The United Nations General Assembly- in General

By Elizabeth Volpert

Image of 2023 United Nations National AssemblyWikiCommons
Beginning on September 19th, just a 20 minute drive from the Leman Upper School, the United Nations met to discuss and debate this year’s critical issues.
The United Nations General Assembly is an annual conference held in New York, which discusses all the policy making and funding aspects of the organization. The UNGA is the only branch of the UN where all 193 participating nations have equal voting power. Key decisions are made only when the motion receives a two thirds majority vote. It is also at the assembly that new representatives are elected, and the UNGA president for the proceeding year is discussed. This position is rotated amongst the five geographical regions of the UN: Asia-Pacific, Eastern Europe, Latin America and Caribbean, Africa, and Western Europe and other States. This year, the president of the UNGA is Dennis Francis, from Africa, specifically Trinidad and Tobago. The president's role is to monitor the length of discussions and observance of rules, and to ask questions and announce decisions. This year’s United Nations Assembly conferred about climate protection, global peace restoration, keeping global health under surveillance, and more.
An issue that has no doubt been heavy on the world’s mind since last year, is the Russia-Ukraine war. The President of the European Union made sure to remind everyone of the “crime-scene” that is Ukraine, and reiterate that the EU is in complete support of the country and its people. President Michel called on the Security Council to take further action to protect the peace and rights of the Ukrainian people. He even went as far as to motion specific countries to act, encouraging China to use its forces for the good of Ukraine. In his statement, President Zelensky of Ukraine brought to the UN’s attention the ridiculousness and hypocrisy of allowing terrorists to yield nuclear weapons. The abduction of Ukrainian children, the blackmailing, and the destruction of Ukraine is but the “war of the decade” for the Russian Federation. President Zelensky stated that Russia starts a new war every decade, and seemingly without repercussions. “Please hear me,” were his closing words. In the general debate, President Biden stated that the United States are in total support of Ukraine, and urged Russia to accept a diplomatic solution to lasting peace. “Russia alone bears responsibility for this war; Russia alone has the power to end this war immediately; and it’s Russia alone that stands in the way of peace,” said Biden. He also added that if Russia thinks the world will get used to their abuse of Ukraine and turn a blind eye, they are mistaken, and all of Ukraine’s allies will continue to send their support until the war ends.
The past weeks’ weather has surely caused many to blame climate change, but what is the UN doing about it? The focus has been to begin approachable action, and not overshoot with unrealistic goals. Some countries are already close to the global goal of net-zero emissions; this strives for a global state of complete balance between carbon dioxide emissions, and carbon dioxide removals. Maldives is the country expected to reach net zero next; Bhutan, the Comoros, Gabon, Guyana, Madagascar, Niue, Panama, and Suriname have already achieved net zero emissions. The Green Climate Fund, which was established by the United Nations in 2010, is responsible for financially supporting developing countries who are adopting UN policies. Another system set into place is a collaboration between larger and smaller, poorer, countries. For example: Tuvalu-Australia, and Dominican Republic-Spain.
Health was also a topic of much concern at the conference. Pandemic prevention and preparedness, as well as universal health were discussed. Firstly, the European Council president Charles Michel acknowledged that the pandemic caused the UN to lose progress in many other fields. Additionally, he reiterated the importance of collaboration and support between countries and individuals, especially in such times of crisis. President Michel reassured the nation that “the European Union is taking action,” and are the largest donors to the Pandemic Fund. In universal health, previous actions have been insufficient, and the council recognizes this. The World Health Organization has vowed to prioritize hard-to-access populations, and deliver the health care they need. This can only be done if funds are donated towards innovative causes. This issue, along with others, will be further discussed in next year’s UN meeting.
The 79th annual United Nations General Assembly will begin on September 10th, 2024.