UN General Assembly session opens without world leaders

NEW YORK: The 75th UN General Assembly session has opened but world leaders will not be physically present in the iconic hall for the annual gathering due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The centerpiece of the General Assembly session is the General Debate which starts on September 22, a week after the official opening, in which usually over 100 hundred heads of state and government participated in the past years to discuss key global issues.

This year world leaders will be staying away from New York and instead send pre-recorded videos of their speeches which will be broadcast as live. The United States government has notified that foreign leaders, without exception, will be quarantined for 14 days on arrival in New York.

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan will address the 193-member General Assembly via video-link on September 25. According to the preliminary list of speakers, he is the sixth speaker in the afternoon session.

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Pakistan’s UN Ambassador Munir Akram said that the prime minister is expected once again to project the just cause of the Kashmiri people and call for action by the international community to halt India’s massive human rights violations, rescind unilateral measures and promote a solution in accordance with UN resolutions.

Akram added that the prime minister is also likely to speak about Islamophobia, including the BJP-RSS campaign against Indian Muslims, as well as illicit financial flows and the reform and revival of the United Nations.

The prime minister is also likely to virtually address the summit on Financing for Development on September 29 and the Biodiversity Summit on September 30.

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Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi is also scheduled to speak at a High-Level Meeting of the UN Alliance of Civilisations on September 28. He will also address the 25th anniversary of the Fourth World Conference on Women on October 1.

In the hybrid format adopted for this year, the prime minister and foreign minister’s video statements will be introduced by Ambassador Akram who will be physically present in the General Assembly Hall. Each member state will send one diplomat in order to maintain social distancing.

The session will be presided over by Volkan Bozkir, a veteran Turkish diplomat, who will assume the office as UNGA President on September 15. Due to the strict restrictions, there will be no meetings on the sidelines or in the corridors at UN Headquarters.

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