At the UN General Assembly, President Lula defends Brics and criticizes 'paralysis' of international organizations

In his speech at the 78th UN General Assembly, the Brazilian president demands actions to reduce inequality

Translated by: Ana Paula Rocha

Brasil de Fato | Rio de Janeiro (RJ) | |
President Lula spoke at the 78th UN General Assembly. - Ricardo Stuckert/PR

On Tuesday (19), President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (Workers’ Party) made an incisive speech at the opening ceremony of the 78th UN General Assembly in New York. Lula criticized what he called the "immobilism" and "paralysis" of organizations such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the United Nations itself, and said that the emergence of BRICS came in the wake of this situation.

Lula emphasized the recent expansion of BRICS, which welcomed to Argentina, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Ethiopia. He also stated that this movement strengthens the fight for a more diverse scenario from an economic, political and geographical perspective. 

“In the main instances of global governance, negotiations in which all countries have a voice and vote have lost breath. When institutions reproduce inequalities, they are part of the problem, not the solution. Last year, the IMF made $160 billion available in special drawing rights to European countries and just $34 billion to African countries. Unequal and distorted representation in the management of the IMF and World Bank is unacceptable,” he said.  

Using his traditional green-and-yellow tie and under the eyes of leaders from all over the world, plus the president of the Brazilian Senate, Rodrigo Pacheco, and the president of Brazil’s Chamber of Deputies, Arthur Lira, Lula was energetic when criticizing social inequality, and said there is a lack of “political will among those governing the world” to overcome injustices. 

In about twenty minutes of speech, Lula was interrupted several times by applause from participants at the opening ceremony. Some examples of the interruptions include the moment when Lula said that "Brazil is back" on the international stage; when he stated that the country will work to achieve racial equality; and when citing the law, sanctioned in July, which guarantees equal pay for men and women in Brazil.

In his speech, Lula also mentioned climate issues at length. He recalled that the first time he participated in the General Assembly, in 2003, when "the world had not yet realized the seriousness of the climate crisis. Now, it knocks on our doors, destroys our homes, cities and countries" the president said moments after expressing condolences to the victims of the earthquake in Morocco, the floods in Libya and the extratropical cyclone that devastated cities in Rio Grande do Sul, state, southern Brazil.

"Taking action against climate change implies thinking about tomorrow and facing historical inequalities. Rich countries thrived based on a[n economic] model with high rates of climate-damaging gas emissions. The climate emergency makes it urgent to correct course and implement what was already agreed upon. It is for no other reason that we talk about common, but different, responsibilities. It is the vulnerable populations of the Global South who are most affected by the losses and damages caused by climate change," he summarized.


Lula’s bilateral meetings and global leaders' absent  

At the UN General Assembly, leaders from around the world meet in New York City to discuss and present their positions on key global issues. However, this year's General Assembly is being marked by a series of factors making it even more relevant.

Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has been one of the busiest names at the event, receiving more than 50 requests for bilateral meetings. Among the leaders he will meet are Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and American President Joe Biden. These meetings are valuable opportunities to discuss important issues and strengthen diplomatic relations.


Nevertheless, this year's assembly is also notable for the absence of several high-profile state leaders. Those who could not attend include Chinese President Xi Jinping, Russian President Vladimir Putin, UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and French President Emmanuel Macron. These absences may be seen as a sign of disinterest or disagreements regarding certain issues discussed at the UN.

Despite these absences, the General Assembly keeps being an important stage for dialogue, diplomacy and understanding between nations. Some countries are actively participating and playing prominent roles in the discussions. Although the absences, the international community remains committed to addressing critical issues such as climate crisis, global security, sustainable development and human rights.

Bilateral meetings scheduled


8:40 a.m. – Un Secretary General António António Guterres

3:00 p.m. – Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen

4:00 p.m. – German Prime Minister Olaf Scholz

5:15 p.m. – Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store

6:00 p.m. – President of the State of Palestine and the Palestinian National Authority Mahmoud Abbas


1:00 p.m. – US President Joe Biden

4:00 p.m. – Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky 

5:00 p.m. – Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus

6:00 p.m. – Paraguay’s President Santiago Peña



Edited by: Nadini Lopes e Thales Schmidt