The Speaker
Thursday, 18 April 2024 – 20:30
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What to look out for at the United Nations General Assembly 2022

Although politics and international relations seem to have been on hold for the last 10 days, following the death of Queen Elizabeth II, the news cycle is finally back, now focusing on the UN General Assembly.

This promises to see the whole range of world leaders – Presidents Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping notwithstanding – speak at the UN headquarters in New York, for the first time in person since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The theme of this year recognises the many crises faced by, at this point, most countries worldwide, and is phrased as, ‘A watershed moment: transformative solutions to interlocking challenges,” with UN Secretary-General seeing the occasion occurring at a time where the world is in ‘great peril’.

The discourse of the gathering is set to be dominated by conversations surrounding the war in Ukraine, climate change and its effect on the global economy, the impact of rising food prices worldwide, and eliminating nuclear weapons. While the war in Ukraine is widely expected to be the theme of many of the 157 speeches given by heads of states and representatives, developing countries across Asia, Africa, and the Middle East are anticipated to voice their own concerns that the humanitarian aid being given to Ukraine is disproportionate, given the attitudes taken towards their domestic crises.

In a break from tradition, President Biden will be making a speech on Wednesday morning, rather than the usual slot of the US president as second, following Brazil, due to his delay caused by the royal funeral. Biden is predicted to stress the importance of the alliance between America and the West, particularly in light of Ukraine, and encourage other world leaders to continue efforts to counter the rise of China.

The idea of the UN General Assembly is for all UN Member States to be represented, and given one vote to decide on key issues including security, international peace, the admission of new members, and the UN budget. There are currently 193 members in the UN General Assembly, with Palestine, Kosovo, and Taiwan not admitted. On day 1 of the General Assembly, speakers will include Jair Bolsonaro, the Brazilian President, as well as representatives from 33 other countries, including Qatar, Germany, Italy, the Central African Republic, and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, to name a few.

While the sheer number of important figures present in New York taking part in conversations this week is promising, there are fears that not many concrete solutions to problems will be achieved. While the United States was one of the most prominent stakeholders in the United Nations, with it created initially at its behest, the last years have seen a vast reduction in US funding, particularly under the Trump administration, and withdrawal from many UN organisations and agencies.

While the new UN General Assembly president has urged world leaders to work together to build bridges, this could be undermined, not only by the US seemingly pulling away, but also by the absence of Presidents Xi and Putin, and the likelihood of developing countries voicing their dismay at being helped less than Ukraine.

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