Saturday, September 23, 2023


140 leaders attending, Putin absent… everything to know about 78th UNGA

140 leaders attending, Putin absent… everything to know about 78th UNGA
September 19
17:38 2023

This week, world leaders will gather under the auspices of the largest global intergovernmental organisation — the United Nations (UN) — to deliberate on shared goals.

Financial commitments worth billions of dollars will be made and stern warnings will be issued to countries with poor human rights records.

But this is not the first time global leaders will converge to give long speeches and sign pacts. What makes the 78th session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) any different?

The UNGA provides an avenue for all 193 members of the institution to discuss international issues in line with the UN charter.


UNGA is also the main policy-making and deliberative organ of the organisation, providing members with equal votes.

Although the assembly meets from September to December annually, a general debate is held every September at the UN’s headquarters in New York, with heads of state and governments in attendance.

This year’s debate runs from the 19th of this month to the 26th.



A debate conjures images of fierce rebuttals, interruptions, jeering, and in instances when tempers approach a crescendo — exchange of fists.

The UN general debate has none of these but often comes with its fair share of drama. 

The parley presents a perfect opportunity for countries whose voices are seldom heard. 


Speeches are spiced with flowery language to convince richer nations into offering assistance. Other speeches are laden with soft jabs masked with evocative language.

For nations who choose to chide other countries, the debate presents a neutral ground for discussions. 

Member states are also allowed to exercise the right of reply, in which they can rebut criticisms voiced during the general debate.

Sometimes, these are fiery exchanges typically delivered by lower-level members of a country’s delegation and not the heads of government.



At least 140 heads of government, six vice presidents, four deputy prime ministers and over 30 ministers of state and chiefs of delegations will deliver remarks for their nations at the 78th UNGA.


Among them will be US President Joe Biden who will be the only leader of the permanent five members of the UN Security Council in attendance.

French President Emmanuel Macron said he would remain in France to receive King Charles and to deliberate on the political crisis in Niger Republic and Sudan.


Rishi Sunak, the UK prime minister, cited a busy schedule as reason for his absence — it would have been his first opportunity to address the UNGA.

Russian President Vladimir Putin risks international arrest if he travels and Chinese leader Xi Jinping never attends.


There will also be newcomers like Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who will be making his first in-person appearance at the UN since Russia’s invasion of his country, and Nigeria’s President Bola Tinubu who is attending his first UNGA session since he was sworn in as the country’s leader in May.


Topics at the two-week summit appear more extensive than at previous sessions.

Conversations will revolve around this year’s theme which is “Rebuilding trust and reigniting global solidarity: Accelerating action on the 2030 agenda and its sustainable development goals towards peace, prosperity, progress and sustainability for all”.

World leaders will attempt to assess the progress made on issues like the coronavirus and climate crisis that results in floods, earthquakes, and wildfires. 

Also on the front burner will be Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine, fresh coups and political crisis in Africa, economic instability, and growing inequality.

Tinubu is expected to hold bilateral meetings with various world leaders, including Biden and Von der Leyen, president of the European Union Commission, on the sidelines of the summit.

Ajuri Ngelale, the president’s spokesperson, had also said his principal would meet with Brad Smith, global president of Microsoft, and Nick Clegg, head of global affairs for Meta Technologies.

Ngelale said Tinubu’s meeting with the duo would focus on how to improve Nigeria’s digital transformation while leveraging on artificial intelligence.

The president, who is also the chairperson of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), is also expected to speak on the spread of military coups in Africa during his presentation.



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