UN chief Antonio Guterres, speaking to leaders, doesn’t mince his words

By PA IST (Released)


He sounded the global alarm, warning leaders for the survival of humanity and the planet. In sometimes downright undiplomatic language, he called out those he blames for the perilous state of the world.

UNITED NATIONS: He sounded the global alarm, warning leaders for the survival of humanity and the planet. In sometimes downright undiplomatic language, he called out those he blames for the perilous state of the world.

It was Antonio Guterres’ loudest and most striking speech since he took over the helm of the United Nations in 2017. And if you were the leader of a country, it was clear he wanted all of your Warning.

Guterres has often spoken out about growing geopolitical divisions, rising inequality and the inability of nations to act quickly to address the climate crisis. But what stood out about his state of the world address on Tuesday was his no-frills language, dark tone and focus not only on the scale of the challenges facing “the shattered world”, but its solutions – and its repeated appeal to those in power that there is still hope and that it is time to act.

Guterres’ language was particularly direct when he denounced the growing divisions in the world, saying that “the international community is not ready or willing to meet the major dramatic challenges of our time”. He then ticked them off – war in Ukraine, spreading conflict, climate, money, ending extreme poverty and achieving quality education for all children.

The head of the UN then targeted without restraint those he considers responsible.

Self-serving governments that ignore the key principles of the UN Charter to work together. Profit-driven social media platforms that misinform, cause “untold harm” to people, communities and societies, and buy and sell data “to influence our behavior.” An artificial intelligence that “can compromise the integrity of information systems, the media and even democracy itself”.

There were more targets: the Group of 20 richest countries in the world that emit 80% of the greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming. The fossil fuel industry rakes in hundreds of billions of dollars while family budgets shrink and the planet burns. In a controversial proposal, he called on wealthy developed countries to tax these windfall profits and use the money to help countries suffering losses from the climate crisis and people struggling with rising food prices and energy.

“Polluters must pay,” Guterres said – unusually harsh language for the world’s most prominent diplomat.

Reviewing Guterres’ language this week – and comparing it to a year ago – is instructive in understanding why his speech this year was so singular.

Last year, as the COVID-19 pandemic still raged, the Secretary-General was already warning Presidents and Prime Ministers that the world was facing “the greatest cascade of crises of our lifetime”. That was before Russia invaded Ukraine, triggering global food and energy crises and further dividing the already splintered community of nations.

His warning this year was even more alarming: “Our world is in peril – and crippled. And in perhaps his most dire warning, he said, “We have a duty to act. And yet we are stuck in a colossal global dysfunction.

David Scheffer, former US ambassador-at-large for war crimes issues, said the 2022 version of Guterres is “a truth-teller” for a world “that has reached a point where we either survive or we go.” perish.”

“This is the most important speech by a secretary-general in the history of the United Nations,” said Scheffer, senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. “He not only exposed the crises of our time, but he made a clear call to ensure the survival of humanity and the planet.”

He said Guterres had abandoned “the fine points of diplomacy” and predicted his speech would become known as a “survival” speech.

“He basically said, ‘wake up,’ and he wasn’t ambiguous about it,” Scheffer said. The Associated Press. No leader, he said, can ignore or challenge “everything the Secretary General said today without being considered an irrelevant leader at this time in history.”

Richard Gowan, director of the International Crisis Group at the UN, said he thought it was a “dark speech”, but he admitted that Guterres “has something to be dark about”.

“I think he feels there’s an urgent need to speak as frankly as possible,” Gowan said. “His overarching goal was clearly to try to confront world leaders with the poor state of international cooperation and the threats to the planet. I thought he did that quite effectively, but he gave warnings just as serious in the past with little real impact on international relations.

For the first time at the high-level meeting, a secretary-general projected an image in front of world leaders to illustrate his speech – a photo of the first UN-chartered ship carrying grain from Ukraine. The Brave Commander was part of the deal between Ukraine and Russia that the United Nations and Turkey helped broker. He traveled from a Black Sea port to the Horn of Africa, where millions are on the brink of starvation.

António Guterres called it an example of promise and hope “in a world teeming with turmoil”. He stressed that cooperation and dialogue are the only way forward, and he warned that “no power or group alone can make the decisions”.

“Guterres has long been known to think the UN needs some clear diplomatic victories to restore confidence in the usefulness of multilateralism,” Gowan said. “The grain deal gave him that win, and he used it well as a hook for his speech.”

A speech that will go down in UN history as something very different – ​​no matter where the world goes from here.


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