UN canvasses single global economy, appeals to U.S and China

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres

Cecilia Ologunagba

The United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Saturday highlighted the importance of a single global economy as geopolitical divides threaten to spark new conflicts and make older ones harder to resolve.

Guterres said at a press conference in Cambodia’s capital, Phnom Penh that the global economy could not afford to be split into two opposing camps.

The UN chief was speaking to journalists a day after addressing regional leaders attending the 12th Summit between the UN and the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

“As I told yesterday’s summit meeting, we must avoid at all costs the division of the global economy into two parts, led by the two biggest economies – the United States and China,” he said in a statement.

“Such a rift, with two different sets of rules, two dominant currencies, two internets, and two conflicting strategies on artificial intelligence, would undermine the world’s capacity to respond to the dramatic challenges we face.”

He said ASEAN countries were well placed to bridge this divide, stressing that “we must have one global economy and global market with access for all.”

The UN chief also reported on some of the issues discussed at the summit, including the situation in Myanmar which he described as “an unending nightmare for the people of that country, and a threat to peace and security across the region.”

Myanmar’s military seized power in February 2021 and since then, the country has been in the grip of a political, human rights and humanitarian crisis.

Guterres said ASEAN had taken a principled approach to the issue through its Five-Point Consensus.

The plan was adopted in April 2021 and calls for an immediate cessation of violence, constructive dialogue among the parties, the appointment of a Special Envoy, the provision of humanitarian assistance, and a visit to the country by the Special Envoy.

“I urge all countries, including ASEAN members, to seek a unified strategy towards Myanmar, centred on the needs and aspirations of the country’s people,” he said.

The war in Ukraine, the global energy and food crisis, and the climate emergency were also on the agenda at the day-long summit.

“In these turbulent times, regional organisations including ASEAN are essential to building global solutions,” Guterres said.

The secretary-general travelled to Cambodia from Egypt, where the COP27 UN climate change conference is taking place.

Guterres is calling for a Climate Solidarity Pact for developed and emerging economies to combine resources and capacities to defeat climate change.

He is also pushing for leaders to reach an agreement on a financial mechanism to support countries that suffer loss and damage from climate-related disasters.

The UN chief will travel next to Bali, Indonesia, for the G20 summit of the world’s major economies, which begins on Tuesday.

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