Eight women, three vice presidents and five prime ministers, are scheduled to speak Friday at the UN General Assembly.
“We cannot save our planet if we abandon the vulnerable, women, girls, minorities,” Slovak President Zuzana Caputova said at a session earlier this week.
“COVID-19 threatens to reverse the progress we have made,” Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu Hassan, the country’s first woman president, told the UN agency Thursday.
Also Thursday (23/9), UN Secretary General António Guterres warned at a food summit seeking to increase global food access and production that nearly half of the planet’s population cannot afford healthy food.
“Food is life. But in countries, communities and households in every corner of the world, this essential need, this human right, will not be met,” Guterres said at a virtual event of the Food Systems Summit on the sidelines of the General Assembly’s annual session.
Guterres says 3 billion people cannot afford nutritious food. “Every day, hundreds of millions of people go to bed hungry. Children are starving,” he said.
While millions of people starving is a reality in parts of Yemen and Ethiopia, nearly a third of food production is lost or wasted.
This summit, which has been in preparation for more than a year, aims to revisit every aspect of food production to make it more environmentally friendly, safe, nutritious and accessible. This is part of advancing the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), one of which makes eliminating hunger a top priority.
Pandemic enlarges the challenge
“The COVID-19 pandemic has made this challenge even greater,” Guterres said. “It deepens inequality, destroys the economy and plunges millions into extreme poverty.”
The virus is also a concern for leaders addressing the General Assembly on Thursday, particularly African leaders, who make up a large portion of the day’s speaker lists. Many of them are appearing via video messages because of the pandemic.
“This is a violation of humanity because more than 82 percent of the world’s vaccine doses have been obtained by rich countries, while less than 1 percent has been obtained by low-income countries,” South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said in a video speech.
The African Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that only 4 percent of the African population has been fully vaccinated.
“The hoarding and unequal distribution resulting in unequal vaccination patterns around the world is totally unacceptable,” Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa said in a recorded message. “Vaccine nationalism is self-defeating and goes against the mantra that ‘no one is safe until everyone is safe.’ Whether it’s in the north or south of the world, rich or poor, young or old, everyone in the world deserves access to vaccines.”
There are also concerns about the coup trend in Africa. Over the past year, military coups have taken place in Chad, Mali and Guinea. Sudan’s military says it foiled a coup attempt there this week. In Tunisia, some argue that President Kais Saied essentially staged a coup, imposed emergency powers, sacked the prime minister and frozen parliament to consolidate his authority.
Angolan President João Gonçalves Lourenço said there had been no adequate reaction from other countries to prevent the coups.
“We deem it necessary for the international community to act with strong determination and not merely issue statements of condemnation to force perpetrators to reinstate legally established institutions,” he said. “We cannot continue to allow these examples, as they have in Guinea and elsewhere, to occur in Africa and other continents.”
In the Middle East, Iraqi President Barham Salih expressed concern about terrorism in his country and in the wider region.
“We cannot underestimate the threat posed by terrorism. If we are weakened and distracted by regional conflicts, we will see the return of powers that obscure the facts that will threaten our people and our security,” he said. “Cooperation and solidarity are the only options in our fight against international terrorism and its supporting groups.”
Meanwhile the opportunities available for intensive diplomacy this week have helped reduce the rift in US-French relations.
French officials were angered by the security pact Australia, Britain and the US struck earlier this month. Under the arrangement, Australia will receive at least eight nuclear-powered submarines, to be built in Australia using American technology. The agreement comes as Australia withdrew from an earlier deal to buy tens of billions of dollars worth of French submarines.
A telephone conversation between US President Joe Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday (22/9) as well as a face-to-face meeting the next day between their senior diplomats on the sidelines of the General Assembly session in New York appeared to have succeeded in pacifying Paris and rebuilding mutual attitudes. believe. [uh/lt]