September 22, 2021

The 2021 U.N. General Assembly: World Leaders gathering for the first since the pandemic.

Anthony Tilghman
Anthony Tilghman, is an 2x Award-winning photographer, Education advocate, Mentor, and Published Author with years of experience in media, photography, marketing and branding. He is the Winner of the 2020 & 2021 Dateline award for Excellence in Local Journalism.

The 76th session of the U.N. General Assembly (UNGA 76) opened last Tuesday – the 14th of September 2021. The session kicked off with the first week’s order of business being Abdulla Shahid of the Maldives was sworn in as the General Assembly President. In his new position, President Abdulla Shahid officially opened the 76 sessions.

This year’s session is different, combining a hybrid format of in-person and online speeches. A difference brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic and in the alignment of this year’s theme “Building resilience through hope – to recover from COVID-19, rebuild sustainability, respond to the needs of the planet, respect the rights of people and revitalize the United Nations.”

At the start of the General Assembly High-Level Week, Mr. Gutteres speaking at the SDG Moment, said, “It would be easy to lose hope. But we are not hopeless. Or helpless. We have a path to recovery. If we choose to take it.”

Mr. Gutteres was joined by 30 Heads of State in a debate on COVID-19 led by top U.N. officials, highlighted by some K-Pop by BTS, and headlined by the President of the Republic of Korea.

He also went ahead to highlight the need for a sustainable and equitable recovery for all so that the world stays on track to end poverty by 2030.

The new General Assembly President, Abdulla Shahid, at the same debate, said, “going forward, the gaps in political will and resource commitment, remain a common fault line. Hampering progress towards reaching the SDG.”

In a speech to the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday, President Joe Biden described U.S.’s withdrawal from Afghanistan as ending “a period of relentless war” and starting “a new era of relentless diplomacy.” Speaking for the first time in the Assembly as a president, he took the opportunity to outline his administration’s aspirations of cooperation with the nation’s allies. He went on to call on nations to work together against COVID-19, climate change, human rights violations, and “new threats” from emerging technology.

This speech comes at a time that the U.S. is being criticized for authorizing booster shots when only a small percentage of people in developing countries have been vaccinated.

The President, Biden, as if in defense, said that the U.S. had spent over $15 billion toward the global COVID-19 response and its commitment to purchase 500 million vaccine doses for use by the World Health Organization. He also met with Iraq’s President on the sideline at the U.N. In a readout of the meeting, and the two discussed the strengthening of their bilateral relationship and deepening cooperation on the regional diplomatic initiative.

The President of Peru, Pedro Castillo, says that his country will declare a national climate emergency. This move will show the country’s support and commitment to addressing the climate change crisis. “Peru has taken on the goal of becoming the country that is carbon neutral by 2050 and reducing the emissions of greenhouse gases by 30% to 40%, thereby respecting what was projected for 2030.”

On the other hand, the Turkish President said that his country would present the Paris climate agreement to parliament next week. “We are among the first countries to have signed the Paris climate agreement. However, we hadn’t yet ratified this agreement due to the injustices related to stated obligations and burden sharing,” President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said.

Additionally, President Xi Jinping said that China would stop building coal plants abroad.  If it fulfills this, China will mark a new climate commitment and a shift in policy around its Belt and Road Infrastructure Initiative. The South Korean President called for a resumption of talks with North Korea. The Iranian President, in his speech, made a stinging remark saying that the world no longer cared about America First. Raisi said that the U.S. should stop interfering and influencing the world.

The Debate week will go on till next week, Monday the 27th, with the delegate allowed to participate being smaller because of COVID-19 restrictions. According to the U.N., the SDG event is designed to build the momentum needed to deliver on the Decade of Action and to keep the promise. Going forward in the high-level week, food systems, climate, energy, jobs, and social protection are expected to take center stage.

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