As global leaders gather for the 78th United Nations General Assembly, the focus shifts to myriad challenges that have been at the forefront in recent years. Scheduled to take place between September 19th and September 26th, the General Assembly will host presidents, prime ministers, and monarchs from 145 nations, emphasizing the pressing global crises and the dire need for united action.
From the unyielding grip of the COVID-19 pandemic to Russia’s conflict in Ukraine and the persistent threats of climate change, the world is at a unique and critical juncture.
The geopolitical landscape has been further complicated by political instability in regions like West Africa and Latin America, along with the natural disasters that have ravaged communities in the form of earthquakes, floods, and wildfires.
Ukraine Conflict and Developing Nations Take Center Stage
The ongoing Ukrainian conflict promises to be a significant point of discussion at the General Assembly. However, the voices of developing nations are set to share the limelight, pressing the global leaders on matters of deprivation and inequality.
With COVID-19 having disrupted international travel for nearly three years, this marks a crucial full-scale gathering of the global community, underlining the urgency and importance of this assembly.
The UN chief Antonio Guterres, set to deliver his state-of-the-world address on Tuesday, has stated he will emphasize to world leaders that this is not a period for “indifference or indecision. This is a time to come together for real, practical solutions. It is time for compromise for a better tomorrow.”
The 2023 SDG Summit
For many developing nations, the highlight will be the UN’s two-day Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Summit, which aims to expedite actions to achieve the 17 goals adopted by world leaders in 2015 for the 2030 agenda.
The Summit, held on September 18th and 19th, seeks to address pressing issues from eradicating extreme poverty to ensuring quality education and tackling climate change.
The UN declares this Summit as a pivotal moment, signaling the acceleration of progress toward these SDGs with top-tier political guidance leading up to 2030.
Deputy Secretary-General Amina J. Mohammed remarked at the commencement of the Summit, “This is a moment of solidarity for our global village at our global Town Hall — the United Nations. With only 15% of the SDG targets on track, it is time to come together to find just and equitable solutions and take them to scale.”
Switzerland’s UN Ambassador, Pascale Baeriswyl, described the SDG summit as the week’s pinnacle event. However, she fears that ongoing global crises might eclipse the Summit, compromising the focus and political drive vital for solutions.
South African Ambassador to the United Nations, Mathu Joyini, accentuated the importance of SDGs and confirmed President Ramaphosa’s participation, where he will discuss the current status, challenges, and strategies to meet objectives.
A concerning UN report in July revealed that only 15% of some 140 specific targets are currently on track.
According to the report, if the current pace continues, by 2030, 575 million individuals will remain in dire poverty, and 84 million children will lack access to basic schooling. Furthermore, the report says that achieving gender equality would take an estimated 286 years.
Secretary-General Guterres emphasized the need for “a global rescue plan” and urged governments to present solid plans to expedite progress.
To address these challenges, the UN has proposed a multi-pronged strategy that includes tackling the implications of soaring debt, enhancing affordable long-term financing, primarily through public and multilateral banks, and expanding contingency financing for nations in dire need.
High-Level Attendees and Absences
This assembly will witness speeches by leaders like President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva of Brazil, President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa, United States President Joe Biden, and Nigerian President Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
However, key leaders from permanent UN Security Council nations such as France, the U.K., China, and Russia will be conspicuously absent.
Developing nations, with their pressing demands and needs, might find their voices somewhat diminished without these influential global players.
South African President Ramaphosa’s Address at UN’s SDG Summit
Speaking at the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) summit, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa emphasized the critical importance of speeding up global progress. He stressed that the Summit is essential in rejuvenating and hastening progress toward commitments made to the global populace in 2015.
Emphasizing the weight borne by the world’s poorest, President Ramaphosa noted, “The world’s poorest and most vulnerable people are carrying the cost of our collective inability to significantly advance the Sustainable Development Goals.”
He called for immediate action to mitigate the adverse effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on development. The President also stressed the need for intensified actions against climate change, pollution, and biodiversity loss.
Ramaphosa stressed the need for a supportive international environment for anti-poverty initiatives. He advocated for a revamped global financial structure and a fair trade system benefiting developing economies.
“South Africa joins the call to address the fundamental development challenges that have long characterized our unequal world,” Ramaphosa asserted.
He advocated for targeted investment, technology transfer, and capacity-building support in sectors like industrialization, infrastructure, agriculture, and health.
Guterres, Ramaphosa Bilateral Meeting
Early on Monday, September 18th, Secretary-General Guterres welcomed President Ramaphosa at the United Nations Headquarters in New York.
In their bilateral meeting, the two leaders explored international financial architecture reforms, Sustainable Development Goals initiatives, and United Nations Security Council reforms.
Guterres lauded South Africa’s pivotal role in these efforts.
Ramaphosa & Congressman Gregory Meeks
On Sunday, President Ramaphosa also met with U.S. Congressman Gregory Meeks.
The meeting highlighted the necessity for bolstering US-South Africa collaboration on pressing global issues, notably the repercussions of the Russia-Ukraine conflict on Africa.
Congressman Meeks had previously questioned South Africa’s right to host the 2023 Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) due to perceived support for Russia.
However, at the meeting, he affirmed his dedication to enhancing US-Africa diplomatic and trade ties and expressed his intention to attend the AGOA forum in South Africa later this year.
The AGOA forum is designed to foster the expansion of U.S. companies and provide them with opportunities to conduct business in Africa.
The South African leader also met with Nigeria’s President, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, for a bilateral discussion. Their focus was on strengthening trade, diplomatic, and political relations between Nigeria and South Africa and addressing the prevailing security issues in parts of West Africa.
President Ramaphosa led discussions at the presidential roundtable organized by the United States Chamber of Commerce and U.S.-Africa Business Centre, focusing on maternal health, pandemic prevention, and climate issues on Monday.
LittleAfrica News will be covering the UN General Assembly as the event unfolds.