The opening of the 76th session of the UN General Assembly, this Tuesday, has inaugurated a course marked immediately by the pressing human crisis in Afghanistan and by at least two global threats, the pandemic and climate change. The division of the international community and the strong tensions between the great powers – with the United States and China at the head – will once again frame the new session. The big week, in which at least a hundred world leaders will participate, will be next, with President Joe Biden’s speech on Tuesday 21. Although more in-person attendance is expected this year, the high number of virtual interventions will be a reminder of the persistence of the virus.
In his inaugural address, the Secretary General, António Guterres, highlighted the challenges facing the international community, as well as its division. “We are in a time of great trouble and division. Climate change, growing poverty, exclusion and inequality, and a pandemic that continues to threaten lives, ”said the Portuguese. “These challenges are exacerbated by the divisions that shape our world,” especially the differences between “rich and poor,” reflected in issues such as access to coronavirus vaccines, when the developed world is betting on a third and two-thirds dose the planet has not yet been able to access the first.
The urgent calls of numerous NGOs to the UN to provide humanitarian aid to the population of Afghanistan, theoretically abandoned to their fate after the departure of the Westerners, have also resounded like an echo at the beginning of the sessions.
The largest diplomatic event in the world will be more attended than last year. The composition of the delegations has been expanded to five people, compared to just two in 2020. Contrary to the recommendations of the US authorities, who fear that the meeting could become a source of spread of the disease, next week’s sessions They will be carried out in a hybrid format – some face-to-face interventions; others through speeches recorded on video.
This week will be the one for the formalities – a new president of the General Assembly, from the Maldives, will replace Turkey at the head of the plenary – and the drafting of the agenda. The new president, the Maldivian Abdulla Shahid, explained on Tuesday that he plans to organize in October a high-level preparatory meeting for the next climate summit (COP26), to be held in November in Glasgow (United Kingdom). An appointment from which UN officials expect “strong commitments” in the fight against global warming.
Political and media attention will not skyrocket until next week, when, between September 21-27, world leaders take turns addressing the plenary during the general debate. Following tradition, Brazil will be in charge of delivering the first speech, which means that Joe Biden will follow Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro. Biden will spend just one day in New York, which allows us to foresee that the bilateral meetings – before the pandemic, one of the most attended activities of the General Assembly – will take on a lesser tone this year.
Biden’s presence reaffirms his Administration’s commitment to the organization and its defense of a new multilateral approach to its foreign policy, after four years of isolation from Donald Trump. Weakened after the chaotic withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan, which earned him much criticism from his allies, Biden will inaugurate an intense diplomatic calendar with his presence at the UN headquarters. Three days after his speech in the General Assembly, the US president will hold an important meeting at the White House with the prime ministers of the rest of the member countries of the group called Quad (of Quadrilateral Dialogue): Australia, India and Japan. A group with a common interest: stopping the rise of China in the region and in the world.
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