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Racism, the climate crisis and deepening world divisions will take center stage at the United Nations on Wednesday, a day after the UN chief issued a grim warning that “we are on the brink of the abyss “.

For the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, more than two dozen world leaders have appeared in person at the United Nations General Assembly on the opening day of their annual high-level meeting. The atmosphere was dark, angry, and terrible.

Chinese President Xi Jinping warned that “the world has entered a period of further turmoil and transformation.” Finnish President Sauli Niinistö said: “We are indeed at a critical moment. And the President of Costa Rica, Carlos Alvarado Quesada, declared: “The future is raising its voice against us: less military weapons, more investments in peace!

Speaker after speaker at the opening Tuesday of the nearly week-long meeting denounced the inequalities and deep divisions that have prevented united global action to end the COVID-19 pandemic, which has left almost 4, 6 million dead and still raging, and the inability to sufficiently fight against the climate crisis which threatens the planet.

COVID-19 and the climate will certainly remain priority issues for heads of state and government. But Wednesday’s UN agenda will first highlight the commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the controversial United Nations World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa, which was dominated by clashes in Middle East and the legacy of slavery.

The United States and Israel withdrew when a draft resolution met that criticized Israel for criticism and compared Zionism to racism – a provision that was ultimately scrapped. Twenty countries are boycotting Wednesday’s commemoration, according to the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, which urged more countries to join them “to continue to fight racism, bigotry and anti-Semitism.”

Following the commemoration, Heads of State will resume delivering their annual speeches in the vast General Assembly Hall. Speakers include King Abdullah II of Jordan, Indonesian President Joko Widodo and Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta.

Perhaps the most severe assessment of the current global crisis is that of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who opened his State of the World Address by sounding an “alarm” that “the world must to wake up”.

“Our world has never been more threatened or more divided,” he said. “We are facing the greatest cascade of crises of our life. “

“We are on the brink – and we are going in the wrong direction,” warned the secretary general.

Guterres pointed to the “grossly oversized inequalities” in the fight against COVID-19, the “climate alarm bells… polarizing people and crippling societies.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the pandemic was a reminder “that the whole world is part of one big family”.

“But the test of solidarity to which we were subjected has failed us miserably,” he said. “It is a shame for mankind that vaccine nationalism is still practiced by different methods”, and underdeveloped countries and poor segments of societies have been “literally left to fend for themselves in the face of the pandemic”.

As for the climate crisis, Erdogan said whoever has caused the most damage to nature, the atmosphere and water, “and whoever has savagely exploited natural resources” should make the greatest contribution to the fight against global warming.

“Unlike in the past, this time no one can afford the luxury of saying, ‘I am powerful, so I won’t foot the bill’ because climate change will treat humanity quite equally,” said the Turkish leader. “The duty for all of us is to take action against this enormous threat, with a fair sharing of the burden. “

Romanian President Klaus Iohannis has found something positive in the COVID-19 crisis.

“While the pandemic has affected almost every aspect of our life,” he said, “it has also provided us with opportunities to learn, adapt and do things better. “

Two of the most popular speeches on Tuesday were given by US President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

In an interview with The Associated Press on Saturday, Guterres warned that the world could plunge into a new and possibly more dangerous cold war if China and the United States do not mend their “completely dysfunctional” relationship. “Unfortunately today we only have one showdown,” he said.

The Secretary-General retained this theme in his speech on Tuesday, saying: “I fear our world is heading towards two different sets of economic, business, financial and technological rules, two divergent approaches in the development of artificial intelligence – and finally two different geopolitical strategies. It’s a recipe for trouble.

Biden said in his speech at the UN that the United States is not trying to divide or provoke confrontation.

“We are not looking for a new cold war or a world divided into rigid blocs,” he said. “The United States stands ready to work with any nation that engages and seeks to peacefully resolve common challenges, even as we have intense disagreements in other areas. “

Speaking later, Xi said that disputes between countries “should be dealt with through dialogue and cooperation.”

“The success of one country does not necessarily mean the failure of another,” Xi said. “The world is big enough to accommodate the common development and progress of all countries. ”

Traditionally, the first country to speak was Brazil, whose president, Jair Bolsonaro, rebuffed criticism of its handling of the pandemic and touted recent data indicating less Amazon deforestation. He said he sought to counter the image of Brazil portrayed in the media, touting it as a great place for investment and praising its pandemic social protection program, which has helped avoid a worse recession last year.

Bolsonaro said his government had successfully distributed the first doses to the majority of adults, but did not support vaccine passports or force anyone to be vaccinated. He has said several times over the past week that he still has not been vaccinated.

“By November, anyone who chooses to be vaccinated in Brazil will be covered,” Bolsonaro told the General Assembly.

Brazilian Health Minister Marcelo Quiroga, who was with Bolsonaro, later tested positive for the coronavirus and will remain in isolation in the United States, the government said. Quiroga received its first injection of the coronavirus vaccine in January.

Bolsonaro had COVID-19 last year and has said repeatedly over the past week that he still has not been vaccinated. He said getting the vaccine is a personal medical decision.

The Independent Gt