UN chief: 2 billion people now live in conflict zones

UNITED NATIONS (AP) – The head of the United Nations said Wednesday that a quarter of humanity – two billion people – now live in conflict zones and the world faces the greatest number of violent conflicts since 1945, when World War II ended.

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres cited the conflicts from Yemen, Syria, Myanmar and Sudan to Haiti, the African Sahel, “and now the war in Ukraine – a catastrophe shaking the foundations of the international order, spilling over borders and causing a surge in food, fuel and fertilizer. catastrophic prices for developing countries.

He told the UN Peacebuilding Commission on Wednesday that last year 84 million people were forced from their homes due to conflict, violence and human rights abuses. And that doesn’t include the war in Ukraine which has already seen 4 million people flee the country and another 6.5 million internally displaced, according to UN agencies.

António Guterres said the UN estimates that this year “at least 274 million people will need humanitarian assistance”. This represents a 17% increase from 2021 and will cost $41 billion for the 183 million people targeted for aid, according to the UN humanitarian office.

Guterres also cited the figure of two billion people living in countries in conflict in a report to the commission in late January, which said there had been a record 56 state conflicts in 2020. This does not include the war in Ukraine, which began with the invasion of Russia on February 24 and affected almost all of the 40 million people in the country.

The secretary-general told the committee that conflicts are on the rise “at a time when the risks that make peace even more out of reach are growing – inequality, COVID-19, climate change and cyber threats, to name a few. -ones”.

He also pointed to an increase in military coups and forcible takeovers around the world, growing nuclear arsenals, attacks on human rights and international law, and criminals and terrorist networks “fuelling – and profiting – from divisions and conflicts”.

“The flames of conflict are fueled by inequality, deprivation and underfunded systems,” Guterres said, and these issues urgently need to be addressed.

According to its report to the commission, the world is witnessing the growing internationalization of conflicts within countries, which, combined with the “fragmentation and multiplication” of armed groups linked to criminal and terrorist networks, “makes the arduous search for solutions,” he said. .

Consequently, Guterres said, “there are fewer political settlements to conflicts”, with Colombia being a notable exception.

“Over the past decade, the world has spent $349 billion on peacekeeping, humanitarian aid and refugee aid,” he said. “And global military spending reached nearly $2 trillion in 2020.”

The Peacebuilding Commission has worked to advance peace and prevent conflict in countries including Ivory Coast, Iraq, the African Great Lakes region and Papua New Guinea, the secretary said. general, and the Peacebuilding Fund has increased, investing $195 million last year.

But it relies on voluntary contributions and the needs for peacebuilding far outweigh the resources, which is why Guterres said he was asking the UN General Assembly to assess the 193 member countries of the UN for a total of $100 million per year for the fund.

“When we consider the costs of war – to the global economy but above all to the very soul of humanity – peacebuilding is a boon and a prerequisite for development and a better future for all,” did he declare.

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