Wednesday (September 21st): Guterres starts the end of the UN

António-Guterres UN
António Guterres 

Name? António Guterres 

Westphalian identity? Portuguese 

Age? 73 

Why is he in the news? The Secretary-General of the UN, António Guterres opened the 77th UN General Assembly. In his opening remarks, Guterres commented that the world was in ‘great peril’, setting the tone for a week dominated by speeches concerning the war in Ukraine and climate change. The remarks were a reflection of the state of the world following Covid-19 and the Russian invasion of Ukraine, but Guterres was equally critical of climate inaction

Why do we care? Guterres finds himself heading a UN that has lost a lot of credibility and to a collection of nations in ‘global dysfunction’, his warnings will likely fall on deaf ears. Given the current turmoil the international arena is in, the state leaders cannot turn a blind eye to it, but what other option do they have? 

Why should you care? Outside of moving speeches and rhetoric, an undercurrent of the assembly that Guterres will be aware of is the doubt cast on the structure of the United Nations itself. With the invasion of Ukraine, a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council has broken the first article of the UN Charter. The council’s credibility is at stake and it is possible that we’ll see reform, with Germany and Japan vying for their permanent addition to the council. You should care 6/10 about any plans to rehaul the UN.

Who else cares? Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. With the war in Ukraine, Zelensky will be hoping for stronger action against Vladimir Putin, who unsurprisingly will not be attending. Zelensky will also be hopeful for UNSC reform; back in April, he called for the dissolution of the UNSC altogether. Zelensky will deliver a virtual speech to the assembly later today. 

Any further comments? Other notable absentees include China’s President Xi Jinping, India’s Narendra Modi and Ethiopia’s Abiy Ahmed, who will send foreign ministers in their stead.