Guterres denounces in Davos the "deplorable state" of the world

The Secretary General of the United Nations, António Guterres, alerted, during the meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos (Switzerland), to the “deplorable state” of the world.

The world is in a ‘sad state’ due to a ‘myriad of interrelated challenges and issues’, including climate change and wars, including the one in Ukraine, piling up ‘like cars in a jet crash chain,” he lamented.

“I’m not here to sugarcoat the magnitude of this challenge – or the deplorable state of our world,” Guterres said, noting that the world is in the throes of a perfect storm on many fronts. Many parts of the world are in recession and the whole world is facing a slowdown.

At the Davos meeting, he painted a grim picture of the planet, with supply chain disruptions and energy shortages. A situation marked by soaring prices and inflation as high levels of debt hit vulnerable countries, in addition to the lingering effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Davos also gave him the opportunity to reiterate his plea for the protection of the planet and the fight against climate change, in order to end “our self-destructive war against nature” at a time when the planet is flirting with “climate catastrophe “. “If we don’t take further action, we are heading for a 2.8 degree Celsius rise,” the UN chief warned of global warming.

The “big lie” of the oil giants on the climate crisis

To end it, it is important to close the gap in greenhouse gas emissions, to phase out coal and to accelerate the revolution of renewable energies, believes Guterres who took the opportunity to denounce “the big lie of the ‘oil industry “.

“We learned last week that some fossil fuel producers were well aware in the 1970s that their flagship product was going to burn the planet. But like the tobacco industry, they ignored their own science. Some oil giants have peddled the big lie”, he argued, noting that “those responsible must be prosecuted” as the tobacco companies have been.

In the meantime, this is not the direction that the oil industry seems to be taking, laments the UN chief: “Today, fossil fuel producers and those who support them continue to fight to increase production , knowing full well that their economic model is incompatible with the survival of humanity”. “This madness is science fiction, but we know that ecosystem collapse is an undeniable scientific fact,” he said.

“Add to this toxic mix another combustible factor – conflict, violence, war,” he said, recalling the consequences of the war in Ukraine and its effects on food and energy prices.

On another level, the UN Secretary General called again to avoid a new Cold War between Westerners and Chinese which would further deteriorate the situation.

“The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has indicated that dividing the world economy into two blocks could reduce world GDP by a considerable amount of 1.4 trillion dollars (…). For historians who might listen: We must avoid a 21st century sequel to ‘Thucydides’ Trap’,” he remarked.

Thucydides’ trap is a concept in international relations that refers to a situation where a dominant power goes to war with an emerging power, the former being driven by the fear that the latter arouses in it because of its rise in power.

Another problem is that tensions between rich and developing countries are increasing. “I am not convinced that the richer world and its leaders really understand the level of frustration and even anger in the South,” said António Guterres, calling for work to end the anger of the latter on the pandemic, climate or financial matters.

Build trust and embrace multilateralism

The UN chief thus warned of the effects of this “frustration and anger at a morally bankrupt financial system in which systemic inequalities amplify societal inequalities”. A system in which most of the world’s poorest countries have seen their debt service soar by 35% in the last year alone.

More generally, the planet is far from being “in the best of all possible worlds – and the world is far from being united”. Faced with “severe levels of geopolitical division and mistrust not seen in generations”, he felt there was “no perfect solution in a perfect storm”.

But the world can now “strive to limit the damage and seize the opportunities that arise”.

“More than ever, it is time to forge avenues of cooperation in our fragmented world,” concluded the UN Secretary-General, urging the international community “to embrace multilateral institutions, build trust where it is sorely lacking, because the world cannot wait”.

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