Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned the UN’s first ever virtual meeting of global leaders on Tuesday that the world is facing an “epochal” health crisis, the biggest economic calamity and job losses since the Great Depression, threats to human rights – and the risk of a new Cold War between the US and China.
In his bleak state of the world speech to the UN General Assembly’s annual meeting, the United Nations chief said that the coronavirus that “brought the world to its knees” was but “a dress rehearsal for the world of challenges to come”.
Days after the pandemic shut down big parts of the world in March, Guterres called for a global ceasefire to tackle it. On Tuesday, he appealed for a 100-day push by the international community, led by the Security Council, “to make this a reality by the end of the year”.
“At the same time, we must do everything to avoid a new Cold War,” Guterres added.
Reiterating a warning he made to world leaders a year ago about increasing US-China rivalrly, Guterres said, “We are moving in a very dangerous direction.”
“Our world cannot afford a future where the two largest economies split the globe in a great fracture – each with its own trade and financial rules and internet and artificial intelligence capacities,” Guterres said.
“A technological and economic divide risks inevitably turning into a geostrategic and military divide. We must avoid this at all costs.”
In his appeal for a global ceasefire, Guterres said ending wars in West Asia and Africa is critical to defeating the virus.
He delivered his speech in the General Assembly Hall, where only one mask-wearing diplomat from each of the UN’s 193 member nations was allowed.
Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro trumpeted his focus on the economy in dealing with the pandemic.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan criticised the start of the pandemic “where countries were left on their own”, stressing that “effective multilateralism requires effective multilateral institutions”.