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COVID-19: World leaders to stay at home, in first ‘virtual’ UN General Assembly


The 75th UN General Assembly (UNGA) session, begins on 15 September and this year, due to the ongoing global pandemic, it will be unlike any other in the organization’s three-quarters of a century of existence


This year each Member State, Observer State, and the European Union was invited to submit a pre-recorded video, delivered by its designated high-level official, which will be played in the General Assembly Hall, and the videos will be introduced by a representative of each State, who will be physically present.

The same procedure will apply for a series of special high-level sessions scheduled to take place, including a commemoration of the landmark 75th anniversary of the United Nations; a summit on biodiversity; and a meeting to commemorate, and promote, the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons.

General debate: Tuesday, 22 September to Saturday, 26 September, and Tuesday, 29 September 2020.

High-level meeting to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the UN: Monday, 21 September 2020.

Celebrating 75 years

The United Nations was established in 1945 and has been marking its 75th anniversary with what the UN Secretary-General António Guterres has called an extended “people’s debate” which “promises to be the largest and furthest-reaching global conversation ever on building the future we want.”

An event at UN headquarters on 21 September to celebrate the milestone (which will also take place online and remotely) will aim to “generate renewed support for multilateralism”; an issue many believe has become ever more urgent as the world faces up to the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s expected that the Secretary-General will address, in person, the High-Level event to mark the 75th anniversary in the GA Hall.

It’s expected that the Secretary-General will address, in person, the High-Level event to mark the 75th anniversary in the GA Hall

‘Transforming the world’ through Sustainable Development

At the 75th GA session, the SDGs will be put under the spotlight in what is being described as a “first of its kind 30-minute global broadcast”, created by writer and director, and SDG advocateRichard Curtis, which will take audiences across the world “on a dynamic exploration of the times we live in, the multiple tipping points our planet faces, and the interventions that could transform our world” up to 2030, when, it’s hoped, the SDG targets will be met.

Meanwhile, the SDG Action Zone, which last year provided a focal point and meeting place at UN Headquarters to promote the global sustainable development agenda, is moving online with appearances from “inspirational leaders” promised on the bill.

And the SDG Media Zone will be hosting a  series of conversations on  ‘some of the most defining issues of today’, including the impact of COVID-19, the development and availability of a vaccine, virus misinformation and myths as well as gender equality and the urgent need to protect the world’s diminishing biodiversity.

Biodiversity Summit: Wednesday, 30 September 2020.

Facing up to ‘unprecedented loss’ of global biodiversity

Earth’s biodiversity, its rich variety of life, is declining at what the UN has warned “an unprecedented rate.”  Over one million species are at risk of extinction, two billion hectares of land are currently degraded and 66 per cent of oceans, 50 per cent of coral reefs and 85 per cent of wetlands have been significantly and negatively altered by human activity. A major international summit to discuss how to reverse the accelerating deterioration of the natural environment and how it is harmfully impacting people’s lives was due to be held this year in Kunming, China, but it has now been postponed until May 2021.

High-level meeting on the 25th anniversary of the Fourth World Conference on Women: Thursday, 1 October 2020.

This high-level meeting of the General Assembly will focus on the overall theme, ‘Accelerating the realization of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls. As decided by the UNGA in July 2020, this event will take place on 1 October 2020.

High-level plenary meeting to commemorate and promote the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons: Friday, 2 October 2020.

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