This year’s general debate was notably different due to the unprecedented limitations caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In order to reduce the human footprint at United Nations Headquarters, for the first time in its 75-year history, the General Assembly decided, without setting a precedent, to hold the general debate in a different manner by utilizing pre-recorded video messages from world leaders which were introduced by representatives physically present in the General Assembly Hall.
In this way, the General Assembly heard statements from 190 Member States featuring 102 Heads of State, 1 Vice President, 55 Heads of Government, 1 Deputy Prime Minister and 26 Ministers. It also heard statements by the observers of the Holy See, the State of Palestine and the European Union.
Throughout the debate, many speakers expressed their support for a strong United Nations that is both more efficient and effective.
This perspective was magnified by the experience of the pandemic which had underlined the need for international cooperation. In this regard, Heads of State and Government used the opportunity of the general debate to reaffirm their strong support and commitment to the Organization.
The general debate’s dominant theme was the impact of the novel coronavirus which was explored by speakers from a wide variety of perspectives. This brief synopsis of the debate prepared by the Department for General Assembly and Conference Management highlights some of the major positions conveyed by Member States on the broad range of issues before the United Nations.
It also indicates trends over recent years as regards the number of mentions of selected topics such as sustainable development, disarmament, terrorism, climate change and United Nations reform.
Thanks to the tireless work of staff throughout the Secretariat the high-level week proceeded efficiently, as reflected by its smooth conduct.
In his closing remarks, the President of the General Assembly applauded the dedication of the United Nations personnel which he noted “have dealt exceptionally well with the new circumstances and played a crucial role in this meeting’s success”, and without whom “none of this would have been possible”.