Will your country’s leader take the podium on Saturday? What should you watch for at the 74th UNGA session?
World leaders are gathering at the United Nations headquarters in New York City this week for the 74th session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA).
All eyes will be on the general debate podium from September 24 to 30 when dozens of leaders will use what has been called the world’s largest diplomatic platform to highlight the issues that matter most to their countries.
This year’s UNGA comes as tensions flare in the Middle East, the United Kingdom prime minister pushes to secure a Brexit deal by the end of October, and as demands grow for governments to take greater action to combat climate change.
Here’s a look at the general debate schedule and some key things to watch for.
During the general debate, leaders or country representatives are allotted 15 minutes to address the Assembly, but they are notorious for going overtime.
Here’s a look at the tentative speaker schedule for day 5. The schedule is subject to change.
The morning session begins at 9am local time (13:00 GMT).
- San Marino
- South Africa
- Marshall Islands
The afternoon session begins at 3pm local time (19:00 GMT).
Don’t see your country listed? Check back over the week as the schedules are finalised, or see who spoke earlier in the week here.
Key things to watch for
The stage is set for a US-Iran showdown this week as the leaders of both countries address the UNGA and put forward their competing visions of security in the Middle East.
The United States, Saudi Arabia, Germany, the UK and France blame Iran for this month’s attacks on Saudi oil facilities. Iran has denied responsibility for the attacks, which were claimed by Yemen’s Houthi rebels.
In his address on Tuesday, US President Donald Trump said: “No responsible government should subsidise Iran’s bloodlust.”
“As long as Iran’s menacing behaviour continues, sanctions will not be lifted. They will be tightened,” he said. But he also told UNGA that the US “is ready to embrace friendship with all who genuinely seek peace and respect.”
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani warned on Wednesday that the Gulf region is “on the edge of collapse”.
He also called US officials criminals for imposing “merciless economic terrorism” on Iran, and said: “A single blunder can fuel a big fire.”
Although it’s unlikely the pair will meet on the sidelines, Trump has not ruled out a meeting.
“Nothing is ever off the table, completely, but I have no intention of meeting with Iran and that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen,” Trump said earlier this week. “I’m a very flexible person, but we have no intention. It’s not set up.”
Iranian officials have said a meeting is only possible if Trump is “ready to do what is necessary” by exchanging sanctions relief for “permanent monitoring of Iranian nuclear facilities”.
Earlier this week, European countries met with the US and Iranian leaders separately on the sidelines of UNGA, hoping to help defuse the heightened tensions.
More climate actions
A major theme over the past week has been climate action – or inaction, according to many climate advocates. Days after millions of young people marched worldwide demanding a greater response to climate change, more than 60 leaders met on Monday for the Climate Action Summit.
Advocates will continue their protests and actions throughout the week.
The first world leader to address the UNGA was Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who has been heavily criticised for his economic and environmental policies as fires continue to burn in the Amazon. It was his first UNGA appearance and he stressed the need for global powers to respect Brazil’s sovereignty.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Tuesday made his UNGA debut but had to cut his visit short after Britain’s highest court ruled his decision to prorogue parliament for five weeks in the run-up to the October 31 Brexit deadline was unlawful.
The UK is racing towards its departure from the bloc without an exit agreement and the prospect of economic disruption. On Monday, Johnson met European Council President Donald Tusk and no breakthrough appeared to be on the horizon.
Meetings were also scheduled on Venezuela. On Monday, the US and more than a dozen Latin American countries agreed to investigate and arrest associates and senior officials of the Venezuelan government of Nicolas Maduro who are suspected of crimes including drug trafficking.
The diplomats, however, stopped short of approving military action. Expect sideline discussions to continue as countries who recognise opposition figure Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s legitimate leader attempt to put more pressure on Maduro, who maintains control of the country’s main state institutions.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in has been speaking to Trump on plans to restart US-North Korea talks. The pair met on Monday at the UN. Moon said he hopes working-level negotiations between US and North Korean officials will be held soon to prepare for a third summit between the countries’ leaders. Trump said, however, he would want to know the probable result from a third summit with Kim Jong Un before agreeing to hold it.
Who won’t be at UNGA?
Among the world leaders not attending this year’s UNGA are Russian President Vladimir Putin, Chinese President Xi Jinping, embattled Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and Venezuela’s Maduro, who is seen as illegitimate by more than 50 countries.
Countries whose leaders will not be in attendance will send official delegations instead.
ICYMI: Tuesday’s speakers
The UNGA kicked off on Tuesday. Here’s a look at who spoke.
The assembly began with statements by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and the UNGA President Tijjani Muhammad-Bande, followed by:
- United States
- South Korea
- Burkina Faso
- Bosnia and Herzegovina
- Marshall Islands
- New Zealand
- United Kingdom
- eSwatini, formerly known as Swaziland
- Republic of Palau
- Central African Republic
- Costa Rica
- Czech Republic
- East Timor
- Democratic Republic of Congo
- El Salvador
- Sierra Leone
- European Union
- Ivory Coast
- The Gambia
- Sao Tome and Principe
- Federated States of Micronesia
- South Sudan
- North Macedonia
- Saudi Arabia
- Dominican Republic
- Solomon Islands
- Cape Verde
- Saint Lucia
- Antigua and Barbuda
- Trinidad and Tobago
- Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
- Papua New Guinea
- Equatorial Guinea