UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon warned Wednesday that human rights were “under attack” throughout the world as he opened the General Assembly debate.
“From barrel bombs to beheadings, from the deliberate starvation of civilians to the assault on hospitals, UN shelters and aid convoys, human rights and the rule of law are under attack,” the UN chief told the 193-nation Assembly.
Ban cited the “new depths of barbarity” carried out by jihadists in Syria and Iraq and drew up a long list of world crises: the war in Gaza, fighting in Ukraine, South Sudan and Central African Republic.
“It has been a terrible year for the principles enshrined in the United Nations charter” that puts peace and security at the center of its mission, said Ban.
The number of refugees, displaced people and asylum seekers has reached its highest level since World War II and the United Nations is struggling to respond to a record number of appeals for food aid.
“This year, the horizon of hope is darkened.”
Ban alluded to East-West tensions over the fighting in Ukraine and the turmoil in Libya and elsewhere in the Arab world as setbacks in building world peace.
“Cold War ghosts have returned to haunt our times. We have seen so much of the Arab Spring go violently wrong,” he said.
“The world’s ‘fasten seat belt’ light is illuminated. Turbulence is testing the multilateral system, national institutions and people’s lives.”
More than 140 leaders have converged on UN headquarters in New York for six days of debate that is likely to be dominated by the US-led campaign to root out Islamists in Iraq and Syria.
US President Barack Obama was to make an appeal for international support to defeat the jihadists who now control vast swaths of Iraq and Syria, and have beheaded two American journalists and a British aid worker.
“In Iraq and Syria, we see new depths of barbarity with each passing day, and devastating spillover effects across the region,” said Ban.
Turning to the Ebola outbreak ravaging West Africa, the UN chief said a “twenty-fold surge” in aid was needed to beat back the virus that has left more than 2,800 dead and 5,800 infected.
Ban is convening a ministerial meeting on Thursday to rev up the international response to the Ebola crisis.