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Trudeau prioritizing global growth, food security at UN General Assembly in New York

Canada's ambassador to the United Nations says the global coalition's most important job right now is to give the world a sense of hope.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau talks with Canadian Ambassador to the United Nations Bob Rae at the United Nations in New York on Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

UNITED NATIONS — Canada's ambassador to the United Nations says the global coalition's most important job right now is to give the world a sense of hope. 

The problem, as Bob Rae sees it, is what he calls an "incredible cascade" of crises that means hope is in short supply. 

In his opening address to the UN General Assembly, Secretary-General António Guterres laid out the laundry list. 

The war in Ukraine is entering its eighth month as the conflict's economic and social consequences continue to echo around the world. 

The lasting effects of COVID-19 continue to hit hardest among the world's poor, and climate change is ravaging the planet. 

Rae is accompanying Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the assembly's opening sessions.  

"The problem we face is this incredible cascade of crises," Rae said.

"We have to provide the hope. And we have to provide a sense that we can take the human footsteps to make a difference. And that's the approach that Canadians are taking around the world."

Trudeau's two-day visit began Tuesday with a bilateral meeting with Chandrikapersad Santokhi, the president of Suriname, this year's chair of Caricom, a political and economic coalition of 15 member-states throughout the Caribbean. 

The rest of Trudeau's UN agenda is laden with meetings on subjects close to his heart: climate change, gender equality and sustainable development, among others.

Later Tuesday he was scheduled to take part in a roundtable with former secretary of state Hillary Clinton on the virtues of inclusive job growth. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin's war in Ukraine is sure to permeate every discussion about economic growth and food security — two other Trudeau priorities. 

"Lots of work to do, keeping everyone together," Trudeau said in response to a question about Ukraine as he arrived at the towering UN Headquarters on the banks of the East River.  

Providing hope in the face of despair was a prevailing theme of Guterres' speech Tuesday. 

"Our world is in big trouble: Divides are growing deeper, inequalities are growing wider, challenges are spreading farther," he told the assembled leaders. 

He described a ship flying the UN flag and laden with Ukrainian grain making its way through a war zone to the Horn of Africa, where millions of people are starving. 

It's part of the Black Sea Grain Initiative, a complex UN agreement between Ukraine and Russia, brokered with the help of Turkey, that's finally getting long-blockaded food out of the war-ravaged region.  

"Each ship is also carrying one of today’s rarest commodities: Hope," Guterres said. 

"We need hope … and more. We need action."

Trudeau's agenda includes work on advancing the 17 goals of the UN's sustainable development effort, of which Trudeau is a co-chairman. 

Those global goals include climate action, eliminating poverty and pollution, gender equality and fostering equitable economic growth.  

Trudeau will also take part in the "Christchurch Call Summit" with New Zealand counterpart Jacinda Ardern and French President Emmanuel Macron — an effort to confront the online spread of violent extremism.  

And he'll be on hand for events previewing COP 15 meetings on biological diversity that are scheduled to take place in Montreal in December. 

On Wednesday, Trudeau will attend a pledging conference for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, to which Canada has pledged $4 billion since 2002.

Advocates in Canada have been urging the prime minister to commit an additional $1.2 billion for this year alone. 

Canada is one of the largest contributors to the Global Fund on a per-capita basis, Rae noted. 

"I know the prime minister is wrestling with this question of how much more we can do," he said. 

"The pressures globally on us on every front are huge … so do we feel the pressure? Yeah, of course. But guess what? We're used to pressure, we know how to respond to it, and we will be responding to it." 

The fund supports developing countries in limiting and treating preventable illnesses, which are in many regions leading causes of death — and once again on the rise. 

Trudeau is planning to meet this week with Caribbean and other regional partners to focus on fostering sustainable growth in Haiti. 

He'll also see Joe Biden in person at an event for leaders hosted by the president and his wife — their first face-to-face encounter since the U.S. abandoned a made-in-America scheme to sell more electric vehicles.  

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 20, 2022. 

The Canadian Press