U.N. secretary-general warns world leaders: 'We cannot go on like this'

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaks at the U.N. General Assembly at U.N. headquarters on Tuesday. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI
1 of 7 | U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaks at the U.N. General Assembly at U.N. headquarters on Tuesday. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

Sept. 20 (UPI) -- In some of his sharpest comments on the state of global conflict, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told world leaders at the U.N. General Assembly in New York City on Tuesday that the status quo cannot continue.

Leading off a list of many of the most powerful leaders on the planet who will speak over the week, Guterres warned that Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the climate crisis, global food shortages and other concerns are threatening worldwide peace.


"We need action across the board," Guterres said. "Let's have no illusions. We are in rough seas. A winter of global discontent is on the horizon. A cost-of-living crisis is raging. Trust is crumbling. Inequalities are exploding. Our planet is burning.

"People are hurting -- with the most vulnerable suffering the most. The United Nations charter and the ideals it represents are in jeopardy. We have a duty to act and yet we are gridlocked in colossal global dysfunction."


Guterres said geopolitical gridlock is threatening "the very future of humanity" and the international community looks unwilling to take on the challenges it faces.

He blamed the lack of action on "geopolitical tensions" that have paralyzed any progress.

"Geopolitical divides are undermining the work of the Security Council, undermining international law, undermining trust and people's faith in democratic institutions, undermining all forms of international cooperation," he said. "We cannot go on like this."

The General Assembly opened last week, with world leaders beginning to give their addresses Tuesday.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, speaking Tuesday, portrayed himself as a mediator in the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

Nearly 160 heads of state and their representatives will address the annual gathering. This year's event is notably different from previous years.

It's the first General Assembly in three years to be held as usual and in person at the United Nations building in New York City. The events in 2020 and 2021 were mostly staged remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Second, this year's General Assembly is taking place during a major conflict -- Russia's war in Ukraine, which has been going for almost seven months. The fighting has killed thousands of people, including civilians and children.


Third, the annual gathering is happening at a time of particular economic concern and the threat of a global recession. The economic climate has mostly been affected by COVID-19 and the Ukraine war.

The speakers are each scheduled to give their address during either the General Assembly's morning or afternoon session. The morning sessions began at 9 a.m. and the afternoon sessions will begin at 3 p.m.

U.S. President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden visit Queen Elizabeth II's casket in Westminster Hall on Sunday in London. Joe Biden will speak at the U.N. General Assembly on the second day this year instead of the first. Photo by Andy Bailey/UK Parliament

U.S. President Joe Biden is scheduled to speak seventh during the morning session Wednesday, after Suriname and before Latvia. Biden is expected to call for unity and support for Ukraine. He's also expected to address potential threats by Iran -- due to Tehran's efforts to develop a nuclear weapon -- and China.

Speakers in the afternoon block include Polish President Andrzej Duda, Japanese Prime Minister Kishida Fumio, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Italian President Mario Draghi.


Other Wednesday speakers include Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, British Prime Minister Liz Truss, Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Eduardo Rodríguez Parrilla and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

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