UN general debate opens: "Colossal global dysfunction"

UN Secretary General Guterres begins the top diplomatic meeting with a pessimistic analysis. It's not just about Ukraine.

Antonio Guterres at the UN lectern

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres addressing the General Assembly on Tuesday Photo: Mary Altaffer/ap

BERLIN taz/afp/dpa | The international community is stuck in a state of "colossal global dysfunction," said UN Secretary-General António Guterres on Tuesday in New York during his opening speech at the general debate at the UN General Assembly. In addition to the Ukraine crisis, he addressed climate change and rising living costs. Around 150 heads of state and government are expected to attend the week-long meeting at the UN headquarters in New York. For Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD), who was to give his speech like French President Emmanuel Macron and Brazil's Jair Bolsonaro on Tuesday after the editorial deadline, it is the first visit to the UN.

Russia's invasion of Ukraine is likely to become the ubiquitous topic - even if the presidents of both parties to the conflict are unlikely to be there in person. In the absence of Kremlin chief Vladimir Putin, Russia will be represented by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, whose speech is scheduled for Saturday.

For Ukraine should be president Volodymyr Zelensky speak on Wednesday – with special permission via video. 101 UN member states had approved a corresponding application in the General Assembly on Friday. Russia's partner Belarus failed in an attempt to allow video messages for all countries.

First general debate for Iran's President Raisi

The global hunger crisis will also be an issue in the debate. The Ukraine war and blocked shipments of millions of tons of grain have further increased the risk of famine in the Horn of Africa. According to the United Nations, especially in Somalia, millions of people are at risk of starvation because of an unprecedented drought. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is therefore holding a food security summit on Tuesday, which Chancellor Scholz is also scheduled to attend.

In the run-up to the general debate, the United States surprised everyone with a push to reform the Security Council, the most powerful UN body. The US is open to expanding the current 15-member Council. There, the five permanent members USA, Russia, China, France and Great Britain have the right of veto and can thus block all actions. This had recently become particularly evident in view of the Ukraine war. There should be talks with member states in the coming days. Germany has been in favor of reform for years and is hoping for more influence in the Security Council.

Also for Iran's President Ebrahim Raisi it is the first general debate of the UN General Assembly. The arch-conservative politician is scheduled to speak shortly before US President Biden on Wednesday. In view of the faltering negotiations on Iran's nuclear program, Western diplomats in New York are not expecting any breakthroughs. Other conflicts on the agenda will be the turbulence in the Sahel zone, above all in Mali, and in the crisis-hit countries of Libya, Syria and Congo.

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