U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Tuesday warned that "colossal global dysfunction" is impeding efforts toward solving food insecurity and climate change issues, as world leaders gathered to address the United Nations amid tensions over Russia's war on Ukraine.
"Our world is in peril -- and paralyzed," Guterres said, adding that geopolitical divides are undermining the work of the U.N. Security Council and "all forms of international cooperation."
"But the reality is that we live in a world where the logic of cooperation and dialogue is the only path forward," the U.N. chief said. "No major global challenge can be solved by a coalition of the willing. We need a coalition of the world."
The annual U.N. general debate session kicked off on Tuesday, with a deep rift between countries such as the United States and its allies that have condemned Russia over its aggression against Ukraine and countries that have not.
The war, which began in February, has led the West to impose tough sanctions on Russia amid instability seen to be driving higher food and energy prices.
Guterres acknowledged that the war unleashed "widespread destruction with massive violations of human rights" and called "extremely disturbing" recent reports of a mass grave site in the Ukrainian city of Izium after the area was liberated from Russian control.
But in an apparent effort not to further ignite division, the U.N. chief refrained from directly criticizing Moscow for having invaded Ukraine. Instead, he highlighted a case in which the warring parties came together to clear the way to export Ukrainian grain that had been blocked by Russia.
The U.N.-backed deal on grain exports was reached in July with the support of Turkey, amid concerns over food insecurity, especially in African and Middle East countries that have been highly dependent on grain from Ukraine.
The U.N. chief said the current problem is food distribution, but next year a global food shortage may occur unless urgent actions are taken to address a fertilizer market crunch, with farmers in West Africa and elsewhere already reportedly cultivating fewer crops due to the price and availability of fertilizers.
Russia and Ukraine are key exporters of grain and fertilizers.
On climate change, the U.N. chief said the issue "must be the first priority of every government and multilateral organization," but action to address the matter is being put on the backburner.
He also cited continuing conflicts and humanitarian crises worldwide as well as a divergence between developed and developing nations that is becoming "more dangerous."
"Let's work as one, as a coalition of the world, as united nations," Guterres said.