'Emergency mode': U.N. chief laments failed global governance

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United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres gestures as he attends a news conference at the end of his visit to Lebanon, in Beirut, Lebanon December 21, 2021. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir/File Photo

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UNITED NATIONS, Jan 21 (Reuters) - U.N. chief Antonio Guterres, lamenting a failure of global governance, urged the world to go into emergency mode to tackle COVID-19, the climate crisis and global finance reform, put humanity at the center of technology and bring peace.

The secretary-general on Friday identified those as his priorities for 2022 in an address to the 193-member General Assembly as he began a second five-year term at the helm of the world body.

"We must go into emergency mode and put out this 5-alarm fire," Guterres said.

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"All these challenges are, at heart, failures of global governance," he said. "From global health to digital technology, many of today's multilateral frameworks are outdated and no longer fit for purpose."

Guterres pushed for vaccines for all and actions to battle the pandemic "grounded in science and common sense."

He branded the global financial system "morally bankrupt" because it "favours the rich and punishes the poor" and called for reform to support the needs of developing countries.

"Unless we take action now, record inflation, soaring energy prices and extortionate interest rates could lead to frequent debt defaults in 2022, with dire consequences for the poorest and most vulnerable," Guterres warned.

He said an "avalanche of action" is needed to fight the climate crisis, including increased investment in renewable energy and no new coal plants and no expansion in oil and gas exploration.

"Technology shouldn't use us, we should use technology," Guterres said, calling on governments, the private sector and civil society to come together to agree key principles underpinning global digital cooperation.

He pledged to "spare no effort to mobilize the international community and step up our push for peace" as he said the world faced the highest number of violent conflicts since 1945.

"This world is too small for so many hot spots," said Guterres.

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Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Howard Goller

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