As the world’s population is approaching 8 billion, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres gave a review of the mixed implications, urging the world community to seize opportunities and take actions to bridge divides between the global haves and have-nots.
On November 15, the world’s population is projected to reach 8 billion people, having grown by 1 billion since 2010, according to a recent policy brief by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs.
In an op-ed article published on Friday by the USA Today newspaper, Guterres called the milestone “a testament to scientific breakthroughs and improvements in nutrition, public health and sanitation”.
The 8-billion-strong world could yield enormous opportunities for some of the poorest countries, where population growth is highest, he said, adding that within a few decades, today’s poorest countries could become engines of sustainable, green growth and prosperity across entire regions.
“But as our human family grows larger, it is also growing more divided,” the UN chief warned.
He noted that billions of people are struggling, hundreds of millions are facing hunger and even famine, and record numbers are on the move seeking opportunities and relief from debt and hardship, wars and climate disasters.
“Unless we bridge the yawning chasm between the global haves and have-nots, we are setting ourselves up for an 8-billion-strong world filled with tensions and mistrust, crisis and conflict,” wrote Guterres.
As the world has grown richer and healthier in recent decades, the inequalities have grown too, he pointed out, citing a handful of billionaires control as much wealth as the poorest half of the world, and people in the richest countries can expect to live up to 30 years longer than those in the poorest.
The accelerating climate crisis and the unequal recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic are turbocharging inequalities.
The ongoing war in Ukraine is adding to ongoing food, energy and finance crises, hitting developing economies hardest.
Anger and resentment against developed countries are reaching breaking points, Guterres said, while toxic divisions and lack of trust are causing delays and deadlock on issues from nuclear disarmament to terrorism to global health.
“We must curb these damaging trends, repair relationships and find joint solutions to our common challenges,” he stressed.
The UN chief expressed hopes that the ongoing UN COP27 climate conference in Egypt “will see a historic Climate Solidarity Pact under which developed and emerging economies unite around a common strategy and combine their capacities and resources for the benefit of humankind”.
He called on wealthier countries to provide key emerging economies with financial and technical support to transition away from fossil fuels.
He also urged the upcoming G20 summit to be held in Bali, Indonesia, to adopt a stimulus package that will provide governments of the Global South with investments and liquidity, and address debt relief and restructuring.
The UN-brokered Black Sea Grain Initiative is an essential part of the efforts to ease the global food crisis, Guterres said, noting that removing the remaining obstacles to the exports of Russian fertilizers is an essential step towards global food security.
“This month’s big global meetups must be an opportunity to start bridging divides and restoring trust, based on the equal rights and freedoms of every single member of humanity’s 8-billion-strong family,” he wrote in the article.