NEW YORK (AP) – With crisis looming large over proceedings at this year’s UN General Assembly, Slovakian President Zuzana putová offered this reminder on the first day of the debate: “We can’t save our planet if we leave the vulnerable. – Women, girls, minorities.”
Watch the conversation of the day in the player above.
But gender equality on the stage of the world’s leading leaders still seems far-fetched. Eight women were speaking at the United Nations General Assembly on Friday. Only five women spoke in the first three days of the summit.
On Friday, three vice-presidents and five prime ministers, including Bangladesh’s Sheikh Hasina and New Zealand’s Jacinda Arden, were taking rostrums or giving their addresses in pre-recorded videos.
Tanzania’s President Samia Suluhu Hassan said, “As the first female president in the history of my country, the hope of delivering gender equality rests on my shoulders.” When it comes to such equality, she said, “COVID-19 is threatening to take back the gains we’ve made,”
Hassan was the only woman to address the Mahasabha on Thursday.
Despite those 13 women speaking less than 10 percent in the first four days, 13 represents an increase from last year, when just nine women spoke during the session. There are also three more female heads or heads of government – 24 – than at this point in 2020.
Watch Live: 2021 United Nations General Assembly – Day 3
Estonia’s President Kersti Kaljulaid on Wednesday underscored the vulnerability of women in society, saying “there can be no democracy, no security and no development without one half of the human race.”
The topic of vulnerability has been at the fore during a week haunted by climate change, the coronavirus and an ever-emerging specter of conflict. Most of the speeches have taken on the tenor of the arguments issued on the ramparts, leaving behind the summit’s theme of “Building Resilience Through Hope”.
The dire predictions were not limited to the General Assembly. At a UN Security Council meeting on Thursday, high-level officials urged for intensifying action to address the security impacts of climate change and to make global warming an important part of all UN peacekeeping operations. He said warming is making the world less safe, pointing to the conflict-ridden Sahel region of Africa and Syria and Iraq.
The Gambia’s Vice President Isatou Toure, based in the Sahel, highlighted what many African countries have long called another shortcoming in inclusion: the powerful Security Council, which he called “one of the last holdouts of reform”.
“Africa’s quest for greater representation on the Security Council is legitimate, just and overdue,” he told delegates on Friday. Africa has no permanent representative on the council.
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Millions of leaders have already spoken, and many have left New York altogether. But some of the much-anticipated countries are yet to deliver their addresses to fellow leaders.
North Korea, Myanmar and Afghanistan – all perennial but also in the news recently – are expected to kick off the final debate session on Monday afternoon. It is unclear who will represent Afghanistan, where the US-backed government fell last month after US forces withdrew and a resurgent Taliban seized power.
Friday alone promised fireworks, with a slate of speakers from countries beset by internal and external conflict.
The president of ethnically divided Cyprus opened proceedings on Friday, followed by Lebanon, which is also plagued by internal conflict.
Cyprus President Nikos Anastasiades said, “Taking stock of our announcements and decisions over time, I must admit that I feel – like many of you – a deep sense of despair.” “A sense of dismay because I see a wide gap between words and actions, between auspicious declarations and commitments and the results of the measures taken that we promise to deliver.”
The morning’s plenary session saw speeches by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Armenia’s prime minister, Azerbaijan’s speech following the Nagorno-Karabakh war on Thursday sparked rumblings and a variety of responses. The afternoon was to see both Albania and Serbia, along with Kosovo, a Pakistan that is feeling pressure on its eastern border with India and its western border with Afghanistan.
Pakistan and India, which speak on Saturday, have historically been keen users of the “right of reply” ceremony, which allows diplomats to lobby for a dispute defending their countries in response to speeches from unfriendly nations. That window of opportunity opens after the leaders’ speeches have ended on Friday night.
While leaders have utterly refrained from succumbing to despair, a sense of almost futility pervades.
As Barbados Prime Minister Mia Amor Motley Fool read it from her phone in a charming, sometimes off-the-cuff speech: “How often should leaders talk and not be listened to before they arrive?”
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