The first day of the United Nations General Assembly meeting kicked off in downtown Manhattan Tuesday, bringing in speakers from around the world to discuss the globe’s most pressing challenges.
Leaders spoke of the many global crises presently faced, including the climate crisis, rampant inequality, Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine, and geopolitical instability.
Here are some highlights of the leaders who spoke on Day 1:
UN Secretary-General António Guterres evoked the recent floods in Libya which – according to estimates from government officials and aid agencies – caused between 4,000 and 11,000 deaths. Guterres echoed the conclusions of scientists who have said that climate change made the devastating storm 50% more intense.
“In the face of all these challenges and more, compromise has become a dirty word. Our world needs statesmanship, not gamesmanship and gridlock. As I told the G20, it is time for a global compromise. Politics is compromise. Diplomacy is compromise,” he said. “Effective leadership is compromise. Leaders have a special responsibility to achieve compromise in building a common future of peace and prosperity for our common good.”
PRESIDENT OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY
Dennis Francis, the president of this year’s U.N. General Assembly, said a common, global approach is needed now more than ever as the global faces geopolitical conflicts, climate change, debt, energy and food crises, as well as poverty and famine.
“This year our imperative is clear: to unite the nations, to be united in conviction of common purpose and in solidarity of action,” Francis said.
Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva proclaimed that “Brazil is back,” drawing a distinction with his predecessor, Jair Bolsonaro, who showed little interest in geopolitics or diplomacy during his four years in office.
“Brazil is reencountering itself, the region, the world and multilateralism,” Lula said. “As I never tire of saying, Brazil is back. Our country is back to give our due contribution to face the world’s primary challenges.”
Last year, the left-wing president narrowly won the election before Bolsonaro supporters stormed the capital in protest.
U.S. President Joe Biden made his case before the General Assembly that the world must stand united behind Ukraine as it battles Russian aggression.
“I ask you this: If we abandon the core principles of the United States to appease an aggressor, can any member state in this body feel confident that they are protected?” Biden said in his address. “If we allow Ukraine to be carved up, is the independence of any nation secure?
Columbian President Gustavo Petro painted a dark picture if the nations of the world do not address climate change.
With grandiose language, Petro said the past year was one that “humanity lost” as it “advanced the times of extinction.”
He warned that the climate crisis has exacerbated the refugee crisis, warning that in the next half-century, climate refugees could reach 3 billion.
Jordan’s King Abdullah touched on the refugee crisis, saying his country does not have the ability to host, nor care for more Syrian refugees.
“Syrian refugees’ future is in their country, not in host countries,” he said. “But until they are able to return, we must all do right by them.”
Polish President Andrzej Duda likened the Russian invasion of Ukraine to the World War II occupation and partition of his own country by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. He urged the world to hold Moscow accountable for its “barbaric actions.”
“Poland lost its independence, was wiped (off) the map of the world, and subjected to an extremely brutal occupation. This is precisely why we understand the tragedy of Ukraine better than any other country,” Duda said.
Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel took aim at the U.S., calling its foreign policy with some countries – including his own – “unilateral” and “coercive.” His speech was noticeably absent, any mention of Russia, which supports the island nation.
Díaz-Canel said U.S. sanctions “today also affect Venezuela, Nicaragua and, before and after, they have been the prelude to invasions and (the) overthrow of uncomfortable governments in the Middle East.”
“We reject the coercive and unilateral measures imposed on countries like Zimbabwe, Syria, the Democratic Republic of Korea and Iran, among many other countries whose people suffer the negative impact of these,” he said.
His comments come days after he and Brazilian President Lula reignited ties between the countries at the G77 summit in Havana, with the former lamenting the U.S. embargo of Cuba.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan called for peace in the Caucasus region amid renewed fighting in a war-torn Nagorno-Karabakh region.
“In order to make use of this opportunity we attach importance to the normalization of our relations with Armenia,” Erdogan said. “From the outset we always supported diplomacy between Azerbaijan and Armenia. Unfortunately, we see that Armenia cannot make use of this historic opportunity.”
Portugues President Marcelo de Sousa stressed the need for more action and less talk on global inequality, climate change, and reforming international institutions in the wake of the war in Ukraine.
“Year after year, we promise. It’s time to fulfill,” he said, warning that without reform: “there is no multilateralism possible, there is no lasting cooperation, there is no peace, all over the world.”