UN General Assembly day one: Not a Vanity Fair event
The first big day of the UN General Assembly proved to be character-building for those who dared to venture outside without gumboots or an umbrella.
The skies above Turtle Bay were tinged in silver-gray as delegates from 193 countries descended on the UN headquarters for the 78th General Assembly.
Monday was something akin to a warm up: Much of the focus in the Assembly hall was on the UN’s lofty Sustainable Development Goals, essentially a global to-do-list, including targets like poverty and hunger eradication. Progress so far, however, has been spotty as only 15% of the goals are even on track.
When asked if he was concerned that the absence this week of some powerful world leaders – like France’s Emmanuel Macron, the UK’s Rishi Sunak and China’s Xi Jinping – would undermine efforts to revive the sagging SDG’s, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres replied sternly: “this is not Vanity Fair … what matters is that [states] are represented.”
While the halls of the UN contain a nervous energy, some heads of state just seemed happy to be there.
Kazakhstan’s President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev appeared unphased by the New York drear, taking time out to get fresh air and take in the view of the East River with his crew, who shared takeaway cafeteria coffees.
Team Germany, on the other hand, was less relaxed. Clad in a navy-blue trench coat in lieu of an umbrella, Chancellor Olaf Sholz, flocked by aides, made a brief dash across the plaza. Meanwhile, IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva, who has a very intense few days ahead of her as debt mitigation efforts are a major theme of the summit – also made her way through the corridors.
But the UN General Assembly isn’t just a Superbowl for foreign policy nerds – many real celebrities also appear in the flesh to champion the organization and its mission.
Fashion mogul Diane von Furstenberg, donned in unpresuming black, visited an exhibition dedicated to showcasing the Sustainable Development Goals. Meanwhile, actor and women’s rights advocate Natalie Portman also braved the rain to discuss the ongoing abuse of women and girls around the world, and “ingrained cultural biases” that subordinate half the world's population. It’s an issue Portman has worked on for many years.
A fellow spectator tried to strike up a conversation as we rubbed shoulders while exiting the panel event: “She [Portman] should have smiled more. She looked angry.” You just can’t make this stuff up ... Welcome to the UN General Assembly in New York City!