What to Expect From This Week's United Nations Gathering
“There is no way forward but collective, common-sense action for the common good.”
The 73rd United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) opened Monday with the unveiling of a statue of Nelson Mandela, the human rights champion and former president of South Africa.
The statue, delivered by South Africa and President Cyril Ramaphosa, was meant to set a tone of cooperation and respect for the week, as much as it was about honoring a legend. The UN went a step further by adopting a resolution intended to enshrine the principles Mandela lived by at the Nelson Mandela Peace Summit.
“We resolve to move beyond words in the promotion of peaceful, just, inclusive and non-discriminatory societies, stressing the importance of the equal participation and full involvement of women and the meaningful participation of youth in all efforts for the maintenance and promotion of peace and security,” the resolution read.
UN Photo/Cia Pak
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The UN is meeting at a turbulent time. Many member countries have criticized the global body over the past year and progress on many of the world’s most pressing issues are facing major challenges, according to Quartz.
“As guardians of the common good, we also have a duty to promote and support a reformed, reinvigorated, and strengthened multilateral system,” Antonio Guterres, the UN Secretary-General, said on Tuesday at the UN headquarters. “We need commitment to a rules-based order, with the United Nations at its center and with the different institutions and treaties that bring the Charter to life … There is no way forward but collective, common-sense action for the common good.”
Here are five issues to look for during the UNGA this week.
The United States
For the past two years, the US has been a wild card in the UN. President Donald Trump has positioned himself as a critic of the UN since taking office, repeatedly questioning the organization’s legitimacy, withdrawing from different pacts, and threatening to cut funding from various agencies.
The US has also reneged on the multilateral Iran Nuclear deal, and escalated a trade war with China and other countries.
Much of this year’s UN general assembly will involve trying to find solutions to these issues and finding ways to work around them, according to ABC News.
"It's very unlikely to see many people confronting President Trump,” Jon Alterman, a senior vice president at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told ABC. “You are likely to see many people thinking of ways to undermine President Trump because they think that the approach that the US has articulated isn't going to take the world in the direction it needs to go."
During his address to the general assembly, Trump reiterated many familiar talking points, including his intent to deter immigration, and lack of faith in global human rights bodies.
The civil war in Syria has recently taken a turn for the worse, and the crisis unfolding in Yemen continues to deteriorate. In Bangladesh, more than 1 million Rohingya refugees remain in a limbo state after facing genocide in Myanmar. In Venezuela, a majority of the population is suffering from malnutrition, and Nicaragua seems to be on the brink of its own dangerous unraveling.
These are just a few of the humanitarian crises facing the world, and they’ll all command serious attention during the general assembly this week.
There could be progress made in efforts to stop slaughter of civilians in Yemen, end the civil war in Syria, and hold leaders in Myanmar accountable for the genocide of Rohingya, according to ABC.
As the #MeToo movement spreads around the world, achieving uneven victories in different countries, efforts at improving gender equality in public and private spheres has increased.
This year’s UNGA will host various events on sexual violence, female representation in business, and laws that discriminate against women. To coincide with UNGA, Global Citizen is hosting the #SheIsEqual event, which will focus on making laws around the world equal, as part of Global Citizen Week.
Global Health and Disease
As antibiotic-resistant diseases proliferate around the world, the risk of a global epidemic increases each year. The UN and other bodies dedicated to promoting universal health have been working to mitigate the conditions that would allow such a scenario to unfold.
In particular, the UNGA will focus on ending the threat of tuberculosis, which has become more pervasive in recent years, with 1.6 million people dying from the disease in 2017.
Additionally, a multilateral group committed to fighting non-communicable diseases such as cancer will be formed during the week.
There have never been more displaced people in recorded history as conflicts, persecution, and natural disasters drive people from their homes. At the same time, migration is causing countries throughout the world to close their borders and enact reactionary policies.
The UN is seeking to deal with these dual crises by promoting common principles for the humane treatment of migrants and refugees through the Global Compact for Migration.
Throughout the week, the UN will be hosting events for countries to hash out approaches to migration, debunk stereotypes surrounding the issue, and more.