The 76th General Meeting of the United Nations, which formally opens Tuesday in New York City and is the first in-person assembly since the COVID-19 pandemic began, is expected to draw at least 83 world leaders.
The United Nations, on the other hand, will impose tight measures to prevent the illness from spreading at this year’s event, including mask requirements and vaccine requirements for personnel at the U.N. headquarters in Manhattan. Countries have also been requested to reduce the size of their entourages, which are generally quite substantial.
The General Debate, in which each leader has the opportunity to address the General Assembly, will not begin for another week, but the organization will formally elect the new president, Abdulla Shahid of the Maldives, on Tuesday.
“[The session will build] resilience through hope — to recover from COVID-19, rebuild sustainability, respond to the needs of the planet, respect the rights of people, and revitalize the United Nations,” Shahid said before the session, according to Al Jazeera.
Reps. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., and French Hill, R-Ark, as well as renewable energy pioneer Tom Carnahan and Sim Farar, chair of the US Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy, were named to the General Assembly by the White House on Monday.
Next Tuesday, US President Joe Biden will appear at the General Debate, where he is expected to strike a different tone than former President Donald Trump’s isolationist stance during his four years in office.
Trump accused China and the World Health Organization for the COVID-19 outbreak in his UNGA speech a year ago, often referring to the coronavirus as the “China virus.” In his 2019 speech, he slammed China once more and termed the United States’ relaxed immigration policies “evil.”
In 2018, Trump’s speech drew laughter from the assembly when he boasted that his administration had achieved more than any other in American history — and in 2017, in his first speech at the UNGA, he threatened to “totally destroy North Korea” if necessary.
Despite the fact that the gathering is primarily in person this year, several leaders have chosen to transmit pre-recorded speeches.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who was re-elected to a second five-year term in June, said last week that he prefers face-to-face meetings, but praised efforts last year to hold the General Assembly online.
“I hope that with the support of technology, we will be able to minimize the negative dimension of a general assembly that is not done in the full presence of full delegations from all over the world,” Guterres said, according to The New York Times.
The 76th U.N. General Assembly runs until Sept. 27.