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The UN General Assembly begins under the shadow of Ukraine

Facing a complex set of challenges that are testing humanity like never before, world leaders are meeting at United Nations headquarters this week in the shadow of Europe’s first major war since World War II, a conflict that has unleashed a global food crisis and has divided the major powers in a way not seen since the Cold War.

The many facets of Ukraine’s war are expected to dominate the annual gathering, which is being convened as many countries face rising inequality, a climate crisis, the threat of famine and a wave of online hate speech and disinformation all on top of from a coronavirus pandemic that is in the middle of its third year.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said strategic divisions, with the West on one side and Russia and China on the other, are “crippling the global response to the dramatic challenges we face.”

Guterres highlighted not only the devastation in Ukraine from almost seven months of fighting, but also the impact of the war on the global economy.

“The General Assembly is meeting at a time of great danger,” the UN chief said last week.

For the first time in three years, the leaders will deliver their speeches in person in the vast General Assembly hall. There will be no more pre-recorded speeches due to COVID-19 or hybrid meetings, with the exception of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

The death of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II and her funeral in London on Monday, which many world leaders plan to attend, have created last-minute headaches for the high-level meeting. Diplomats and UN staff are struggling to deal with changing travel plans, the timing of some events and the logistically complicated schedule of speeches by world leaders.

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