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UN General Assembly 2023: key talking points

Photo: Basil D Soufi

Today, the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly. During the General Assembly, world leaders from around the world gather in New York to discuss the most pressing developments facing our civilisation. The meeting gives an impression of international relations and provides a platform for leaders to present their priorities for the year ahead. Among those attending are US President Joe Biden, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Ukrainian President Zelensky. Russian President Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping decided not to attend. During the 'High-level week', which takes place from 18 to 22 September, some important issues are on the agenda. This article gives a brief overview of the main conferences and the possible outcomes we can expect.


First of all, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will be a major topic at the summit. From 18 to 19 September, heads of state and government will discuss the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the 17 SDGs. Research has shown that of the approximately 140 goals set, only about 12 per cent on track. At this summit, all eyes will be on the United States (US). The US has largely neglected the SDG targets. They have no major impact on US policies formed and the country is one of the only 5 countries that have not submitted formal reports of their progress on the SDGs to the UN. This year's General Assembly provides an opportunity for the US to publicly embrace them and demonstrate America's leadership in the fight against climate change. Future policies, in line with the goals of the 2030 Agenda, will need to show US commitment both at home and abroad.

Global public health

Another important issue is global public health. The focus on global public health remains an important issue in the aftermath of the Corona pandemic. The forum will three meetings organising that focus on this topic: pandemic prevention, universal health coverage and the fight against tuberculosis. In the sketch Of the possible final conclusions of the meeting, the UN urges: "urgent and sustained leadership, global solidarity, multilateral engagement and cooperation among member states. In addition, cooperation with relevant components of the United Nations and other relevant international organisations to implement strong global, regional, national and local actions is also important. This should be driven by fairness and respect for human rights, to strengthen the prevention of, preparedness for and response to pandemics, thereby addressing direct and indirect consequences of current and future pandemics." To achieve this, the world needs to According to the UN outline more committed to strengthening the prevention of pandemics and ensuring fair, affordable and quality healthcare for people without causing them financial hardship.

General Debate

Besides the set talking points, there is a General Debate in which all delegations will give a speech of about 15 minutes to discuss various topics that the respective country considers important. Joe Biden, for example, will give a speech during this section in which he will according to sources will talk about the steps he and his administration have taken to ensure American leadership, building on the idea that cooperation with others is essential to solve world problems. The war in Ukraine will most likely also be mentioned by Biden. Other world leaders will also deliver a speech during this section, after which delegations can respond and debate statements made by the other participants. The summit will also give diplomats an opportunity to network and hold informal talks, given that this is the first physical meeting after the corona pandemic.

The fact that Joe Biden is the only one of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council present, shows the potentially weakened position of the gathering and the UN itself. It will be interesting to see if any statements will be issued reaffirming the central role of the UN in the world order. The theme of this year's General Assembly, 'Restoring trust and new global solidarity', shows the importance of this issue. The meeting will be a good measure of the UN's credibility as an effective multilateral cooperation organisation.


Want to know more about the SDGs? Read more here.