Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders are getting ready to debate this week in the 76th Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic that has proved to be the most challenging period the world has seen since the Second World War.
A CARICOM diplomat, who prefers to remain anonymous, told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) that the pandemic will dominate the addresses to be delivered by CARICOM during the hybrid debate.
Unlike last year, when global leaders participated virtually, the diplomat said the UN has given leaders the choice of participating virtually and in-person.
It’s unclear which option CARICOM leaders will adopt, as they begin their respective debates on Wednesday.
According to the General Assembly’s provisional list, Suriname’s Head of State, Chandrikapersad “Chan” Santokhi will be the first regional leader to address the UNGA on Wednesday, with Guyana and Dominica on Thursday.
The leaders of Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica and Belize will address the General Assembly on Friday, with St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, St Kitts-Nevis, Haiti, the Bahamas, and Antigua and Barbuda will do so on Saturday.
Grenada will be the last CARICOM representative to address the debate on Monday, September 27.
The UN said the 75th session of the General Assembly gives way to “the new, deepening inequalities, decimating economies and plunging millions into extreme poverty.”
UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres praised the outgoing UNGA president, saying that throughout this “difficult and historic moment, we have all been fortunate to rely on the leadership of His Excellency, President Volkan Bozkir”.
Guterres credited the Turkish diplomat with prioritizing a sustainable recovery, rooted in the 2030 Agenda, and supporting countries and communities, as they rebuild systems shattered by the pandemic.
Guterres said that, under Bozkir’s leadership, the General Assembly had sought to “strengthen health systems, deliver COVID-19 testing, treatment and equipment, and contribute to the most ambitious vaccination campaign in history”.
Bozkir noted that his tenure took place amidst a “tumultuous, historic, transformative, unequal, challenging and ground-breaking year.
“From the earliest moments of my presidency, we knew that COVID-19 would dominate our agenda. However, I can now say that it has reinforced our belief in a more effective and more responsive UN”, he said.
Before stepping down, Bozkir made a series of recommendations that ranged from strengthening the Assembly to realigning “a serious mismatch in the way this organization treats its employees and the world’s highest political office”.
He also suggested a shift from focusing on procedures “at the cost of substance” to a “more streamlined, priority driven agenda” and to prioritize the UN as a single entity of respect, integrity and progress.
His predecessor, President, Abdulla Shahid, of the Maldives, spoke of near-universal “collective anxiety” and hopelessness, not all of which is pandemic-related, saying: “the narrative must change”, and that the General Assembly “must play a part in this”.
He said this moment in history calls for hope, above all, to demonstrate to the global population that “we are aware of their plight…are listening…and are willing to work together to overcome problems.
“We can find the courage to push forward, vaccinate the world” and spur a “greener, more inclusive, pandemic recovery,” Shahid added.