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António Guterres alerts the UN to the North-South divide and calls for “deep” reforms

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  • The focus returns to the fertilizer crisis and the war and to structural problems such as the global financial system

  • He says that “a torrent of crises feed off each other” and warns: “social unrest is inevitable, the conflict will not be far away”

Antonio Guterres, the secretary general of the United Nations, wanted to open with a message from hope his speech this Tuesday before the General Assembly for the initiative that is allowing grain to be exported from Ukraine through the Black Sea in the midst of the open war by Russia. However, the portrait of the world that the Portuguese has outlined in this speech, which represents the starting signal for the body’s annual plenary debate, places the world in front of a mirror that returns a dark image of crisis, disaster, injustice and dangerdeeply interconnected, leaving little room for optimism.

Guterres has assured that we live “stuck in a colossal global dysfunction”. Much of its focus has been on the growing and increasingly widening gap between north and southAnd in the divergences between developed and developing countries,between the privileged and the rest”.

That discrepancy, he has said, “is at the root of the tgeopolitical tensions and mistrust that poison all areas of cooperation, from vaccines to sanctions and trade.” And he has warned that there is a “torrent of crises that are feeding each other” which should set off alarm bells. “The social upheaval is inevitablethe conflict won’t be far”, said the Portuguese, who has assured that “our world is in danger, and paralyzed”.

The impact of the war

Guterres predicts “a winter of global unrest on the horizon” and one of the immediate problems that the world must face is the global Fertilizer Crisis, aggravated as a result of the war in Ukraine, the obstacles to the export of these fertilizers or components such as ammonia from Russia or Belarus and the increase in energy prices that trigger the cost of production.

“This year the world has enough food, the problem is distribution, but ifif the fertilizer market does not stabilize next year’s problem may be the food supply itself”, highlighted Guterres, who has asked for remove all barriers to export.

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The gap

For the UN Secretary General, however, the growing geopolitical tensions and crises that are combining and interconnecting, from the impact of war and climate change to inflationary pressures, the structural injustice of the global financial systemhe the setback in the struggle for rights and freedoms or by the most basic goals of the Sustainable Development Goals such as eliminating poverty and hunger and ensuring education, require joint and determined actions.

Part of his focus has been on the “funthis financial situation of developing countries and the fate of the sustainable development goals”. “94 countries, 1.6 billion people, many in Africa, face the Perfect storm”, he said, listing the “economic and social effects of the pandemic, exorbitant food and energy prices, debt loads, spiraling inflation and lack of access to financing”.

climate crisis

This focus on developing countries has also appeared in Guterres’ speech when referring to the climate crisis. “It should be the first priority of every government and multilateral organization but is being left in the background”he has denounced, urging to “end the suicidal war against nature”.

The Portuguese has also ensured that this crisis “is a case of a manual on moral and economic injustice”. He recalled that “the G-20 is responsible for 80% of gas emissions greenhouse effect”. And he has called on all developed countries to tax the profits of fossil fuel companiesand redirect the proceeds to countries suffering loss and damage from the climate crisis and to people struggling to cope with rising food and energy prices.

It is not the only specific measure that Guterres has proposed. And he has also made a direct call to a “deep structural reform” of the global financial system, which he has unequivocally denounced. “It was created by rich countries to serve their interests. Widen and entrench inequalities“, has said.

It has also requested that a Sustainable Development Goals stimulus fund, led by the G20, so that developing countries have more and easier access to financing, debt relief, liquidity expansion and specialized funds. “More people are poor. More people go hungry. More people are denied health care and education. Gender equality is receding and women’s lives are worsening, from poverty to choices about sexual and reproductive health and their personal security”, she has denounced.

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Geopolitical tensions and technology

In addition to the war in Ukraine, to the “nuclear saber rattling and threats to nuclear plants that add to global instability”, Guterres has also looked at other geopolitical tensions. He has lamented that the agreement with Iran to curb its military nuclear program remains “elusive.” And he has turned his gaze to places like Afghanistan, Congo, the Sahel, Ethiopia, Haiti, Libya, Iraq, Israel and Palestine, Myanmar, Syria…

The UN Secretary General has also had space in his speech to warn about the “lack of safeguards around promising new technologies” and the “lack of a global architecture to deal with” what it has defined as a “forest of red flags” in that technological world.

He has denounced, for example, that “the platforms of social networks based on a business model that monetizes fury, rage, and negativityd are causing a untold damage to communities and societies. He has assured that “hate speech, misinformation and abuse proliferate, which especially targets women and vulnerable groups”. She has criticized that “our data is bought and sold to influence our behavior, while spyware and surveillance run amok, everything no regard for privacy”. He has warned that “artificial intelligence is putting at risk the integration of information systems, the media and democracy itself” and that “quantum computing could destroy cybersecurity and increase the risks of malfunctions in complex systems” .

Guterres has wanted to close, as he had opened, with a message looking at “fragile buds of hope”, from the actions of young people, activists or women to those of civil society or science. And she has urged “to work together, as a coalition of the world, as united nations.” But the trail that remained from her intervention was, like the realities that she has spoken about, an air of little hope.

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