U.N. Chief Guterres Calls for Peace, Understanding in a World of Conflict

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres delivers a speech at the start of a Pakistan's Resil

Why can’t we all get along? That was the metaphorical question posed by a frustrated U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Monday as he warned the world may be heading towards a “wider war” on the back of the Russia-Ukraine conflict adding to strains already imposed by “climate change.”

In an address to the 193-member U.N. General Assembly presenting his 2023 priorities, Guterres decried the Russian invasion of Ukraine, saying the war was “inflicting untold suffering on the Ukrainian people with profound global implications.”

He demanded combatants from all sides lay down their arms and seek the intervention of U.N. peace negotiators to deliver reconciliation, invoking this year’s 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a reminder of the inalienable rights of all people is “freedom, justice and peace.”

He pointed to the Ukraine conflict as having undermined global solidarity and trust, and urged all countries to recommit to the U.N. Charter, which calls for the peaceful settlement of disputes.

Antonio Guterres, Secretary-General, United Nations, New York and Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman, World Economic Forum speaking during the Session Cooperation for Peace: A New Vision for the United Nations at the Annual Meeting 2017 of the World Economic Forum in Davos, January 19, 2017 Copyright by World Economic Forum / Boris Baldinger

File/Antonio Guterres, U.N. Secretary-General, and Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman, World Economic Forum (WEF) speaking during the Session Cooperation for Peace: A New Vision for the U.N. at the Annual Meeting 2017 of the WEF in Davos, January 19, 2017. (World Economic Forum / Boris Baldinger / Flickr)

“The prospects for peace keep diminishing,” he lamented. “The chances of further escalation and bloodshed keep growing.

“I fear the world is not sleepwalking into a wider war. I fear it is doing so with its eyes wide open.”

The veteran Portuguese Socialist fears any resort to nuclear weapons might challenge the very future of mankind.

“The so-called ‘tactical’ use of nuclear weapons is absurd,” he said, calling for nuclear-armed countries to renounce the first use of all nuclear weapons. We are at the highest risk in decades of a nuclear war that could start by accident or design. We need to end the threat posed by 13,000 nuclear weapons held in arsenals around the world.”

The secretary-general also called for stepped-up peace efforts in military-ruled Myanmar and gang-led Haiti, which are facing new violence and repression.

The proposed new U.N. Agenda for Peace, he said, delivers “a new generation of peace enforcement missions and counter-terrorist operations, led by regional forces,” with a U.N. Security Council mandate that can be enforced militarily and guaranteed funding. “The African Union is an obvious partner in this regard,” he added.

Guterres told diplomats 2023 must be “a year of game-changing climate action,” not of excuses — and there must be “no more bottomless greed of the fossil fuel industry and its enablers.”

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