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Twenty years later, Lula once again demands UN reform and the fight against hunger

President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva repeated in his speech at the UN General Assembly some important demands made by himself exactly 20 years ago, the first time he spoke to the same collegiate.

In September 2003, in his first term, Lula took advantage of the General Assembly stage to call for a broad reform of the UN and its Security Council.

Furthermore, he criticized the trade protectionism of rich countries and defended the launch of a “World Committee to Combat Hunger”, which never occurred. In a different and more forceful way, the same demands were made in the speech this Tuesday (19).

Among the new features, however, were the defense of investments in renewable energy and measures to combat climate change. Lula himself highlighted that, at the time of the original speech, “the world had not yet realized the severity of the climate crisis”.

One of the reasons for the insistence on the same messages is the fact that the world continues to face, unsuccessfully, many of the same problems raised by the president two decades ago.

And with some aggravating factors: at several points, the situation has even regressed, such as the UN itself, which today is in an even more fragile situation, and the recent explosion in the number of people facing food insecurity (more than 730 million, according to FAO).

The world in 2003 x 2023

At the time of Lula’s first speech at the UN, the international community was dealing with the illegal invasion, carried out without Security Council approval, of Iraq by United States forces.

During the government of Republican George W. Bush, Americans tried to justify their actions using false information that dictator Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction in his arsenal. They overthrew the dictator, but ended up remaining in the conflicted country until 2021.

Today, the central conflict also involves a permanent member of the Security Council, Russia, which illegally invaded another sovereign country, Ukraine.

It is obviously worth highlighting the differences between Hussein’s dictatorial regime, which repressed its own people for more than 23 years, and Volodymyr Zelensky’s democratically elected government, which was attacked without any justification.

However, in both cases permanent members of the Security Council, precisely the body responsible for maintaining peace in the world, ignored the collegiate itself and helped demoralize the UN.

An interesting aspect deserves to be remembered about the 2003 General Assembly: it was at that meeting that the then Minister of Culture, singer Gilberto Gil, played the song Every Bahian Girl in the plenary itself – accompanied on stage by none other than the then UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, who played the percussion without going out of tune.

The scene of dozens of diplomats dancing to Gil’s rhythm was probably the most iconic symbol of soft power already demonstrated by Brazil in an international forum. It’s also a reminder that the early 2000s seemed to be a more optimistic time, at least in the field of international relations.

Similarities in Lula’s speeches

A CNN found several similarities and some differences between the speeches made by President Lula in 2003 and in 2023.

20 years ago, as today, Lula reaffirmed “(Brazil’s) belief in the United Nations. Their role in promoting peace and justice remains irreplaceable.”

This Tuesday, he repeated this idea, remembering what he said 20 years ago, and added: “I come back today to say that I maintain my unshakable trust in humanity.”

The president himself recalled that, at the time, hunger was “the central theme of my speech at this World Parliament 20 years ago” and added that the problem “today affects 735 million human beings, who go to sleep tonight without knowing if they will have anything to eat tomorrow. The world is increasingly unequal.”

In 2003, his speech on the topic was: “hunger is an emergency and must be treated as such. Its eradication is a civilizing task, which requires a shortcut to the future. Are we going to act to end hunger or sacrifice our credibility in inaction? The true path to peace is the relentless fight against hunger and poverty, in a formidable campaign of solidarity capable of uniting the planet instead of deepening the divisions and hatred that conflate people and sow terror.”

One of the greatest similarities was in relation to the defense of UN reforms. But this year, he was tougher.

“The UN Security Council has been progressively losing its credibility. This fragility arises in particular from the actions of its permanent members, who wage unauthorized wars in search of territorial expansion or regime change. Its paralysis is the most eloquent proof of the need and urgency to reform it, giving it greater representativeness and effectiveness”, he stated.

See also: Without reducing inequality, the 2030 Agenda could be the UN’s biggest failure, says Lula

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Source: CNN Brasil

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