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UN chief Antonio Guterres recommends scaled down annual meeting of world leaders in New York

It is likely the General Assembly gathering will be postponed or the event modified as New York remains one of the global epicenters of the coronavirus pandemic.

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New York: United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for a scaled-down General Assembly gathering in New York this fall as the prospect of thousands of diplomats from around the world descending upon midtown Manhattan for the annual event looks unlikely in the coronavirus era.

While September is still several months away, “the medical community anticipates that the pandemic will continue to cycle with varying degrees of severity” as the virus spreads in some countries and is contained in others, Guterres wrote in a letter to Tijjani Muhammad-Bande, president of the UN General Assembly.

It is “highly unlikely that heads of state and government from all member states will be able to travel to New York in September,” he added. Guterres’s letter is a recommendation, and no final decision has been made for the event in mid-September.

The UN gathering often crystallizes New Yorkers’ love-hate relationship with the global institution they host on the banks of the East River. Guarded by thousands of police working overtime, visiting delegations from more than 100 countries snarl Manhattan’s traffic and scoop up the best restaurant reservations in what’s widely seen as the top diplomatic event of the year.

But with New York now one of the global epicenters of the coronavirus pandemic, the decision to postpone or drastically modify the event is all but unavoidable.

With restrictions on travel and large gatherings likely to remain in place indefinitely, the option of prerecorded leader speeches with one diplomat per country present in the assembly hall should be considered for the event, Guterres said, noting that this option would allow for the participation of speakers from all states.

“No decision has been made yet regarding the General Debate,” said Reem Abaza, spokeswoman for the General Assembly’s president. The president “is seeking input and views from different stakeholders regarding the meeting.”-Bloomberg

Also read: UN chief Antonio Guterres recommends scaled down annual meeting of world leaders in New York


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