United Nations General Assembly Opens Historic Session Tuesday

For the first time in its 75-year history, leaders of the United Nations’ 193 member states will deliver their annual speeches on the opening day of the world body’s General Assembly on videotape instead of in person due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  Tuesday’s session will commence with a pre-taped message from Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, in keeping with a decades-long tradition first established in the 1940s,   followed by U.S. President Donald Trump, as leader of the U.N. host country.  Other prominent world leaders whose pre-recorded messages will be shown Tuesday will be Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, China’s Xi Jinping, Vladimir Putin of Russia and France’s Emmanuel Macron.   The only attendees in the cavernous General Assembly Hall to watch the videotaped speeches will be a single masked envoy representing each member nation, plus the European Union, the Holy See and the non-member Observer State of Palestine, in order to maintain social distancing.  Hand sanitizer stations have been placed in the side aisles of the Hall and delegates will be obliged to wear face coverings, but not to undergo temperature checks.   The U.N. marked its 75th anniversary Monday amid the grip of the global coronavirus pandemic, which has killed more than 960,000 people and sickened more than 31.2 million globally, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University’s Coronavirus Resource Center.      “The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare the world’s fragilities. We can only address them together,” Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said, referencing the disease caused by the coronavirus. “Today, we have a surplus of multilateral challenges and a deficit of multilateral solutions.”WATCH: UN 75th AnniversarySorry, but your browser cannot support embedded video of this type, you can
A member of the Irish delegation works on his computer in the main lobby of the United Nations headquarters, Sept. 21, 2020. In 2020, which marks the 75th anniversary of the United Nations.But the Trump administration has been critical of the world body, withdrawing funding and cooperation from several of its agencies, including the World Health Organization and the Human Rights Council.  Chalet said the organization has for too long been resistant to real reform and lacks transparency.    “The 75th anniversary of the U.N. is the right time to ask questions about the institution’s strengths and weaknesses, review and learn from its failures, and celebrate its accomplishments,” she said.   The United Nations is using its anniversary year as a moment for reflection. More than one million people in 80 countries have provided feedback to a global survey about the organization and its work.   Nearly 90% said global cooperation is crucial to deal with today’s challenges, and that the pandemic has made international cooperation more urgent. Nearly three-quarters said the U.N. is “essential” for tackling global challenges, but they also want the organization to change and innovate.   The General Assembly adopted a declaration for the anniversary, which in part, says, “There is no other global organization with the legitimacy, convening power and normative impact of the United Nations. No other global organization gives hope to so many people.” 


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