UN chief urges fighting COVID-19, climate change, correcting divisions

UNITED NATIONS -- United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Tuesday called for more efforts to fight COVID-19 and climate change, and correct the "man-made" divisions.

Addressing the opening of the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA 76), the UN chief said that "it's time to focus on fighting humanity's common enemy: the pandemic." "We need to speed up our response to COVID-19, with vaccines, treatment and equipment for all -- not only those with the most," the secretary-general added.

"We need countries to commit and live up to bold climate targets at COP26 in Glasgow," the top UN official added.

"The war on our planet must end," he continued.

Noting that "we meet at a moment of great challenge and division," the secretary-general said that these challenges facing the world "are worsened by the divisions scarring our world." The divisions include "those between the rich and poor, between those who take basic services for granted -- nutrition, running water, accessible health care -- and those for whom these essentials remain a distant dream," said Guterres.

He also included the divisions between those "with a seat in a classroom and skills to build a better future -- and those denied this opportunity because of poverty or their gender." There are also "divisions between those able to access lifesaving COVID-19 vaccines -- and those who cannot," he said, noting that "these challenges and divisions are not a force of nature." "They are man-made," stressed the secretary-general.

The divisions "are made by economic systems stacked against the poorest and most vulnerable; by unchecked greed that is destroying our planet; by the lingering scars of colonialism that have never fully healed and by thirst for political and ideological dominance that fuels social unrest, mistrust, terrorism and armed conflicts," the UN chief pointed out.

These challenges and divisions can be corrected "if we unite behind our work here in this chamber and gather around the spirit of multilateralism that brings it to life," the secretary-general added.

Speaking about the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Guterres said that efforts must be made to accelerate the pace to realize the SDGs, which were "off-track" before the pandemic and have been further "out of reach" due to the pandemic.

The secretary-general called on the international community to "re-commit to the values that have animated the United Nations from day one." "Let us prove not through our words, but through our actions and collaboration, that multilateralism is the only pathway to a better future for all," the secretary-general said.