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Republic of Colombia President Gustavo Petro Urrego Plea for Humanity

As president of the country of beauty, I propose returning to a time of simplicity to recover the time lost, and so ending the war and reforming the global financial system.

President Gustavo Petro Urrego of Colombia addresses the general debate of the UN General Assembly’s 77th session. Image: UN Photo/Cia Pak 

United Nations Address Sept. 19, 2023

I, a week ago, was in Santiago de Chile. And I've made my journey to here from there to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the homicidal and bloody coup against President Salvador Allende.

I then went through my own country and a popular neighborhood of Medellin where the mafia used to attract young people to offer them the possibility of learning computer programming. I then arrived in Havana, an unjustly blockaded country where a president of my country suggested and achieved that it be included in the list of terrorist-sponsoring countries simply because it helped to make peace in Colombia.

And now I am here, ladies and gentlemen, to make my speech to you, over this year since the last speech that I gave in the United Nations, we have only seen a deepening of what the wealthy meeting in Davos call a “polycrisis”. The war is continuing; hunger continues. The recession is increasing and the climate crisis has shown its teeth as never before, claiming thousands of lives and heating our lands and our seas like never before. This has been a year where humanity has been losing and has unfailingly hastened the era of extinction. All of these crises are in fact, just one crisis: The crisis of life.

It seems that world leaders have become the enemies of life. The crisis of life is being expressed in one devastating indicator. This began at the furthest corners of the earth, far away, from the remotest regions, a silent march of people from different cultures who are intermingling on their way, like an infinitely nuanced painting. The colors are mixing together in an uncontainable March, a multitude of all the colors is moving along the tracks through the seeds through the jungles. It is making up a kind of work of art on the canvas of the earth. A flow of tones sounds, different clothes and cultures, in an amalgam, which does not forget its beginnings.

In an amalgam and a great march from the South to the North, this is the exodus of humanity which has begun. Today, there are tens of millions. Tomorrow, according to experts, by 2070, the figure will have reached 3 billion fleeing from their beloved homes because these homes will be uninhabitable. In my homeland, the country of beauty, Colombia, the country of an explosion of life, by 2070, only deserts will remain. The people will go to the north, no longer attracted by the mirage of wealth, but rather by something simpler, something more vital: Water.

Since the beginnings, the millinery beginnings of humanity, people have gone to where water is - to the north. Billions of people will defy armies and will change the earth to do this. This exodus of the peoples to the north is an exact reflection of the dimension of the failure of governments. This last year has been a time of defeat for governments; a defeat for humanity. The exodus across the borders has increased. They have set the dogs and the hounds on the immigrants. They have put people on horses to pursue them with whips in their hands, with stalks and chains. They have built prisons. So much the hatred has grown of the foreign, of the strange. These prisons, have even been built at sea so that these women and men cannot tread the earth of the white people who still believe themselves to be the superior race and they are nostalgic for this astrologist for this. And through their choices and elections, they revive the leader who said so and who killed millions as a result.

The exodus has increased over this year showing how much the crisis of life is advancing. But the minutes are ticking on in defining life or death on our planet. And rather than halting this march of time and talking about how to defend life for the future, thanks to greater knowledge, and expanding life to the universe, we are deciding instead to waste our time killing one another.

We are not thinking about how to expand life to the stars, but rather how to end life on our own planet. We have devoted ourselves to war. We have been called to war. Latin America has been called upon to produce war machines, men to go to the killing fields. They're forgetting that our countries have been invaded several times by the very same people who are now talking about combating invasions. They're forgetting that for oil, Iraq was invaded, Syria and Libya. They are forgetting that the same reasons they use to defend the Zelensky are those very reasons which should be deployed to defend Palestine. They forget that to meet the Sustainable Development Goals, all wars must be brought to an end. But they are helping to wage one war in particular, because world powers see this suiting themselves in their gamesmanship, in their games of hunger, and they're forgetting to bring an end to the other war.  Because for these powers, this did not suit them. What is the difference between Ukraine and Palestine I ask? Is it not time to bring an end to both wars and other wars too, and make the most of the short time we have to build paths to save life on the planet.

As President of Colombia, this country of beauty - of a group of humanity, millions of workers, women and men from popular neighborhoods, indigenous people, Afro descendants, people from the fields, workers, young people of all colors - I'm the president these people decided to elect in the majority and I'm here to speak before you, and I propose bringing an end to this war, so that we have time to save ourselves.

I propose that the United Nations should hold, as soon as possible two peace conferences: One on Ukraine, The other on Palestine. Not because there are no other wars in the world, as there are in my country, but because this would guide the way to making peace in all regions of the planet. Because both of these alone can bring an end to the hypocrisy as a political practice. Because we could be sincere, a virtue without which we cannot be warriors for life itself.

The generation which today must decide and must act as soon as possible to overcome the enormous hurricane which has been unleashed against life from the dark, but powerful forces of greed, the hurricane of capital which only looks to profit and which has swallowed up the planet and the very foundation of our existence. I propose bringing an end to war, to defend life from the climate crisis, which is the mother of all crises. This summit has been established to evaluate the targets of the sustainable development goals established by the governments for 2030. It’s easy to carry out an assessment. These human development goals will not be achieved. We are far from reaching them. We have moved backwards. The United Nations Human development objectives could more simply be called social and environmental justice. Social justice will not be achieved for humanity by 2030 because what we have sown is injustice in our planet.

What has been created over these years is injustice, the injustice of putting the vaccine against the deadly virus on the market, concentrating it in rich countries. Latin America saw 30 percent of COVID deaths, although it makes up only 8 percent of the world's population. Who said that health should be a business and not a right? Millions of older people and others died because the vaccine was traded rather than being a common good of humanity.

They failed to deliver on their own promise to finance adaptation to climate change. They do not have $100 billion to give to countries to defend themselves from floods, storms and hurricanes. But they do have that money in a single day, to allow Russians and Ukrainians to kill one another. Now, we no longer need $100 billion. We need $3 trillion dollars to overcome the climate crisis.

And the clock is ticking.

Ladies and gentlemen, injustice has been sown. And Cannabis growers and Cocoa growers have been arrested, rather than tackling the solitude in which the youth of their own countries live. These countries have the greatest economic and military power in the history of humanity. To combat this solitude, they have moved on to the drugs of death, to Fentanyl. They wanted a war against the drugs of the rebellious youth who opposed the war in Vietnam, the marijuana and the LSD of the hippies. And they ended up driving their society towards the drug of neoliberalism and competition, the drug of the Manhattan yuppie, cocaine. And they imprisoned millions of Africans and Latin Americans in cold private prisons, and a million Latin Americans were killed. Democracies were destroyed in our America. But they never arrested the Manhattan yuppie. And now they are facing the grand outcome of the prohibition of drugs, Fentanyl, which is not killing  4000, but 100,000 young people every year in the United States.

Ladies and gentlemen, they sowed injustice.

And the worst of these has been to condemn humanity to war. So today, the balance of social justice across the world is so skewed. The problem is that this was not an issue of socialists or progressives. Rather, it was a matter where the time left to the planet was flowing away.

As president of the country of beauty, I propose returning to a time of simplicity to recover the time lost, and so ending the war and reforming the global financial system. From the conferences, the peace conferences on Ukraine and Palestine, we should come out able to build a reform that we have already discussed in the Amazon forest, where the greatest river of the earth which has crossed the greatest jungle of the Earth, reaches the sea. We had discussed this in Brasilia and we went to Kenya to meet with the brotherly peoples of Africa, where we came from at the time of one of the other great injustices of power: Slavery. And we went to Paris to see where the multitudes there were still crying for liberty, equality, and fraternity. And we went to Washington to talk to the President, and see whether we in the north and the south of the Americas could meet again, as we did in the past, over two centuries ago, where we met in history to talk about liberty, equality, democracy and Republic. And let us talk in all possible ways about getting to the root of the climate crisis and its solution.

If fossil capitalism has no financing, it will die. Its death throes will be hard, but this is necessary for there to be humanity, nature and life.

The decarbonized capitalism will have to be financed, but we know that green capital will only flow to places where there is profit. That is what governs it. And its structure is a very narrow one to contain the decarbonization of the entire world. Governments and powers, who still believe that the climate crisis and that of life can be overcome with cheap loans are mistaken. They are deluded to propose that those countries of the earth which are already indebted, are indebted as a result of disease and greed, and that they can use more loans to overcome a problem that only the belching chimneys of the North have produced. It is not possible to overcome the crisis of life, this mega crisis, with more indebtedness.

The financing of life, the flow of medicines, which must be pumped into the veins of the economies and societies of the world, to meet the challenge of leaving behind coal and oil under the earth, leaving it under the earth in those very places where the true veins of the earth flow as Roberto Cobaria, the U’Wa indigenous native from Columbia said over 30 years ago.

As he said, extracting oil was to remove the blood from the earth, and life would then die. The majority of the investment to decarbonize the world's economy should come from public funds, the efforts of societies bringing together states so as to bring together humanity. Today, they call this multilateralism; governing the Earth with the vision of democracy and not a vision of empire. Empires do not save life. They merely unleash wars. If the mega crisis of life is to be resolved, it will be through a democracy which achieved a global scale; a deeper democracy, which will not fear interlinking states and societies and planning for the great Marshall Plan of the revitalization of the planet.

The market will help us somewhat, but we cannot ask for solutions from a mechanism which has no humanity, when it was this mechanism which produced the very problem.

Private funds can be used, but they will be limited by their own logic. The force to do this will come from public funds, and these funds are currently weakened by debt. The great battle of our generation is defending life for our children and grandchildren. And this can only be fully financed by what is public, by what belongs to all of us.

We must liberate the public to save life. Many people may not like this. But if the voice of the public of the state of humanity, of multilateralism, is to be heard again, this means the voice of change will be heard again.

Because in order to save life, this is fundamental. Saving life requires an epoch of change and it is urgent. Change and life are now synonymous.

Youth of all colors today, in order to live. must fly the flags of change, of transformation. Of a new humanity. It is democracy and not all authoritarian regimes, which is looking more and more like the Nazis. It is global democracy. These plans, the power of those states who are not tackling war, but are tackling and attacking the plans for life. These plans to achieve the transition to a decarbonized economy and to finance it. The decarbonized economy will without a doubt, be a more humane and a more just economy.

So, I, as President of the country of beauty, propose a reform of the global financial system of the IMF, of the multilateral bank, and bringing an end to economic blockades and guiding funds from private capital. If  everybody's debt is reduced, paying off the creditors, with an IMF issuance of Special Drawing Rights, there will be a decrease in the global public debt and a real increase in budgets and public funds.

In this way, we will be able to finance the Marshall Plan for the sustainable development goals for the social environmental justice of the planet. The plan to overcome through mitigation and adaptation, the climate crisis, which is the crisis of life, this is reviving Keynes worldwide after forgetting him. This wise old man already said this, as did other wise people before him, and their words too are forgotten; the words that they express from their deep ideas. What a beautiful perspective in the midst of today's darkness and storms. A perspective which looks hopeful, the objective of life and justice can be achieved by treading the path of global democracy and of returning value to what is public, to what is common and shared, which can be reached by all.

I want my grandchildren who are babies today, Luna, Victoria and Luca, and my daughter Antonella to be able to live far from the Apocalypse and the era of extinction.

I want them to live in times, where humanity was able to stop killing itself and killing the planet and through the very diversity of its cultures, managed to achieve understanding and to achieve its mission, spreading the virus of life to the stars of the universe. Thank you very much.

(Transcribed from the United Nations Live Stream - Spanish to English translation - using

Kimberly Marsh



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