Four looming threats endanger 21st-century progress: UN chief

United Nations, Jan 23 (IANS) UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Wednesday said that four looming threats endanger 21st-century progress and imperil 21st-century possibilities.

“I see ‘four horsemen’ in our midst — four looming threats that endanger 21st-century progress and imperil 21st-century possibilities,” Guterres said at the informal briefing of the UN General Assembly about UN work priorities for 2020, the Xinhau news agency reported.

“Four horsemen” refer to four figures in the Book of Revelation who symbolize the evils to come at the end of the world.

“The first horseman comes in the form of the highest global geostrategic tensions we have witnessed in years,” said the secretary-general.

“Devastating conflicts continue to cause widespread misery. Terrorist attacks take a merciless toll. The nuclear menace is growing. More people have been forced from their homes by war and persecution than at any time since the Second World War. Tensions over trade and technology remain unresolved,” he said.

“The risk of a Great Fracture is real,” the UN chief noted.

“Second, we face an existential climate crisis,” he said.

“Rising temperatures continue to melt records. The past decade was the hottest on record. Scientists tell us that ocean temperatures are now rising at the equivalent of five Hiroshima bombs a second,” he said.

“One million species are in near-term danger of extinction. Our planet is burning,” he said. “Our world is edging closer to the point of no return.”

“The third horseman is deep and growing global mistrust,” said Guterres.

“Disquiet and discontent are churning societies from north to south. Each situation is unique, but everywhere frustration is filling the streets. More and more people are convinced globalization is not working for them,” said the secretary-general.

“As one of our own reports revealed just yesterday, two of every three people live in countries where inequality has grown. Confidence in political establishments is going down. Young people are rising up. Women are rightly demanding equality and freedom from violence and discrimination. At the same time, fears and anxieties are spreading. Hostility against refugees and migrants is building,” he said.

“Hatred is growing,” the UN chief noted.

“The fourth threat is the dark side of the digital world,” he said.

“Technological advances are moving faster than our ability to respond to – or even comprehend – them. Despite enormous benefits, new technologies are being abused to commit crimes, incite hate, fake information, oppress and exploit people and invade privacy,” he said.

“We are not prepared for the profound impact of the Fourth Industrial Revolution on the labor market and the very structure of society. Artificial intelligence is generating breathtaking capacities and alarming possibilities. Lethal autonomous weapons – machines with the power to kill on their own, without human judgement and accountability – are bringing us into unacceptable moral and political territory,” he added.

“These four horsemen – epic geopolitical tensions, the climate crisis, global mistrust and the downsides of technology – can jeopardize every aspect of our shared future,” the secretary-general warned.


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