ForesightNews world briefing: UN General Assembly’s General Debate

September 21, 2011

By Jasper Smith, senior international and security affairs reporter, ForesightNews USA

Once a year, the world’s leaders descend on New York for the UN’s blue ribbon event, the cumbersomely-titled UN General Assembly’s General Debate.

This year, the build-up has been dominated by the Palestinian Authority’s planned bid to become the 194th member of the UN, following South Sudan’s incorporation earlier in the year.

Notwithstanding any last minute deals, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will personally submit the application to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Friday, September 23, after Abbas has delivered his speech to assembled leaders.

Indeed, Friday’s session is set to be a cracker, since it also features Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu’s speech, in which he must surely address the issue. And yet while the Palestinian membership-issue is grabbing all the headlines, there’s plenty of other highlights.

Ahead of the formal UNGA opening today, there was a high-level meeting on Libya yesterday, the first since the UN formally recognised the Transitional National Council as the official representative of Libya last Friday

US President Barack Obama met privately for the first time with TNC Chairman Mustafa Abdel Jalil, and held separate summits with President Hamid Karzai before he returned to Aghanistan to join the mourning of the assassinated leader Burhanuddin Rabbani.

Tuesday also saw French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe host a ministerial-level meeting of the so-called Deauville Partnership, a G20-offshoot dedicated to supporting fledgling Arab democracies.

The Debate kicks off today with an address by the Brazilian President, the first for Dilma Rousseff since she took office in January and no doubt a welcome relief from domestic troubles.

A notable absence, though, is Russian leader Dmitry Mevedev, who has chosen to delegate responsibilities this year to Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

In the afternoon South Africa’s Jacob Zuma will be speaking. On Thursday morning, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad gives his traditionally polemical speech (who can forget last year, when he alluded to the 9/11 attacks being a conspiracy). British Prime Minister David Cameron also speaks that session.

Highlights from the afternoon session on Thursday include an inaugural address by newly-elected Peruvian President Ollanta Humala, an address from ageing despot Robert Mugabe, and also remarks from Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose star is in the ascendancy amid Turkey’s role in the Arab Spring.

On the sidelines that day, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is hosting a UN High-Level Meeting on Nuclear Safety and Security, likely to focus significantly on lessons to be learned from the crisis at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi plant back in March. Friday, as we’ve seen, is all about the Palestinian-membership issue.

But in the morning there is also a first-time address from new Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda , who is expected to put in appearance also at the nuclear safety meeting. That afternoon South Sudanese President Salva Kiir – who meets one on one with President Obama earlier in the week – will give his country’s address for the first time since it became member number 193 last July

Sadly, one of the traditionally more entertaining speakers – Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez – is not expected to make the journey to New York this time, as he is recovering from a fourth round of chemotherapy for cancer discovered earlier in the year.