In a world ravaged by turbulence, nations’ leaders gather at UN


UNITED NATIONS (UKTN) — Faced with a complex set of challenges that will test humanity like never before, world leaders gather at the United Nations this week in the shadow of Europe’s first major war since World War II — a conflict that is wreaking havoc on a global scale. The food crisis has unleashed and divided the superpowers in a way not seen since the Cold War.

The many facets of the war in Ukraine are expected to dominate the annual rally, which gathers as many countries and peoples face growing inequality, an escalating climate crisis, the threat of multiple famines and an internet-driven stream of misinformation and hate speech. — all on top of a coronavirus pandemic that is halfway through its third year.

For the first time since the founding of the United Nations on the axis of World War II, European countries are witnessing war in their midst waged by its nuclear-armed neighbor Russia. The February 24 invasion not only threatens Ukraine’s survival as an independent democratic nation, but has leaders in many countries concerned about preserving regional and international peace and preventing wider war.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the strategic dividing lines — with the West on one side and Russia and increasingly China on the other — “cripple the global response to the dramatic challenges we face”.

He pointed not only to the devastation in Ukraine after nearly seven months of fighting, but also to the impact of the war on the world economy.

Rising 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 central to the UN Charter and support everything the United Nations tries to do.

“The General Assembly is meeting at a time of great danger,” the UN chief said last week.

For the first time in three years, leaders will deliver their speeches in person in the main hall of the General Assembly. There will be no more COVID-induced pre-recorded addresses or hybrid meetings, with one exception: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

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After objections from Russia and a few allies, the 193-member assembly voted by an overwhelming majority on Friday to allow the Ukrainian leader to pre-record his speech for reasons beyond his control — the “ongoing foreign invasion” and military forces. hostilities that oblige him to carry out. its ‘national defense and security tasks’.

The death of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II and her funeral in London on Monday, which many world leaders are planning to attend, have caused last-minute headaches for the high-level gathering. Diplomats and UN personnel struggle with changes in travel plans, the timing of some events and the logistically complex speaking schedule for world leaders.

Guterres skips the funeral to preside over Monday’s “Transforming Education Summit,” which he called for action against a UN goal of ensuring quality education by 2030 for all children who have lost significant ground during the pandemic.

The de facto meeting of world leaders, known as the General Debate, kicks off Tuesday morning with the UN chief’s state of the world address to the 77th session of the General Assembly which began on September 12. Brazil has been the first to speak for more than seven decades because in the first sessions of the General Assembly, it volunteered to speak first when no other country did.

The US President, representing the host country of the United Nations, is traditionally the second speaker. But President Joe Biden attends the Queen’s funeral and his address has been postponed to Wednesday morning. Senegalese President Macky Sall is expected to take Biden’s lock.

Nearly 150 presidents, prime ministers and monarchs are on the most recent speaker list, a very high number reflecting the importance of the gathering not only to present each country’s vision of the world, but also for private one-on-ones. -one- and group meetings where diplomats do a lot of the world’s business.

In addition to Zelenskyy, Biden and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, there are other heads of state coming to the UN, including 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 appearing for the first time, and the Prime Ministers of Japan, Israel, Iraq and Pakistan. Russia and China send their foreign ministers.

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For years, the foreign ministers of the five permanent members of the vetoed UN Security Council — the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France — 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 at the UN complex for speeches and hundreds of side events. But due to the ongoing pandemic, only the few events organized by the Secretary-General and the President of the General Assembly are taking place at UN headquarters this year. Elsewhere in the city, dozens of side events are taking place.

Richard Gowan, UN director of the International Crisis Group, said Ukraine and the food crisis will be the two “overarching themes” and the message from Western leaders will be clear: “This is the Russian war of aggression and this is a massive attack on the UN system.”

A highlight will be the UN Security Council ministerial meeting on September 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 place the foreign ministers of the five permanent council countries in the same room with Ukraine’s foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, who has been invited.

French UN ambassador Nicolas De Riviere said on Friday that “perpetrators will be held responsible” for the “dramatic consequences” that “the Russian war of aggression” has had on civilians in Ukraine. And US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said the United Nations is facing a “crisis of confidence” caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine that has violated the sovereignty and territorial integrity of its neighbor, “trampled human rights” and at the heart of the UN Charter has been touched by pursuing war rather than negotiated peace.

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She told reporters Friday that the answer must be to “double our commitment to a peaceful world and stay even closer to our entrenched principles of sovereignty, territorial integrity, peace and security.”

Thomas-Greenfield insisted that the high-level meeting “will not be dominated by Ukraine” as conflicts are taking place elsewhere as well. That’s why she says the United States is focused on tackling the food crisis and climate change, promoting global health and upholding the UN charter.

Gowan of the Crisis Group said his organization has seen in recent weeks African and Latin American countries “gradually succumb to Ukraine fatigue”, and there is a feeling in many parts of the UN that countries do not want to attack constantly. Russia.” There is a clear understanding among Western leaders, and especially in the US, of the need to “keep non-Western countries on board over Ukraine,” he said.

Gowan said he will also listen to “an undercurrent of discontent” from African and Southern countries about how they are disappointed with COVID-19 vaccinations and funding to tackle climate change and deal with rising food prices and the cost of living. He also regretted that crises in Mali, Afghanistan and Yemen will not be at the forefront.

Secretary-General Guterres, who just visited Pakistan, where he said the flooded area is three times the size of his homeland Portugal, lashed out at the group of 20 richest countries, which he believes are responsible for 80% of the world’s population. emissions that cause global warming.

“My message to the world leaders gathered here is clear: lower the temperature – now,” he said. “Do not flood the world today; do not drown it tomorrow.”


Edith M. Lederer is the UN’s chief correspondent for The UK Time News and has covered international affairs for more than half a century. For more UKTN coverage of the UN General Assembly, visit


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