UNO: As the first anniversary of Russia's invasion of Ukraine approaches, the head of the UN warned that the world is facing a convergence of challenges "unlike any in our lifetimes" and expressed concern for a wider war.
The Doomsday Clock was set to 90 seconds before midnight by experts who examined the state of the world in 2023, according to Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, which is the closest it has ever been to "total global catastrophe."
The conflict in Ukraine, "runaway climate catastrophe, rising nuclear threats," the growing gap between the world's wealthy and poor, and the "epic geopolitical divisions" undermining "global solidarity and trust" were some of the issues he mentioned.
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In a wide-ranging speech, Guterres urged the 193 member countries of the General Assembly to shift away from short-term thinking, which he referred to as "irresponsible" and "immoral," and instead look "at what will happen to all of us tomorrow — and act."
The 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, he said, should serve as a reminder that "freedom, justice, and peace" are the cornerstones of each person's inalienable rights.
Sadly, according to Guterres, the prospects for peace "keep diminishing" and "the chances of further escalation and bloodshed keep growing" in Ukraine, where he said the transformation needed today must begin with peace.
I worry that a bigger war is not edging closer to the world. It is doing so while keeping its eyes open, he said.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict, where "the two-state solution is growing more distant by the day," Afghanistan, where "the rights of women and girls are being trampled and deadly terrorist attacks continue," and Africa's Sahel region, where security is deteriorating "at an alarming rate" are all places where the world needs to work harder for peace, according to Guterres.
For the two billion people who live in countries affected by conflict, he also called for increased peace efforts to be made in Haiti, where gangs are holding the country hostage, military-ruled Myanmar, where there is new violence and repression, and elsewhere in the world.
The UN Charter calls for the peaceful resolution of disputes. The secretary-general argued that a renewed emphasis on conflict avoidance and reconciliation is necessary.
According to him, the new UN Agenda for Peace calls for "a new generation of peace enforcement missions and counter-terrorist operations, led by regional forces," with a mandate from the UN Security Council that can be enforced militarily and funding that is guaranteed. He continued, "The African Union is an obvious partner in this regard."
The first use of any nuclear weapon, including tactical nuclear weapons, which Russia has suggested could be used in Ukraine, must be abandoned, according to Guterres.
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The idea that using nuclear weapons is 'tactical' is absurd, he said. The possibility of a nuclear war starting by accident or design is now greater than it has been in decades. We must eliminate the threat posed by the 13,000 nuclear weapons present in global arsenals.
Guterres called for a "radical transformation" of the global financial system to put the needs of developing nations at the forefront of every choice.
In addition, he noted that the richest 1% of the world's population had amassed "almost half of all new wealth over the past decade," forcing developing nations to pay five times as much to borrow money as advanced economies. Vulnerable middle-income countries had also been denied debt relief and concessional funding.
According to Guterres, multilateral development banks must alter their operating procedures. In addition, 2023 must be "a year of game-changing climate action," not of justifications or baby steps, according to Guterres, who also urged diplomats to put an end to the bottomless greed of the fossil fuel industry and those who support it.
He stated that in order to reduce carbon pollution by accelerating the switch from fossil fuels to renewable energy, the world must put a greater emphasis on reducing greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming by half this decade. This is especially true for the 20 richest economies in the world.
According to him, this entails reducing emissions from the industries that produce the most of them, such as steel, cement, shipping, and aviation. For the producers of fossil fuels, who, according to Guterres, are rushing to increase production, he had a special message.
"You shouldn't be in business if you can't set a credible course for net-zero, with 2025 and 2040 targets covering all your operations," he said.
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Any leader in politics, business, or civil society is welcome to attend the Climate Ambition Summit that the secretary-general is hosting in September, but there is a catch.
Please don't attend, Guterres pleaded, "Show us accelerated action in this decade and renewed ambitious net zero plans."