Vaccines, climate goals debate topped scaled-down UN summit

Expanding access to COVID-19 vaccines and tackling the growing dangers of climate change is expected to dominate a week-long United Nations meeting in New York that is taking place in person after going entirely virtual in 2020.

More than 100 world leaders are expected for the United Nations Annual General Assembly, a dramatic change from last year when the world was battling the pandemic without vaccines. Now that nations are debating how to distribute billions of doses of vaccine and the impacts of extreme weather events increase, UNGA is back in a hybrid mode.

Heads of state scheduled to attend the event, which opens Monday and ends September 27, include US President Joe Biden, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro. Among the no-shows are Russian Vladimir Putin and Chinese Xi Jinping, who regularly skip the UN event, as well as French Emmanuel Macron and Ebrahim Raisi, Iran’s new president.

The entourages accompanying the visiting leaders will not be as numerous as in the past – delegations will be limited to four members each in the main UN lobby, while side events will be mostly virtual. It’s a nod to the painful reality of COVID-19 more than 18 months after the outbreak began: UN wants diplomats to have the face-to-face time they need to resolve issues crisis issues, but they don’t want to be remembered for hosting a superspreader event.

“This is not the best solution,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told reporters ahead of the event. “We will try to make it a stopgap, by mobilizing all our resources to allow as much interaction as possible.”

The oft-criticized global body is showing up at the annual gathering this year with generally positive reviews from the public: New analysis from the Pew Research Center finds the UN is viewed positively by most respondents this year, with a median a favorable opinion from the UN, of which 59% in the United States

Here are the key themes that are expected to dominate this year’s discussions at the UN and on the sidelines:

Climate change

Guterres and Britain’s Johnson are calling for an informal closed-door meeting on Monday with the aim of getting countries to agree on bolder commitments ahead of the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, in November.

Leaders from the world’s largest emitters, including the United States, China and Australia, as well as the small island states most immediately affected by sea level rise have been invited to participate. Guterres said the idea is to “make an effort to build confidence, to allow this threefold ambition to be met before COP26 – funding ambition, adaptation ambition, mitigation ambition”.

Guterres said in an interview broadcast Sunday on CNN’s “Fareed Zakaria GPS” that so far “John Kerry’s efforts have largely failed” because China has rejected the US climate envoy’s call to separate cooperation on climate change deep divisions between the two. nations on other matters.

The international community must raise “100 billion dollars to finance the adaptation and resilience of countries vulnerable to the climate,” according to British Ambassador Barbara Woodward. This means “getting ambitious plans from countries that have not specified how they will reduce their emissions, in particular by phasing out coal, and revitalizing and protecting nature,” she said.

Vaccines against covid-19

Biden will host a virtual summit on Wednesday that will focus on concrete steps to end the pandemic. Biden plans to call on world leaders to collectively donate 1 billion COVID-19 vaccines with the goal of inoculating 70% of the world over the next year, as many countries struggle to get vaccinated.

The United States will also call for the donation and delivery of one billion test kits by 2022 and the acceleration of a previously announced commitment of 2 billion doses, according to an invitation sent by the Biden administration. . The document describes them as “draft targets”.

The call comes amid controversy over the effectiveness and morals of countries considering booster shots for their already vaccinated populations, as hundreds of millions of people wait for their first dose.

Israel has administered millions of callbacks and is preparing in case a fourth round is required. The US could start offering boosters this month, at least for people vulnerable to serious illness, while the UK and Europe are also considering third doses. China has approved the use of boosters for high-risk residents.

After Afghanistan

In his first speech from the UN podium, Biden will seek to assure the world on Tuesday that America is still a reliable leader in the multilateral arena despite its hasty withdrawal from Afghanistan after the Taliban took Kabul.

With the UN warning of a “humanitarian catastrophe” if aid does not continue to flow into the war-torn country, the global body is at an impasse. Few countries want to recognize or give financial support to the Taliban government, which includes sanctioned terrorists and has a long history of human rights abuses, but they also don’t want the withdrawal of foreign forces to cause a crisis. refugees or deeper problems.

The foreign ministers of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council – the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, China and France – are expected to discuss Afghanistan in a meeting on Wednesday.


Iran’s new president will not make an appearance, but Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian will represent the Islamic Republic as talks on the UN-backed Iran nuclear deal continue to stall and US allies and of the West warn that time is running out to keep the deal alive.

The International Atomic Energy Agency gave negotiators time, this month concluding a deal with Tehran that allows monitors to replace damaged surveillance cameras and filled memory cards at Iranian atomic sites.

The UNGA has often served as a venue for diplomats to attempt to negotiate an agreement on Iran’s nuclear activities. This time around, the United States and its allies have warned that Iran’s continued enrichment of nuclear materials will soon mean that the 2015 deal will not be worth sustaining.

Renegade Ambassadors

The UN podium has long been the scene of emblematic moments: Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez bragging about the smell of “sulfur” on the podium after the intervention of US President George W. Bush; then Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wielding a cartoon-style design of a nuclear bomb; and Bolivian Evo Morales wielding a coca leaf, the main ingredient in cocaine and a symbol of indigenous Andean culture.

This year’s speeches promise a different kind of drama. While the credentials of Myanmar’s current ambassador Kyaw Moe Tun have been challenged by the junta which seized power in a coup this year, the envoy remains in place and is expected to deliver a speech outside the assembly. Afghanistan’s current ambassador, appointed by the ousted government of President Ashraf Ghani, is also expected to speak because the country’s new Taliban leadership has not challenged his credentials.

Alliance “quadrielle”

The coming week will end with the leaders of some of the United States’ closest allies in Asia – Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga – traveling to Washington for the premiere. face-to-face meeting of the “Quad” block. Friday.

The alliance of Indo-Pacific nations is widely seen as an attempt to form a united front against China’s ambitions in the region, and the meeting is likely to draw criticism from Beijing.

The meeting between Morrison and Biden will be supported by the new agreement on submarines reached by the United Kingdom, the United States and Australia. It scuttled a $ 65 billion deal between Australia and France, prompting the French foreign minister to say he felt ‘a stab in the back’ and the French government to recall its ambassadors to states. United and Australia.

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