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In this Jan. 17, 2018 photo, a man removes broken window glass at his burned house in Khaldiyeh, one of the worst damaged neighborhoods in Homs, Syria.
Hassan Ammar/AP
Citizenship

‘A Wind of Madness Is Sweeping the Globe’: UN Secretary-General

Why Global Citizens Should Care
Dozens of conflicts are occurring around the world, jeopardizing progress on the United Nations’ Global Goals. The UN is working to minimize future conflicts and promote long-lasting peace. You can join us in taking action on related issues here.  

With bushfires burning in Australia, swarms of locusts ravaging crops in East Africa, and ice sheets rapidly melting in Greenland, it can sometimes feel like the planet has gone mad. 

But the Earth is not the only thing in the grip of madness, according to United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who warned about growing conflicts around the world in a press conference on Tuesday.

“I have spoken about winds of hope,” he told reporters. “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.”

“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,” he added. “Meanwhile, Security Council resolutions are being disrespected even before the ink is even dry.” 

There are dozens of conflicts around the world, according to the Council on Foreign Relations, and many of them have been in a gridlock for years. 

The civil war in Syria, for example, has left more than 500,000 people dead since 2011. The civil war in Yemen has resulted in the worst humanitarian crisis in the world. Slave markets have flourished in the chaos created by Libya’s conflicts, the genocidal actions against Rohingya communities in Myanmar have created nearly 1 million refugees, and ongoing conflicts in the Democratic Republic of the Congo are enabling an ebola outbreak

Other potential conflicts seem on the verge of breaking out. The US and Iran nearly went to war in January after the US assassinated Iran’s top general, and skirmishes between Pakistan and India have blown up in recent months

Conflict is a major cause of poverty around the world. When bullets fly and bombs drop, schools and hospitals get destroyed, people get displaced from their homes, and economies crumble.

The UN works to resolve conflicts, address root causes, and promote lasting peace. Guterres said that the UN will redouble its efforts to minimize conflict going forward.

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“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 during the press conference.

He also told reporters that climate change has to be seriously tackled, otherwise conflicts will become more likely as critical resources like food and water become more scarce. 

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

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Resolving conflicts is also critical to achieving the UN’s Global Goals, a set of 17 development goals covering everything from ending poverty to achieving gender equality to transitioning to a clean energy future.

“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,” he said.