Not so long ago, September used to engulf me as I orchestrated a global news organization’s coverage of the annual opening of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
That meant corralling 15 to 20 reporters to cover speeches by world leaders, countless side events on hot geopolitical topics, and the rants of rogue leaders unleashed on Manhattan. For two weeks a flurry of stories and a daily thematic wrap consumed my hours and thoughts. The General Assembly summit is the world’s great platform for speechifying, where even a pip-squeak nation gets to step up to the same podium from which the great powers thunder.
“UNGA” turned out quieter this year for the UN’s 75th anniversary as world leaders social distanced and the great General Assembly Hall emptied out. As silent as the virus that stalks the planet. Still, some newsy themes emerged from remotely delivered remarks. While seekiing an international financial stimulus, African leaders also pushed a green recovery for their pandemic-stricken economies – a theme worth highlighting as renewable energy rises up:
ETHIOPIAN PRIME MINISTER ABIY AHMED
Our objective should not only be to recover and rebuild a better future, but to do so in a green and climate resilient way. There is no stark reminder of the need for urgent action than the devastating impact of climate change that we are witnessing in various parts of
the world. Our region is indeed a case in point with climate induced disaster upending the lives of millions of our people.
We all must mobilize more than ever to cut global gas emissions over the next decade to meet our targets under the Paris Climate Agreement. On our part, we are fully committed to redoubling our efforts and fulfilling our obligation. Ethiopia is already responding to
the call for climate action through the Green Legacy Initiative, which is part of our efforts to build a green and climate resilient economy. I would also like to draw your attention to the fact that our largest infrastructural project today – the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam – built with our own local resources, contributes to the conservation of water resources, which would otherwise have been lost to evaporation in downstream countries.
I want to make it abundantly clear that we have no intention to harm these countries.
What we are essentially doing is to meet our electricity demands from one of the cleanest sources of energy. We cannot afford to continue keeping more than 65 million of our people in the dark.
SOUTH AFRICAN PRESIDENT CYRIL RAMAPHOSA
As we rebuild in the aftermath of this pandemic we have an opportunity to place the global economy on a low-carbon, climate resilient developmental path. We must advance the principles of the green and circular economies, not just for the sake of environmental sustainability but because of the opportunities for job creation and economic growth.
The global recovery effort must place climate change adaptation, mitigation and support at its center – in line with the Paris Agreement and other multilateral environmental commitments.
As the founders of the UN stood at a crossroads in 1945, so do we 75 years later….
When history faithfully records the global response to the worst health emergency of this century, let it be said that we stood and acted as one, that we provided leadership, and that we gave the peoples of all nations hope and courage.
KENYAN PRESIDENT UHURU KENYATTA
In January 2021, Kenya will start a two-year term on the UN Security Council, the world body’s most powerful panel – dominated by the five permanent members: Britain, France, China, Russia and the United States.
At 75, the United Nations is older than most of its member states and more importantly older
than over 96 per cent of our global population. A clear majority of the global population today
cannot relate to the circumstances of its founding. Yes, the United Nations in its birth “brought rules and hope for a world in ruins” that was seven and a half decades ago, but what does it bring to the world today?
Today, mankind is confronted by complex, multifaceted and gravely serious challenges.
Across the world, we are witnessing constant disruptions that are generating great anxiety,
uncertainty and unpredictability. The Covid-19 pandemic best defines the challenges of our time; a challenge that affects us all, a challenge that we can only overcome if each of us succeeds.
The Covid-19 pandemic and other contemporary challenges including the climate and biodiversity crisis that we face, our growing geostrategic tensions, social as well as economic inequalities, the crisis of legitimacy and governance as well as the vulnerabilities of our digital world, have, indeed, redefined the imperative for multilateral action.
Kenya believes strongly that if we remain anchored in multilateralism and with unity of
purpose, if we are much more agile in embracing change and positive transformations, if we remain rooted in a rule-based international system and act innovatively and selflessly, we can transcend our challenges and secure lasting peace and prosperity for all.
During a biodiversity summit organized on September 30 during the General Assembly session, the Kenyan leader linked the Covid-19 recovery to environmental changes and stronger international action. Kenya hosts the headquarters of the UN Environmental Program.
We must build back better and smarter as it is no longer ‘business as usual’ but rather ‘business unusual’ to urgently deal with the vulnerabilities of our societies, our economies for a post Covid-19 recovery….
Kenya has sought fundamental actions in the green and blue economy premised on clean energy, increased forest cover, conservation as well as the sustainable use of oceans to protect our biodiversity.
Kenya and Portugal will co-host the second UN Ocean Conference in 2021, which the Kenyan leader said will aim “to scale up our conservation and the sustainable use of our oceans and blue economy.”