Covid forces world leaders to meet virtually during UNGA session

Updated 14 Sep 2020

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This will be the first virtual General Assembly since Oct 24, 1945, when the United Nations was founded in San Francisco, California. — File photo
This will be the first virtual General Assembly since Oct 24, 1945, when the United Nations was founded in San Francisco, California. — File photo

UNITED NATIONS: The 75th session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) opens in New York on Tuesday (tomorrow), although the high-level general debate starts on Sept 22.

The US State Department has informed all UN members that the state of New York has imposed a 14-day mandatory quarantine on all persons arriving in New York. This restriction applies to heads of states and governments as well.

This will be the first virtual General Assembly since Oct 24, 1945, when the United Nations was founded in San Francisco, California. Volkan Bozkir, Turkey’s former chief negotiator for accession to the European Union, will preside over the 75th session.

Prime Minister Imran Khan is scheduled to address the world body on Sept 25.

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi will address the UNGA’s opening session on Sept 21 and will brief the participants as president of the United Nations Economic and Social Council.

On Oct 1, the foreign minister will address a high-level meeting to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Women Conference.

Since this year marks the United Nations’ 75th anniversary, hundreds of events are scheduled during these two weeks, Sept 15-30.

The 75th UNGA “presents a unique opportunity for us to reduce the trust deficit between nations, as we all share the same aspirations and we have no choice but to work together,” said the General Assembly’s outgoing president Tijjani Muhammad-Bande.

Since 1945, every September, member states have met in the General Assembly Hall at the UN headquarters in New York for the annual session. But this year the Covid-19 pandemic is preventing world leaders from gathering in New York.

Instead, UNGA events will take place primarily in a virtual format, with pre-recorded statements by heads of state and government. The speeches by Prime Minister Khan and the foreign minister will also be relayed from Islamabad.

In a statement sent to UN missions, the US State Department informed member nations that the state of New York has imposed a 14-day mandatory quarantine on all persons arriving in New York.

The quarantine means that even the one-day high-level meeting at the opening session of the General Assembly on Sept 21 will be a virtual event. The theme for this event is: “The Future We Want; the UN We Need: Reaffirming our Collective Commitment to Multilateralism”.

Additional events include a biodiversity summit and a high-level meeting to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Fourth World Conference on Women, held in Beijing in September 1995.

Published in Dawn, September 14th, 2020