It’s that time of year again – the time when the world’s diplomats get all – UNGA!
Or translated from that strange language ‘Diplotalk’ – the United Nations General Assembly which always takes place in September in New York City.
Each year a majority of the planet’s leaders head for the UN to deliver their deep and meaningful speeches setting the world to rights – sometimes at length. Castro holds the record at 4 hours 29 minutes, Soviet leader Khrushchev managed a mere 2 hours 20. These days its considered polite to come in under 15 mins.
But, does UNGA matter? No – insofar as few concrete decisions are made – but yes- insofar as you get an outline of a country’s positions, and what might be coming next.
The best example is President Trump whose main speech is on Tuesday. Will the USA no longer recognize the UN policy that Palestinian refugee status is passed from one generation to the next? They are the only group with such status which is testmament to the orgainzaing power of
other Arab states at the UN. On Palestine Trump’s on a roll. Having taken several negotiating options off the table – is he about to take away the table? On North Korea does he play nice or go back to Bad Cop? And Iran – about which he chairs a meeting on Wednesday – will his trajectory still be towards confrontation?
Of course, the Palestinians, Iranians North Koreans and everyone else are also in town to put their concerns into the spotlight. For the Arab countries Palestine, Syria, and Yemen top their foreign affairs agenda. For Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hassina its the Rohingya. She’ll be lobbying for Myanmar to take back the refugees, and will press the Organization of Islamic Cooperation to support her. The UK, France and the USA are expected to back the call.
Then there’s all the meetings in what Diplospeak terms – ‘The Margins’. These can be ‘Brush Bys’ where really important leader X gives less important leader Y 2 minutes in a corridor as they move locations – for example President Obama granted UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown one – although it was in the kitchen of the UN building… Other ‘Margins’ are when the ‘Sherpas’ or diplomats meet to discuss how to move the heavy loads of policy they are working on – up to the level where the leaders get involved.
It’s a bit like New York fashion week – which was also held this month – but for politics. Some of what you see during the show – you see the effects of on the street over the following year.