Tiijani Muhammad Bande and Antonio Guterres

For the first time in the 75-year history of the United Nations, World leaders will not be coming to New York for their annual gathering as a result of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

The General Debate of the 75th United Nations General Assembly, traditionally the most high-profile UN event of the year, will be a virtual one, with world leaders only contributing set-piece speeches via video link.

This was confirmed by ReemAbaza, Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly, Tijjani Muhammad-Bande, while unveiling the procedure for the 75th UNGA.

According to her, each Member State, Observer State, and the European Union, was invited to submit a pre-recorded video, delivered by its designated high-level official, which will be played in the General Assembly Hall.

The same procedure will apply for a series of special high-level sessions scheduled to take place, including a commemoration of the landmark 75th anniversary of the United Nations; a summit on biodiversity; and a meeting to commemorate, and promote, the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons”

Ms. Abaza further explained that the hall will not be empty as videos will be introduced by a representative of each State, who will be physically present and that more details regarding the organization of events will be released in due course.

The decision to introduce pre-recorded videos to the High-Level General Debate was made by the UN body using the novel ‘silence procedure’ method. Under this method, draft resolutions were circulated by the President of the General Assembly, which gave Member States a deadline of at least 72 hours, to raise objections. When there were no objections, the President circulated a letter, confirming that the resolution had been adopted.

Also, the COVID-19 induced procedure stated that physical access and presence into the UN building will be limited to one or two delegates per Member Country and hence, suggested that all side-events such as New York Climate Week be moved to virtual platforms.

Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted lives of billions across the globe with over 16 million infected worldwide, and the possibility that things would return to normal in the immediate future seems remote. The new virtual format which the General Assembly will be taking this year is a clear indication of the ‘far-from-normal’ in situations all around the world.


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