Sept. 21 (UPI) -- The United Nations General Assembly on Monday preceded the first day of high-level debate in New York City with a call by leaders for world peace amid the global health crisis.
Peace between nations has been challenged during a time of COVID-19, Secretary-general Antonio Guterres said in a message to celebrate the International Day of Peace on Monday, which came ahead of Tuesday's opening of the assembly's annual General Debate session.
"Our world faces a common enemy," Guterres said. "A deadly virus that is causing immense suffering, destroying livelihoods, contributing to international tensions and exacerbating already formidable peace and security challenges."
The focus of this year's day of peace is "Shaping Peace Together."
"In that spirit, and to mark our 75th anniversary, the United Nations is bringing people together for a global conversation about shaping our future and forging peace in trying times," Guterres added.
Guterres said he will ask the assembly to vote on a cease-fire measure he introduced in March.
Earlier Monday, the secretary-general spoke of the birth of the United Nations in 1945 when governments agreed to form the body to prevent a response at the end of World War II.
"It took two world wars, millions of deaths and the horrors of the Holocaust for world leaders to commit to international cooperation and the rule of law," Guterres said. "A Third World War -- which so many had feared -- has been avoided. Never in modern history have we gone so many years without a military confrontation between the major powers."
With climate crises and public health threats worldwide fraying relationships, it's even more important to work together, he added.
"No one wants a world government -- but we must work together to improve world governance."
H.E. Volkan Bozkir, president of the U.N. General Assembly, said the global body was built on three pillars -- peace and security, development and human rights. Those three concepts, he added, "are equally important, interrelated, and interdependent.
"One cannot advance without the other."
International Peace Day, also known as World Peace Day, was established in 1981 and is dedicated to world peace, largely through the absence or war or violence. It used to be held on varying dates in September, but was permanently moved to Sept. 21 in 2001.