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Live Updates: U.N. Secretary General Warns of ‘Colossal Global Dysfunction’

Credit…Dave Sanders for The New York Times

The annual diplomatic gathering at the United Nations this week puts the spotlight on its top boss, António Guterres, the secretary-general, who is responsible for convincing an increasingly divided and skeptical world that the United Nations – and by extension his position – is still vital to international order and multilateralism.

In his opening remarks on Tuesday, Mr Guterres said the world was in danger and that geopolitical divisions were undermining international law, trust in democratic institutions and all forms of international cooperation.

“We cannot continue like this,” Mr Guterres said. “We have a duty to act. And yet we are mired in colossal global dysfunction.”

In remarks that veered between alarm and hope, the Secretary-General said made demands for collective action. He warned of a world on fire because of climate change, saying the UN Charter and the ideals it represents are at risk, alluding to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the inequalities that have exploded as food- and energy prices are rising.

“Let us have no illusions. We are in tough times,” Mr Guterres said in one of the most blunt speeches he has given to world leaders.

Sir. Guterres identified three areas where he said world leaders should come together: peace and security, the climate crisis and tackling inequality in the developing world.

The war in Ukraine, Mr. Guterres said, has “triggered widespread devastation with massive violations of human rights and international humanitarian law.”

The conflict unexpectedly elevated Mr. Guterres’ role as a humanitarian mediator. He has flatly condemned Russia for violating the UN Charter and called for investigations into potential crimes against humanity in Ukraine. And early on he began studies of the ripple effects of war on increasing food and energy and economic slowdown.

But Mr Guterres also reminded the audience of other crises that still pose a threat to global stability, such as Afghanistan, Myanmar, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Israel and Palestine.

On climate, Mr Guterres accused the fossil fuel industry of “enjoying hundreds of billions of dollars in subsidies and windfalls” and called on the leaders of rich countries to issue additional levies to help vulnerable nations facing for the irreparable damage of climate change. .

“Today I call on all developed economies to tax the windfall profits of fossil fuel companies,” he told the heads of state and other government officials gathered at the UN General Assembly. “These funds should be redirected in two ways: to countries suffering loss and damage caused by the climate crisis, and to people struggling with rising food and energy prices.”

The call to action represents his most forceful comments yet on a lightning rod issue of loss and damage, which is polite diplomatic talk for reparations for poor countries suffering the brunt of the climate crisis but bearing little responsibility for it.

The issue of loss and damage financing is emerging as an important fault line in the upcoming climate negotiations in Egypt. The Secretary-General’s remarks set off a potential showdown with the United States and countries in Europe, which have long resisted the idea of ​​a separate funding mechanism for loss and damage.

In the third part of his speech, Mr. Guterres emphasized the many challenges facing developing countries, including food insecurity, debt and poverty, which have resulted in them “being hit from all sides.”

“These cascading crises feed on each other, intensifying inequalities, creating devastating hardships, delaying the energy transition and threatening global financial meltdown,” said Mr. Guterres.

He called on banks to ease financial aid to developing countries by lifting loan conditions and increasing their risk appetite, while asking creditors to consider debt relief, especially for climate funds. Guterres said the International Monetary Fund and major central banks must significantly expand their liquidity facilities and currency lines.

Somini Sengupta contributed with reporting.