2020’s ‘wind of madness’ indicates growing instability: UN chief

UN Photo/Mark Garten Secretary-General António Guterres briefs journalists on his priorities for 2020 and on the work of the organization.

This article is brought to you in association with the United Nations.


Rising instability and unpredictable geopolitical tensions have led to a “wind of madness” across the world, Secretary-General António Guterres said on Tuesday during his main annual press conference for journalists at UN Headquarters in New York.

Following recent flare-ups in some hotspots, the UN chief observed that although de-escalation efforts indicated progress, the situation has now changed.

“I have spoken about winds of hope. But today a wind of madness is sweeping the globe.  From Libya to Yemen to Syria and beyond — escalation is back. Arms are flowing. Offensives are increasing”, he said.

Security Council resolutions ‘disrespected’

“All situations are different but there is a feeling of growing instability and hair-trigger tensions, which makes everything far more unpredictable and uncontrollable, with a heightened risk of miscalculation.  Meanwhile, Security Council resolutions are being disrespected even before the ink is even dry.”

In laying out this and other “vicious circles” operating, the Secretary-General underscored the need for multilateral institutions like the UN to be more attuned to the global challenges of the 21st century.

“In the year ahead I will press to break the vicious circles of suffering and conflict and push for a strong surge of diplomacy for peace,” he said.

Coal addiction ‘dangerously strong’

Mr. Guterres continued his push for climate action, as rising ocean temperatures and subsequent ice melt are worsening the crisis.

With carbon dioxide concentrations set to reach new highs, he called on “the big emitters” to lead the way forward in adaptation, mitigation and financing.

“We need a price on carbon, and an end to subsidies for fossil fuels. We are still seeing too many plans for coal plants – the addiction to coal remains dangerously strong,” he said.

The vicious cycle of poverty and inequality also must be broken, and Mr. Guterres reminded journalists that the UN this year kicked off a Decade of Action to deliver the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The 17 goals include ending hunger and poverty, providing quality education for all children, and achieving gender equality.

Said the Secretary-General: “We know that progress on one Goal can generate progress on all – the virtuous circle we know is possible and that can point the way toward growth and prosperity for all.”                      

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