5 Major Takeaways from the UNGA 2021 Speeches

The annual 76th Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) returned to New York City this year from Tuesday, Sept. 21 to Sunday, Sept. 27 after a virtual 2020 UNGA summit. Here are five major takeaways from the session. 

  1. Compare & Contrast: Approaches to the COVID-19 Pandemic

COVID-19 was unsurprisingly at the center of many speeches this year. India’s President Modi touted India’s mRNA vaccine and nasal vaccines for COVID-19 that are in their latest stages of development. In contrast, Brazil’s President Bolsonaro refused to comply with New York City’s vaccine mandate. He expressed objections towards any vaccine passport and vaccine mandates, and he blamed Brazilian governors who enacted such measures for any economic hardship in the country. Another recurring theme throughout the speeches was the inequity in the allocation of vaccines; only 2% of the six billion doses administered worldwide have gone to low-income countries.  

  1. 1.5 Celsius

A global temperature of 1.5 degrees Celsius has been the U.N.’s target in the war against climate change since the adoption of the Paris Agreement in December 2015. Climate was one of the UNGA’s primary focuses this year with the release of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report on Sept. 10, 2021. The United States unveiled its plan to supply developing countries with 100 billion dollars in aid towards climate action. Peru declared climate change a “national emergency.” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced the prospect of Turkey joining the Paris Climate Agreement. The upcoming U.N. climate conference in November in Glasgow, Scotland will shed more light on how countries plan to reduce their emissions and slow global warming.

  1. Where Were the Women?

Men were noticeably better represented than women in the 76th UNGA. The UNGA President acknowledged the stunning lack of female representation at the conference, highlighting that only 18 of 194 speakers were women and emphasizing that more must be done to ensure equal opportunity in political participation for women and men.

  1. Hot topic: Nuclear Weapons

In his speech, Iranian President Seyyed Ebrahim Raisi announced its strict adherence to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action that monitors Iran’s nuclear arsenal. South Korea announced its hope to collaborate with North Korea for “reconciliation and cooperation,” while North Korea’s ambassador defended its right to develop their nuclear arsenal for purposes of self-defense and national security. Finally, the controversy surrounding the AUKUS deal between the U.S., U.K., and Australia that the French Foreign Minister characterized as “a stab in the back” cast a shadow over the conference. 

  1. Will the Upcoming Decade be a Global Turning Point?

Many politicians suggested that the world is entering a new era, in which citizens and their governments’ decisions will shape the future of our increasingly globalized world. U.N. Secretary-General, António Guterres, declared, “We are on the edge of an abyss – and moving in the wrong direction. Our world has never been more threatened, or more divided.” The Iranian president echoed the sentiment saying, “A new era has begun.” President Biden described the upcoming decade as a “decisive decade for our world,” claiming the state of the planet to be an “inflection point in history.” South Korean boy band BTS performed over video at the 76th UNGA and offered wisdom on par with those of the world leaders present: “Rather than calling this Corona generation a ‘lost generation,’ the term ‘welcome generation’ is more suitable. We will be a generation that welcomes change.”

Liz Peron is a freshman majoring in International Studies at Johns Hopkins University. She is originally from Westchester, NY and is a member of the Editorial Team at Hopkins Podcast on Foreign Affairs.

Featured photo: John Angelillo/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

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