Munich Security Conference opens focusing on 'unlearning helplessness'

Chairman of the Munich Security Conference Wolfgang Ischinger (R) talks with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres during the 58th Munich Security Conference in Munich, Germany, on Feb. 18, 2022. (Xinhua/Lu Yang)

The 58th edition of the Munich Security Conference (MSC) opened on Friday afternoon with a theme focusing on "unlearning helplessness" against the backdrop of tensions in the Ukraine crisis.

There is a mounting feeling of "helplessness" in many societies across the world in the face of a growing number of crises and conflicts, according to a security report published ahead of the conference.

"The feeling of helplessness is becoming a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy, which leads to give up, even though we have all the tools and resources to address such challenges as the pandemic, climate change or great power confrontations," said Wolfgang Ischinger, chairman of the MSC, in his opening speech.

Man-made problems can be solved by man, Ischinger said, calling on everyone to collectively unlearn and overcome helplessness.

Participants in the high-profile conference are also scheduled to discuss the ongoing tension around Ukraine. While Russia says it is withdrawing some of its troops from the Ukrainian border, U.S. President Joe Biden says his government has "not yet verified that."

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaks during the 58th Munich Security Conference in Munich, Germany, on Feb. 18, 2022. (Xinhua/Lu Yang)

United Nations (UN) Secretary General Antonio Guterres said in his opening remarks at the MSC that he was "deeply concerned" over the situation in Ukraine and appealed for de-escalation.

"I am deeply concerned about heightened tensions and increased speculation about the military conflict in Europe. I still think it will not happen. But if it did, it would be catastrophic," Guterres said.

"There is no alternative to diplomacy, and all issues, including the most intractable, must be addressed through diplomatic frameworks, and it is high time to seriously de-escalate," he added.

Other topics, such as climate change and digitization, will also be discussed in Munich.

Except for official Russian representatives, more than 30 heads of state and government, 100 ministerial officials and leaders of important international organizations gathered at the three-day conference to discuss current crises and future security challenges.