What You Need to Know About the UN General Assembly Debate This Week

Rouhani, Sisi, Netanyahu and Erdogan are among the leaders at the UN this week – here’s how the schedule pans out.

(MEE— The 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) is underway, with the general debate beginning on Tuesday.

No gathering in world politics attracts more heavyweights during its first week.

National leaders converge on the organisation’s HQ, which overlooks New York’s East River, to meet with fellow heads of state, hold talks on the sidelines and address the world.

What is the UN General Assembly?

The UN General Assembly is a core component of the UN with manifold duties, including overseeing voting in new members, choosing non-permanent members of the UN Security Council and playing a part in electing the UN secretary general.

It also gives observer status to non-member states and groups including Palestine and the European Union, whose speakers are allowed to address the assembly.

What’s Happening This Week?

The UNGA debate, which opens its 73rd session, has the title “Making the United Nations relevant to all people: global leadership and shared responsibilities for peaceful, equitable and sustainable societies”.

But don’t expect world leaders to stick to the theme: most will promote whatever international issue is top of the agenda for their country.

Nor will many speakers stick to the allotted 15-minute time slot: frequently they over-run, although none this year is likely to equal the performance of the late Cuban leader Fidel Castro, who clocked up an impressive four hours in September 1960.

What’s the Schedule?

Morning debating sessions run from 9am ET (that’s four hours behind GMT) until 2.45pm. The afternoon session begins at 3pm and ends at 9pm. You can catch live coverage here.

World leaders have complicated lives: the running order below may change, especially if, as mentioned above, speakers inevitably over-run. The position in brackets refers to where in the order of each session the the speaker is due to take to the podium.

Tuesday 25 September

Day one includes speeches from key Middle East players, including US President Donald Trump, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani during the morning session; and Egypt’s Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in the afternoon.

In 2016, Erdogan used his slot to call for more action against the Gulenist movement, which Ankara says was behind the failed coup in July of that year.

“I am calling, from this podium, to all our friends, to swiftly take the necessary measures against the Gulenist terrorist organisation for their own safety and the future of their nations,” the Turkish president said.

In 2017 Trump made headlines during his inaugural UN speech when he described North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, with whom he was engaged in a war of words about Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions, as “Rocket Man”.

Morning  (9am ET –  2.45pm ET)

  • President Donald Trump, United States (4th speaker)
  • President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey (6th)
  • President Emmanuel Macron, France (9th)
  • King Abdullah II ibn Al Hussein, Jordan (12th)
  • Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, Emir, Qatar (13th)
  • President Hassan Rouhani, Iran (14th)

Afternoon (3pm ET – 9pm ET)

  • President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Egypt  (3rd)
  • Prime Minister Saad-Eddine el-Othmani, Morocco (19th)

Wednesday 26 September

Last year Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi was unable to attend the UNGA at short notice due to the crisis surrounding the Kurdish referendum vote.

Instead Ibrahim Abdulkarim Al-Jafari, the minister for foreign affairs, addressed the assembly about the liberation of Mosul from Islamic State (IS) as well as the threat to unity from Kurdish aspirations for independence.

Morning  (9am ET –  2.45pm ET)

  • Iraq (3rd)
  • Lebanon (6th)
  • Yemen (8th)

Afternoon (3pm ET – 9pm ET)

  • Kuwait (20th)

Thursday 27 September

Speakers from Palestine and Israel are scheduled to speak within minutes of each other on Thursday, separated only by the EU and Belgium on the schedule.

In 1974, Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat made his first UN speech during the debate and told the UNGA: “I have come bearing an olive branch and a freedom fighter’s gun. Do not let the olive branch fall from my hand. I repeat: Do not let the olive branch fall from my hand.”

In his speech at the United Nations General Assembly in 2009, Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, attacked Iran’s nuclear plans and what he called the “tyrants of Tehran”.

Morning (9am ET –  2.45pm ET)

  • Cyprus 6th)
  • Libya (11th)
  • Palestine (15th)
  • EU (16th)
  • Israel (18th)
Friday 28 September

Russia and China are speaking during Friday’s session. In 2015, during his first speech to the assembly for 10 years, Russian President Vladimir Putin blamed the West for the “chaos in the Middle East and the rise of the Islamic State”.

Morning (9am ET –  2.45pm ET)

  • South Sudan (3rd)
  • Russia (18th)
  • China (19th)

Afternoon (3pm ET – 9pm ET)

  • Tunisia (13th)
Saturday 29 September

On Saturday key Gulf nations, including Saudi Arabia and the UAE, will address the assembly. In 2017, Adel bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir, Saudi’s minister for foreign affairs, told the assembly that Qatar was a financial support of terrorism, and disseminated violent hate speech. Al-Jubeir also called on the government of Myanmar to halt its persecution of the Rohingya, which he said “gravely concerned” Saudi Arabia.

Morning  (9am ET –  2.45pm ET)

  • UAE (1st)
  • Oman (4th)
  • Syria (6th)
  • Bahrain (15th)

Afternoon (3pm ET – 9pm ET)

  • Algeria (5th)
  • Saudi Arabia (15th)
Monday 1 October

Sudan addresses the assembly on Monday – but President Omar Hassan al-Bashir will not be in New York despite having continued to travel abroad regularly since his indictment by the International Criminal Court in 2009 and 2010 for crimes including genocide

In 2017, Sudan’s Foreign Minister Ibrahim Ahmed Abd al-Aziz Ghandour told the assembly that the country had “turned the page” on conflicts and had now embarked on an era of peace and stability

Morning  (9am ET –  2.45pm ET)

  • Sudan (3rd)

By MEE and agencies Republished with permission / Middle East Eye / Report a typo

This article was chosen for republication based on the interest of our readers. Anti-Media republishes stories from a number of other independent news sources. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect Anti-Media editorial policy.

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