World is walking towards wider war, UN Secretary General says

Antonio Guterres spells out priorities for 2023, including Ukraine, climate change and extreme poverty

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres during a minute of silence for the victims of the earthquake in Turkey and Syria on Monday. Reuters
Beta V.1.0 - Powered by automated translation

The world is walking towards a “wider war” over Ukraine, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres warned on Monday, as he outlined a list of global challenges in the year ahead.

“The prospects for peace keep diminishing," Mr Guterres told the UN General Assembly in a speech laying out his priorities for 2023, which focused on Ukraine, the climate crisis and extreme poverty.

As Russia's invasion of Ukraine approaches its one-year anniversary on February 24, he fears the world is headed into a wider conflict “with its eyes wide open".

"The chances of further escalation and bloodshed keep growing," Mr Guterres said.

On the global economy, the UN chief blamed the growing gap between rich and poor and the debt burden of developing countries on a “failing” global financial architecture.

“We have started 2023 staring down the barrel of a confluence of challenges unlike any in our lifetimes,” Mr Guterres said.

“Without fundamental reforms, the richest countries and individuals will continue to pile up wealth, leaving crumbs for the communities and countries of the Global South."

He called for a “new Bretton Woods moment”, referring to a deal signed in 1944 to shore up the global economy after the Second World War, and repeated the need to “change the mindset of decision-making”.

Mr Guterres also referred to Palestine and Israel, noting that the two-state solution was “growing more distant by the day".

On Afghanistan, he said the rights of women and girls were being “trampled and deadly terrorist attacks continue".

“If every country fulfilled its obligations under the [UN] Charter, the right to peace would be guaranteed,” he said.

Mr Guterres, who has been a leader in the global movement for climate action, described 2023 as a year of “reckoning".

Wealthy nations have long promised to find $100 billion a year to help poor nations adopt climate-friendly policies, with the target originally meant to have been hit in 2020.

Mr Guterres urged developed countries to honour the pledge, which was first made in 2009.

“Finish the job and deliver on the loss and damage fund agreed in [Cop27 in] Sharm El Sheikh," he said.

"Double adaptation funding. Replenish the Green Climate Fund by Cop28 [in the UAE]."

Updated: February 06, 2023, 10:49 PM