Friday, December 1, 2023

This is not a vanity fair: UN chief Antonio Guterres on absence of all but one UNSC P5 leaders at UNGA high-level week

Antonio Guterres 1

UNITED NATIONS, SEPTEMBER 19: With the majority of the leaders of the 5 permanent members of the UN Security Council absent from the UN General Assembly session this year, UN chief Antonio Guterres has said it was not a “vanity fair” and commitment made by Governments on various pressing global issues are more important than the presence or absence of a particular leader.
US President Joe Biden is the only head of State or Government from among the 5 permanent members of the powerful UN Security Council ~ China, Russia, France, the UK and the US ~ who is attending the high-level week.
Biden arrived here on Sunday for the 78th high-level session of the UN General Assembly and will address world leaders from the UNGA lectern on the opening day of the General Debate on Tuesday morning.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, Chinese President Xi Jinping, UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and French President Emmanuel Macron are not attending the UNGA high-level session.
Russia will be represented by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, China has sent Vice President Han Zheng for the UNGA session, Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden will head up the UK delegation, while Paris will be represented by French Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs Catherine Colonna.
In an interview with UN News ahead of the high-level week, UN Secretary-General Guterres said he is not worried about who is coming to the UNGA but about the commitments by nations required to meet pressing global challenges.
“Well, first of all, this is not a vanity fair. This is a political body in which Governments are represented. And what matters is that they are represented by someone that can assume to be better than necessary at the present moment”, Guterres said when asked about the absence of leaders of 4 of the 5 permanent UNSC members and what this says about the UN as a centre of diplomacy amid various global crises.
“So I’m not so worried about who’s coming. What I’m worried is that to make sure that countries are here and they are ready to assume the commitments that are necessary to make the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) ~ that unfortunately are not moving in the right direction ~ a reality. And for that we need to have commitments on a number of very important things”, the UN Chief said.
Guterres said the international community has to recognise that “we have an unjust, dysfunctional and outdated international financial system that needs to be reformed” and that “we have made the proposal of an SDG stimulus”.
Last week, at a press conference at the UN headquarters, Guterres was asked about Biden being the only leader from the P5 group to be attending the high-level session and what it said about the profile of the event.
“I don’t think it is because we have or we have not a leader of a country that the high-level week is more relevant or less relevant. What’s important is the commitments that Governments are ready to make in relation to the SDGs, in relation to many other aspects of this week. So this is not a vanity fair. There is, by the way, a large number of the heads of the State and Government that are coming”, Guterres had said last week.
“But that is not what matters. What matters is not the presence of this or that leader. What matters is the commitment of the respective Government in relation to the objectives of the summit”, Guterres said.
US National Security Council (NSC) Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby was asked at a press briefing on Monday about the absence of P5 leaders at the UNGA week with the exception of Biden.
“Certainly we would not speak for other foreign leaders and their decision to attend or not to attend. The President came here to work. And that’s not going to change his ~ what he’s trying to achieve… the meetings he’s going to have, the progress we’re going to try to pursue, wouldn’t change regardless of what other members of the ~ permanent members of the Security Council were here or not”, Kirby said.
“They get to decide, of course, what their attendance looks like. But the President is confident that, again, we’re pursuing a concrete, tangible set of initiatives here, from climate change to global development to global health. And again, that’s not going to be dependent on any one leader being here or not”, Kirby said.
Heads of State and Governments, world leaders and Foreign Ministers have arrived at the UN headquarters here for the annual high-level week described as the ‘Oscars of Diplomacy’, with agendas of Sustainable Development Goals, financing for development, climate action and pandemic response taking centre stage as global priorities at the session.
The theme of the General Debate is ‘Rebuilding trust and reigniting global solidarity: Accelerating action on the 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals towards peace, prosperity, progress and sustainability for all’.
External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar will address the debate on September 26. (PTI)