UN General Assembly goes virtual

The 75th session of the UN General Assembly opened on Monday with attendance of the delegates who were sitting distanced apart in the famous UNGA hall at New York Headquarters, US on September 15, 2020. (Photo by Selcuk Acar/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
The 75th session of the UN General Assembly opened on Monday with attendance of the delegates who were sitting distanced apart in the famous UNGA hall at New York Headquarters, US on September 15, 2020. (Photo by Selcuk Acar/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

The largest diplomatic meeting globally, the UN General Assembly, will take place this week but not in a traditional way. Large crowds, constant handshakes, pecking, and cocktail parties won’t happen as previously seen.

This time, thousands of participating heads of state and diplomats will be in front of their screens making speeches and discussing the world’s most pressing challenges.

Only a few of the sideline events that have made the assembly a signature-gathering will feature.

“The Covid-19 pandemic is a crisis unlike any in our lifetimes, and so this year’s General Assembly session will be unlike any other, too,” said host UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres at a press conference.

The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), the main deliberative, policymaking, and representative organ take place at a time the UN is celebrating its 75 years of existence.

Rwanda was admitted to the UN on September 18, 1962, and President Paul Kagame has been participating in the General Assembly debates over the years.

Last year, Kagame’s speech revolved around key topics such as sustainable development goals (SDGs) – the agenda for 2030 – and what the African continent was doing to meet the targets.

Kagame also highlighted in his speech to the world leaders that the international community was at a crossroads in determining whether multilateralism will prevail or lose its way.

He said at the time that what was clear was that countries had “well-defined roadmaps” such as the sustainable development goals, but also on health care and climate change.

The assembly this year will also occur as the world’s powers are looking toward the US presidential election to see if US President Donald Trump’s policies will continue for another four years or if Joe Biden, the Democratic nominee for president, will take over and readdress American foreign policy.

U.N. Secretary-General Guterres, who has urged its 193 members to support cease-fires in conflicts around the globe so they can focus on responding to the pandemic, will kick off the Tuesday session.

“In my speech to the General Assembly on Tuesday, I will make a strong appeal to the international community to mobilize all efforts for the global ceasefire to become a reality by the end of the year,” he noted last week.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Chinese leader Xi Jinping, and Cuba’s Miguel Díaz-Canel are also scheduled to speak Tuesday – the first day of addresses by world leaders, which will continue for a week.