Vir­tual UN Sum­mit tack­les cri­sis

For once, Mid­town Man­hat­tan will not be bunkered down in a frenzy of mo­tor­cades, and there will be no spec­u­la­tion of break­through meet­ings

Daily Tribune (Philippines) - - WORLD - ESKINDER DEBEBE//XIN­HUA

NEW YORK (AFP) — The United Na­tions Gen­eral Assem­bly, the an­nual ex­trav­a­ganza of world lead­ers’ speeches and round-the­clock diplo­macy, opens Tues­day in a quiet hall as a vir­tual sum­mit ad­dresses the global cri­sis of COVID-19.

For once, Mid­town Man­hat­tan will not be bunkered down in a frenzy of mo­tor­cades, and there will be no spec­u­la­tion of break­through meet­ings.

Lead­ers in­stead have been in­vited to send in pre-recorded mes­sages, to be played over the com­ing week in the vast Gen­eral Assem­bly where each del­e­ga­tion can send a sin­gle masked diplo­mat.

US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, as leader of the host na­tion, passed on the chance to come in per­son to the Gen­eral Assem­bly, with a speech be­fore low-pro­file diplo­mats un­likely to fig­ure as part of his strat­egy for re­elec­tion in Novem­ber.

The sum­mit in nor­mal years draws about 10,000 peo­ple from around the world, a prospect that is un­think­able at a time when na­tions have im­posed strict en­trance re­quire­ments to pre­vent the spread of COVID-19, which has claimed nearly 950,000 lives.

With no chance for in-per­son meet­ings and the give-and-take of ne­go­ti­a­tions, some UN-based diplo­mats won­der how much can be achieved.

The United Na­tions is none­the­less mov­ing ahead with the­matic meet­ings — also vir­tual — on the side­lines of the sum­mit to tackle ma­jor is­sues in­clud­ing the coro­n­avirus pan­demic as well as cli­mate change, bio­di­ver­sity and the po­lit­i­cal tur­bu­lence both in Libya and Le­banon.

But there will also be less chance for dra­matic ex­changes be­tween lead­ers in their speeches. Keen to pre­vent any tech­ni­cal sna­fus, the United Na­tions has asked world lead­ers to sub­mit their videos four days in ad­vance, mean­ing there will be no spon­tane­ity or re­ac­tion to last-minute de­vel­op­ments.

US snub for UN

The UN week opened Mon­day with a cel­e­bra­tion of the global body’s 75th birth­day in the form of a vir­tual sum­mit where Sec­re­taryGen­eral An­to­nio Guter­res pleaded — in per­son — for more mul­ti­lat­eral diplo­macy.

In a sign of his views on the mat­ter, Trump did not bother to send re­marks, and the United States was in­stead rep­re­sented by its deputy UN en­voy, who said it was “the right time to ask ques­tions about the in­sti­tu­tion’s strengths and weak­nesses.”

Lead­ers in­stead have been in­vited to send in pre-recorded mes­sages, to be played over the com­ing week in the vast Gen­eral Assem­bly where each del­e­ga­tion can send a sin­gle masked diplo­mat.

Even the US am­bas­sador to the United Na­tions was not present, hav­ing trav­eled in­stead to Washington for an an­nounce­ment of “UN sanc­tions” against Iran that Trump de­manded all na­tions im­ple­ment.

The United States says it is en­forc­ing an ex­pir­ing UN arms em­bargo, but vir­tu­ally no other na­tion thinks Washington has the author­ity to im­pose UN sanc­tions, with Euro­pean pow­ers in­stead fo­cus­ing on sal­vaging a nu­clear ac­cord with Iran ne­go­ti­ated un­der former pres­i­dent Barack Obama.

The hawk­ish US stance on the eve of elec­tions comes a year af­ter French Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron led un­suc­cess­ful ef­forts in New York to ar­range a meet­ing or at least phone call be­tween Trump and Ira­nian Pres­i­dent Has­san Rouhani in hopes of eas­ing ten­sions.

Macron, speak­ing by video for the 75th an­niver­sary sum­mit, pleaded for the role of the United Na­tions in solv­ing global prob­lems.

“At a time when the pan­demic is feed­ing fear of de­cline and a nar­ra­tive of col­lec­tive pow­er­less­ness, I want to say very clearly: faced with this health emer­gency, the cli­mate chal­lenge and the re­treat on rights, it is here and now that we must act,” Macron said.

Ger­man Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel warned that the United Na­tions has “too of­ten been forced to lag be­hind its ideals as the in­ter­ests of in­di­vid­ual mem­bers have, time and again, pre­vented this or­der from func­tion­ing as it was in­tended.

VOLKAN Bozkir (rear left), pres­i­dent of the 75th ses­sion of the United Na­tions Gen­eral Assem­bly, ad­dresses a high-level meet­ing to com­mem­o­rate the 75th an­niver­sary of the UN at its head­quar­ters in New York.

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