The United Nations convened its annual speeches by world leaders on Tuesday against a backdrop of disastrous climate change, polarised superpower relations and a devastating pandemic that has worsened the global rich-poor divide.
Some world leaders are gathering in person despite a letter from the US encouraging member states to call in virtually, like they did last year. More than 100 heads of state and government coming in person, including UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Biden, reports the CNN.
While formally welcoming world leaders to the 76th UN General Assembly meeting, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged countries to work together to address climate change and pool resources to cut down emissions.
He also called for narrowing the gap between rich and poor countries to curb the Covid-19 pandemic. He stated that that countries must ensure that vaccine production is doubled to ensure that they reach countries in need.
"Economic recovery should focus on women. We need an emergency plan to fight domestic violence in every country," Guterres said during his address to the world leaders.
"To achieve sustainable development goals, we must brige the gender gap...Women's rights are human rights," he said.
"The world must wake up. We are on the edge of an abyss and moving in the wrong direction," the UN chief added.
He outlined the following global priorities:
- Bridge the peace divide
- Bridge the climate divide
- Bridge the gap between rich and poor, within and among countries
- Bridge the gender divide
- Bridge the digital divide
- Bridge the divide among generations
Maldivian Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid, President of 76th UNGA, addressed the world leaders after Guteress. He stated that he will focus on Covid-19 vaccine equity and hold high-level meetings with various country leaders to achieve that.
He added that we must return our attention to the climate crisis, which had taken a back seat due to coroanvirus pandemic.
"We are no longer on the wrong path but on the edge of a cliff," he said, adding that events throughout the summit will focus on sustainbility, environment and biodiversity.
The general assemby also amounts to a major test of credibility for President Biden, who will be among the first to address the 193-member General Assembly.
Like all UN events, schedule changes are ongoing, but here are the countries slated to address the assembly today:
Despite his avowed enthusiasm for the United Nations — a marked departure from President Donald Trump — Biden makes his debut speech as president amid strong new doubts about his ability to vault the United States back into a position of global leadership after his predecessor's fractious tenure and promotion of "America First" isolationism.
Many expect Biden to expound on the theme that the world faces a choice between the democratic values espoused by the West and the disregard for them by China and other authoritarian governments. But he will be speaking in the context of a spate of negative news.
Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro will be the first speaker at the 76th UN general assembly meeting.