The Covid-19 pandemic yet again disrupts another High-Level Meeting and this time, the world’s largest and most important diplomatic meeting: the UN General Assembly. For the first time in United Nations’ 75-year history, world leaders will not be coming to New York for the annual high-level meeting of UN General Assembly.
This was officially disclosed by Tijjani Muhammad-Bande, President of the General Assembly, who stated that “in terms of the Board direction, we are not going to have Heads of State and Government come into New York…presidents don’t travel alone and it is impossible to bring large delegations to New York during the pandemic”.
While the General Assembly debate and other procedures of the UNGA session will still be in place, albeit atypical and via video-conferencing, it is the toll which a complete scale-down of in-person gathering will take on the host city’s already-struggling economy, that is unsettling.
New York City is the host to the United Nations headquarters and the permanent location of the UN General Assembly sessions. Having the UN headquartered in New York nets the city about $56 million in tax revenue and the General Assembly generates a whopping $3.69 billion in economic benefits to New York City in its annual gathering of hundreds of world leaders, ministers and diplomats from 193 Member States along with thousands of government officials, media and civil society representatives.
However, being the epicentre of the Covid-19 pandemic in the U.S., the city has encountered a measure of economic damage as a result of the pandemic. A tourist city with a heavy dependence on domestic and foreign visitors for revenue generation, New York has lost $3.5 billion in revenue and more than 1 million jobs.
But in a world grappling with the consequent socio-economic effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, the General Assembly’s decision to convene a General Assembly that is atypical and the impact this decision will have on New York’s economy is one of the many disruptions and sad realities of COVID-19 pandemic.