STOCK MARKET BSE NSE

Racism, climate and divisions top UN agenda as leaders meet

The U.S. and Israel walked out during the meeting over a draft resolution that singled out Israel for criticism and likened Zionism to racism — a provision that was eventually dropped.

Published: 22nd September 2021 02:04 PM  |   Last Updated: 22nd September 2021 02:04 PM   |  A+A-

News media sets up outside the United Nations headquarters as staff and national delegations pass through a security checkpoint during the 76th Session of the U.N. General Assembly in New York.

News media sets up outside the United Nations headquarters as staff and national delegations pass through a security checkpoint during the 76th Session of the U.N. General Assembly. (Photo | AP)

By Associated Press

UNITED NATIONS: Racism, the climate crisis and the world’s worsening divisions will take center stage at the United Nations on Wednesday, a day after the U.N. chief issued a grim warning that “we are on the edge of an abyss.”

For the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began, more than two dozen world leaders appeared in person at the U.N. General Assembly on the opening day of their annual high-level meeting. The atmosphere was somber, angry and dire.

China’s President Xi Jinping warned that “the world has entered a period of new turbulence and transformation.” Finland’s President Sauli Niinistö said: “We are indeed at a critical juncture.” And Costa Rica’s President Carlos Alvarado Quesada declared: “The future is raising its voice at us: Less military weaponry, more investment in peace!”

Speaker after speaker at Tuesday’s opening of the nearly week-long meeting decried the inequalities and deep divisions that have prevented united global action to end the COVID-19 pandemic, which has claimed nearly 4.6 million lives and is still raging, and the failure to sufficiently tackle the climate crisis threatening the planet.

COVID-19 and climate are certain to remain top issues for heads of state and government. But Wednesday’s U.N. agenda will first turn the spotlight on the commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the controversial U.N. World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa, which was dominated by clashes over the Middle East and the legacy of slavery.

The U.S. and Israel walked out during the meeting over a draft resolution that singled out Israel for criticism and likened Zionism to racism — a provision that was eventually dropped. Twenty countries are boycotting Wednesday’s commemoration, according to the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, which urged more countries to join them “in continuing to fight racism, bigotry, and anti-Semitism.”

Following the commemoration, heads of state will start delivering their annual addresses again in the vast General Assembly hall. Speakers include King Abdullah II of Jordan, Indonesian President Joko Widodo and Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta.

Perhaps the harshest assessment of the current global crisis came from U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who opened his state of the world address sounding an “alarm” that “the world must wake up.”

“Our world has never been more threatened or more divided,” he said. “We face the greatest cascade of crises in our lifetimes.”

“We are on the edge of an abyss — and moving in the wrong direction,” the secretary-general warned.

Guterres pointed to “supersized glaring inequalities” in addressing COVID-19, “climate alarm bells ... ringing at fever pitch,” upheavals from Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Yemen and beyond thwarting peace, and “a surge of mistrust and misinformation (that) is polarizing people and paralyzing societies.”

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the pandemic was a reminder “that the entire world are part of a big family.”

“But the solidarity test that we were put to failed us miserably,” he said. “It is a disgrace for humanity that vaccine nationalism is still being carried on through different methods,” and underdeveloped countries and poor segments of societies have been “literally left to their fate in the face of the pandemic.”

As for the climate crisis, Erdogan said whoever did the most damage to nature, the atmosphere and water, “and whoever has wildly exploited natural resources” should make the greatest contribution to fighting global warming.

“Unlike the past, this time no one can afford the luxury to say, 'I’m powerful so I will not pay the bill’ because climate change will treat mankind quite equally,” the Turkish leader said. “The duty for all of us is to take measures against this enormous threat, with a fair burden-sharing.”

Romania’s President Klaus Iohannis did find something positive from the COVID-19 crisis.

“While the pandemic affected almost all aspects of our lives,” he said, “it also provided us with opportunities to learn, adapt and do things better.”

Two of the most closely watched speeches on Tuesday were delivered by U.S. President Joe Biden and China’s President Xi Jinping.

In an Associated Press interview on Saturday, Guterres warned that the world could plunge into a new and probably more dangerous Cold War if China and the United States don’t repair their “completely dysfunctional” relationship. “Unfortunately, today we only have confrontation,” he said.

The secretary-general kept that theme in his speech Tuesday saying: “I fear our world is creeping towards two different sets of economic, trade, financial and technology rules, two divergent approaches in the development of artificial intelligence — and ultimately two different military and geopolitical strategies. This is a recipe for trouble.”

Biden said in his U.N. address that the United States was not attempting to be divisive or confrontational.

“We are not seeking a new Cold War or a world divided into rigid blocs,” he said. “The United States is ready to work with any nation that steps up and pursues peaceful resolution to shared challenges even if we have intense disagreements in other areas.”

Speaking later, Xi said disputes among countries “need to be handled through dialogue and cooperation.”

“One country’s success does not have to mean another country’s failure,” Xi said. “The world is big enough to accommodate common development and progress of all countries.”

By tradition, the first country to speak was Brazil, whose president, Jair Bolsonaro rebuffed criticism of his handling of the pandemic and touted recent data indicating less Amazon deforestation. He said he was seeking to counter the image of Brazil portrayed in the media, touting it as a great place for investment and praising his pandemic welfare program, which helped avoid a worse recession last year.

Bolsonaro said that his government has successfully distributed first doses to the majority of adults, but doesn’t support vaccine passports or forcing anyone to have a shot. He has said several times in the past week that he remains unvaccinated.

“By November, everyone who chooses to be vaccinated in Brazil will be attended to,” Bolsonaro told the General Assembly.

Brazil’s health minister, Marcelo Quiroga, who was with Bolsonaro, later tested positive for the coronavirus and will remain in isolation in the United States, the government said. Quiroga got his first shot of coronavirus vaccine in January.

Bolsonaro had COVID-19 last year and has said several times over the last week that he remains unvaccinated. He said getting a shot is a personal, medical decision.



Comments

Disclaimer : We respect your thoughts and views! But we need to be judicious while moderating your comments. All the comments will be moderated by the newindianexpress.com editorial. Abstain from posting comments that are obscene, defamatory or inflammatory, and do not indulge in personal attacks. Try to avoid outside hyperlinks inside the comment. Help us delete comments that do not follow these guidelines.

The views expressed in comments published on newindianexpress.com are those of the comment writers alone. They do not represent the views or opinions of newindianexpress.com or its staff, nor do they represent the views or opinions of The New Indian Express Group, or any entity of, or affiliated with, The New Indian Express Group. newindianexpress.com reserves the right to take any or all comments down at any time.

edexworks
flipboard facebook twitter whatsapp