NEW YORK (NewsNation) — World leaders are gathering in New York City for the 77th United Nations General Assembly meeting this week — the largest diplomatic gathering since the start of the pandemic.
This meeting comes as the world confronts the grim reality of war, humanitarian crises, painful energy shocks, food shortages, climate change and economic turmoil.
Guterres will deliver his “state of the world” speech at Tuesday’s opening of the annual high-level global gathering. He also cited the “immense” task not only of saving the planet, “which is literally on fire,” but of dealing with the persisting COVID-19 pandemic. He also pointed to “a lack of access to finance for developing countries to recover — a crisis not seen in a generation” that has seen ground lost for education, health and women’s rights.
At the top of that agenda for many: Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine, which not only threatens the sovereignty of its smaller neighbor but has raised fears of a nuclear catastrophe at Europe’s largest nuclear plant in the country’s now Russia-occupied southeast.
Leaders in many countries are trying to prevent a wider war and restore peace in Europe. Diplomats, though, aren’t expecting any breakthroughs this week.
The loss of important grain and fertilizer exports from Ukraine and Russia has triggered a food crisis, especially in developing countries, and inflation and a rising cost of living in many others. Those issues are high on the agenda.
At a meeting Monday 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 our long-term development priorities to one side.”
But the U.N. chief said some things can’t wait — among them education, dignified jobs, full equality for women and girls, comprehensive health care and action to tackle the 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 her funeral in London on Monday, which many world leaders attended, have created last-minute headaches for the high-level meeting. Diplomats and U.N. staff have scrambled to deal with changes in travel plans, the timing of events and the logistically intricate speaking schedule for world leaders.
The global gathering, known as the General Debate, was entirely virtual in 2020 because of the pandemic, and hybrid in 2021. This year, the 193-member General Assembly returns to only in-person speeches, with a single exception — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
Over objections from Russia and a few allies, the assembly voted last Friday to allow the Ukrainian leader to prerecord his speech because of reasons beyond his control — the “ongoing foreign invasion” and military hostilities that require him to carry out his “national defense and security duties.”
By tradition, Brazil has spoken first for over seven decades because, at the early General Assembly sessions, it volunteered to start when no other country did.
The U.S. president, representing the host country for the United Nations, is traditionally the second speaker. But President Joe Biden attended the queen’s funeral, and his speech was pushed to Wednesday morning. Senegalese President Macky Sall is expected to take Biden’s slot.
Biden is expected to address domestic and world affairs, as inflation remains a thorn in the side of the American economy, and globally the war in Ukraine and climate change will both be talking points for the president.
He’s also expected to highlight the importance of building alliances with other nations, saying it’s advantageous to the security and prosperity of the respective countries and nations.
Other concerns for Biden: China and Iran. He doesn’t want Iran to have nuclear weapons and expects others to join him in that resistance.
Iranian officials say they have no plans on sitting down with Biden in any meeting at the U.N.
Meanwhile, China continues to be a focal point for human rights groups who say the country is responsible for human atrocities because of its brutal policies, and Biden has concerns about China’s military escalation with Taiwan and China’s impact on the American economy.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.