“Our common home is in disorder” … This sentence of French President Emmanuel Macron sums up the Annual General Assembly of the United Nations (UN) which begins, Tuesday, its second week with, among other things, an intervention by the Israeli Prime Minister .
The speeches this year are videos, sometimes pre-recorded several days before their broadcast. In the end, “it’s like watching a movie in an almost empty movie theater,” the UN journalist recently noted for the American daily. New York Times, Rick Gladstone.
The human dimension of the world diplomatic high mass, with its procession of more or less secret bilateral, is sorely absent in 2020, due to a pandemic that brought the world to the ground in a few months.
Without “under the table” diplomacy, no diplomacy at all, recognizes on condition of anonymity an ambassador of a major country member of the Security Council.
Regarding the number of headliners, the UN has, however, broken records, virtuality having certain virtues: more than 160 heads of state and government out of 193 members of the United Nations, including several whose appearances are rare at the headquarters of the organization, such as Russian Vladimir Putin, Chinese Xi Jinping or Pope Francis, who last came to New York in 2015.
Basically, little progress was made between the United States of Donald Trump, always quick to draw against China, and the rest of the world pleading for more unity at a time of a health crisis with consequences that are difficult to measure.
In the middle, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres tries to make his voice heard, like a captain refusing to leave the sinking “multilateralism” ship – he is often at the New York headquarters deserted due to teleworking.
Very long delay
“The pandemic is a wake-up call for even more serious disasters that could arise, starting with the climate crisis,” he warned on Thursday. “If we respond to it with the disunity and disorganization we have witnessed this year, I fear the worst,” he added, amid growing Sino-US tensions.
With virtual-averse Russia threatening not to have the videos recognized as official UN documents, the leaders’s speeches are introduced by one of their diplomats who are required to sit in the Assembly amphitheater. Presidents and prime ministers have staged themselves in ceremonial settings, gardens, or in front of bare walls, flanked by their national flag.
So it was for the Libyan Fayez al-Sarraj, departing, or the Venezuelan Nicolas Maduro, with more than disparaged legitimacy. After a recent coup, Mali has yet to define who will speak on its behalf.
On the other hand, no Syrian head of state hated by the West, nor North Korean, Kim Jong-un having chosen to represent him a diplomat who will speak on Tuesday.
The UN, with random technical material, had imposed videos no longer than 15 minutes and sent at least four days before their broadcast. Donald Trump’s seven minutes have arrived … on the eve of their screening. Emmanuel Macron’s video lasted 50 minutes.
Unlike in previous years, the break in the great diplomatic raid will not be one day but two, Sunday and Monday. “For a big cleaning and disinfecting” the amphitheater, explains a diplomat.
After Tuesday, several high-level videoconferences are still planned on biodiversity, the pandemic, women, nuclear weapons or the Central African and Libyan conflicts. However, the individual videos of the leaders will not stop.
A virtual one-day summit to celebrate the 75e The organization’s anniversary had to be interrupted on September 21, as the leaders did not respect the three minutes imposed for their video speech. Fifty-five countries have yet to speak, a priori from Wednesday, including Brazil, Iran and the United Kingdom. Or an unprecedented very long delay of a fortnight for speeches by the greats of this world …