A UN spokesperson has confirmed that this year’s General Debate of the General Assembly, traditionally the most high-profile UN event of the year, will be a toned-down affair this September, with world leaders staying away from New York, and contributing set-piece speeches via video link.
The new virtual format is principally due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic with many countries continuing to wrestle with the health, social and economic fallout from the crisis.
Even though the number of new cases of COVID-19 in the New York region has considerably declined, since the city was for a while the global epicenter of the pandemic in April, the United States as a whole, has almost four million reported cases, higher than any other country.
During a press briefing yesterday, Reem Abaza, Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly, Tijjani Muhammad-Bande, said that each Member State, Observer State, and the European Union, was invited to submit a pre-recorded video, delivered by its designated high-level official, which will be played in the General Assembly Hall.
However, the hall will not be kept empty as the videos from every member state leader will be introduced by a representative of the State who will be physically present at the occasion.
The same procedure will apply for a series of special high-level sessions scheduled to take place, including a commemoration of the landmark 75th anniversary of the United Nations; a summit on biodiversity; and a meeting to commemorate, and promote, the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons.
The decision to introduce pre-recorded videos to the High-Level General Debate, which takes place at the beginning of the 75th session of the General Assembly, was made by the UN body early this week using the novel ‘silence procedure’ method.