The high-level week of the 77th UN General Assembly, which will bring together leaders from around the world in New York, kicks off in person today, with attention focused on the international crisis triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
After two years in a virtual and hybrid format due to covid-19, this new session of the General Assembly will take place entirely in person, despite the fact that the pandemic still marks daily life in various parts of the world, and is still on the radar of the discussions planned for the event.
However, and despite the basic health protocols set for the General Assembly, few side events will take place at the UN compound in Manhattan.
Among the political figures expected in New York this week are US President Joe Biden, Brazil’s head of state Jair Bolsonaro or Russia’s foreign minister Serguei Lavrov.
Although Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky will not leave his country to travel to New York, the United Nations has authorised him to make a pre-recorded speech at the high-level session, an exception to the requirement that all leaders speak in person.
Portugal will be represented by the Prime Minister, António Costa, who will travel to New York to attend the General Assembly for the second time since he has been leader of the Portuguese executive.
Despite the attempt to restore post-pandemic normality, the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II has altered the usual order of business as several heads of state and government have had to change their travel arrangements to attend the funeral ceremonies in London and then travel to New York.
One such case is that of the United States – host of the event and traditionally the second-best country to open the General Assembly debate – which will only speak on Wednesday due to the presence of the head of state, Joe Biden, at the funeral of the British monarch.
As usual, it will be Brazil that will open the high-level speeches at the General Assembly, through its President, Jair Bolsonaro, this morning.
The opening of the 77th General Assembly comes at a time when the planet is beset by crises on several fronts: the Russian war in Ukraine, the food, energy and climate crises, tensions between China and the United States or nuclear issues.
However, the invasion of Ukraine is expected to be even the dominant theme, not least because it was carried out by a permanent member of the Security Council, an important UN body whose mandate is to see to the maintenance of international peace and security, and which ended up triggering a crisis of confidence over the United Nations itself.
“That is why the coming week is so critical. We believe this is a moment to make the case for the United Nations and demonstrate to the world that it can still address the world’s most pressing global challenges,” US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield said on Friday, pointing to addressing global food insecurity, promoting global health and “defending the UN Charter to shape the future of the United Nations” as top priorities for the General Assembly.
In this sense, it is expected that Western countries will use this week to intensify criticism of Moscow and, on the other hand, that Russia will ignore attempts at isolation and try to undermine the Western narrative on the war, according to several analysts heard by Lusa.