World is looking ‘into the eye of a Category 5 hurricane’, UN chief says

Davos 2023: Zelenskiy says ‘tyranny is outpacing democracy’ as he seeks more western help to fight Russia

The United Nations secretary general António Guterres said on Wednesday that the world “is looking into the eye of a Category 5 hurricane” as it grapples with the cost-of-living crisis, threat of recession, war in Ukraine and flirts with “climate disaster”.

Addressing global political and business leaders at the World Economic Forum (WEF), he added that efforts to tackle the various problems facing the world are being undermined by “the gravest levels of global division and mistrust in generations”.

“Our world is plagued by a perfect storm on a number of fronts,” said Mr Guterres.

“Many parts of the world face recession and the entire world faces a slowdown. And we see deepening inequalities and the rapidly unfolding cost-of-living crisis affecting women and girls the most. Supply chain disruptions and an energy crunch, soaring prices.”


The head of the UN highlighted how the war in Ukraine, aside from the “untold suffering” it has caused for the Ukrainian people and the effects on global food and energy prices, has also raised questions on nuclear safety and the “very foundations of international law”.

Meanwhile, Mr Guterres warned that the Paris Agreement by leaders around the world to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees “is going up in smoke” and that without further action, “we are headed to a 2.8 degrees increase”.

“The consequences will be devastating. Several parts of our planet will be uninhabitable. And, for many, this is a death sentence,” he said.

Mr Guterres said “the gravest levels of geopolitical division and mistrust in generations” are undermining efforts to tackle the many global problems.

The assessment of the state of the world is among the most downbeat offered by leading international figures attending the 53rd WEF in Davos, which is being convened under the theme Cooperation in a Fragmented World.

German chancellor Olaf Scholz, the only member of the Group of Seven (G7) industrialised nations attending the four-day event, refused to be drawn on whether his country would step up its support for Ukraine by providing Leopard 2 battle tanks to confront Russian forces, which are being sought by Kyiv.

Mr Scholz gave a long response on the financial and humanitarian aid it is giving to Ukraine as well as artillery it is supplying, including a multi-rocket launcher. However, he said the risk of the war expanding to become between one between Russia and Nato must be avoided.

He concluded that his “willingness” is that Ukraine “is able to become an independent, free, democratic nation that can join the European Union”.

Addressing the WEF shortly afterwards via video-link, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy pressed western countries to speed up decision-making to help his country.

“Tragedies are outpacing life. Tyranny is outpacing democracy,” he said. “The world must not hesitate today, or ever.”

Joe Brennan

Joe Brennan

Joe Brennan is Markets Correspondent of The Irish Times