More than 140 world leaders will convene at the United Nations next week, amid a plethora of global crises. Their gathering arrives at a moment where the role of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky symbolizes the mounting global fragmentation.
The Ukrainian President's Contested Spotlight
Last year, Zelensky addressed the UN General Assembly virtually. This year, he joins world leaders, including US President Joe Biden, in person. Zelensky's primary aim is to muster support against the brutal Russian incursion.
However, the conflict has exposed deep global divisions. While Western nations stand firm with Ukraine, several developing countries hesitate to extend billions to Kiev. This hesitancy persists even though the conflict exacerbates poverty by inflating food prices.
Zelensky is slated to attend a special session of the Security Council on Ukraine. This could set the stage for a tense showdown with Russia, a nation with veto privileges. Following this, Zelensky is scheduled for talks in Washington at the White House and Capitol.
Richard Gowan of the International Crisis Group warns of the delicate nature of these engagements, emphasizing that Zelensky "must be careful." Gowan noted, "If he is too stubborn, he could actually turn this opportunity into a small diplomatic crisis." Echoing the complexities of the situation, other leaders like Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva stress the need for diplomacy.
Gowan anticipates potential friction between Ukraine and nations from the Global South. A senior European diplomat, choosing to remain anonymous, highlighted how the Ukrainian conflict was diverting focus from other urgent global challenges, such as food scarcity, the climate crisis, and financial access.
The diplomat poignantly added, "There is a growing rift between the developing world and the developed world."
Beyond the Crisis: A Look at Sustainable Development
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres seeks to guide the discussions beyond these immediate crises.
Initiating the week with a development summit on Monday, Guterres aims to spotlight the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) the UN hopes to realize by 2030. One ambitious target is the total eradication of extreme poverty.
However, achieving these SDGs faces numerous hurdles. A UN report cautioned that the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and rising debts are hampering the progress of many developing nations. Guterres summarized the sentiments leading into the General Assembly, stating, "People are looking to their leaders for a way out of this mess." He further warned of the burgeoning geopolitical rifts that could jeopardize our collective response capacity.
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