UN General Assembly, climate moots kick off in NYC today

Published September 19, 2023
Youth representative Ayakha Melithafa speaks during the opening of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Summit 2023, at UN headquarters in New York City, New York, US on September 18. — Reuters
Youth representative Ayakha Melithafa speaks during the opening of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Summit 2023, at UN headquarters in New York City, New York, US on September 18. — Reuters

UNITED NATIONS: The high-level debate of the 78th UN General Assembly begins in New York on Tuesday, with the schedule of speakers indicating that caretaker Prime Minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar, who arrived here in New York on Monday, will deliver his speech on Friday.

Coinciding with the start of the UNGA, the annual UN’s Climate Action Summit will set the stage for countries to reverse backsliding on Paris climate agreement goals and to encourage governments to adopt serious new actions to combat climate change.

According to the schedule for UNGA, the “General Debate” (as it is formally known) will kick off today (Tuesday) with an address from UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, followed by the address by UNGA President Dennis Francis, a diplomat from Trinidad and Tobago, who will preside from the General Assembly dais for the entire week.

As per longstanding tradition, Brazil will deliver the first address from a national delegation and the second one will be by the host country of the United Nations, i.e. the United States.

Putin, Xi, Sunak, Macron and Modi to skip summit; PM Kakar’s speech scheduled for Friday

But, in a departure from tradition, four out of the five veto-wielding permanent members of the Security Council have chosen to skip the 78th General Assembly.

French President Emmanuel Macron will be busy in Paris, welcoming Britain’s King Charles III on his inaugural visit to France as monarch on Sept. 20. And on Sept. 22, he is meeting Pope Francis.

London also announced that Prime Minister Rishi Sunak will skip his inaugural UNGA session. Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden will represent Britain at the global forum. Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese leader Xi Jinping will also be absent this year. India too has decided not to send its prime minister this year.

The absence of key world leaders from this year’s session was so noticeable that Mr Guterres had to explain the situation in a special interview with UN News.

He said that he “cares less about who comes to New York and more about what gets done, especially to revive the lagging SDGs,” a UN News report said.

“This is not a Vanity Fair. This is a political body in which governments are represented,” he told UN News.

PM, FM’s engagements

During his five-day official visit, PM Kakar will also attend two summit conferences on SDGs and climate change. He will also be a keynote speaker at another summit on financing for development where he will elaborate “how to mobilise private sector finance for development,” according to Pakistan’s envoy Munir Akram.

The prime minister will also hold meetings with several global leaders on the sidelines of the session and interact with the international media and US think tanks.

On the other hand, Foreign Minister Jalil Abbas Jilani on Monday initiated Pakistan’s participation in the 78th session with a statement in a closed ministerial meeting on ‘An Effort for Middle East Peace’, hosted by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, League of Arab States, European Union, Egypt and Jordan.

Climate takes centre stage

With the world on track to break the record for the hottest year in history, world leaders, business leaders, celebrities and activists converged on midtown Manhattan for Climate Week, focusing the world’s attention on the climate crisis, Reuters reported.

The annual gathering brings together heads of state and top officials together with private-sector leaders to focus on climate change in a year marked by a record number of disasters.

The main event will take place on Wednesday, when Guterres will host his own Climate Action Summit. But as of Monday, the UN had not anno­un­ced which world leaders or officials would get one of the coveted speaking slots at the climate summit.

Published in Dawn, September 19th, 2023

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