The world has entered “an age of chaos” and the UN is more dysfunctional than during the Cold War, UN chief Antonio Guterres has said in remarks to the General Assembly.
In his annual address on priorities for the year ahead, the Secretary General painted a dark picture of the global outlook.
“For millions of people caught up in conflict around the world, life is a deadly, daily, hungry hell,” Mr Guterres said.
He told delegates we were seeing the results of chaos in “a dangerous and unpredictable free-for-all with total impunity”.
“After decades of nuclear disarmament, states are competing to make their nuclear arsenals faster, stealthier and more accurate,” he said.
“New potential domains of conflict, and weapons of war, are being developed without guardrails, creating new ways to kill each other – and for humanity to annihilate itself,” he added.
Mr Guterres said that the UN Security Council, the primary platform for questions of global peace, was “deadlocked by geopolitical fissures”.
He said it was not the first time the council was divided, but that it was the worst.
“Today’s dysfunction is deeper and more dangerous,” he said.
“During the Cold War, well-established mechanisms helped manage superpower relations. In today’s multipolar world, such mechanisms are missing,” he told the General Assembly.
He said the UN was founded on peace, but that around the globe and across the range of issues “peace is the missing piece”.
Reform of institutions urgently needed – Guterres
Mr Guterres said: “There is so much anger and hate and noise in our world today. Every day and at every turn, it seems it’s war.
“Terrible conflicts that are killing and maiming civilians in record numbers. Wars of words, turf wars, culture wars.”
“So many peddling the perverse math that says you multiply support by dividing people,” he told delegates, adding that this was especially troubling in a year when “half of humanity will go to the polls”.
Mr Guterres said that reform of international institutions including the Security Council was urgently needed.
“The United Nations Security Council must be able to take decisions and implement them and it must become more representative” he said.
Mr Guterres called it “totally unacceptable” that the African continent was still waiting for a permanent seat.
He said the international financial system was also in urgent need of reform, that the developing world was saddled with unpayable debt and facing its worst half decade since the early 1990s.
‘War with nature’
“The world’s poorest countries will owe more in debt service this year than their public spending on health, education, and infrastructure combined,” he said.
He said the international financial architecture was “outdated, dysfunctional and unfair”.
“It favours the rich countries that designed it nearly 80 years ago,” he said.
Mr Guterres called on member states to “make peace with the planet,” by reducing emissions and phase out fossil fuels.
“Humanity has waged a war we can only lose: our war with nature,” he said.
“It is a crazy fight to pick,” he told the General Assembly.