The United Nations, which is meant to promote global unity, is currently grappling with divisions among world leaders. The annual assembly in New York has attracted around 140 world leaders who are faced with a multitude of pressing issues, including Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, a global cost of living crisis, the climate emergency, and the impact of emerging technologies like artificial intelligence. Disagreements not only exist over what problems should take precedence but also over the appropriate solutions.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres acknowledges the challenges and the urgent need for leaders to find a way to address them. However, he laments that geopolitical divisions are hindering an effective response, leading to escalating tensions and fragmentation. Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky will seize the opportunity to rally support from world leaders at the assembly, particularly to gain international opinion on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The Western powers and Ukraine recognize the importance of engaging with the so-called Global South, where many countries have refrained from condemning Russia’s actions. It is crucial for them to emphasize that the conflict is not solely a European security concern but also an economic crisis that impacts the entire world. However, they face a challenge as many leaders want the UN assembly to focus on the climate crisis and economic difficulties rather than the war in Europe.
In response to these competing priorities, Secretary General Guterres is hosting separate summits to address poverty reduction efforts and climate change. The United Nations had set sustainable development goals to be achieved by 2030, but due to the pandemic, rising debt, global inaction, and the war in Ukraine, most of these goals are off track. Guterres seeks economic stimulus for these goals and reforms that prioritize the needs of developing countries.
Western leaders, including US President Joe Biden and UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly, have pledged to take action on global development issues and mobilize resources for the Global South. They recognize the need to reaffirm commitment to the sustainable development goals and expedite their delivery by 2030. Furthermore, they aim to convince neutral countries that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine negatively affects them all, leading to economic damage through increased food and energy costs.
While some Western leaders, such as French President Emmanuel Macron and UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, will not be attending the assembly, Ukraine’s President Zelensky will personally address the UN general assembly and hopes his presence will encourage countries to speak out against Russia’s actions. The general assembly presents an important opportunity for leaders to come together and discuss global crises, but achieving unity, which is the core principle of the United Nations, may prove challenging in the face of divisive issues.
– “United Nations general assembly exposes sharp global divisions” – BBC News
– “UN General Assembly: Western powers aim to convince the neutral ” – The Guardian