The 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) opened at the UN Headquarters in New York City, the first in-person format since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. World leaders and civil society representatives will meet until Sept. 27 to discuss critical global issues.
Opening on Tuesday, Sept. 13, New York City closed a number of streets last weekend due to increased traffic as heads of state and government officials from 193 Member States deliberate in the General Assembly Hall in Midtown Manhattan and prepare for high-level meetings.
The convening’s theme, “A watershed moment: transformative solutions to interlocking challenges,” recognizes the critical moment in world history due to complex and interconnected crises including the COVID-19 pandemic, Russia’s war in Ukraine, unprecedented humanitarian challenges, climate change, and growing concerns about the global economy. Jy’Mir Starks, a junior legal communications major and B.A.-J.D. candidate at Howard University, believes climate change should be a primary concern for world leaders.
“The top priority should be the ongoing climate destruction we have endured that has led to drought and flooding. The abnormal climate has disrupted social habits and practices and increased the death toll,” Starks said.
Key occurrences during the annual two-week multinational conference include the formal transition of the new President of the General Assembly (PGA), as Hungary’s Csaba Kőrösi will succeed the Maldives’ Abdulla Shahid, the highly anticipated Transforming Education Summit, and the commemoration of the 30th anniversary of the Declaration Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities.
South Asian nations are expected to focus on the climate crisis during their engagement with world leaders. Pakistan’s recent catastrophic flooding and the global response will likely dominate discussions at the UNGA. U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres visited Pakistan in early September and has made amplified appeals for support.
The UNGA meetings are significant to India, which continues to seek a permanent seat on the UN Security Council. The international non-governmental organization, Human Rights Watch (HRW), believes world leaders should commit to ensuring accountability for human rights violations by the Chinese and Russian governments and other major offenders.
African leaders, members of the African Union, and the three African UN Security Council members – Ghana, Gabon, and Kenya – are expected to face pressure to support the Security Council adding the ongoing conflict in northern Ethiopia to its formal agenda.
Leaders from the European Union (EU) have declared their focus to uphold the UN Charter and the rule of law. EU nations have cited a number of priorities, including addressing the global ramifications of the Russian Federation’s invasion of Ukraine, supporting access to quality education, promoting sustainable development and human rights, fighting climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution, and shaping the global digital agenda and strengthening global health security.
Esperance Bwenyi, who received her master’s in international economics from the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies and bachelor’s in political science from Texas Christian University, believes illicit financial flows should be a priority during the convening.
“Whether countries directly plunder resources or create a safe haven- the illegal capital flows is a crisis. As our leaders discuss Ukraine, climate change, supply chain challenges, and displacement, it is equally important to address who and what is illegally profiting from these disruptions,” she said.
Blake Spencer, a junior nursing major from Flint, MI, believes the UN can do more to improve social, economic, and political conditions.
“The United Nations is a functional part of our global capitalist society and has proven they have conflicted interests and issues of proper governance multiple times. Young people need to be aware and understand the decisions made by the UN,” Spencer said.
This week’s schedule for the UNGA can be found here.
Copy edited by Nhandi Long-Shipman