World leaders unlikely to attend UN 75th anniversary summit: Guterres

UNITED NATIONS, Sept. 24, 2019 (Xinhua) — The United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Antonio Guterres addresses the opening of the General Debate of the 74th session of the UN General Assembly at the UN headquarters in New York, Sept. 24, 2019. (Xinhua/Li Muzi/IANS)

United Nations, May 19 (IANS) UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has said that because of the COVID-19 pandemic, it was unlikely that world leaders will attend the annual UN summit in September, putting a damper on the celebration of the 75th anniversary of the would body.

In a letter to General Assembly President Tijjani Muhammad-Bande on Monday, Guterres suggested exploring alternative ways of holding the meeting such as through pre-recorded speeches by the leaders of the 193-member nations.

The September meeting was expected to be a celebration of the UN”s landmark anniversary and an occasion for the Presidents, Prime Ministers and royalties to look back at its 75 years and chart its future in the 21st century.

The General Assembly had planned a one-day summit on September 21 on the theme ”The Future We Want, the UN We Need: Reaffirming our Collective Commitment to Multilateralism”.

An ambitious 75th anniversary declaration looking to the past and the future of the UN has been under preparation through negotiations conducted by Permanent Representatives Alia Ahmed bin Saif Al-Thani of Qatar and Anna Karin Enestrom of Sweden.

Guterres said that travel restrictions and quarantines were likely to continue into September when the annual summit is held and under those conditions “it is highly unlikely that Heads of State and Government from all Member States will be able to travel to New York in September”.

“Therefore, you may wish to recommend that the General Assembly considers holding the General Debate of the seventy-fifth session in a different format, such as using pre-recorded messages provided by Heads of State and Government or Ministers, with physical presence in the General Assembly Hall limited to one delegate per delegation based in New York,” he wrote in the letter seen by IANS.

This arrangement would also allow the general debate to continue with the participation of speakers from the member countries “at the highest level possible”.

He said following a similar format for the 75th anniversary commemoration.

“COVID-19 is an unprecedented and devastating crisis that has spared no one, and the engagement of the General Assembly will be essential for a large-scale, coordinated and comprehensive multilateral response,” Guterres said.

The annual high-level meeting brings together leaders from around the world and beyond the speeches and meetings at the UN, more is achieved on the sidelines as they meet for formal and informal meetings dealing with bilateral and multilateral issues.

At last year”s summit attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Russian President Vladimir Putin and China”s President Xi Jinping were notable absentees and were expected this year.

In their speeches during the week-long general debate, leaders sketch out their countries” foreign policy priorities and world view, leading to verbal clashes in some instances.

A Youth Plenary was also planned with a youth-driven, global dialogue on the future of the UN.

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