UN chief lauds General Assembly achievements, laments its failures

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UNITED NATIONS, Jan. 10 (Xinhua) -- UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Sunday lauded the General Assembly's achievements and lamented its failures.

"The General Assembly, where states have gathered for 75 years to debate the most important issues of our age, has seen many historic moments. And its daily work has played an enormous part in formulating and upholding laws on key global goods, from human rights and environmental protection to arms control and war crimes," he said in a virtual speech for the commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the first meeting of the General Assembly.

The work of the General Assembly has helped to boost global health, literacy, and living standards, and to promote human rights and gender equality, he said.

There has not been a Third World War. Since the founding of the United Nations in 1945 on the ashes of the Second World War, the world has enjoyed the longest period in recorded history without a military confrontation between major powers. That in itself is a great achievement, of which the United Nations and its member states can be rightly proud, he said.

The General Assembly's declaration on the granting of independence to colonial peoples in 1960 was a milestone for self-determination. Since the United Nations was established, more than 80 former colonies have gained their independence, said Guterres.

In the past year, the United Nations has been on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic. The World Health Organization has led the global health response and coordinated the provision of essential equipment, training and services worldwide. Early in the pandemic, the General Assembly acted swiftly to pass a resolution calling for global solidarity to fight the virus, he noted.

"While we are proud of our collective achievements, we are also aware of our failures," he cautioned.

The global response to the climate emergency has been utterly inadequate. The past decade was the hottest in human history. Carbon dioxide levels are at record highs. Apocalyptic fires and floods, cyclones and hurricanes are becoming the new normal. Biodiversity is collapsing, he said. "This is a war on nature -- and a war with no winners."

Meanwhile, conventional wars are growing more entrenched and difficult to resolve. Geopolitical tensions are escalating. The threat of nuclear proliferation and confrontation has returned. Inequality is growing. Hunger is on the rise, he noted.

Transformative technology has opened up vast new opportunities, but also new threats -- from cyberwarfare to rampant disinformation; from hate speech to political subversion and mass surveillance. And the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted serious gaps in global cooperation and solidarity, he said.

The first session of the UN General Assembly was convened on Jan. 10, 1946, in London. Sunday's virtual event was organized by the British government. Enditem

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