Article: The 76th UN General Assembly and the decisive decade ahead of the world

The consensus from the 76th UN General Assembly is that global leaders must tackle the glaring problems of the world we live in with urgency

“We meet this year in a moment intermingled with great pain and extraordinary possibility. We’ve lost so much to this devastating pandemic that continues to claim lives around the world and impact so much on our existence. We’re mourning more than 4.5 million people — people of every nation, from every background. Each death is an individual heartbreak. But our shared grief is a poignant reminder that our collective future will hinge on our ability to recognize our common humanity and to act together. This is the clear and urgent choice that we face here at the dawning of what must be a decisive decade for our world — a decade that will quite literally determine our futures”. US President, Joseph Biden at the 76th United Nations (UN) General Assembly, 21st September 2021.

The US President, Joe Biden addressing the UN General Assembly for the first time since becoming President

As I listened to the debate of most of the over one hundred Heads of State and governments at the 76th United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) held in New York City from 20th to 28th September 2021, world leaders seem to admit that the world they lead is in crisis and urgent action is demanded of them by the global citizenry to tackle these clear and present challenges head on.

Speaker after speaker who stood with their backs to the green marble wall at the General Assembly Hall in New York City, acknowledged that the world has challenges to deal with and they can be summed up under three broad areas: Health, Climate and Economic.

No wonder the US President, whose address is considered the ultimate at the UNGA, acknowledged that world leaders, beginning with him, as the ‘leader of the free world’, have a clear and urgent choice to make to deal with the issues battling the world.

In Biden’s own words, the next decade (10 years), or no, 9 years, because 2020 has already been lost, thanks to COVID-19, is “a decisive decade for our world — a decade that will quite literally determine our futures. In my view, how we answer these questions in this moment — whether we choose to fight for our shared future or not — will reverberate for generations yet to come”.

Joe Biden stated, “this is a moment where we must prove ourselves the equals of those who have come before us, who with vision and values and determined faith in our collective future built our United Nations, broke the cycle of war and destruction, and laid the foundations for more than seven decades of relative peace and growing global prosperity”.

“Now we must again come together to affirm the inherent humanity that unites us is much greater than any outward divisions or disagreements,” Biden continued.

“We must choose to do more than we think we can do alone so that we accomplish what we must, together: ending this pandemic and making sure we’re better prepared for the next one; staving off climactic climate change and increasing our resilience to the impacts we already are seeing; ensuring a future where technologies are a vital tool to solving human challenges and empowering human potential, not a source of greater strife and repression,” the US President advocated.

Secretary-General António Guterres (at podium) addresses the opening of the general debate of the General Assembly’s seventy-sixth session.

Secretary General of the United Nations, António Guterres in his report to the 76th General Assembly, identified six (6) global divides that he says ought to be bridged if the world is to experience the much desired development, peace and prosperity.

The six divides that need to be bridged according Mr Guterres are the peace divide, climate divide, the divide between the rich and the poor, the gender divide, the digital divide and the generational divide.

“With real engagements, we can live up to the promise of a better, more peaceful world that is the driving force of our common agenda. The best way to advance the interests of the world’s common citizens, is by advancing the interests of our common future,” the UN boss said.

To the UN Secretary General, the decisive decade ahead will largely be influenced by the ability of the world through the UN to deal with same.

“Inter-dependences is the logic of the 21st century and it is the lone star of the United Nations. This is our time, a moment for transformation, the time to reignite multilateralism, an age of possibilities. Let us restore trust, let us inspire hope, let us start right now,” Mr. Guterres added.

President Akufo-Addo, in his statement to the 76th UNGA was in sync with his colleague world leaders on the challenges, the divides and the bridges which require immediate attention.

President Akufo-Addo addressing the 76th UN General Assembly in New York

First, on the health crisis, the President chastised the recent measure by some European countries that specified that persons who have received double-dose vaccines such as Oxford-AstraZeneca, Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna or the single shot Janssen vaccine “under an approved vaccination program in the UK, Europe, US or UK vaccine programme overseas” will be considered fully vaccinated.

However, those who have received vaccines through the Covishield programme, that is, the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine manufactured in India, will not be recognized by some countries in Europe.

“What is intriguing is the fact that this vaccine was donated to African countries through the COVAX facility. The use of vaccines as a tool for immigration control will be a truly retrogressive step,” the President noted.

Second, President Akufo-Addo, made a strong case for the admission of the African Union (AU) to be the 21st member of the G 20 global body. The call by President Akufo-Addo, was obviously aimed at securing the economic future of Africa in the decisive decade ahead.

“Admitting the African Union to an expanded G21 would have the same galvanizing effect within Africa that the EU’s participation in the G20 has within Europe, strengthening policy co-ordination and coherence across the fifty-four (54) African economies,” President Akufo-Addo said.

“With the African Union at the table, the group suddenly would have representation for fifty-four (54) more countries, 1.3 billion more people, and $2.3 trillion more output. This extraordinary increase in representation will add just one seat to the table, and about ten minutes to the discussion,” Akufo-Addo emphasized.

Lastly, on the issue of democracy, President Akufo-Addo bemoaned what he said is an assault on democratic governance all over the world including in ‘so-called advanced democracies’. He noted that in the West African sub-region, he as Chairperson of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), together with his colleague Heads of State, are doing all they can to maintain democratic governance and rule of law.

“Now more than ever, we must defend democracy, constitutional rule and human rights in the world. In the last 24 months, we have witnessed an assault on democracy around the world, sometimes even in developed countries where we have assumed that the consensus of the democratic form of government, had been established,” Akufo-Addo said.

The US President calls it challenges. The UN Secretary General calls it divides and the Ghanaian President says it is a responsibility.

So whether it is health crisis, respect for constitutional rule, the peace divide, climate divide, the divide between the rich and the poor, the gender divide, the digital divide, the generational divide, in defence of democratic governance, or economic emancipation, the consensus from the 76th UN General Assembly is that world leaders must tackle the glaring problems of the world we live in.

The world is heading for a cliff over these clear and present dangers confronting it, the eighth and first female Prime Minister of Barbados, Mia Mottley, in her energetic and seemingly off the cuff, address to the 76th UNGA from her hand held device, suggested.

The eighth and first female Prime Minister of Barbados, Mia Mottley, addressing the 76th UN General Assembly

Rattling off a list of rhetorical questions, and challenging world leaders in essence, to stand up for the peoples of the world, Mia Mottley stated:

“If we don’t control this fire, it will burn us all down. As I said two years ago, this is not science fiction, we heard the Secretary General make the same comment on Tuesday morning, this is our reality, it is not science fiction. “And if the truth be told, the Secretary General’s speech said it all, but who will stand in here and support him, to give him the mandate and our institutions, be it the WHO, IMF or the World Bank or the regional development banks, or the development institutions, who will give them the mandate to go forward if we refuse to summon the political will to confront what we know we must confront”.

“I ask us, who in here will sign the new charter, a new charter for the 21st century that is appropriate for not the next 75 because the world in which we live moves too quickly, but let us try for the next 25 years to meet the needs of the 21st century, not the needs of the middle of the 20th century on the aftermaths of a world war that none of us can really relate to today”.

“In the words of Robert Nesta Marley, “who will get up and stand up? Who will get up and stand up for the rights of our people, who will stand up in the name of all those who have died during this awful pandemic, the millions”.

“Who will stand up in the name of all those who have died because of the climate crisis or who will stand up for the small island developing states who need 1.5 degrees to survive as we go to COP 26, who, who will stand up”!

Wilberforce Asare

Asaase Radio 99.5 – tune in or log on to broadcasts online
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