Streets around UN HQ in Midtown Manhattan will be cordoned off, roadblocks erected, and security heightened and tightened, as world leaders gather to take the pulse of the planet during a week of high-level events and come together to tackle global challenges.
The 78th session of UNGA begins on 6 September and will be followed by a series of key meetings and summits on 18 September, not forgetting of course the General Debate where each Member State enjoys a global platform to focus on issues of international importance.
Here’s what to look out for at UNGA 78:
1. Taking the world’s pulse
UNGA 78 President Dennis Francis, from Trinidad and Tobago, will gavel open on 19 September the annual General Debate, where global leaders will discuss speeding up progress on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) under the theme Rebuilding trust and reigniting global solidarity.
All UN Member States and observers have the right to deliver a speech in the storied General Assembly Hall and through 25 September, their representatives will present and explore solutions to myriad intertwined global challenges to advance peace, security, and sustainable development.
A custom established in 1955 at UNGA 10 carries on today, with Brazil taking the podium first, followed by the United States, as host country of UN Headquarters, and the entire UN membership.
2. Sustainable Development Goals – The SDG Summit
As the centrepiece of UNGA 78’s high-level week, the SDG Summit will be the central platform for Heads of State and Government to provide political leadership on the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, the wide-reaching global action plan focused on attaining the 17 SDGs.
Kicking off the high-level week, from 18 to 19 September, the SDG Summit aims to mark the start of a new era of progress towards the goals, which has slowed, culminating with the adoption of a forward-looking political declaration.
The 2030 Agenda is a promise, not a guarantee. At the halfway mark (the agenda was launched in 2015), that promise is in deep peril. Development progress is facing the combined impacts of climate disasters, conflict, economic downturn, and lingering effects of COVID-19.
“The SDG Summit in September must be a moment of unity to provide a renewed impetus and accelerated actions for reaching the SDGs,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres has said.
The two-day event will serve as a rallying cry to recharge momentum. It also aims to provide high-level political guidance, identify progress and emerging challenges, and mobilise further actions towards the 2030 finish line.
Learn more about the SDG Summit here.
3. Climate justice, the movers and doers
On 20 September world leaders will be looking to transform words into action at the Climate Ambition Summit. A political milestone for walking the talk to tackle the ever-worsening climate crisis, the event will focus on three acceleration tracks: ambition, credibility, and implementation.
The big issue: How best to move the world from emissions-producing fossil fuels to green, clean power.
The UN Secretary-General’s “to do” lists cite concrete actions needed from government, business, and finance leaders, from his Climate Action Acceleration Agenda to a guide to five critical actions the world must take to speed the shift to renewable energy.
“Now must be the time for ambition and action,” the UN chief has said. “I look forward to welcoming first movers and doers at my Climate Ambition Summit. The world is watching, and the planet can’t wait.”
Learn more about the Climate Ambition Summit here.
4. Shaping a brighter post-pandemic world
World leaders will consider the best road ahead, from bracing for future pandemics to building sustainable economies, with the overarching goal of improving the health of people and the planet.
Safer world: The UNGA President and the World Health Organization (WHO) will convene a meeting on pandemic preparedness for Heads of State and Government on 20. Leaders are expected to adopt a declaration that aims to mobilise political will at national, regional, and international levels. Learn more here.
Health for all: A meeting on universal health care on 21 September will consider lessons learned from COVID-19 alongside evidence-based recommendations to accelerate progress towards health care for all by 2030. Learn more here.
Walking the talk: Also on 20 September, a high-level dialogue on financing for development aims to provide political leadership and guidance on the implementation of the 2015 Addis Ababa Action Agenda, a UN framework for mobilising resources to achieve the SDGs. It also expects to identify progress and emerging challenges as well as ways to trigger further successes. Learn more here.
Tackling TB epidemic: A high-level meeting on the fight against tuberculosis will take place on 21 September with the key objective of implementing a review of progress in the context of the achievement of targets set in the 2018 political declaration, and in the SDGs. Learn more here.
5. Gearing up for Summit of the Future
A ministerial meeting on 21 September will see delegates laying the groundwork for the September 2024 Summit of the Future.
The UN Secretary-General wants this event to forge a new global consensus on readying the world for a future rife with risks but also opportunities.
Ministers will discuss how the multilateral system can address emerging global risks and challenges and present concrete, ambitious proposals to strengthen and transform the global system.
An action-oriented “pact for the future” is expected to be agreed by Member States.
Learn more about the preparatory meeting here.