#UNGS Guterres forewarns "A Winter of Global Discontent"
- United Nations 09/25/2022 by Rebecca Myles (WBAI)

This past week world leaders from some 160 countries were in New York attending the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly. The week is noted for public addresses that grab news headlines and bi-lateral meetings where the business of government gets decided - trading deals, treaties. It is one of the few ways in which world leaders can all meet and its purpose is through diplomacy to maintain international peace and security. It was established after World War II with the aim of preventing future wars, 

Its chief administrative officer is the secretary general, the position currently occupied by Portuguese politician and diplomat Antonio Guterres who on Tuesday in his address gave a sharp rebuke, warning world leaders in his address"we cannot go on like this" commentating on the state of global conflict. 

Guterres warned that Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the climate crisis, global food struggles are threatening world peace warning of "a winter of global discontent on the horizon" and "a cost of living crisis is raging."

Guterres headlined a list of many of the most powerful leaders of the world. Nearly 160 heads of state and government addressed the annual meeting. 

Brazil's president, Jair Bolsonaro spoke next. This coming week Brazil is holding its presidential election. Watchers anticipate Bolsonaro won't win, if he loses, many suspect he will call the results invalid. His speech at the UN at times felt like a campaign speech claiming he had modernized the Brazilian economy, turned the country into the largest exporter of food and claimed that 80% of Brazil's Amazon remains untouched. Turning to Ukraine as so many other world leaders did this week he was one of the few who called for an immediate ceasefire.

This year's assembly was different in that it was held in person at the United Nations building after a three year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The majority of world leaders and their staff were mask less as they came and went into the United Nations building but the staff, the security guards were all masked.

The General Assembly is taking place during a major conflict, Russia's war in Ukraine, which is not only polarizing countries but being blamed for escalating prices of food and energy, and in speech after speech world leaders dwelled on the war.

Over the seven months of war, there have been pointed observations from some quarters about how quickly and extensively wealthy and powerful nations mobilized money, military aid and General Assembly votes to support Ukraine and offer refuge to its residents, compared to the global response to some other conflicts.

Part of Bolivian President Luis Acre's speech compared the untold billions of dollars spent on fighting in Ukraine in a matter of months to the $11 billion committed to UN sponsored Green Climate Fund over more than a decade.

UN humanitarian official figures show that government and private organizations have put up about $3.7 billion to aid Ukraine and Ukrainian refugees this year. About $2 billion has been raised for war-torn Yemen where the UN says over 17 million people are struggling with acute hunger.

US President Joe Biden during his address said the war was about extinguishing Ukraine's right to exist as a state. 

The General Assembly is where world leaders are supposed to be reporting on their efforts to meet 17 global goals of the sustainable development. These include poverty reduction, to quality education and supposed to be achieved by 2030. According to UN metrics, the world is falling short on these lofty goals and in fact for a second year no longer making progress.

As an example the number one goal of "No Poverty," in the US the National Census Bureau data shows that poverty rose for the first item in 2020 to 11.4% after five years of consecutive decline. If you look at number six - Clean Water and Sanitation - a number of US cities have made international headlines for  unclean water - it used to be Flint, Michigan and now it is Jackson, Mississippi, and of course closer to home questionable water quality for the tenants of NYCHA housing on the lower east side. 

Switching gears, David Panuelo, President of the Federated State of Micronesia, which represents 600 islands in the Pacifica Ocean said his foreign policy is to be a friend to all and an enemy to none. He talked about some of his state's particular concerns. 

The deep sea mining Panuelo is referring to refers to a scandal that blew up earlier this month when the New York Times revealed a Canadian mining company - The Mining Company - had lobbied a UN agency to gain drilling rights to dredge an area in the Pacific sea bed for nodules which contain essential metals like copper, nickel, lithium, cobalt, to be used in car batteries. Environmentalist and many civic agencies were not consulted in the discussions and are livid over the threat to rich biodiversity in the oceans.

On Saturday, China's Minster of Foreign Affairs, Wang Yi, told the Assembly to ensure human prosperity and advancement the world must remain open and oppose exclusion stating that protectionism can only boomerang with decoupling and supply-chain disruptions that hurt everyone and that democracy and human rights should not be used as tools or weapons to achieve political ends.  He ended his speech by saying that Taiwan has been inseparable from china territory since ancient times.

Russia's Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov also spoke on Saturday told the UN that years of NATO encroachment on Russia and the West's refusal to negotiate over Ukraine left Russia with no choice but to launch its special military operation. He told the assembly the future of the world order is being decided with the US-led unipolar model receding into the past. After his speech he took questions from reporters in a press briefing.

That was a translator for Russia's Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov speaking to reporters at the United Nations.

That's all we have time for today. 
I'm your host Rebecca Myles on WBAI Pacifica Radio, 99.5 FM. You can follow me on Twitter @RebMyles.

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