Secretary-General Antonio Guterres appealed to leaders Tuesday to unite and
take action to address the problems of a world “teeming with turmoil.”
“We are in rough seas; a winter of
global discontent is on the horizon,” he said at the opening of the annual
weeklong gathering of presidents, prime ministers and other officials at the
U.N. General Assembly.
“A cost-of-living crisis is raging.
Trust is crumbling. Inequalities are exploding.
“And our planet is burning,” he
“We need hope …. and more. We need
action.” His immediate call was for easing the global food crisis. An essential
element of that is addressing what he called the “global fertilizer market
Since Russia invaded Ukraine on February
24, it has imposed quotas on its exports of fertilizer. Russia is one of the
world’s top exporters and the shortages it has created have led to steep price
increases on international markets, making it unaffordable for some small
farmers, with the potential to dramatically decrease their harvests.
“Without action now, the global
fertilizer shortage will quickly morph into a global food shortage,” 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 indirect effects,” he
While there are no Western sanctions
on either Russian food or fertilizer exports, Moscow claims that there are. A
deal signed in Istanbul on July 22 is helping to get millions of tons of
Ukrainian grain to international markets and is working to build confidence
among shippers, insurers and buyers of Russian grain and fertilizer so they
will resume at pre-invasion levels.
Two giant screens in the assembly
hall above the secretary-general showed a photo 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 saber-rattling and
threats to the safety of nuclear plants are adding to global instability,” he
said, alluding to the threatened Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine,
as well as rhetoric and actions from North Korea and questions around Iran’s
Guterres mentioned a litany of crises
both new and entrenched from Ethiopia and the Sahel to Haiti, Syria and Myanmar
that he said must be resolved.
In Afghanistan, he said human rights
are “being trampled,” especially those of women and girls, who have seen their
rights disappear under the Taliban.
He warned of the dangerous divisions
between the global West and the South and geopolitical tensions splitting
between developed and developing countries.
top diplomat urged making conflict prevention and peace-building a priority.
“In all we do, we must recognize that
human rights are the path to resolving tensions, ending conflict and forging
lasting peace,” he reminded leaders.
All this conflict is leading to an
unprecedented amount of humanitarian need. He said U.N. aid appeals are running
a deficit of $32 billion.
In his sea of bad news, he found a
few “glimmers of hope.”
“In Yemen, the nationwide truce is
fragile but holding,” he said. “In Colombia, the peace process is taking root.”
The world’s youth 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. “It must be the first priority of every government
and multilateral organization.”
He worried that climate action has
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 need to be slashed by 45% by 2030 to have any
hope of reaching the net zero target by 2050.
To do that, he urged the world to end
its “addiction” to fossil fuels and accelerate its transition to clean,
renewable energy. And as part of that, he said, “Polluters must pay.”
“Today, I am calling on all developed
economies to tax the windfall profits of fossil fuel companies,” the
secretary-general declared, noting that G20 countries emit 80% of all
greenhouse gas emissions.
He said those funds should go to help
defray the costs of climate change in countries suffering loss and damage from
the climate crisis and to people struggling with rising food and energy prices.
He urged unity to develop “common
solutions to common problems.”
“Let’s work as one, as a coalition of
the world, as united nations,” he said.