UNITED NATIONS — U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres gave a somber assessment of global affairs Tuesday in an opening address of the annual high-level gathering in New York City.
“Our world is in peril and paralyzed,” Guterres told world leaders attending the 77th United Nations General Assembly, which returned in person this week for the first time in three years.
“We are gridlocked in colossal global dysfunction,” he said, adding the international community “is not ready or willing to tackle” the challenges it faces — including climate change, poverty and war.
“The United Nations charter and the ideals it represents are in jeopardy and we have a duty to act,” Guterres added.
The remarks come as Europe grapples with perhaps its biggest military conflict since World War II, which has uncovered fissures among major powers on how to deter Russia, support Ukraine and mitigate the consequences of war.
In February, Russian troops launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine after nearly five months of a gradual military buildup along its ex-Soviet neighbor’s borders.
Russia’s war in Ukraine, which has lasted more than 200 days, has exacerbated a global food crisis already strained by climate challenges and disrupted supply chains. The conflict has taken the lives of more than 6,000 civilians and has reduced once industrious Ukrainian cities to rubble.
“Geopolitical divides are undermining the work of the Security Council, undermining international law, undermining trust and people’s faith in democratic institutions, undermining all forms of international cooperation,” Guterres told leaders seated in the vast green and gold-draped General Assembly Hall.
“We cannot go on like this,” he added.
In addition to Russia’s war in Ukraine, the U.N. chief urged global leaders to address the looming climate crisis, gender inequality and extreme poverty. He pushed leaders to invest in policies that promote peace around the world.
“Trust is crumbling, inequalities are exploding, our planet is burning,” Guterres said.
“Let’s work as one, as a coalition of the world, as United Nations,” he added.