NEW YORK — U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres gave a grim assessment of the state of the planet Tuesday as world leaders descend on New York City for the annual traffic-choking General Assembly, saying nations are “gridlocked in colossal global dysfunction.”
Ticking off massive intractable problems like climate change, conflict and inequality, Guterres told the opening session of the UNGA that the worsening woes pose a more dire threat to the planet and the global population than ever before.
“Our world is in peril — and paralyzed,” Guterres said.
As President Joe Biden prepared to jet in for the annual gathering of presidents, kings and dictators, Guterres also said he held out hope for progress.
“Let’s work as one, as a coalition of the world, as United Nations,” he urged leaders gathered in the vast General Assembly hall.
The 77th General Assembly meeting of world leaders convenes under the dark shadow of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which shows no sign of ending soon.
It has unleashed a global food crisis and opened fissures among major powers in a way not seen since the Cold War.
For New Yorkers, the rest of the week will be marked by headache-causing road closures as nearly 150 heads of state and government shuttle around the East Side of Manhattan.
At a meeting Monday to promote U.N. goals for 2030 — including ending extreme poverty, ensuring quality education for all children and achieving gender equality — Guterres said the world’s many pressing perils make it “tempting to put our long-term development priorities to one side.”
But the U.N. chief said some things can’t wait — among them education, dignified jobs, full equality for women and girls, comprehensive health care and action to tackle the climate crisis. He called for public and private finance and investment, and above all for peace.
The death of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II and her funeral in London on Monday, which many world leaders attended, have created last-minute headaches for the high-level meeting.
The global gathering, known as the General Debate, was entirely virtual in 2020 because of the pandemic, and hybrid in 2021. This year, the 193-member General Assembly returns to in-person speeches.
By tradition, Brazil will speak first as it has done for nearly eight decades.