UN Chief Just Said 'Our World Is Becoming Unhinged'. Here's 5 Reasons Why

Antonio Guterres certainly opened the UN summit with a bang.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres speaks during the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) at the United Nations headquarters on September 19, 2023 in New York City.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres speaks during the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) at the United Nations headquarters on September 19, 2023 in New York City.
Michael M. Santiago via Getty Images

The United Nations’ secretary general has opened a state-of-the-world address with a pretty gloomy assessment: ”Our world is becoming unhinged.”

Antonio Guterres was opening the United Nations’ headquarters in New York for the UN’s General Assembly (UNGA) on Tuesday when he slammed the way countries are responding to the crises we currently face.

Heads of states and governments from at least 145 nations have come together for the 78th UNGA session, the first full-on meeting of world leaders since Covid-19 disrupted travel around the world.

So here’s a look at the five main issues Guterres pulled out to explain to open the two-day summit, which prompted the UN chief to describe our world as “unhinged”, struggling with “existential threats” and at a time of “chaotic transition”.

1. ‘Geopolitical tensions are rising’

As Guterres explained: “Divides were deepening among economic and military powers, and between North and South, East and West.”

Guterres also referred the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine, launched last year by Vladimir Putin.

He said the war itself is a violation of the UN Charter and international law, and it is “has serious implications for us all”.

Guterres added: “Nuclear threats put us all at risk. Ignoring global treaties and conventions makes us all less safe. And the poisoning of global diplomacy obstructs progress across the board.”

The world is currently facing its highest number of violent conflicts since 1945.

He noted that Sudan is “descending into full scale civil war,” while millions are displaced in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, and 70% of the population in Afghanistan needs humanitarian aid.

He added: “Authoritarianism is on the march, inequalities are growing, and hate speech is on the rise.

“If every country fulfilled its obligations under the UN Charter, the right to peace would be guaranteed. When countries break those pledges, they create a world of insecurity for everyone. Exhibit A: Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.”

2. ‘Global challenges are mounting’

The worsening climate crisis has been at the top of Guterres’ list of concerns before, having warned the public that “global boiling” has begun back in July, as intense heatwaves and extreme weather events hit countries around the world.

As Guterres explained on Tuesday, the world’s response to the crisis is falling “abysmally short”. He called the terrifying floods in Derna, Libya “a snapshot of the state of our world”

He also called for a Climate Solidarity Pact, to stop big emitters making extra efforts to cut emissions, and wealthier countries support emerging economies with finance and technology.

The UN chief added: “Africa has 60%of the world’s solar capacity – but just 2% of renewable investments.”

He hammered home calls to end fossil fuel subsidies and a price on carbon too, pointing a lot of the blame at developed nations.

He summarised: “We have the receipts. G20 countries are responsible for 80% of greenhouse emissions. They must break their addition to fossil fuels and stop new coal.”

3. ‘Dramatic technological disruptions’

A boom in artificial intelligence services earlier this year indicated that there would be a shift in the way society around the world operates.

Guterres warned that this could lead to “great fracture”.

He explained: “We are inching ever closer to a great fracture in economic and financial systems and trade relations; one that threatens a single, open internet; with diverging strategies on technology and artificial intelligence; and potentially clashing security frameworks.”

He subsequently called for a new global entity on AI that could provide a source of information and expertise for members.

4. A global cost of living crisis

Triggered by the war in Ukraine – which saw prices for energy, grain and fertiliser skyrocket – the basic cost of living soared last year.

Guterres subsequently called for reforms to the “dysfunctional, outdated an unjust” international financial architecture – including $500 billion (£403 billion) a year rescue package for countries most heavily in debt.

“The world badly needs Ukrainian food and Russian food and fertilisers to stabilise markets and guarantee food security,” he added.

5. ‘We seem incapable of coming together to respond’

This could be a reference to the four leaders of the five-nation strong Security Council who will not be in New York this week.

This year, China’s Xi Jinping, Russia’s Vladimir Putin, France’s Emmanuel Macron and the UK’s Rishi Sunak won’t be making an appearance – meaning only the US’s Joe Biden expected to address the room.

Xi and Putin rarely appear at such summits together, while Sunak and Macron had conflicts in their schedules.

This has sparked frustration from developing countries who are calling for more assistance in handling the climate crisis.

Guterres also said in his speech that only 15% of some 140 specific targets to achieve 17 goals are on track. The goals include targets such as attempts to end extreme world poverty and hunger, and achieve gender equality.

The UN chief also said global governance was “stuck in time”, and called for reforms to institutions around the world.

He added: “We cannot effectively address problems as they are if institutions don’t reflect the world as it is. Instead of solving problems, they risk becoming part of the problem.”


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