U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres appealed to the world to help Pakistan after arriving in the country Friday to see climate-induced devastation from months of deadly record floods that have left half a million people living in tents under the open sky. His trip comes less than two weeks after Guterres appealed for $160 million in emergency funding to help those affected by the monsoon rains and floods that have caused at least $10 billion in damages and 1,391 deaths. International aid is arriving, including the first planeload of what the U.S. has pledged will be $30 million in assistance. “I have arrived in Pakistan to express my deep solidarity with the Pakistani people after the devastating floods here. I appeal for massive support from the international community as Pakistan responds to this climate catastrophe," he said on Twitter before dawn. Last week, the U.N. chief issued a stern warning about the effects of climate change. “Let’s stop sleepwalking toward the destruction of our planet by climate change,” he said in a video message to a ceremony in Islamabad at the time. “Today, it’s Pakistan. Tomorrow, it could be your country.” Also read: Over 6.4 million in 'dire need' after unprecedented Pakistan floods Pakistan's Information Minister Maryam Aurangzeb in a statement thanked the U.N. chief for visiting Pakistan at a time when, she said, one-third of Pakistan is underwater. She said she wants the visit to help elevate the crisis for flood victims to the global level. “The visit will also help in realizing the consequences of the deadly effects of climate change," said, urging the international community to step up efforts to help poor countries affected by floods and natural disasters. Aurangzeb said Guterres will receive a briefing from Pakistani officials about damages caused by floods before addressing a news conference along with Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif in Islamabad on Friday. So far, U.N. agencies and several countries have sent nearly 60 planeloads of aid, and authorities say the United Arab Emirates is one of the most generous contributors, as it has sent so far 26 flights carrying aid or flood victims. The United States said it will provide $30 million in assistance to help flood victims. Also read: Aid pours into Pakistan; deaths from floods cross 1,200 mark The floods have touched all of Pakistan and affected more than 3.3 million people. Heritages sites have also been damaged, including Mohenjo Daro, considered one of the best-preserved ancient urban settlements in South Asia. The ruins near the Indus River were discovered in 1922 and to this day, mystery surrounds the disappearance of the civilization that dates back 4,500 years, coinciding with those of ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia. Mohenjo Daro is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the U.N. heritage agency on Thursday announced an emergency amount of $350,000 to help recover flood-damaged cultural heritage sites. Guterres was received on his arrival by Deputy Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar and will meet with Prime Minister Sharif and other government and military officials on his visit. Before the U.N. chief's arrival, Sharif told a visiting American diplomat that the world should step up its fight against climate change to avoid more deadly flooding. Derek Chollet, a senior State Department official, was visiting Islamabad to assess damages and arrange for aid. According to the government's statement, Chollet affirmed that the U.S. would stand by Pakistan in the wake of the floods and extend help to help people rebuild. On Friday, the first American planeload carrying aid will arrive in Pakistan, according to Pakistan officials, who say Washington is setting up a humanitarian aid air bridge to deliver much-needed for flood victims, Since June, heavy rains and floods have added new burdens to cash-strapped Pakistan and highlighted the disproportionate effect of climate change on impoverished populations. Experts say Pakistan is responsible for only 0.4% of the world’s historic emissions blamed for climate change. The U.S. is responsible for 21.5%, China for 16.5% and the EU 15%. The floods in Pakistan have also injured 12,722 people, destroyed thousands of kilometers of roads, toppled bridges and damaged schools and hospitals, according to the National Disaster Management Agency.
Turkey's leader and the U.N. chief met in Ukraine with President Volodymr Zelenskyy on Thursday in a high-powered bid to ratchet down a war raging for nearly six months. But little immediate progress was reported. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he would follow up with Russian President Vladimir Putin, given that most of the matters discussed would require the Kremlin's agreement. With the meetings held at such a high level — it was the first visit to Ukraine by Erdogan since the war began, and the second by U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres — some had hoped for breakthroughs, if not toward an overall peace, then at least on specific issues. But none was apparent. Meeting in the western city of Lviv, far from the front lines, the leaders discussed expanding exchanges of prisoners of war and arranging for U.N. atomic energy experts to visit and help secure Europe's biggest nuclear power plant, which is in the middle of fierce fighting that has raised fears of catastrophe. Erdogan has positioned himself as a go-between in efforts to stop the fighting. While Turkey is a member of NATO, its wobbly economy is reliant on Russia for trade, and it has tried to steer a middle course between the two combatants. The Turkish president urged the international community after the talks not to abandon diplomatic efforts to end the war that has killed tens of thousands and forced more than 10 million Ukrainians from their homes. He repeated that Turkey is willing to act as “mediator and facilitator” and added, “I remain convinced that the war will end at the negotiating table.” In March, Turkey hosted talks in Istanbul between Russian and Ukrainian negotiators that failed to end the hostilities. On the battlefield, meanwhile, at least 17 people were killed overnight in heavy Russian missile strikes on Ukraine’s Kharkiv region, Ukrainian authorities said Thursday. Russia's military claimed that it struck a base for foreign mercenaries in Kharkiv, killing 90. There was no immediate comment from the Ukrainian side. Read:Ukraine’s Zelenskyy hosts talks with UN chief, Turkey leader In the latest incident on Russian soil near the border with Ukraine, an ammunition dump caught fire in a village in the Belgorod region, the regional governor said. No casualties were reported. Video posted online, whose authenticity couldn’t be verified, showed orange flames and black smoke, with the sound of multiple explosions. Elsewhere, Russian officials reported that anti-aircraft defenses shot down drones in the Russian-occupied Crimean Peninsula at Kerch and near the Belbek airfield in the Black Sea port of Sevastopol. Explosions in recent weeks on the peninsula have destroyed warplanes and caused other damage at military airfields. Heightening international tensions, Russia deployed warplanes carrying state-of-the-art hypersonic missiles to its Kaliningrad region, an enclave surrounded by NATO members Lithuania and Poland. One major topic at the talks in Lviv was the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in southern Ukraine. Moscow and Kyiv have accused each other of shelling the complex. Condemning the Kremlin for what he called "nuclear blackmail,” Zelenskyy demanded that Russian troops leave the plant and that a team from the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency be allowed in. “The area needs to be demilitarized, and we must tell it as it is: Any potential damage in Zaporizhzhia is suicide,” Guterres said at a news conference. Erdogan likewise expressed concern over the fighting around the plant, saying, “We don’t want to experience another Chernobyl" — a reference to the world’s worst nuclear accident, in Ukraine in 1986. Zelenskyy and the U.N. chief agreed Thursday on arrangements for an IAEA mission to the plant, according to the president's website. But it was not immediately clear whether the Kremlin would consent to the terms. As for a pullout of troops, a Russian Foreign Ministry official said earlier that that would leave the plant “vulnerable." Fears mounted Thursday when Russian and Ukrainian authorities accused each other of plotting to attack the site and then blame the other side. Late Thursday, multiple rounds of Ukrainian shelling struck the city in which the power plant is located, a Russian official reported. Guterres used the talks in Lviv to name Gen. Carlos dos Santos Cruz of Brazil to lead a previously announced U.N. fact-finding mission to the Olenivka prison where 53 Ukrainian POWs were killed in an explosion in July. Russia and Ukraine have blamed each other for the blast. Also on the agenda Thursday: an increase in grain exports. Earlier this summer, the U.N. and Turkey brokered an agreement clearing the way for Ukraine to export 22 million tons of corn and other grain stuck in its Black Sea ports since the Russian invasion. The blockage has worsened world food shortages, driven up prices and heightened fears of famine, especially in Africa. Yet even with the deal, only a trickle of Ukrainian grain has made it out — some 600,000 tons by Turkey's estimate. Zelenskyy said Thursday that he proposed expanding the shipments. Guterres, for his part, touted the operation's success but added, “There is a long way to go before this will be translated into the daily life of people at their local bakery and in their markets.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is due to host the U.N. chief and Turkey’s leader Thursday for talks on the recent deal to resume Ukraine’s grain exports, the volatile situation at a Russian-occupied nuclear power plant and efforts to help end the nearly six-month-old war. U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres arrived Wednesday in Lviv, near Ukraine’s border with Poland, where he will meet Zelenskyy and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is making his first trip to Ukraine since the war started. U.N. deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said that among other issues, Guterres will discuss “his overall efforts to do what he can to essentially lower the temperature as much as possible with the various authorities.” Last month, Turkey and the U.N. helped broker an agreement clearing the way for Ukraine to export 22 million tons of corn and other grain stuck in its Black Sea ports since Russia invaded Feb. 24. A separate memorandum between Russia and the U.N. aimed to clear roadblocks to shipments of Russian food and fertilizer to world markets. The war and the blocked exports significantly exacerbated the global food crisis because Ukraine and Russia are major suppliers. Grain prices peaked after Russia’s invasion, and while some have since returned to prewar levels, they remain significantly higher than before the COVID-19 pandemic. Developing countries have been hit particularly hard by supply shortages and high prices. Even though ships are now leaving Russia and Ukraine, the food crisis hasn’t ended. Read:Crimea 'sabotage' highlights Russia's woes in Ukraine war U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters this week that Guterres’ trip to Ukraine will allow him “to see first-hand the results of an initiative … that is so critically important to hundreds of millions of people.” Dujarric added that he expects “the need for a political solution” to the war to be raised in Thursday’s talks. He said the three leaders will also discuss the situation at the Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine, Europe’s largest, which Moscow and Kyiv have accused each other of shelling. In his nightly video address Wednesday, Zelensky reaffirmed his demand for the Russian military to leave the plant, emphasizing that “only absolute transparency and control of the situation at and around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant for the Ukrainian state, for the international community, and for the IAEA can guarantee a gradual return to normal nuclear safety.” The International Atomic Energy Agency is a U.N. agency. Russia has rejected the demand. Erdogan’s office has confirmed that he would discuss the grain deal during the talks as well as ways to end the war through diplomatic means. Earlier this month, the Turkish leader met on the same issues with Russian President Vladimir Putin. In March, Turkey hosted a round of talks between Russian and Ukrainian negotiators, who discussed a possible deal to end the hostilities. The talks fell apart after the meeting in Istanbul, with both sides blaming each other. Erdogan has engaged in a delicate balancing act, maintaining good relations with both Russia and Ukraine. Turkey has provided Ukraine with drones, which played a significant role in deterring a Russian advance early in the conflict, but it has refrained from joining Western sanctions against Russia over the war. Facing a major economic crisis with official inflation near 80%, Turkey increasingly relies on Russia for trade and tourism. Russian gas covers 45% of Turkish energy needs, and Russia’s atomic agency is building Turkey’s first nuclear power plant. During their meeting in Sochi this month, Putin and Erdogan agreed to bolster energy, financial and other ties between their countries, raising concerns in the West that Ankara could help Moscow bypass the U.S. and European Union sanctions. On Wednesday night, Russian forces shelled Kharkiv and the surrounding region in northeast Ukraine, killing at least seven people, wounding 20 others and damaging residential buildings and civilian infrastructure, authorities said.
U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres is set to meet separately with the presidents of Russia and Ukraine next week to make urgent, face-to-face pleas for peace, the world body said Friday. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov confirmed that Guterres is to meet Tuesday with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and that Putin will also host the U.N. chief. The U.N. later said that Guterres will head Thursday to Ukraine to see President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba. In both visits, Guterres aims to discuss “steps that can be taken right now” to stop the fighting and help people get to safety, U.N. spokesperson Eri Kaneko said. Also Read: Satellite photos show possible mass graves near Mariupol “He hopes to talk about what can be done to bring peace to Ukraine urgently,” she said. Guterres had asked Tuesday to meet with the presidents in their respective capitals. Guterres has urged Russia to stop its attack since it began two months ago, in what he called “the saddest moment” in his five years in the U.N.’s top job. He appealed Tuesday for a four-day “humanitarian pause” in fighting leading up to Sunday’s Orthodox Easter holiday. “Stop the bloodshed and destruction. Open a window for dialogue and peace,” he implored. Guterres sent the U.N.’s top humanitarian official to Moscow and Kyiv earlier this month to explore the possibilities of a cease-fire. But the secretary-general had faced questions about whether he himself should travel to press for peace. In a recent letter, former U.N. officials called on him to step up his personal, public involvement. Whatever overtures may have been made privately, the now-planned trip “is a visible symbol of what the United Nations is supposed to be standing for, which is peace and security,” one of the letter-writers, former U.N. political affairs chief Jeffrey Feltman, said by phone Friday. “I don’t think any of us should have exaggerated expectations about what the secretary-general will be able to accomplish, but he has significant moral power,” said Feltman, now a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington. “It’s important that the secretary-general have these conversations.” Also Read: Zelenskyy gets John F. Kennedy award for defending democracy Former Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon went to Moscow and Kyiv in March 2014 to try to foster talks and diplomacy as Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula.
Russia’s war on Ukraine threatens to devastate the economies of many developing countries that are now facing even higher food and energy costs and increasingly difficult financial conditions, a U.N. task force warned Wednesday. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres released the report saying that the war is “supercharging” a crisis in food, energy and finance in poorer countries that were already struggling to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change and a lack of access to adequate funding for economic recovery. “We are now facing a perfect storm that threatens to devastate the economies of many developing countries,” Guterres said at a news conference. “As many as 1.7 billion people -- one-third of whom are already living in poverty -- are now highly exposed to disruptions in food, energy and finance systems that are triggering increases in poverty and hunger.” Rebeca Grynspan, secretary-general of the U.N. agency promoting trade and development who coordinated the task force, said those people live in 107 countries that have “severe exposure” to at least one dimension of the crisis -- rising food prices, increasing energy prices and tightening financial conditions. Read: ‘It’s not the end’: The children who survived Bucha’s horror In these countries, the report says, people struggle to afford healthy diets, imports are essential to meet food and energy needs, and “debt burdens and tightening resources limit government’s ability to cope with the vagaries of global financial conditions.” The report says 69 of the countries, with a population of 1.2 billion people, face a “perfect storm” and are severely or significantly exposed to all three crises. They include 25 countries in Africa, 25 in Asia and the Pacific, and 19 in Latin America and the Caribbean. Before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, prices were already on the rise, “but the war has made a bad situation worse,” Guterres said. Read: More than 10,000 civilians dead in Ukraine port city: Mayor Thirty-six countries rely on Russia and Ukraine for more than half their wheat imports, including some of the world’s poorest countries, he said, and wheat and corn prices have risen 30% just since the start of the year. Russia is also the world’s top natural gas exporter and second-largest oil exporter, and Russia and neighboring Belarus export about 20% of the world’s fertilizers. Guterres said oil prices have increased more than 60% over the past year, natural gas prices have jumped 50% in recent months, and fertilizer prices have doubled. The task force said the world is “on the brink of a global debt crisis.” Grynspan, who heads the U.N. Conference on Trade and Development, pointed to Sri Lanka’s default on a debt payment Tuesday and said other countries are asking for help. Guterres said the world can act to tackle the “three-dimensional crisis” and “cushion the blow.” The task force calls on countries to ensure a steady flow of food and fertilizer through open markets, lift export restrictions, and direct surpluses and reserves to those in need. Guterres said this would help keep a lid on food prices and calm volatility in food markets. On energy, the task force urges governments to refrain from hoarding, immediately release strategic petroleum stockpiles and additional reserves, and reduce the use of wheat for biofuels. Guterres urged countries to use the crisis as an opportunity to accelerate the transition to renewable energy. On finance, the task force issued “an urgent call for prompt and swift action from the international community” to help developing countries avoid another decade of lost economic development, “a generalized debt crisis, and social and political instability.” The task force says international financial institutions should provide emergency concessional financing to countries experiencing social and economic distress. It calls on the International Monetary Fund to increase limits for rapid financial assistance, suspend interest rate surcharges for two years, and explore the possibility of providing more liquidity “through special drawing rights or special measures targeted at the vulnerable and most affected countries.” Guterres said the upcoming spring meetings of the IMF and the World Bank on April 18-24 are “a crucial moment” for decisions on many of these issues. He said it is crucial that their members understand the need to use money that is available to alleviate the suffering of people around the world. The U.N. chief said political will is key, and announced that he has asked six leaders -- the presidents of Senegal and Indonesia and the prime ministers of Germany, Barbados, Denmark and Bangladesh -- to mobilize political leaders to ensure that developing countries in crisis get the help they need.
Security forces in Myanmar opened fire and made mass arrests Sunday as they sought to break up protests against the military’s seizure of power, and a U.N. human rights official said it had “credible information” that at least 18 people were killed and 30 were wounded.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned global leaders Monday that the world is not only facing a COVID-19 emergency and the worst economic crisis in nearly a century, but also “existential threats" to the climate and biodiversity — and the possibility of the largest economies, the United States and China, splitting the world in two.
The United Nations announced Saturday that 50 countries have ratified a U.N. treaty to ban nuclear weapons triggering its entry into force in 90 days, a move hailed by anti-nuclear activists but strongly opposed by the United States and the other major nuclear powers.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged leaders of the world's 20 major industrialized nations on Tuesday to adopt a "wartime" plan including a stimulus package "in the trillions of dollars" for businesses, workers and households in developing countries trying to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.
Amid fears about where the next outbreak of a fast-spreading new virus would appear, infections and deaths continued to rise across the globe Sunday, emptying streets of tourists and workers, shaking economies and rewriting the realities of daily life.