UNGA President: Pandemic, Ukraine-Russia conflict set back tackling global poverty

Maldivian Foreign Minister and President of the 76th UNGA, Abdulla Shahid. (Photo/Xinhua)

The President of the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly, as well as Foreign Minister to Maldives Abdulla Shahid on Tuesday, remarked that when combined with the impacts of the pandemic and climate change, the ongoing conflicts between Russia and Ukraine will set back decades of progress in tackling global poverty and would undo progress achieved in gender equality.

Addressing the seventh edition of the Raisina Dialogue, the UNGA President expressed his gratitude to the Ministry of External Affairs of India and the Observer Research Foundation for extending the invitation to speak on the ‘Role of the UN in a Polarizing World’.

Speaking further, he noted that before being able to fully grapple with the socio-economic costs of an unfinished pandemic, we have been “hit by a military aggression that is unleashing tectonic waves across the global energy, commodity and financial markets.”

He noted the UN’s estimation that as a result of the Ukraine-Russia conflicts, 1.7 billion people in 107 economies are “severely exposed” to either rising food prices, surging fuel prices, or have governments struggling to make debt payments and stabilize their economies.

This is including 41 countries in Africa, 38 in the Asia-Pacific and 28 in the Latin American and the Caribbean region.

Stating that as the Ukraine situation unfolds, the remaining threats to peace and safety were not on hold, Shahid stated that the pandemic exposed overstretched healthcare systems around the world, and added that conflicts in Palestine, Syria, Yemen, Libya, Ethiopia, Mali, Afghanistan and Myanmar, continue to persist.

“Extremism, terrorism, illicit financial flows and cyberwarfare are exacting a devastating toll and creating an acute risk of violence and conflict.”

In addition to this, Shahid addressed the “growing concern” over risks posed by large technology companies and branded the use of information, and how it is manipulated and falsified to be the very core of conflict today.

“When tech companies rather than governments become arbiters of truth, then discerning between information and disinformation becomes a challenge.”

Moreover, he spoke about the hotter heat waves, drier droughts, bigger storm surges and greater snowfall, and said that climate action needs to re-double or stick to the 1.5C and minimize climate-change harm to the people and planet. He also stressed that commitments made with regard to climate change need to be fulfilled in time.

Further addressing the gathering, Shahid said these globalized world issues interconnect with each other, and cannot be addressed individually, as global threats require global solutions.

“It is more vital now than ever to embrace the principles and values of multilateralism.”

He added that “We need to strengthen our collective ability to anticipate, prevent, and manage complex risks such as disease outbreaks, new wars, massive cyberattacks, environmental disasters, or other unforeseen events.”

Responding to those who are sceptical of the UN’s role, UNGA President said stressed that, “United Nations still remains the most viable and best-placed organization to address global challenges.”

He described the UN, especially the General Assembly as a forum where all countries, irrespective of their size and might matter, and as a place where all stakeholders can come together and contribute.

“It is my firm conviction that the United Nations still remains the most viable avenue for dialogue and the best option for consensus building and to bridge the divides in our polarized world.”

Additionally, he proposed three key actions that he believes address the changes that are needed.

-       United Nations needs to move closer to the people it serves.

-       United Nations needs to reform.

-       Collectively re-commit to multilateralism.

In concluding the address Shahid said that by coming together as a single community, and by revitalizing the principles and values of multilateralism, the challenges of our time can be solved and can lay the foundation for a better more peaceful future.