by Rafaela Prifti
The world “is challenged like never before”, the UN Secretary-General António Guterres said on Monday, at the event marking the start of the 76 General Assembly. He said that the key message to the world leaders is “Wake up, change course, unite, and let’s try to defeat the enormous challenges we are facing today.”
The UN General Assembly is meeting virtually at the New York Headquarters to discuss international cooperation as it highlights the need for a global pandemic response to COVID 19. The data collected from Johns Hopkins University indicates that confirmed cases of the virus have surpassed 30 million and there are nearly 1 million deaths globally, There will be more than 80 virtual meetings covering all aspects of COVID-19, including a high-level session focusing on coordinating a global response, that includes an affordable future vaccine accessible to all. President Biden has vowed to boost the pace of global COVID-19 vaccinations, and the White House has planned a virtual summit on the topic for Wednesday, to coincide with activities held at the U.N.
Climate action is at the center of the agenda of events scheduled throughout Assembly meetings.
Mr. Biden who is addressing the General Assembly for the first time as president, will also be focusing on his two priorities: fighting the COVID pandemic, and addressing climate change. The White House believes that in order to meet these challenges countries need to work together, roping in the private sector, non-governmental organizations, and institutions, a senior administration official told reporters.
The administration has faced criticism for putting together plans to give Americans a third booster shot even as millions of people in the world’s poorest countries are still waiting for an initial dose. The World Health Organization and other groups have urged the United States to hold back on broad preparations for extra shots, arguing that other countries need the vaccines more. The White House has responded by claiming that the U.S. has enough doses even as it donates more doses than any other nation.
In accordance with health protocols, one delegate from each of the 193 member states, plus the European Union, the Holy See and the non-member Observer State of Palestine will be allowed in the hall to watch the video speeches. Hand sanitizer stations are placed in the side aisles. Delegates are required to wear face coverings. In case of positive testing by a delegate attending the session, a U.N. spokesperson says there is a plan for case management and contact tracing.