MANHATTAN (CN) — President Joe Biden faced a direct challenge to the U.S.-backed global monetary system from less developed countries seeking more equitable access to financing.
Biden was among 35 heads of state who gave impassioned speeches to the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York on Tuesday.
While Biden repeated several familiar talking points for his administration, including condemnation of Russia, Iran and North Korea, he particularly sought to project confidence in the United Nations and U.S.-supported multilateral organizations like the World Trade Organization, International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.
“The United States seeks a more secure, more prosperous, more equitable world for all people, because we know our future is bound up with yours,” he said. “And no nation can meet the challenges of today alone.”
The international monetary mechanisms face growing criticism for inequities that saddle developing countries with insurmountable debt, encourage development without generating tax revenues and perpetuate an outdated system.
Biden said the U.S. supports changes to the entities that would provide more representation and better outcomes for less developed countries.
“We need to build new partnerships and change the way we tackle these challenges,” he said.
Leaders of the growing BRICS initiative — referring to Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa — touted it as a better alternative to financing from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. Brazil President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva called it “a force that works toward fairer global trade.”
“Governments need to break away from the increased dissonance between the voice of the markets and the voice of the streets,” Lula said through a translator.
South Africa President Cyril Ramaphosa said wealthier countries have fallen short in providing financial support for developing nations to address climate change.
“It is a grave indictment on this international community that we can spend so much money on war … but we cannot support action that needs to be taken to meet the basic needs of billions of people in the world,” he said.
Biden is meeting with world leaders during the General Assembly session, with a senior administration official telling reporters that the president will demonstrate his “commitment to inclusive and effective international cooperation to solve big problems.” He will focus on sustainable worldwide development, fighting climate change and supporting Ukraine, the official said.
Shifting gears, Biden said that record-breaking heat waves, raging wildfires, droughts and flooding in Libya highlight the need to address climate change.
“Together these snapshots tell an urgent story of what awaits us if we fail to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and begin to climate-proof the world,” he said.
Some world leaders didn’t shy away from criticizing the United States, particularly for its embargo on Cuba.
President Gustavo Petro Urrego of Colombia called Cuba an “unjustly blockaded country.”
Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel also railed against the embargo, calling it an “asphyxiating blockade.”
“Our country is truly under siege,” he said.
Lula decried Washington’s efforts to convict WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
“A journalist like Julian Assange cannot be punished for informing society in a transparent and legitimate way,” he said through a translator.
Lula also criticized worldwide geopolitical jockeying for power, condemning attempts to create “zones of influence” and “reviving the Cold War.”
Tuesday’s General Assembly session comes as world leaders face growing humanitarian and political problems. U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres opened the gathering by recognizing humanitarian needs in Afghanistan, “brutal violence” that is “crushing hopes for a return to democracy” in Myanmar and noted Syria “remains in ruins while peace remains remote.”
“Our world is becoming unhinged,” he said. “We seem incapable of coming together to respond.”
Dennis Francis, a diplomat from Trinidad and Tobago serving as president of the General Assembly, said the world “must deliver” investments in developing countries.
“We can make a meaningful difference to the lives of billions of people if we so choose. We do not lack capacity,” he said. “What we lack is the will to act.”
Lula said a worldwide worsening quality of life must be addressed head on.
“Reducing inequality between countries requires including the poor in budgets and the rich to pay taxes in proportion to their wealth,” he said.
But, despite the world’s numerous challenges, Lula still expressed an “unshakable trust in humanity” that can conquer injustices.
“We must overcome resignation, which makes us accept such unfairness as a natural phenomenon,” he said. “There’s a lack of political will from those who govern the world to combat inequality.”Follow @TheNolanStout
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