At UN, Guterres urges global unity while Trump favors sovereignty

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres laments that trust within and among countries is being driven down by those who demonize and divide. (Deutsche Presse-Agentur (DPA))
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres laments that trust within and among countries is being driven down by those who demonize and divide. (Deutsche Presse-Agentur)

Deutsche Presse-Agentur (DPA)

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres appealed for unity to mend a broken world in his first General Assembly speech on Tuesday, but not all world leaders had the same vision for international diplomacy.

Guterres outlined grave global challenges – including nuclear peril, climate change, and the refugee crisis – and highlighted a disconnect between an increasingly integrated global economy and the lack of a sense of global community.

“Societies are fragmented. Political discourse is polarized. Trust within and among countries is being driven down by those who demonize and divide,” Guterres lamented.

“We are a world in pieces. We need to be a world at peace,” he added, urging nations to show more solidarity in the face of global challenges.

Meanwhile, Donald Trump, who was also giving his first speech at the UN as US president, told world leaders they had a responsibility to put the interests of their own countries first – just as he puts America first.

Trump, who has sought to halt the US refugee programme, said mass movements of refugees across international borders were “unfair” to both recipient nations and countries of origin.

He reasoned that the loss of citizens drains human capital in refugees’ home nations and decreases pressure for reforms, while in the destination countries arriving refugees create economic challenges that are “borne overwhelmingly by low-income citizens.”

Addressing global migration, the UN chief urged countries to respect the rights of refugees and migrants.

Guterres also encouraged global leaders to step up and help to manage migration.

“I myself am a migrant, as are many of you. But no one expected me to risk my life on a leaky boat or cross a desert in the back of a truck to find employment outside my country of birth,” Guterres said.

“Safe migration cannot be limited to the global elite.”

Guterres warned the world not to “sleepwalk our way into war” with North Korea and stressed that unity in the UN Security Council is the only way to achieve denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and create the opportunity for diplomatic engagement with Pyongyang.

As Guterres warned against rhetoric that could escalate tensions, saying that “fiery talk can lead to fatal misunderstandings,” Trump followed up in his speech by threatening to “totally destroy North Korea” if the US is forced to defend itself or its allies.

“Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime,” Trump said, using a nickname he coined for North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

On climate change, Guterres reiterated his message to global leaders to implement the Paris Agreement “with ever greater ambition” and urged countries to “get off the path of suicidal emissions.”

The science of global warming is “unassailable” and the frequency and strength of extreme weather incidents have required the world to create new terms to describe them, such as mega-hurricanes, superstorms, and rain bombs, Guterres added.

The US has experienced the highest number of natural disasters since 1995, with more than 1,600, or one every five days.

Trump thanked member states for their aid in the wake of hurricanes Irma and Harvey, which battered the US states of Florida and Texas respectively.

But the US president, whose decision to withdraw from the Paris agreement on June 1 provoked international outrage, made no mention of climate change in his speech.