UN Secretary-General António Guterres fears of the possibility of a great fracture in which the world splits into two, with the two largest economies on earth creating two separate and competing worlds.
Addressing the 74th Session of the UN General Assembly on Tuesday, Guterres said people’s rights are not a favour to be rewarded or withheld because they are an endowment for simply being human.
“And at this time of transition and dysfunction in global power relations, there is a new risk looming on the horizon that may not yet be large, but it is real. I fear the possibility of a Great Fracture: the world splitting in two, with the two largest economies on earth creating two separate and competing worlds, each with their own dominant currency, trade and financial rules, their own internet and artificial intelligence capacities, and their own zero sum geopolitical and military strategies,” he said in apparent reference to the US-China trade dispute. “We must do everything possible to avert the Great Fracture and maintain a universal system – a universal economy with universal respect for international law; a multipolar world with strong multilateral institutions.”
He reminded global leaders that the United Nations Charter dictates putting people first.
“Every day. Everywhere. People with anxieties and aspirations. People with heartbreaks and hopes. Above all, people with rights,” he said.
“Those rights are not a favour to be rewarded or withheld. They are an endowment for simply being human.”
Guterres said he has heard from families in the South Pacific who fear their lives being swept away by rising seas, young refugees in the Middle East yearning for a return to school and home and Ebola survivors in North Kivu (DRC) struggling to rebuild their lives, including women demanding equality and opportunity.
“We are living in a world of disquiet. A great many people fear getting trampled, thwarted, left behind. Machines take their jobs. Traffickers take their dignity. Demagogues take their rights. Warlords take their lives. Fossil fuels take their future. And yet people believe in the spirit and ideas that bring us to this Hall. They believe in the United Nations,” he said. “But do they believe in us? Do they believe as leaders, we will put people first? Because we, the leaders, must deliver for we, the peoples. People have a right to live in peace.”
Guterres regretted that across the global landscape, conflicts persist, terrorism was spreading and the risk of a new arms race was growing.
He said outside interferences, often in violation of the UN Security Council resolutions, made peace processes more difficult.
“And so many situations remain unresolved, from Yemen to Libya to Afghanistan and beyond,” Guterres said. “A succession of unilateral actions threatens to torpedo a two-state solution between Israel and Palestine. In Venezuela, four million people have fled the country – one of the largest displacements in the world. Tensions are elevated in South Asia, where differences need to be addressed through dialogue. And above all, we are facing the alarming possibility of armed conflict in the Gulf, the consequences of which the world cannot afford. The recent attack on Saudi Arabia’s oil facilities was totally unacceptable. In a context where a minor miscalculation can lead to a major confrontation, we must do everything possible to push for reason and restraint.”
Guterres hoped for a future in which all the countries of the region can live in a state of mutual respect and cooperation, without interference in each other’s affairs.
“And I hope equally that it will still be possible to preserve the progress on nuclear non-proliferation represented by the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action [on Iran which US President Donald Trump abandoned unilaterally],” said Guterres. “From day one, I have emphasised prevention, mediation and a surge in diplomacy for peace to address the crises we face. Consider the lives we can save by intensifying our investments to sustain peace around the world.”