The world has never been more threatened or more divided and faces the “greatest cascade” of crises, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told world leaders on Tuesday, sounding the alarm on the pandemic COVID-19, a climate crisis hitting the planet and upheaval in Afghanistan and other countries that is hindering peace.

Guterres, in his remarks at the opening of the general debate of the 76th session of the General Assembly, said human rights are under fire, science is under attack and economic lifelines for the most vulnerable arrive too little and too late, if they come at all, and solidarity is lacking in action when the world needs it most.

“I am here to sound the alarm: the world must wake up. We’re on the brink – and we’re heading in the wrong direction. Our world has never been so threatened. Or more divided. We are facing the greatest cascade of crises of our life, ”he said.

The annual high-level week, which was slated to be held virtually last year due to the raging COVID-19 pandemic, has returned this year to a hybrid format with over 100 heads of state and government as well as foreign ministers and diplomats to address the world leaders in person from the iconic General Assembly Hall here.

Describing the crises the world faces today, Guterres said the COVID-19 pandemic has exaggerated the glaring inequalities, the climate crisis is hitting the planet, the upheavals from Afghanistan to Ethiopia to Yemen. and beyond have thwarted the peace and a wave of mistrust and disinformation is polarizing people and crippling societies.

The COVID-19 pandemic, which has killed more than 4.6 million people and infected more than 228 million people worldwide, has highlighted stark inequalities between countries in terms of access and affordability of vaccines, he said.

More than 5.7 billion doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered worldwide, but only 2% of them in Africa, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

“Maybe a picture tells the story of our time. The image we’ve seen of parts of the COVID-19 vaccine world… in the trash. Expired and unused, ”Guterres said.

The UN chief noted that if on the one hand the vaccines were developed in record time, on the other hand “we see this triumph canceled by the tragedy of the lack of political will, of selfishness and of selfishness. mistrust.

“A surplus in some countries. Empty shelves in others. A richer majority of the world vaccinated. Over 90 percent of Africans are still waiting for their first dose. It is a moral indictment against the state of our world. It’s obscenity, ”Guterres said.

He said the world passed the scientific test when they produced vaccines in record time and pointed to the victory of science and human ingenuity, but “we get an F in ethics.”

Guterres stressed the urgent need for a global immunization plan to at least double vaccine production and ensure vaccines reach 70% of the world’s population in the first half of 2022.

On climate change, Guterres said climate alarm bells were ringing a “feverish blow” and there were warning signs on every continent and region.

“Scorching temperatures. Shocking loss of biodiversity. Polluted air, water and natural spaces. And climate-related disasters at every turn, ”he said.

Guterres has warned that the window to keep the Paris Climate Agreement’s 1.5-degree target alive is closing quickly. The world needs a 45% reduction in emissions by 2030, but with current national climate commitments, emissions will increase by 16% by 2030.

“It would doom us to a hellish landscape of temperature increases of at least 2.7 degrees above pre-industrial levels.

“COVID-19 and the climate crisis have exposed deep vulnerabilities as societies and as a planet,” said the UN chief.

Urging world leaders that “the time has come to act,” Guterres highlighted the six great gaps, the “Grand Canyons” that must be bridged now.

He called on world leaders to close the peace gap.

“For far too many people around the world, peace and stability remain a distant dream. In Afghanistan, where we need to step up humanitarian aid and defend human rights, especially of women and girls, ”he said, adding that in Myanmar, the world must reaffirm its unwavering support for the people in its quest for democracy, peace, human rights and the rule of law.

He said the world must bridge the climate divide by building a bond of trust between North and South.

“We need more ambition from all countries in three key areas: mitigation, finance and adaptation. My message to each Member State is: do not wait for others to take the first step. Do your part, ”he said.

He called on nations to bridge the gap between rich and poor, within and between countries.

“It starts with ending the pandemic for everyone, everywhere,” Guterres said.

Warning that there is no time to waste, he said an unbalanced recovery from the pandemic worsens inequalities, as richer countries could reach pre-pandemic growth rates by the end of the year. end of this year, while the impacts could last for years in low-income countries.

Emphasizing that the gender gap must be bridged, Guterres said COVID-19 has exposed and amplified the world’s most enduring injustice: the power imbalance between men and women.

“Closing the gender gap is not just about justice for women and girls. It is a game changer for humanity, ”he said.

Guterres called on world leaders to close the digital divide and the generation gap.

He said that half of humanity does not have access to the internet and that we need to connect everyone by 2030.

“Young people will inherit the consequences of our decisions – good and bad. At the same time, we expect 10.9 billion people to be born by the end of the century. We need their talents, ideas and energies. They need a seat at the table, ”added Guterres.

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