Thousands of the world's most influential people are in New York this week to attend the 77th UN General Assembly at a time of multiple related crises. It's not just Russia's war in Ukraine: inflation, food, climate, and COVID are all affecting different parts of the world in different ways.
This year, UN Secretary-General António Guterres wants to focus on rescuing the Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs — the UN's blueprint for making the world a better place. Progress on the SDGs got derailed by the pandemic, to the point that they likely won't be achieved by the 2030 deadline.
To get a sense of the scale of the problems and explore possible solutions, we brought in several experts to weigh in for a Global Stage livestream conversation "Rescuing a World in Crisis," hosted by GZERO Media in partnership with Microsoft. Here are a few highlights.
Ian Bremmer, president of Eurasia Group, shared his thoughts on why climate is the biggest factor unwinding progress on the SDGs, why Guterres is angry because the United Nations has a big platform yet no power, and why in the near term we'll see the fallout from today's crises not only at the ballot box but also via the fragmentation of societies. He sees an opportunity to rebuild the architecture of global institutions like the UN to make them more fit for purpose, although how and when will depend on the actions of bad actors like Russia, which Bremmer now puts at the same level as Iran but with nukes.
Microsoft’s president Brad Smith agreed that interlocking problems can unlock interlocking solutions on things like energy or food, thanks in no small part to technology combined with data. What's tricky, though, is deploying tech in a way that addresses inequality without furthering polarization. Smith also said that the smartest money now is investing in climate tech, and that while cyberattacks haven't gotten as bad as many feared with Russia fighting Ukraine, they've become normalized and made cyberspace a more dangerous place.
Elizabeth Cousens, president and CEO of the United Nations Foundation, called Russian aggression in Ukraine the single biggest threat to the UN Charter in more than 70 years. What's more, the global food crisis aggravated by the war has exposed the vulnerability of countries that depend too much on food imports. Cousens also panned the glaring mismatch in investment in education across the world and has a message for people who demand action from their leaders: governments only perform when their citizens demand it.
Nobel Peace Prize laureate and anti-child labor activist Kailash Satyarthi underscored how the pandemic not only pushed kids out of school but also into the workforce. COVID increased the demand for child labor around the world, which has a double negative effect: the children of poor people who lost their livelihoods have become yet another source of cheap labor, with kids taking over adult jobs. Satyarthi believes in the power of tech to help fix the problem, but he's wary of artificial intelligence replacing human compassion and the rise of child porn — yet another reason we need a global social protection system that covers kids.
Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović, former president of Croatia, drew parallels between the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the conflict she experienced in her country in the 1990s, suggesting that perhaps Bosnian Serbs might soon try to de-nazify their chunk of the Balkans. Grabar-Kitarović, who's met Vladimir Putin, believes he'd rather die than surrender despite the damage he's done to Russia and beyond, so a ceasefire is likely the best we can hope for.
Thanks to the pandemic, we're way off from UN Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. But Microsoft President Brad Smith knows the way to get the job done. In a Global Stage livestream conversation, Smith says he has deep faith in what he calls the "three-legged stool" of government, the private sector, and civil society.
Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović knows a thing or two about Vladimir Putin, who she met multiple times when she was Croatia's president. So, how does she see the future of Russia's war in Ukraine? It's not looking good. In a Global Stage livestream conversation, Grabar-Kitarović says that Putin is unlikely to back down from a "special military operation" driven by what the Russian leader sees as Western humiliation during the Cold War.
The impact of COVID-related educational disruption – and the growing inequality gap – could have big geopolitical fallout in the future. Why? Because with diminished education comes fewer economic opportunities. That will likely exacerbate already deep divisions, says Eurasia Group Vice Chairman Gerald Butts.
As the 77th UN General Assembly gets underway, a look at how the pandemic wiped out years of progress on ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and promoting lifelong learning opportunities for all. COVID disrupted the lives of some 1.6 billion students around the world. How can we get education back on track before it's too late? Experts weighed in during the Global Stage livestream conversation "Transforming Education" hosted by GZERO Media in partnership with Microsoft.
All around the world, tens of millions of kids stopped going to school. Many of them only recently returned, and some never will. Can we still turn this around? Yes, but we need to rethink education, UN Secretary-General António Guterres says in a Global Stage interview with Ian Bremmer.
It's hard to overstate how awful the pandemic was for children in America. American Federation of Teachers Executive VP Evelyn DeJesus recalls how bad it got in New York City, where kids experienced the fear of their parents, who in turn worried about how COVID disrupted life and schooling for their children. She says during a Global Stage livestream conversation, teachers and parents worked very hard during that time. Their burnout is real, as is that of their kids.