Racism, climate and divisions top UN agenda as leaders meet

New York, September 22 (BNA): Racism, the climate crisis and the world’s deepening divisions will take center stage at the United Nations on Wednesday, a day after the United Nations Secretary-General issued a grim warning that “we are on the edge of a precipice.”

For the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, more than two dozen world leaders appeared in person at the United Nations General Assembly on the opening day of their annual high-level meeting. The atmosphere was gloomy, angry and terrible, the Associated Press reported.

Chinese President Xi Jinping warned that “the world has entered a period of new turmoil and transformation.” “We are already at a critical juncture,” said Finland’s President Sauli Niinistö. Costa Rica President Carlos Alvarado Quesada declared: “The future raises its voice in us: fewer military weapons, more investment in peace!”

Speaker after speaker opening the nearly week-long meeting on Tuesday decried the inequality and deep divisions that have prevented united global action to end the COVID-19 pandemic, which has killed nearly 4.6 million people and is still raging, and the failure to do so. enough. Addressing the climate crisis that threatens the planet.

It is certain that COVID-19 and the climate will remain among the most important issues for heads of state and government. But Wednesday’s UN agenda will first highlight the celebration of the 20th anniversary of the controversial UN World Conference against Racism in Durban, South Africa, which has been dominated by clashes over the Middle East and the legacy of slavery.

The US and Israel withdrew during the meeting over a draft resolution that singled out Israel for criticism and likened Zionism to racism – a provision that was eventually dropped.

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After the anniversary celebration, heads of state will begin to deliver their annual addresses once again in the vast hall of the General Assembly. Among the speakers are Jordan’s King Abdullah II, Indonesian President Joko Widodo, and Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta.

Perhaps the harshest assessment of the current global crisis came from United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who opened his State of the World address by sounding an “alarm bell” that “the world must wake up”.

“Our world has never been more threatened or more divided,” he said. “We are facing the biggest series of crises of our lives.”

“We are on the edge – and we are moving in the wrong direction,” warned the Secretary-General.

Guterres noted “excessively stark disparities” in addressing COVID-19, “climate alarm bells … ringing at peak fever”, turmoil from Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Yemen and beyond the frustration of peace, and “rising mistrust and misinformation (which) is polarizing people and paralyze societies.”

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the pandemic was a reminder that “the whole world is part of a big family”.

“But the test of solidarity we put in has failed miserably,” he said. “It is a shame for humanity that national vaccination persists in various ways,” and that backward countries and poor sectors of societies “are literally left to their fate in the face of the epidemic.”

Concerning the climate crisis, Erdogan said that whoever caused the most damage to nature, the atmosphere and water “and who exploited the natural resources heavily” should make the greatest contribution to fighting global warming.

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“Unlike in the past, this time no one can afford the luxury to say, ‘I am strong so I will not pay the bill’ because climate change will treat humanity equally,” the Turkish leader said. “It is the duty of all of us to take measures against this formidable threat, with equitable burden-sharing.”

Romanian President Klaus Iohannis has found something positive from the COVID-19 crisis.

“While the pandemic has affected almost all aspects of our lives, it has also provided us with opportunities to learn, adapt and do things better,” he said.

US President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping delivered two of his most closely watched speeches on Tuesday.

In an interview with The Associated Press on Saturday, Guterres warned that the world could plunge into a new and possibly more dangerous Cold War if China and the United States did not repair their “completely dysfunctional” relationship. “Unfortunately, today we only have a showdown,” he said.

The Secretary-General reserved this theme in his speech on Tuesday, saying: “I fear our world is creeping toward two different sets of economic, commercial, financial and technological rules, divergent approaches to the development of artificial intelligence – and, ultimately, geopolitical strategies. This is a recipe for problems.”

Biden said in his speech to the United Nations that the United States was not trying to be divisive or confrontational.

“We are not seeking a new Cold War or a world divided into rigid blocks,” he said. “The United States is ready to work with any country that steps forward and seeks a peaceful resolution of common challenges even if we have severe differences in other areas.”

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Speaking later, Xi said differences between countries “must be addressed through dialogue and cooperation.”

“The success of one country does not necessarily mean the failure of another,” Xi said. “The world is big enough to accommodate the common development and progress of all countries.”

By tradition, Brazil was the first country to speak, as its president, Jair Bolsonaro, dismissed criticism of his handling of the pandemic, describing recent data pointing to reduced deforestation of the Amazon. He said he seeks to counter the image of Brazil being portrayed by the media, calling it a great place to invest, and praising its social welfare program, which helped avert a worse recession last year.

Bolsonaro said his government has successfully distributed the first doses to the majority of adults, but does not support vaccine passports or force anyone to take an injection. He said several times in the past week that he is still not immune.

“By November, everyone who chooses to be vaccinated in Brazil will be taken care of,” Bolsonaro told the General Assembly.

The government said Brazilian Health Minister Marcelo Quiroga, who was with Bolsonaro, has tested positive for coronavirus and will remain in isolation in the United States. Quiroga received his first dose of a coronavirus vaccine in January.

Bolsonaro contracted COVID-19 last year and has said several times over the past week that he remains not immune. He said getting an injection is a personal medical decision.


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