PRESS BRIEFING BY BRENDEN VARMA, SPOKESPERSON FOR GENERAL ASSEMBLY PRESIDENT VOLKAN BOZKIR

PRESIDENT SAYS WORLD LOOKING TO U.N. FOR LEADERSHIP AS HE OPENS HISTORIC SPECIAL SESSION ON COVID-19

  • The General Assembly’s landmark special session on COVID-19 started this morning.
  • In his opening remarks, the President said the world is looking to the UN for leadership, to step up and take demonstrable action to address the greatest challenge our world is facing today.
  • He said the special session is a historic moment for Member States, the UN, the scientific community, civil society and others, to hear from each other, engage in dialogue on the consequences of the pandemic and ways to recover better and stronger.
  • He said that what we need to do is clear. First, we must start with ensuring fair and equitable access to vaccines.
  • Second, we must work together to protect the most vulnerable countries that are lagging behind.
  • Finally, we must ensure that the policies we implement to combat the pandemic do not undermine the democratic institutions that underpin the long-term health of our economies and societies.
  • As per the latest speakers list today, that includes 37 Presidents, 1 Vice-President, 40 Heads of Government, 5 Deputy Prime Ministers, 50 Ministers, 1 Acting Minister and 3 Vice Ministers; as well as the Prime Minister of Palestine and the State Secretary of the Holy See.
  • Today’s programme will run until 9:00 p.m.

PRESIDENT TO DISCUSS COVID-19 WITH U.S. OFFICIALS

  • This afternoon, the President will be meeting with a delegation from the United States, including the US ambassador to the UN; Dr. Deborah Birx, White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator; and Dr. Irum Zaidi, White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator and Chief Epidemiologist.
  • Expected topics of discussion include: the General Assembly’s special session on COVID-19; UN business continuity during the pandemic; and vaccines.
  • In response to questions, the Spokesperson confirmed that the United States had requested the meeting, that it would be held at 3:00 p.m. in person, and that the President would tweet information about the meeting from his official account after it ended.

PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES MUST BE SUPPORTED AS THEY NAVIGATE COVID-19 LANDSCAPE

  • Today is the International Day of Persons with Disabilities.
  • In a video message, the President noted that not all disabilities are visible. In that regard, sufficient efforts to ensure inclusion may not always be taken.
  • He said it is essential that Persons with Disabilities are equipped with the appropriate tools and assistance to navigate the unprecedented landscape imposed by COVID-19.

SPOKESPERSON ASKED TO COMPARE HISTORICAL VOTING RECORDS, DEFERS TO ANALYSTS

  • The Spokesperson was asked whether the number of Member States voting for yesterday’s General Assembly resolutions on the Middle East and Palestine had increased or decreased when compared to past years.
  • The Spokesperson said he would leave it to historians and analysts to determine such trends. He offered to send the journalist yesterday’s voting records, which the journalist could then compare to past sessions.

PRESIDENT’S PRESS CONFERENCE POSTPONED, NEW DATE TO BE ANNOUNCED WHEN READY

  • Asked when the President would hold his next press conference, the Spokesperson said that, unfortunately, the President’s 2 December press conference had had to be postponed.
  • The Spokesperson added that he would announce a new date as soon as that press conference was able to be rescheduled.