Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is set to dominate the first in-person meeting of the United Nations General Assembly in three years.
World leaders are converging on New York for the summit, which comes in the shadow of Europe’s first major war of the 21st century.
The conflict has sparked a global food crisis and opened rifts between the great powers in a way not seen since the Cold War.
Nearly 150 Heads of State and Government are on the latest list of speakers. It is a sign that despite the fragmented state of the planet, the United Nations remains the main gathering place for presidents, prime ministers, monarchs and ministers not only to express their views, but also to meet privately to discuss challenges on the global agenda – and hope to make progress.
At the top of this agenda for many: Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, which not only threatens the sovereignty of its western neighbor but raises fears of a nuclear disaster at Europe’s largest nuclear power plant. in the southeast of the country, now occupied by Moscow.
As the leaders of many countries try to prevent a wider war and restore peace in Europe, diplomats, however, do not expect any breakthrough this week.
The loss of important grain and fertilizer exports from Ukraine and Russia has triggered a food crisis, particularly in developing countries, as well as inflation and the rising cost of living in many many others. These questions are on the agenda.
“The world is literally on fire”
Secretary General Antonio Guterres says the world is ‘literally on fire’ and we face a ‘huge’ task to save the planet
His comments come ahead of his “state of the world” address on Tuesday.
António Guterres said world leaders must address conflict and climate disasters, increasing poverty and inequality.
He said they should also find a way to deal with the lingering COVID-19 pandemic – and resolve the major power divisions that have deepened since Russia invaded Ukraine.
He also pointed to “a lack of access to finance for developing countries to recover – a crisis not seen in a generation” that has lost ground for education, health and women’s rights.
UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Guterres’ “state of the world” address would be “a sober, substantial and solutions-oriented stocktaking” for a world “where geopolitical divisions put us all in danger”.
“There won’t be any watering down in his words, but he will give reason for hope,” Dujarric told reporters on Monday.
Zelenskyy will speak via video link
The global gathering, known as the General Debate, was fully virtual in 2020 due to the pandemic and hybrid in 2021.
This year, the 193-member General Assembly is returning to in-person speeches only, with one exception: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
Despite objections from Russia and some allies, the assembly voted last Friday to allow the Ukrainian leader to pre-record his speech for reasons beyond his control – the “ongoing foreign invasion” and military hostilities that require it to carry out its “national defense and security duties”.
By tradition, Brazil has spoken first for more than seven decades because, in the first sessions of the General Assembly, it has volunteered to go first when no other country has done so.
The US president, representing the host country of the United Nations, is traditionally the second speaker.
But Joe Biden is attending the Queen’s funeral and his speech has been pushed back to Wednesday morning. Senegalese President Macky Sall is expected to take Biden’s place.