BY ALEX BALUKU
NEW YORK, USA, September 25, 2023 – The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) witnessed a record-breaking attendance this year, with over 10,000 delegates from around the world convening in New York City to address pressing global issues.
The 78th UNGA session comes at a time when the world grapples with numerous crises, including those in Afghanistan, South Sudan, and Yemen, alongside the urgent need to address climate change.
The annual event, which brings together world leaders, diplomats, and civil society representatives, is often seen as a barometer of global priorities and cooperation. This year’s gathering has showcased both the challenges and opportunities facing the international community.
According to Stéphane Dujarric, the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General, one of the notable highlights of this year’s UNGA was the significant increase in attendance, as reported by the UN’s security colleagues.
Dujarric says that they issued 10,829 passes for delegates, marking a sharp rise from the 6,755 passes issued the previous
“Similarly, media passes surged from 1,141 to 2,255, reflecting a growing interest in global affairs. Approximately 40,000 special event tickets were also issued, indicating the event’s growing significance in shaping global discourse.” Dujarric reports.
While UNGA sessions often generate optimism and pledges of cooperation, this year’s gathering underscored the need for immediate action to address a host of global crises:
Afghanistan: On Tuesday 26, 2023, the UNGA will hear from the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, Roza Otunbayeva. With Afghanistan experiencing political instability and humanitarian challenges, her briefing is eagerly anticipated. The situation remains complex as the international community grapples with providing assistance while addressing security concerns.
South Sudan: The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) strongly condemned a recent deadly attack on aid trucks in Central Equatoria State. Two drivers were killed, and the trucks were destroyed, leading to a pause in UNICEF’s aid deliveries to the region. Humanitarian workers in South Sudan continue to face threats and violence, making it one of the world’s most dangerous places for aid workers.
Democratic Republic of the Congo: Persistent cases of gender-based violence in conflict-affected provinces of Ituri, North Kivu, and South Kivu were highlighted. Despite 35,000 survivors receiving care between January and June of this year, the true number of survivors is likely much higher. Funding for programs related to gender-based violence in the DRC is critically low, limiting survivors’ access to essential services.
Yemen: Special Envoy for Yemen, Hans Grundberg, held discussions in Riyadh with regional and international officials and diplomats. Grundberg emphasized the need for support from the region and the international community to advance an agreement on improving living conditions in Yemen, a country plagued by conflict and a humanitarian crisis.
Methane Emissions: The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) released a report analyzing methane emissions in livestock and rice systems. Methane emissions are a significant driver of the climate crisis, accounting for approximately 20% of global greenhouse gas emissions. The report outlined measurement techniques and mitigation strategies to combat this pressing environmental issue.
In addition to these global crises, the UNGA discussions also touched on issues like security council reform, humanitarian funding, and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The Secretary-General’s visit to the SDG Pavilion during the UNGA underscored the importance of the SDGs in addressing global challenges.
While the UNGA provides a platform for world leaders to engage in dialogue and diplomacy, some notable absences were observed. Four of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council were represented by foreign ministers instead of heads of state. The absence of these critical leaders raised questions about their level of engagement in addressing global peace and security.
Regarding the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine, the Secretary-General did not provide new evidence during his meeting with the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov. Instead, he referred to the reports from the UN Special Representative on Children and Armed Conflict. The issue of Russia allegedly kidnapping children from Ukraine to Russia has been a contentious one, with various parties seeking clarity.
Another significant concern highlighted during the UNGA was the reduction in humanitarian aid for Yemen. Save the Children reported that humanitarian aid for Yemen had been slashed by over 60% in the last five years. This reduction in funding has dire consequences for the people of Yemen, exacerbating an already dire humanitarian crisis.
The UNGA also witnessed an incident involving the Israeli ambassador, who protested during Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi’s speech by displaying a photo. The incident raised questions about the appropriate decorum for such gatherings and led to the Israeli ambassador being escorted out by UN security.
In summary, the 78th UNGA session has brought global attention to a multitude of pressing issues, from humanitarian crises to climate change and international diplomacy.
The record-breaking attendance at this year’s UNGA reflects the world’s growing interest in addressing these challenges through multilateral cooperation, even as the international community grapples with complex and urgent global crises.