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September 15, 2020

UNGA’s landmark 75th session opens today sans world leaders

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September 15, 2020

UNITED NATIONS: The 75th UN General Assembly session, which begins today (Tuesday), will be unlike any other in the organisation’s three quarters of a century of existence -- world leaders will not be physically present in the iconic hall for their annual gathering because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The centrepiece of any General Assembly session is undoubtedly the General Debate, which starts on September 22, a week after the official opening, in which usually over 100 heads of state/government participated in the past years to discuss key global issues.

This year, because of the pandemic, world leaders will be staying away from New York and instead sending in pre-recorded videos of their speeches which will be broadcast as live. Their absence is because US government has notified that foreign leaders, withoutexception, will be quarantined for 14 days on arrival in New York.

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan will address the 193-member Assembly via video-link on September 25. According to the preliminary list of speakers, he is the 6th speaker in Friday's afternoon session. "He (Imran Khan) is expected once again to project the just cause of the Kashmiri people and call for action by the international community to halt India’s massive violations of human rights, rescind the unilateral measures imposed in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu & Kashmir since 5 August 2019 and promote a solution in accordance with the Security Council resolutions and the will of the Kashmiri people," Pakistan's UN Ambassador Munir Akram said.

"He is also likely to speak about Islamophobia, including the BJP-RSS campaign against Indian Muslims; as well as on illicit financial flows and the reform and revival of the United Nations," Ambassador Akram added.

The prime minister is also likely to address from Islamabad the Summit meeting on Financing for Development on Sept. 29 and the Bio-Diversity Summit on Sept.30. Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi is scheduled to speak in the UN’s 75th Anniversary Session on Sept.2, and at a High-Level Meeting of the UN Alliance of Civilisations on Sept. 28. He will also address the 25th Anniversary of the Fourth World Conference on Women on Oct.1. In the hybrid format adopted for this year, the prime minister and foreign minister’s video statements will be introduced by Ambassador Akram, who will be physically present in the General Assembly Hall. Each member state will send one diplomat to the hall in order to maintain social distancing.

The landmark session will be presided over Volkan Bozkir, a veteran Turkish diplomat, who will assume the office as UNGA President on September 15. Because of the strict restrictions, this time around there will be no bumping into presidents or the occasional global celebrity in hectic and sometimes crushed corridors at UN Headquarters in New York.