Racism, climate and divisions top UN agenda as leaders meet

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Racism, the climate crisis and the world’s worsening divisions will take center stage at the United Nations on Wednesday, a day after the UN chief issued a grim warning that “we are at the edge of an abyss.”

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For the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began, more than two dozen world leaders appeared in person at the UN General Assembly on the opening day of its annual high-level meeting. The atmosphere was sad, angry and grim.

Chinese President Xi Jinping warned that “the world has entered a period of new unrest and change.” Finland’s President Souli Niinisto said: “We are indeed at a turning point.” And Costa Rica’s President Carlos Alvarado Quesada declared: “The future is raising its voice upon us: less military weapons, more investment in peace!”

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Speaker after speaker at the inauguration of the nearly week-long meeting condemned the inequalities and deep divisions that have prevented united global action to end the COVID-19 pandemic, which has claimed nearly 4.6 million lives. has done and is still raging, and the failure to adequately tackle the climate crisis threatening the planet.

COVID-19 and climate are sure to remain top issues for heads of state and government. But Wednesday’s UN agenda will first hit the headlines on the commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the United Nations World Conference against Racism in Durban, South Africa, which was dominated by conflict over the Middle East and the legacy of slavery.

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The US and Israel walked out during a meeting over a draft resolution, which selected Israel for criticism and compared Zionism to racism – a provision that was eventually dropped. Twenty countries are boycotting Wednesday’s commemoration, according to the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, urging more countries to join them to fight “racism, bigotry and anti-Semitism.”

Following the commemoration, the Head of State will begin his annual speech again in the huge General Assembly Hall. Speakers include 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 UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who began his State of the World Address with the sound of an “alarm” that “the world must wake up.”

“Our world has never been more threatened or more divided,” he said. “We face the greatest crises in our lifetimes.”

“We are at the edge of an abyss – and moving in the wrong direction,” warned the Secretary-General.

Guterres addressed COVID-19, “climate alarm bells … ringing at fever pitch,” turmoil from Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Yemen and beyond thwarting peace, and “a surge of mistrust and misinformation” pointed out “great inequalities” in doing. polarizing people and crippling society.”

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

“But the test of solidarity that we were given failed us miserably,” he said. “It is a disgrace to humanity that vaccine nationalism is still being carried out in various ways,” and that underdeveloped countries and poorer sections of society have been “left to their fate in the face of the pandemic.”

As far as the climate crisis is concerned, Erdogan said that whoever has caused the most damage to nature, the atmosphere and water, “and whoever has exploited natural resources recklessly” should make the greatest contribution to fighting global warming. needed.

The Turkish leader said, “Unlike in the past, this time no one can afford the luxury of saying, ‘I am powerful so I will not pay the bill’ because climate change will treat mankind equally.” ” “It is the duty of all of us to take measures against this enormous menace with appropriate burden-sharing.”

Romania’s President Klaus Iohannes found something positive from the COVID-19 crisis.

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

Two of the most-watched speeches on Tuesday were delivered by US President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

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

The Secretary-General took up that theme in his speech on Tuesday, saying: “I fear that our world is moving towards two different sets of economic, trade, financial and technology rules, two different ones in the development of artificial intelligence. approach — and ultimately two different military and geopolitical strategies. It’s a recipe for trouble.”

Biden said in his UN address 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 factions,” he said. “The United States stands ready to work with any nation that steps up and peacefully resolves shared challenges, even if we have intense disagreements in other areas.”

Speaking later, Xi said the controversy…

Credit: www.independent.co.uk / Antonio Guterres

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