NEW YORK – In person and on screen, world leaders returned to United Nations headquarters on Tuesday for the first time in two years with a huge agenda of escalating crises to address, including the persistent coronavirus pandemic and unstoppable global warming. .
Other pressing issues include rising tensions between the United States and China, Afghanistan’s uncertain future under the new Taliban leadership, and active conflicts in Yemen, Syria, and the Ethiopian region of Tigray.
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Last year, no leaders traveled to the UN headquarters because of the coronavirus scourge around the world and all speeches were recorded in advance. This year, the General Assembly offered leaders the option of traveling to New York or speaking online, and more than 100 heads of state and government have confirmed that they will be in the room.
The UN Secretary General, António Guterres, “will spare no effort in expressing his concern for the state of the world and will show a vision to bridge the many divisions that stand in the way of progress,” said Stephane Dujarric, a spokesman for the institution. . Guterres has already demonstrated this in specific comments prior to the meeting on the virus and climate change.
“I am here to raise the alarm. The world must wake up, ”Guterres said in his first words after calling the meeting.
By tradition, the first nation to intervene is Brazil, whose president, Jair Bolsonaro, is not vaccinated against the coronavirus. Last Thursday he reiterated that he does not plan to do it soon and justified himself by claiming that COVID-19 passed and that therefore he has a high level of antibodies.
A key issue on the eve of the Assembly was the entry requirements to the United States – and the institution’s own headquarters – for world leaders. The United States requires to be vaccinated or present a recent negative test for COVID-19 and the UN will operate an honor system whereby anyone who enters the complex confirms that they have no symptoms and that they did not test positive in the last 10 days.
The three most anticipated speeches on Tuesday morning will be those of the President of the United States, Joe Biden, who opens at the meeting after defeating Donald Trump in the November elections; that of the president of China, Xi Jinping, who in a surprise decision will appear on video and the newly elected president of Iran, the conservative Ebrahim Raisi.
Before the start of the Assembly General Debate, Guterres issued a stark warning that the world could slip into a new and probably more dangerous Cold War if the United States and China do not repair their “totally dysfunctional” relationship.
The UN chief said in an interview with The Associated Press this weekend that Washington and Beijing should cooperate on the climate crisis and negotiate on trade and technology, but “unfortunately, today we only have confrontation,” including on human rights issues. and geostrategic, mainly in the South China Sea.
Among the leaders who will speak in person at the meeting, which ends on September 27, are King Abdullah II of Jordan; the president of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro, the prime ministers of Japan, India and Great Britain; Israel’s new Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.