UNGA session likely in Sept

Rezaul Karim

30 May, 2020 12:00 AM printer

Despite the global coronavirus situation, the United Nations General Assembly is exploring various options to hold its annual session in September this year, UN officials in Dhaka and New York said.

The UN is looking at alternatives offered by digital technologies to make sure the meeting could still go forward. However, “no decision has been made yet” regarding the annual gathering, they said. 

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has proposed pre-recordings of speeches by world leaders to be aired during the annual General Assembly in September, which was supposed to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the United Nations, in lieu of the leaders gathering at UN headquarters amid the coronavirus pandemic. It is unlikely that world leaders will be able to meet in New York for the United Nations’ annual General Assembly in September, he added.

Guterres sent a letter to Nigeria’s Ambassador to the United Nations Tijjani Muhammad-Bande, who chairs this year’s General Assembly, asking him to examine the possibility of a format using pre-recorded addresses or other measures due to the virus outbreak.

Spokesman for UN Secretary-General, Stephane Dujarric has said that the UN chief had stated that different options were being looked at on what format the General Assembly will take this year.

The decisions will be made by the Member States and the Secretary General and the Secretariat will support the Member States in implementing whatever decision they take, he told media recently.

Assembly President Tijjani Muhammad-Bande has said a decision on the annual gathering will be made after consultations with 193 UN member states.

The meeting of world leaders usually brings thousands of government officials, diplomats and civil society representatives to New York for over a week of speeches, dinners, receptions, one-on-one meetings and hundreds of side events.

“What the Secretary General said was an obvious answer of common sense, that it’s hard to imagine that the traditional General Assembly with thousands and thousands of people descending on New York and on the UN compound can be held this September as if nothing happened,” Dujarric said.

This year was expected to bring an especially large number of leaders to UN headquarters to celebrate the founding of the United Nations in 1945 on the ashes of World War II.

Although all 50 US states are moving to reopen their economies, New York City and some surrounding areas remain under large-scale social distancing.

New York has been an epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic with a total of 376,309 COVID-19 cases and more than 29,653 confirmed deaths have been reported in the state till May 29.

Workers at UN headquarters in Manhattan have been asked to work from home until the end of June.

Guterres has indicated that it will be difficult for heads of state to gather in New York in September due to possible continued quarantine measures and restrictions for large gatherings.

UN officials said although September is some months away “the medical community anticipates that the pandemic will continue to cycle with varying degrees of severity, depending on the ability of the affected nation to implement aggressive identification, testing, tracing and containment measures.”

They expects that international travel restrictions may remain in place for some destinations — meaning quarantines might affect travelers to and from New York City.