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UN chief warns global leaders world in big crisis

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UN chief warnsglobal leaders: world in 'big crisis'

Warning thatthe world is in “great peril,” the head of the United Nations saysleaders meeting in person for the first time in three years must tackleconflicts and climate catastrophes, increasing poverty and inequality — andaddress divisions among major powers that have gotten worse since Russiainvaded Ukraine.

In speeches andremarks leading up to the start of the leader’s meeting Tuesday,Secretary-General Antonio Guterres cited the “immense” task not only ofsaving the planet, “which is literally on fire,” but of dealing with thepersisting COVID-19 pandemic. He also pointed to “a lack of access tofinance for developing countries to recover -- a crisis not seen in ageneration” that has seen ground lost for education, health and women’srights.

Guterreswill deliver his “state of the world” speech at Tuesday’s opening of theannual high-level global gathering. U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said itwould be “a sober, substantive and solutions-focused report card” for a world“where geopolitical divides are putting all of us at risk.” “There will be nosugar-coating in his remarks, but he will outline reasons for hope,” Dujarrictold reporters Monday.

The 77thGeneral Assembly meeting of world leaders convenes under the shadow of Europe’s firstmajor war since World War II — the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, which hasunleashed a global food crisis and opened fissures among major powers in a waynot seen since the Cold War. At the top of that agenda for many: Russia’s Feb.24 invasion of Ukraine, which not only threatens the sovereignty of its smallerneighbor but has raised fears of a nuclear catastrophe at Europe’s largestnuclear plant in the country’s now Russia-occupied southeast.

Leaders inmany countries are trying to prevent a wider war and restore peace in Europe.Diplomats, though, aren’t expecting any breakthroughs this week. At a meetingMonday to promote U.N. goals for 2030 — including ending extreme poverty,ensuring quality education for all children and achieving gender equality —Guterres said the world’s many pressing perils make it “tempting to put ourlong-term development priorities to one side.”

But the U.N.chief said some things can’t wait — among them education, dignified jobs, fullequality for women and girls, comprehensive health care and action to tacklethe climate crisis. He called for public and private finance and investment,and above all for peace. The death of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II and herfuneral in London on Monday, which many world leaders attended, have createdlast-minute headaches for the high-level meeting.

Diplomatsand U.N. staff have scrambled to deal with changes in travel plans, the timingof events and the logistically intricate speaking schedule for world leaders.The global gathering, known as the General Debate, was entirely virtual in 2020because of the pandemic, and hybrid in 2021. This year, the 193-member GeneralAssembly returns to only in-person speeches, with a single exception —Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

The U.S.president,representing the host country for the United Nations, is traditionally thesecond speaker. But Joe Biden is attending the queen’s funeral, and his speechhas been pushed to Wednesday morning. Senegalese President Macky Sall isexpected to take Biden’s slot.

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