Nations' leaders meet at UN amid rising global turbulence, war, food crisis

Facing a complex set of challenges that try humanity as never before, world leaders convene at the United Nations this week under the shadow of Europe's first major war since World War II

Voting results are seen on the screen during a special session of the UN General Assembly on Russia's invasion of Ukraine, at the United Nations headquarters in New York City (Photo: Reuters)

Representative Image (Photo: Reuters)

AP United Nations
Facing a complex set of challenges that try humanity as never before, world leaders convene at the United Nations this week under the shadow of Europe's first major war since World War II a conflict that has unleashed a global food crisis and divided major powers in a way not seen since the Cold War.
The many facets of the Ukraine war are expected to dominate the annual meeting, which convenes as many countries and peoples confront growing inequality, an escalating climate crisis, the threat of multiple famines and an internet-fuelled tide of misinformation and hate speech all atop a coronavirus pandemic that is halfway through its third year.
For the first time since the United Nations was founded atop the ashes of World War II, European nations are witnessing war in their midst waged by nuclear-armed neighbouring Russia. Its Feb 24 invasion not only threatens Ukraine's survival as an independent democratic nation but has leaders in many countries worrying about trying to preserve regional and international peace and prevent a wider war.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the strategic divides with the West on one side and Russia and increasingly China on the other are "paralysing the global response to the dramatic challenges we face.
He pointed not only to the devastation in Ukraine from nearly seven months of fighting but the war's impact on the global economy.
Escalating food and energy prices are hitting the world's poorest people hardest, and nations are being devoured by the acids of nationalism and self-interest instead of working together and resolving disputes peacefully, two principles that lie at the heart of the UN Charter and underpin everything the United Nations tries to do.
The General Assembly is meeting at a time of great peril, the UN chief said last week.
For the first time in three years, leaders will be delivering their speeches in person in the vast General Assembly hall. There will be no more COVID-caused prerecorded addresses or hybrid meetings, with one exception: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
Over objections from Russia and a few allies, the 193-member assembly voted overwhelmingly Friday to allow the Ukrainian leader to pre-record his speech because of reasons beyond his control the ongoing foreign invasion and military hostilities that require him to carry out his national defence and security duties.
The death of Britain's Queen Elizabeth II and her funeral in London on Monday, which many world leaders plan to attend, have created last-minute headaches for the high-level meeting. Diplomats and UN staff are scrambling to deal with changes in travel plans, the timing of some events and the logistically intricate speaking schedule for world leaders.
Guterres is skipping the funeral to preside over Monday's Transforming Education Summit that he called to create action on a UN goal to ensure quality education for all children by 2030 that lost significant ground during the pandemic.
The actual gathering of world leaders, known as the General Debate, begins Tuesday morning with the UN chief's state of the world speech to the 77th session of the General Assembly which began on Sept 12. Brazil has spoken first for over seven decades because at the early General Assembly sessions it volunteered to speak first when no other country did.
The US president, representing the host country for the UN, is traditionally the second speaker. But President Joe Biden is attending the queen's funeral, and his speech has been delayed until Wednesday morning. Senegalese President Macky Sall is expected to take Biden's slot.
Nearly 150 presidents, prime ministers and monarchs are on the latest speakers list.
In addition to Zelenskyy, Biden and Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro, other heads of state coming to the UN include the presidents of Turkey, Iran, France, Colombia, South Korea, South Africa, Egypt and Venezuela.
Heads of government on the list include Britain's new Prime Minister Liz Truss, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz also making a first appearance, and the prime ministers of Japan, Israel, Iraq and Pakistan. Russia and China are sending their foreign ministers.
For many years, foreign ministers of the five veto-wielding permanent members of the UN Security Council the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France have met on the sidelines for lunch or dinner. Diplomats said no meeting is planned this year.
During typical high-level weeks, thousands of people are in the UN complex for speeches and hundreds of side events. But because of the continuing pandemic, this year only the few events organised by the secretary-general and the General Assembly president are being held at UN headquarters. Dozens of side events will take place elsewhere in the city.
A highlight will be the UN Security Council ministerial meeting on Sept 22 focusing on the fight against impunity in the war in Ukraine a topic decided by France which holds the council presidency this month. The meeting could put foreign ministers of the five permanent council nations in the same room with Ukraine's foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, who has been invited.
Secretary-General Guterres, who just visited Pakistan, said, My message to world leaders gathering here is clear: Lower the temperature now, he said. "Don't flood the world today; don't drown it tomorrow.

(Only the headline and picture of this report may have been reworked by the Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Sep 19 2022 | 06:41 AM IST

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