challenges posed by digital technologies and explore ways to leverage their advantages for the betterment of humanity.
He called for consideration of a new global entity on AI that could provide a source of information and expertise for UN member states.
“Despite our long list of global challenges, that same spirit of determination can guide us forward,” Mr Guterres said.
“Let us be determined to heal divisions and forge peace.”