UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Tuesday called on leaders to unite and act to solve the problems of a world “abounding in turmoil”.
“We are in rough seas; a winter of global discontent looms on the horizon,” he said at the opening of the week-long annual meeting of presidents, prime ministers and other officials at the United Nations General Assembly.
“A cost of living crisis is raging. Confidence crumbles. Inequalities are exploding.
“And our planet is burning,” he warned.
“We need hope… and more. We need action. His immediate call was to alleviate the global food crisis. A key part of this is tackling what he called the “global fertilizer market crisis”.
Since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, it has imposed quotas on its fertilizer exports. Russia is one of the world’s leading exporters and the shortages it has created have led to a sharp rise in prices on international markets, making it unaffordable for some small farmers, with the potential to significantly reduce their harvests.
“If we don’t act now, the global fertilizer shortage will quickly turn into a global food shortage,” said António Guterres.
He called for the removal of “all remaining obstacles” to the export of Russian fertilizers and their ingredients, including ammonia.
“These products are not subject to sanctions – and we are making progress in eliminating the indirect effects,” he stressed.
Although there are no Western sanctions on Russian food or fertilizer exports, Moscow claims there are. An agreement signed in Istanbul on July 22 helps move millions of tonnes of Ukrainian grain to international markets and helps build trust between shippers, insurers and buyers of Russian grain and fertilizer to resume pre-invasion levels.
Two giant screens in the meeting room above the general secretary showed a picture of the Brave Commander, one of the ships that carried Ukrainian grain to the Horn of Africa. He said it represents multilateral diplomacy in action.
“Meanwhile, nuclear slashing and security threats to nuclear power plants are adding to global instability,” he said, referring to the threatened Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine, as well as to North Korea’s rhetoric and actions and questions about Iran’s nuclear program. .
Guterres mentioned a litany of both new and entrenched crises from Ethiopia and the Sahel to Haiti, Syria and Myanmar that he said need to be resolved.
In Afghanistan, he said, human rights are “trampled on”, especially those of women and girls, who saw their rights disappear under the Taliban.
He warned of dangerous divisions between West and South and geopolitical tensions between developed and developing countries.
The world’s top diplomat urged making conflict prevention and peacebuilding a priority.
“In everything we do, we must recognize that human rights are the pathway to resolving tensions, ending conflicts and forging lasting peace,” he reminded the leaders.
All of these conflicts are creating unprecedented humanitarian needs. He said UN aid appeals were running a $32 billion shortfall.
In his sea of bad news, he found some “glimmers of hope”.
“In Yemen, the national truce is fragile but holding,” he said. “In Colombia, the peace process is taking root.
The world’s young people are also a source of hope, he said, as they work for a better future.
The Secretary General’s strongest words were for the rapidly warming planet.
“The climate crisis is the defining issue of our time,” he said. “This must be the first priority of every government and multilateral organization.”
He worried that climate action had been pushed to the back of the international agenda, despite global public support for leaders to do more.
Greenhouse gas emissions are rising at record levels and he said they must be cut by 45% by 2030 to have any hope of reaching net zero by 2050.
To do this, he urged the world to end its “dependency” on fossil fuels and accelerate its transition to clean, renewable energy. And within that, he said, “polluters have to pay.”
“Today, I call on all developed economies to tax the windfall profits of fossil fuel companies,” the secretary-general said, noting that G20 countries emit 80% of all greenhouse gas emissions.
He said these funds should be used to cover the costs of climate change in countries suffering loss and damage from the climate crisis and people struggling with rising food and energy prices.
He urged the unit to develop “common solutions to common problems”.
“Let’s work together, as a coalition of the world, as a united nation,” he said.