World leaders return to UN with focus on pandemic and climate

UNITED NATIONS, Sept. 19 (Reuters) – World leaders return to the United Nations in New York this week with a focus on stepping up efforts to tackle both climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced them last year to send video statements for the annual rally.

As the coronavirus still rages amid an unfair vaccine rollout, about a third of the 193 UN states plan to send videos again, but presidents, prime ministers and foreign ministers of others are expected get to the United States.

The United States has attempted to dissuade the leaders from coming to New York in an attempt to prevent the United Nations General Assembly from becoming a “big-ticket event”, although President Joe Biden will address himself to assembly, his first visit to the UN since taking office. A so-called UN honor system means that anyone entering the meeting room does declare that they are vaccinated, but they do not have to present proof. Read more

This system will be broken when the first country speaks – Brazil. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro is a vaccine skeptic, who said last week he did not need the vaccine because he is already immune after being infected with COVID-19.

If he changes his mind, New York City has set up a van outside the United Nations for the week to provide free tests and free injections of the Johnson & Johnson single-dose vaccine (JNJ.N ).

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told Reuters that discussions over the number of itinerant diplomats who could have been immunized illustrated “how dramatic the inequality is today when it comes to immunization.” He is pushing for a global plan to vaccinate 70% of the world by the first half of next year.

Of the 5.7 billion doses of coronavirus vaccines administered worldwide, only 2% were administered in Africa. Biden will host a virtual Washington meeting with executives and CEOs on Wednesday that aims to boost vaccine distribution around the world.

The United Nations Headquarters is seen during the 75th Annual High-Level Debate of the United Nations General Assembly, which is held primarily virtually due to the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) pandemic in New York, United States , September 21, 2020. REUTERS / Mike Segar / File Photo

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Speaking to CNN on Sunday, Guterres highlighted Biden’s efforts and an International Monetary Fund proposal to create a $ 50 billion vaccine program for poorer countries as “positive signs” from rich countries began. fight against inequalities in vaccines.

“But let’s be clear: this is all too little, too late,” he added.

Demonstrating US concerns about COVID-19 over the UN rally, Biden will only be in New York for about 24 hours, meeting Guterres on Monday and giving his first UN speech on Tuesday, right after Bolsonaro.

His envoy to the UN, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, said Biden “would speak about our top priorities: ending the COVID-19 pandemic; fight climate change… and defend human rights, democracy and the rules-based international order ”.

Due to the pandemic, UN delegations are limited to a much smaller number and most side events will be virtual or a hybrid of virtual and in person. Other topics ministers are expected to discuss during the week include Afghanistan and Iran.

But before the annual speeches start, Guterres and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will start the week with a summit on Monday to try to save a UN summit – which will begin in Glasgow, Scotland on October 31 – from failure. .

As scientists warn that global warming is dangerously on the verge of spiraling out of control, the UN COP26 conference aims to wrest much more ambitious climate action and the money that goes with it from participants around the world.

“It’s time to sound the alarm,” Guterres told Reuters last week. “We are on the brink.” Read more

Reporting by Michelle Nichols, additional reporting by Anthony Boadle and Sarah N. Lynch in Washington; edited by Leslie Adler and Lisa Shumaker

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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