Our experts looked beyond the star-studded panels and epic gridlock to share some takeaways from last week’s UN General Assembly meeting in New York:
A somber mood. From lagging progress on the SDGs to waning trust in the multilateral system, there was a sense of gloom shrouding UNGA this year. The urgency of the climate crisis was front and center, with UN Secretary-General António Guterres convening a Climate Ambition Summit, during which he warned “humanity has opened the gates of hell,” and ramped up his pressure on the fossil fuel industry.
Ukraine overshadows other crises. With President Zelensky’s first in-person address to the UN since Russia’s invasion, Ukraine was the headline-grabbing item of the week. In addition to Russia, Zelensky directed his disdain toward the UN, stating that “humankind no longer pins its hopes on the UN.” Tension also emerged from Global South countries, who found themselves competing for attention despite promises that they would be a priority this UNGA.
Everyone is talking tech. In his address to the UN General Assembly, President Biden noted that emerging tech such as AI holds “both enormous potential and enormous peril,” a sentiment that reverberated throughout the week’s discussions. UN Secretary-General Guterres called disruptive technologies an “existential threat,” placing it on par with the climate crisis and calling for an urgent “Global Digital Compact” to mitigate its risks.
Focus on global health falls flat. While it should have been a major week for global health discussions – with an “unprecedented” three high-level meetings – other items dominated the news cycle. There was little high profile coverage outside of the UN bubble and a lackluster response from the health community itself.