UN celebrates 75th anniversary with lackluster summit amid problems
A handout photo made available by UN photo shows Chinese President Xi Jinping (on screens) speaking during the 75th General Assembly of the United Nations, in New York City on 21 September 2020. EFE/EPA/Eskinder Debebe / UN Photo / HANDOUT HANDOUT EDITORIAL USE ONLY/NO SALES
Spain's King Felipe VI delivers a prerecorded speech to the United Nations on its 75th anniversary on Sept. 21, 2020. EFE-EPA/ Francisco Gomez / Spanish Royal Palace/Editorial Use Only/No Sales/No File
By Mario Villar
United Nations, Sep 21 (efe-epa).- The United Nations on Monday celebrated its 75th anniversary with a summit that came off as lackluster amid the coronavirus pandemic at a time when the international body is facing significant difficulties, such as being weakened by unilateral policies and having trouble responding to the current health crisis and to climate change.
What was supposed to be a big celebration, with leaders from all over the world congregating in New York City, ultimately devolved into a series of brief speeches videotaped earlier by a few more than 100 of the heads of state and government and several dozen government ministers.
US President Donald Trump, as head of the host nation, had been scheduled to deliver a speech to the UN but in the end he wound up not sending a message himself at all, delegating a lower level diplomat to do so in his stead.
However, among others, Chinese leader Xi Jinping, Turkey's Recep Tayyip Erdogan, France's Emmanuel Macron and Spain's King Felipe VI, along with with numerous Latin American leaders, did address the gathering.
The general tone of the speeches was one of support for the multilateralism embodied by the UN, but few concrete ideas were provided such as how to act in a world needing international solutions but where the ideas of national primacy and self-interest still prevail.
The will to cooperate was highlighted by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in his address, in which he defended the idea that in an ever more interconnected world, cooperation among nations is becoming more necessary.
He said that nobody wants a global government but all nations have to work together to improve governance around the world, and he emphasized that the world is currently living through the longest period in modern history without a military confrontation between any of the big powers.
Among the significant challenges facing the world and the UN at this juncture, according to many of the speechmakers, are gender inequality, climate change, biodiversity loss, the increase in poverty, the growth of hatred directed at various groups, the increase in geopolitical tensions, the threat posed by nuclear weapons and the problems posed for mankind by certain new technologies.
But it was the coronavirus pandemic that was the issue that took center stage at the global gathering with the number of deaths worldwide from Covid-19 now approaching one million and national economies everywhere significantly battered by the economic shutdowns and quarantines virtually all countries have implemented but are now moving to lift.
Chinese President Xi said that the sudden eruption of Covid-19 is a "great test for the world," adding that "humanity has entered a new era of interconnection, with countries sharing interlinked interests and with their futures tightly bound together."
Xi said that "the world now stands before a new historic point of departure" and governments should work together for the common good, going on to lash out - in an apparent attack on the US - against the "Cold War mentality" and those who seek "hegemonic power, the thug or boss of the world."
Spain's Felipe VI said that in the face of the current crisis there is a need for "more United Nations and nations that are more united," and France's Macron, along similar lines, called for less talk and more action, specifically saying that a "multilateralism of deeds" is what is needed.
Latin American leaders, meanwhile, also called for the strengthening of multilateralism and, in many cases, demanded - above all - solidarity with the most vulnerable groups at this time of crisis.