Leaders from the 120-member bloc met amid deep division globally, including rising geopolitical tensions, climate catastrophe, widespread poverty and raging conflict in Sudan, Ukraine and Gaza.
Danger and constraints
“Following the abhorrent Hamas attacks on 7 October, the wholesale destruction of Gaza and the number of civilian casualties in such a short period are totally unprecedented during my mandate,” the Secretary-General said, noting that the UN has also been affected as 152 staff have been killed.
Although humanitarians are doing their best to deliver aid, they face constant bombardments and daily dangers, amid enormous constraints posed by damaged roads, communication blackouts and access denials.
Meanwhile, disease and hunger are deepening, he said.
He said people are dying not only from bombs and bullets, but from lack of food and clean water, hospitals without power and medicine, and gruelling journeys to ever-smaller slivers of land to escape the fighting.
Prevent conflict spillover
“This must stop. I will not relent in my call for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire and the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages,” Mr. Guterres said.
“And we must do all we can to prevent spillover of this conflict across the region — in the West Bank, across the Blue Line between Israel and Lebanon, and in Syria, Iraq and the Red Sea.”
He added that refusal to accept the two-State solution for Israelis and Palestinians, and the denial of the right to statehood for the Palestinian people, are unacceptable.
“This would indefinitely prolong a conflict that has become a major threat to global peace and security; exacerbate polarization; and embolden extremists everywhere,” he said.
The NAM was established in the midst of the Cold War, when leaders of newly independent countries sought a neutral stance and avoided joining either of the two major power blocs, headed by the United States and the Soviet Union.
Mr. Guterres said the “swirl of uncertainty and instability” in the world today offers new opportunities for countries and the organization to lead the way towards deeper cooperation and shared global affluence – the theme of the summit.
As global affluence depends on peace which requires institutions that reflect today’s world, he pointed to the need to reform bodies such as the UN Security Council which is “paralyzed by geopolitical divisions that block effective solutions.”
Recalling that the NAM has long highlighted the issue, he said the UN Summit of the Future in September offers a unique opportunity to consider reforms and promote ideas to rebuild trust and strengthen multilateral collaboration.
Meanwhile, countries are moving backwards in achieving sustainable development, another requirement for peace. People are going hungry and communities lack access to basics such as healthcare, clean water, proper sanitation and education.
Mr. Guterres repeated his call for reforming the “outdated, unjust and unfair global financial system” so that all countries benefit, and urged governments to invest in education, health, nutrition and social protection systems.
Last September, world leaders meeting at the UN demonstrated support for both a $500 billion annual stimulus package to boost sustainable development and his call to reform the global financial system.
At the COP28 conference two months later, countries operationalized the long-awaited Loss and Damage Fund to support nations that are most vulnerable to climate change. However, contributions so far have been limited, and developed countries have not fulfilled many of their longstanding commitments on climate finance, he said.
The Secretary-General urged the NAM to hold leaders to keep these promises this year.