World leaders gather at ‘great risk’ at UN

The UN gang is finally meeting in person after three years of leaders speaking via video over the global pandemic. But many leaders of the UN’s 193 countries were in the UK on Monday for Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral, forcing them to reschedule speeches and appointments on UN duties.

Perhaps the most significant of the changes, US President Joe Biden will speak on Wednesday morning instead of taking the traditional second American speaking slot after Brazil on Tuesday. Biden has also built up time for talks with the country’s leaders in London, which could limit some of the discussions in Manhattan.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky will be the only world leader to speak via video, as his country is preoccupied with war. The Assembly on Friday overcame Russian objections to allow Zelensky to speak virtually.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, a member of the United Nations, a permanent member of the UN Security Council, could overshadow the entire General Assembly:

“The General Assembly meets at a time of great danger,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said at a press conference last week. “Geostrategic threats are the most extensive since at least the Cold War. They are stalling the global response to the dramatic challenges we face.”

Don’t expect this year’s General Assembly to be “business as usual,” US Undersecretary for International Affairs Michele Sison said Friday. “Russia’s continued aggression against Ukraine raises serious questions about its commitment to diplomacy, the UN Charter and the territorial integrity of nations.”

Many UN diplomats say Russia has put the UN’s credibility and image on the line by invading another UN country this year, and the UN has been unable to convince Russian President Vladimir Putin to stop.

Most UN members strongly oppose Russia’s war in Ukraine. Expect Western countries to use their official rhetoric to bash Moscow. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will speak on Saturday, but neither Western country has said if it has any bilateral plans with the Russian visitor.

Others fear that Russia’s war has displaced other issues of global importance, such as the climate crisis. “This was going to be a climate UNGA, but Russia has taken care of that with the invasion of Ukraine,” one diplomat told CNN.

“It takes up a lot of space,” Stefan Dujarric, a spokesman for the UN secretary-general, told a press conference on Monday. “Because we know that the war in Ukraine has a global impact, on food, grain, the energy crisis. It has a big impact on the fight against climate change, where – because of the energy crisis – we see member states returning to polluting sources of energy.”

“However, it does not prevent the Secretary General from raising all these other issues,” he added.

But US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield emphasized the need to take a broader view, telling reporters on Friday that “next week Ukraine will not be the dominant one, but we will not ignore Ukraine. We know that as horrible as it is. War all over Ukraine, we cannot have it in the world.” ignore the rest,” he added.

“Many leaders who feel [Russia’s war in Ukraine] It’s a distraction from the problem in their region,” said Richard Gowan, UN director of the International Crisis Group.

On Thursday morning, there will be a session of the Security Council of Ministers on Ukraine on Thursday morning, and Lavrov will be a senior member of the Russian government.

However, some would like less verbal attacks on Moscow, seven months into the conflict. One diplomat told CNN that poor countries on the fringes feel that a calmer tone could help find an end to the conflict and need Russian oil or food supplies.

Food security is another important topic for the global forum, with the global economy hit hard by pandemics, inflation and supply chains. US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken is expected to chair a meeting on food during senior week.

“What we hope is to bring the world together to deal with all the problems related to food security. So it will bring the South and the countries — the developing countries and the donor countries together in the room to deal with these issues,” said US Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield.

However, it’s another year when the world’s citizens may wonder what the UN is really doing, given the Ukraine nightmare and the low levels of donations from member countries to other crises.

“The UN as an organization is not in a position to give more because everything is upside down,” said another UN diplomat.

But at least he can put on a big show again, making his first appearance with many world leaders in several years. There will be hundreds of speeches, handshakes, parties and panel discussions. Approximately 140 heads of state and government will attend. And they will be followed by hundreds of media members from around the world.

As another diplomat put it, everyone is a “moving target” at the UNGA.