United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said at the World Economic Forum’s meeting of world leaders and corporate executives Wednesday that the world is in a “sorry state” as it faces challenges ranging from climate change to the war in Ukraine.
“I’m not here to sugarcoat … the sorry state of our world. We can’t confront problems unless we look them squarely in the eye. And we are looking into the eye of a Category 5 Hurricane,” Guterres told the crowd at the Swiss ski resort of Davos.
Guterres described the “perfect storm” now plaguing the planet, including the economic slowdown and a looming recession, global warming and an ecosystem meltdown, and conflict like the war in Ukraine.
The secretary-general has long sounded alarms about the deadly climate crisis and the existential threat of nuclear weapons, and his address to the annual WEF meeting underscored the urgency of the compounding issues that are “piling up like cars in a chain reaction crash.”
“Several parts of our planet will be uninhabitable. And for many, it will mean a death sentence,” Guterres said of the world’s rapid warming, deriding Big Oil as a business model “inconsistent with human survival.”
It would be difficult to solve these variegated crises even in a peaceful and united world, Guterres said, but the world now faces “the gravest levels of geopolitical division and distrust in generations,” evidenced not just in the Ukrainian conflict but in “the decoupling” of the U.S. and China along the East-West divide.
Ukraine has been a key focus of the Davos talks, and Guterres wasn’t optimistic that an end to the war is in sight, predicting that peace will be hard to accomplish in the short term.
What’s more, the international community is still recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic that strained public health and ravaged many economies.
“Somehow, after all we have endured, we have not learned the global public health lessons of the pandemic. We are nowhere near ready for the pandemics to come,” Guterres said.