UN head issues 'red alert' for the world

Antonio Guterres took office a year ago and in that time he says the world has moved in reverse.

FILE: Antonio Guterres at the UN headquarters in New York in April 2016. Picture: AFP.

JOHANNESBURG - The UN secretary general has used his New Year's message to paint a bleak picture of a world in crisis and make an impassioned plea for unity in 2018.

Antonio Guterres took office a year ago and in that time he says the world has moved in reverse.

He didn't name any nations specifically in his New Year's message, but he did call on global leaders to make unity their key goal for 2018.

“On New Year's Day 2018, I am not issuing an appeal. I am issuing an alert – a red alert for our world,” said the secretary-general.

“As we begin 2018, I call for unity. We can settle conflicts, overcome hatred and defend shared values. But we can only do that together,” he expressed.

Recalling that last year he urged that 2017 be a year for peace, the UN chief noted that unfortunately – in fundamental ways, the world went in reverse.

Perils, including deepening conflicts and new dangers emerged, and global concerns over nuclear weapons reached the highest since the Cold War, he added.

At the same time, impacts of climate change worsened at an alarming rate, inequalities grew and there were horrific violations of human rights.

“Nationalism and xenophobia are on the rise,” said Guterres.

Underscoring his belief that the world can be made more safe and secure, conflicts can be settled, hatred can be overcome and shared values defended, he emphasized that unity is indispensable to achieving these goals.

“Unity is the path. Our future depends on it,” said the Secretary-General, urging leaders everywhere to resolve in the New Year to: “Narrow the gaps. Bridge the divides. Rebuild trust by bringing people together around common goals.”