The first day of the United Nations General Assembly session kicked off in midtown Manhattan on Tuesday, bringing speakers from around the world to discuss the planet’s most pressing challenges.
The leaders spoke about the many global crises we are currently facing, including the climate crisis, rampant inequality, Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine and geopolitical instability.
Here are some highlights from the leaders who spoke on Day 1:
UN SECRETARY GENERAL
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres referred to the recent floods in Libya, which – according to estimates by government officials and humanitarian organizations – have caused between 4,000 and 11,000 deaths. Guterres echoed the conclusions of scientists who said climate change made the devastating storm 50 percent more intense.
“In the face of all these challenges and more, compromise has become a dirty word. Our world needs statesmanship, not gamesmanship and gridlock. As I said at the G20, it is time for a global compromise. Politics is compromise. Diplomacy it’s a compromise,” he said. “Effective leadership is compromise. Leaders have a special responsibility to achieve compromise in building a shared future of peace and prosperity for our common good.”
GENERAL ASSEMBLY PRESIDENT
Dennis Francis, president of this year’s UN General Assembly, said a common, global approach is needed now more than ever as the world faces geopolitical conflicts, climate change, debt, energy and food crises, as well as poverty and hunger.
“This year our imperative is clear: to unite the nations, to be united in the conviction of common purpose and in the solidarity of action,” Francis said.
Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva declared that “Brazil is back,” drawing a contrast with his predecessor, Jair Bolsonaro, who showed little interest in geopolitics or diplomacy during his four years in office.
“Brazil is meeting itself, the region, the world and multilateralism again,” Lula said. “As I never tire of saying, Brazil is back. Our country is back to make the proper contribution to addressing the world’s primary challenges.”
Last year, the leftist president narrowly won the election before Bolsonaro’s supporters stormed the capital in protest.
US President Joe Biden argued before the General Assembly that the world must stand united behind Ukraine as it fights Russian aggression.
“I ask you this: If we abandon the basic principles of the United States to appease an aggressor, can any member state in this body feel confident that they are protected?” Biden said in his speech. “If we allow Ukraine to break up, is the independence of any nation safe?
Colombian President Gustavo Petro painted a bleak picture if the world’s nations do not address climate change.
In grandiose language, Peter said that the past year was one that “mankind lost” as “the times of extinction advanced.”
He warned that the climate crisis has exacerbated the refugee crisis, warning that in the next half century, climate refugees could reach 3 billion.
Jordan’s King Abdullah has addressed the refugee crisis, saying his country cannot afford to host or care for more Syrian refugees.
“The future of Syrian refugees lies in their own country, not in the host countries,” he said. “But until they can come back, we all have to do the right thing.”
QATAR’S EMIR SAYS SPORTS CAN PLAY ROLE IN ‘BUILDING BRIDGES’ BETWEEN PEOPLE
Polish President Andrzej Duda compared Russia’s invasion of Ukraine to the Second World War occupation and the partition of his country by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. He urged the world to hold Moscow accountable for its “barbaric actions”.
“Poland lost its independence, was erased from the world map and subjected to an extremely brutal occupation. This is precisely why we understand the tragedy of Ukraine better than any other country,” Duda said.
Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel took aim at the US, calling its foreign policy with some countries – including his own – “unilateral” and “coercive”. Noticeably absent from his speech was any mention of Russia, which supports the island nation.
Diaz-Canel said that the US sanctions “even today affect Venezuela, Nicaragua and, before and after, have been the prelude to invasions and (the) overthrow of inconvenient governments in the Middle East.”
“We reject the coercive and unilateral measures imposed on countries such as Zimbabwe, Syria, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and Iran, among many other countries whose people are suffering the negative impact of them,” he said.
His comments come days after he and Brazilian President Lula rekindled ties between the countries at the G77 summit in Havana, with the former bemoaning the US embargo on Cuba.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has called for peace in the Caucasus region amid renewed fighting in a war-torn region of Nagorno-Karabakh.
“To take advantage of this opportunity, we attach importance to the normalization of our relations with Armenia,” Erdogan said. “From the beginning we have always supported diplomacy between Azerbaijan and Armenia. Unfortunately, we see that Armenia cannot use this historic opportunity.”
Portuguese President Marcelo de Sousa has stressed the need for more action and less talk on global inequality, climate change and the reform of international institutions in the wake of the war in Ukraine.
“Year after year, we promise. It’s time to deliver,” he said, warning that without reform: “there is no multilateral possibility, no lasting cooperation, no peace, all over the world.”
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The Associated Press contributed to this report.