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UN chief says world in 'age of chaos'

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned of global chaos due to a deeply divided Security Council, unable to address critical issues like the Israel-Hamas conflict. With the conflict in Gaza continuing, Guterres urged for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire and release of hostages.

Published February 07,2024

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned Wednesday that the world is entering "an age of chaos" with a deeply divided Security Council unable to address critical issues such as the Israel-Hamas war.

With the war in Gaza entering its fifth month on Wednesday, Guterres warned that if the Israeli armed forces press on into the southern city of Rafah, it will "exponentially increase what is already a humanitarian nightmare with untold regional consequences."

Israeli forces, in their campaign to destroy Hamas after its unprecedented attack on October 7, have relentlessly bombed the Gaza Strip and carried out a ground invasion, displacing over a million people southward.

"It is time for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire and the unconditional release of all hostages," Guterres said during a speech to the General Assembly presenting his 2024 priorities.

In the speech, he called for changes to the Security Council and international financial system, among other reforms, touting his "Summit of the Future" in September as a critical venue to address dysfunction "deeper and more dangerous" than ever.

"The United Nations Security Council -- the primary platform for questions of global peace -- is deadlocked by geopolitical fissures," said Guterres, a former Portuguese prime minister.

"This is not the first time the Council has been divided -- but it is the worst. Today's dysfunction is deeper and more dangerous."

He said that unlike during the Cold War, when "well-established mechanisms helped manage superpower relations," those mechanism are missing "in today's multipolar world."

"Our world is entering in an age of chaos..., a dangerous and unpredictable free-for-all with total impunity," he warned.


His remarks come amid devastating conflicts in Ukraine, Sudan, the Middle East and elsewhere, with millions of people displaced by the fighting and in need of assistance.

"As conflicts proliferate, global humanitarian needs are at an all-time high, but funding is not keeping pace," Guterres said.

Against such a dark backdrop, Guterres encouraged world leaders to seize the opportunity of the "Summit of the Future," to be held in September in New York on the sidelines of the annual General Assembly to "shape multilateralism for years to come."

On the heels of the Covid-19 pandemic, he called again for the development of an "emergency platform to improve the international response to complex global shocks."

The rapid development of artificial intelligence tools "is already creating risks" and will "affect all of humankind, so we need a universal approach to deal with it," he said.

He called on the world to "move fast, be creative, and work together to ensure adequate guardrails and ethical standards, promote transparency, and build capacities in developing countries."

Guterres, who has made addressing climate change a priority since taking office in 2017, reiterated that the crisis "remains the defining challenge of our time" and called for humanity to "make peace with the planet."

He said "humanity has waged a war we can only lose: our war with nature. It is a crazy fight to pick."