World

UN secretary general warns world is becoming ‘less safe by the day’

Antonio Guterres was speaking as the UN’s top human rights body opened its latest session.

Antonio Guterres delivered his remarks in Geneva, Switzerland (Salvatore Di Nolfi/Keystone via AP)
Antonio Guterres Antonio Guterres delivered his remarks in Geneva, Switzerland (Salvatore Di Nolfi/Keystone via AP) (Salvatore Di Nolfi/AP)

UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres has said combatants in places such as Congo, Gaza, Myanmar, Ukraine and Sudan are turning a “blind eye” to international law as he made a plea for greater respect for human rights and peace around the world.

Speaking as the UN’s top human rights body opened its latest session, Mr Guterres warned that the world is becoming “less safe by the day”.

“Our world is changing at warp speed,” he told the Human Rights Council.

“The multiplication of conflicts is causing unprecedented suffering. But human rights are a constant.”

The UN chief said attacks on human rights take many forms, and reiterated his frequent calls for debt relief for some of the world’s poorest countries and greater spending to fight climate change.

He defended the UNRWA, the agency for Palestinian refugees, as the “backbone” of aid efforts in Gaza at a time when top Israeli authorities have called for its dismantling.

The UN human rights chief, Volker Turk, also lashed out at “attempts to undermine the legitimacy and work” of the UN and its affiliates.

“The UN has become a lightning rod for manipulative propaganda and a scapegoat for policy failures,” he said.

“This is profoundly destructive of the common good, and it callously betrays the many people whose lives rely on it.”

The council was kicking off a six-week session on Monday as crises of human rights abound.

On many minds will be the death this month of opposition leader Alexei Navalny while held in prison in President Vladimir Putin’s Russia, a permanent UN Security Council member.