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  • Gabrielle Hendricks

What 76th UN General Assembly was All About

Initiatives for global vaccinations and climate control, striving for human rights and first-world greed are global issues discussed at this year’s 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly. Sept. 21 marked the opening of the General Debate that went until Sept. 27. The event was hosted at the U.N. headquarters in New York City.

Eighty-three head of state members attended this year’s conference. Despite not all 193 heads of state members being present for the assembly, this number of in-person attendees was incredible as last year’s U.N.G.A. was held over Zoom. The pandemic took a toll on many government institutions, and the U.N. was no exception. While hosting people in a closed room, social distancing, masks and vaccination of all members was enforced to avoid a super-spreader event. The agenda of the Assembly was to address the issues of COVID-19 vaccine distribution, COVID-19 recovery plans, climate change, international conflict, gender inequality and racial inequality.

Secretary General António Guterres opened the Assembly by addressing the planned agenda. Guterres’s opening address was powerful and the passion in his voice was eminent throughout his speech. He did not beat around bush and expressed his disappointment in the selfishness and divisiveness of world powers, particularly the U.S. and China, despite not directly addressing those nations by name. It is well known by most of the world that tensions between the U.S. and China have been escalating as the two largest economic giants of the world. COVID-19 has also heightened those tensions, as former U.S. President, Donald Trump, was quick to place blame on China for the pandemic.

Guterres urged leading nations to try and put their differences aside to collectively assist the world in defeating COVID-19. He stated the astonishing fact that 90% of Africa has not been vaccinated, while 70% of vaccinated individuals live in only 10 countries. This fact he attributed to poverty of underdeveloped countries and wealthy nations having stockpiled vaccines that are going expired and being disposed of. It is abhorrent that vaccines that could easily be shipped internationally and potentially save the lives of millions are being wasted and hoarded by the first-world governments.

First-world selfishness goes beyond COVID-19, and is seen in global climate issue. According to climate scientists, with our current emissions of greenhouse gases, emissions will rise by 16%, placing the global temperature at 2.5 degrees Celsius by 2030. This degree means a catastrophe for the stability of our planet. The Paris Agreement, an initiative to put an end to climate change, needs to reach the goal of reducing global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

At the U.N.G.A., first-world leaders such as U.S. President Joe Biden and China’s President Xi Jinping stated their commitment to upholding the Paris Agreement. There was also discussion of furthering green initiatives for global development and supplying countries in the Global South with economic support to reduce green house gases. Biden stated the specific goal of the U.S. to reduce the country’s green house emissions by 50% by 2030 and obtain net zero emissions by 2050. Such specific percentage listings and the fact that countries like the U.S. and China have been further investing into 5G technologies and electric cars shows the likelihood of both nations honoring these promises. The world is surely to follow these initiatives to keep their economy and sufficiency on par with the world’s leading economies.

The topics of COVID-19 recovery and climate change were talked about at length and fantastic, possible plans to help solve those issues were brought to the table. However, the topics regarding the abuses against ethnic minorities, women and LGBTQ people were not addressed enough. When they were talked about, lies and promises that will definitely be unfulfilled came out of the mouths of world leaders. It’s ironic how Biden, Xi and Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro stated how they want human rights for all even though they cannot seem to achieve that in their own countries. Currently, the U.S. has Haitian refugees being brutally whipped by border control police, China has Uyghurs (an ethnic minority) being tortured in internment camps and Brazil is not providing full equal treatment to its 80% Afro-Latino and indigenous populations. Not only do these governments ignore human rights, but they also perpetuate the attack on them.

Non-state affiliated U.N. leaders such as Guterres clearly care about the welfare of the world and want the leaders of nations to cooperate to further a brighter future for the world population. Presidents of the world nations, especially the ones leading developed countries, however, do not genuinely care about ensuring safety, security and equality for all. They want to meet the selfish needs of their own country’s population to stay in political power. Overall, the U.N.G.A. was an assembly of progress for disease and climate control but a future of unfulfilled promises on the basic human rights front.

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