World is on edge of abyss: UN chief

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UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Tuesday warned that the world is on the edge of an abyss and moving in the wrong direction.

“I am here to sound the alarm: The world must wake up. We are on the edge of an abyss, and moving in the wrong direction,” he told the General Assembly before the opening of the General Debate.

“Our world has never been more threatened, or more divided. We face the greatest cascade of crises in our lifetimes,” he said in his report to the assembly on the work of the world body.

The COVID-19 pandemic has supersized glaring inequalities. The climate crisis is pummeling the planet. Upheaval from Afghanistan to Ethiopia to Yemen and beyond has thwarted peace.

A surge of mistrust and misinformation is polarizing people and paralyzing societies. Human rights are under fire. Science is under assault. And economic lifelines for the most vulnerable are coming too little and too late — if they come at all. Solidarity is missing in action — just when the world needs it most, he said.

On the one hand, the COVID-19 vaccines were developed in record time, a victory of science and human ingenuity. On the other hand, triumph is being undone by the tragedy of a lack of political will, selfishness and mistrust: a majority of the wealthier world vaccinated, over 90 percent of Africans still waiting for their first dose.

“This is a moral indictment of the state of our world. It is an obscenity. We passed the science test. But we are getting an F in ethics,” said Guterres. The climate alarm bells are also ringing at a fever pitch, he said.