President Higgins to address UN on its 75th anniversary

Michael D Higgins says Covid-19 pandemic has exposed global inequalities

President Michael D Higgins. Photograph: Frank Miller

President Michael D Higgins. Photograph: Frank Miller

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Covid-19 has “laid bare” issues of global poverty, hunger and environmental degradation, President Michael D Higgins will say on Monday.

In an address to the United Nations on the 75th anniversary of its foundation, President Higgins will say the virus “has reminded us in the most tragic and often cruel way of our interconnectedness, and of the urgent need to co-operate at the global level in the face of common challenges”.

He will praise UN secretary-general António Guterres for a lecture he gave in July in which Mr Guterres warned that Covid-19 was setting back entire regions that had been making progress on eradicating poverty and narrowing inequality.

Mr Higgins will say Mr Guterres’s words represent both a “ devastating denunciation of the most serious breaches of faith on the part of the most powerful nations of the world, and at the same time a coherent agenda as to what must be addressed if we are to see progress on the key multilateral issues”.

The President will list these issues as the reduction of inequalities, a robust opposition to renewed racism, unfair international trade that beggars poorer nations and the urgent need for reform of the Bretton Woods Institutions, such as the IMF and the World Bank.

The UN was founded in San Francisco in April 1945 and its charter adopted in October of that year. Ireland became its 63rd member in 1955. It was due to have a Special Assembly this month, but it is now all online as a result of the global pandemic.

‘Nadir of cruelty’

Delivering his words by video link, President Higgins will say the UN remains the only body through which all nations can co-operate to end conflict, eliminate poverty, combat climate change and uphold human rights.

He will acknowledge the UN has not achieved the peaceful, interdependent world that it envisaged, “but we should regularly reflect on what this world might have become, through the abuse of power, had the UN not existed”.

“When the United Nations was founded 75 years ago, the small number of founding members were anxious that the actions which had brought humanity to the nadir of cruelty, torture and war would not be repeated. When the newly independent countries of the UN joined, a new world that was post-imperialist was envisaged.”

In an implicit criticism of the Trump administration, which has been a persistent critic of the UN, the President will say that the UN and its agencies “continue to be under attack, be it through underfunding, withdrawal of support or the often-explicit promotion of a theory of interests by the most powerful as an alternative to the multilateralism which the Charter of the UN demands.”