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UN chief fears world is "sleepwalking" into a wider war

Axios World logo: MainLogo Axios World 2/7/2023 Jacob Knutson
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United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said on Monday he fears the world is "sleepwalking" into a wider war beyond Russia's invasion of Ukraine while it at the same time faces "a confluence of challenges unlike any other in our lifetimes."

Driving the news: Guterres urged countries to adhere to the UN charter and international law and to shift their decision-making processes from "near-term thinking" to those that consider "what will happen to all of us tomorrow."

  • Guterres, during a briefing to the General Assembly, cited the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists' recent decision to set the Doomsday Clock to 90 seconds to midnight as a symbolic depiction of how close the world is to "total global catastrophe."
Data: Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists; Chart: Jacque Schrag/Axios

What they're saying: "This is the closest the clock has ever stood to humanity’s darkest hour – and closer than even during the height of the Cold War," Guterres said. "In truth, the Doomsday Clock is a global alarm clock. We need to wake up – and get to work."

  • "We have started 2023 staring down the barrel of a confluence of challenges unlike any other in our lifetimes," he said. "We need a course correction."
  • "Politicians and decision makers are hobbled by what I call a preference for the present. There is a bias in political and business life for the short-term," Guterres said. "This near-term thinking is not only deeply irresponsible – it is immoral."

The big picture: The UN chief specified ongoing wars, climate change, global poverty and "epic geopolitical divisions" as the major challenges currently facing the world.

  • Guterres remarks come weeks before the first anniversary of Russia's invasion of Ukraine and as tensions between the U.S. and China are heightened in part over the recent discovery and destruction of a suspected Chinese surveillance balloon in U.S. airspace.

Go deeper: United Nations urges nations to prepare for an aging world now

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