- June 9, 2023 10:32 AM
- July 22, 2021 2:55 PM
- July 11, 2019 9:53 AM
UNITED NATIONS (AP) — For two years, it was the coronavirus pandemic. Then, it was Russia's war in Ukraine. Throughout it all, the perils of climate change, poverty and inequality have steadily, increasingly thrummed through each convening of world leaders at the U.N. General Assembly.
As the 78th session opens, there's no single clear crisis set to dominate the General Debate, as none of the aforementioned ones have been resolved. The high-level meeting will be set against the backdrop of an ongoing war, new political crises in West Africa and Latin America, a lingering coronavirus, economic instability, widening inequality and fresh natural disasters in the forms of devastating earthquakes,floods and fires.
In the face of this tumult, the theme for this year's General Debate will be “Rebuilding trust and reigniting global solidarity: Accelerating action on the 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals towards peace, prosperity, progress and sustainability for all.”
We've updated last year's backgrounder for the 2023 high-level meeting. Here's what to know about this year's U.N. General Assembly, presided over by Trinidad and Tobago's Dennis Francis.
WHAT IS THE POINT OF THE UN GENERAL ASSEMBLY?
While the effectiveness of the United Nations has been questioned for as long as it has existed, the benefits of attendance are undeniable. From the dais, countries broadcast their agendas, grievances and calls to action to the entire world and for the permanent record.
The exercise in multilateralism was born in the wake of World War II, and grounded in the hope for lasting peace. This week is a key chance for countries often drowned out by what they decry as a hegemonic world order to grab the attention of a larger audience. It’s also a chance for leaders to engage in meetings on the sidelines in neutral territory.
WHO IS COMING TO NEW YORK THIS YEAR?
Heads of state and government from at least 145 countries are expected to take the dais at the river's edge. Among them will be Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, U.S. President Joe Biden and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy — all expected in the first day. This will be Zelenskyy's first in-person appearance at the United Nations since the Russian invasion of his country — in 2022, the General Assembly voted to grant him special dispensation to submit a prerecorded speech.
But the parade of speakers will be marked by some key absences: While they're all sending representatives, the leaders of the rest of the permanent U.N. Security Council members — France, the United Kingdom, China and Russia — will not make the trip. The presence of Vladimir Putin would certainly have been surprising, but Emmanuel Macron is a regular attendee and this would have been British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's first opportunity to address the General Assembly. Macron cited King Charles III's imminent visit; Sunak, a busy schedule.
Top leaders from other major countries, including India — who just played host to the G20 summit in New Delhi this month — and Mexico, are also slated to send ministers in their steads.
WHAT DOES THE GENERAL DEBATE LOOK LIKE?
We might be in the midst of U.S. presidential primary debate season, but the structure of the General Debate at the United Nations bears little resemblance. It doesn't lend itself to obvious fireworks — booing or interruptions or immediate rebuttals are not permitted — but that doesn’t mean intrigue and drama are absent.