World leaders will submit pre-recorded video statements for the United Nations General Assembly session in September, the 193-member organisation has decided, as heads of state and government will not be physically attending the annual gathering due to the coronavirus pandemic and the high-level session goes virtual for the first time in the UN’s 75-year history.
The landmark 75th session of the UN General Assembly will begin on September 15. The General Debate is held at the beginning of each session of the General Assembly and usually runs for over a week when leaders and ministers from the 193 UN member states address the world from the iconic lectern in the General Assembly hall.
The General Assembly adopted a decision on Wednesday that “each Member State, observer State and the European Union can submit a pre-recorded statement of its Head of State, Vice-President, Crown Prince or Princess, Head of Government, Minister or Vice-Minister, which will be played in the General Assembly Hall during the general debate of the Assembly at its seventy-fifth session, the high-level meeting to commemorate the seventy-fifth anniversary of the United Nations and the high-level meetings…after introduction by their representative who is physically present in the Assembly Hall.”
While taking the decision, the General Assembly noted “with concern” the situation regarding the coronavirus pandemic and the “limitations recommended on meetings within the United Nations premises as precautionary measures aimed at containing the spread of COVID-19”.
The new format will mean that it will be for the first time in the world organisation’s 75-year history that global leaders will not gather here for the high-level week that annually brings thousands of diplomats, government officials, civil society members and media persons from around the world to New York City.
Telecommuting arrangements have been in place at the UN headquarters here since mid-March as coronavirus spread rapidly across New York, making the state the epicentre of the pandemic in the US.
The UN headquarters began its first phase of re-opening on July 20, under which no more than 400 people will be allowed to be present at the premises on any given day, in order to minimise the risk of exposure to the virus and to allow for physical distancing. Those present in the premises will have to follow strict social distancing guidelines.