As Leaders Reconvene at UN, Climate and COVID Top the List
However, many other daunting challenges await them
Last year, no leaders came at all. This year will be quite different — sort of. With the coronavirus pandemic still raging in many parts of the world, leaders from more than 100 nations are heading to New York this week for the United Nations’ annual high-level gathering — a COVID-inflected, semi-locked down affair that takes place in one of the pandemic’s hardest-hit cities of all. It will be a departure from the last in-person meeting of the General Assembly in 2019 — and far different, too, from last year’s all-virtual version.
Awaiting them: Daunting challenges enough to scare anyone who runs a country, from an escalating climate crisis and severe vaccine inequities to Afghanistan’s future under its new Taliban rulers and worsening conflicts in Myanmar and the Tigray region of Ethiopia.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has pointed to many other signs of a more chaotic, insecure and dangerous world: rising poverty and hunger; technology’s advances “without guard rails” like lethal autonomous weapons; the risks of climate breakdown and nuclear war; and growing inequality, discrimination and injustice bringing people into the streets to protest “while conspiracy theories and lies fuel deep divisions within societies.”
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