The first session of the United Nations General Assembly was held on Jan. 10, 1946, with 51 nations present. Its goal was to act as a policymaking agency of the United Nations. Now, it provides an opportunity for countries to generate a call to action on issues they feel must be brought to light and a forum to produce shared solutions. Over the past 78 years, UNGA has grown to host representatives from 193 member states, all with an equal vote. The focus of the 78th session’s General Debate 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.” This year, government leaders from every corner of the world discuss differing approaches to resolving international conflicts and stimulating environmentally sustainable economic growth. As far as who attends the General Assembly, this year is marked by the absence of important members of the Security Council.
President Biden was the only leader of the five permanent members to attend. Leaders from the United Kingdom, France, China, and Russia were not in attendance, sending representatives in their place. Biden, in his third address to the annual meeting, focused on calling for more international support for Ukraine and emphasized the need for international unity on issues concerning human rights and climate change. He specifically called attention toward achieving peace in the Middle East. Biden hopes to see cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians so that the Middle East can be more stable and flourishing. He believes a two-state solution is both feasible and absolutely crucial to ensure sovereignty and peace. Another point Biden made in order to promote balance in the Middle East is ensuring that Iran will never develop a nuclear weapon. A nuclear weapon possessed by Iran would not only prevent any chance of stability in the Middle East, but would also pose a serious threat to global security. Ultimately, Biden emphasized America’s desire to see an end to the war in Ukraine. He reiterated the country’s support to Ukraine and called out Russia for having the sole responsibility to end the war, not only for the sake of Ukraine but for other countries that wish to live in a world where basic human rights and rules are applied equally to every nation. Biden continued by calling the General Assembly’s attention to the climate crisis. Heatwaves, wildfires, droughts, and flooding dominate recent climate news. All of these natural disasters and more await us if we don’t decrease our reliance on fossil fuels and take active steps to climate-proof the world. The government is achieving this by working with Congress to increase climate financing to developing countries. The U.S. is working with the Pacific Islands Forum to help nations who contribute little to global emissions but suffer immensely. Biden closed his address with a discussion of human rights, especially for those being abused in China, Iran, and Sudan. Women must be able to equally participate in their societies, and both indigenous groups and people with disabilities should be able to reach their full potential without fear of discrimination. He called on fellow leaders to find it in themselves to “protect human dignity, to provide opportunity for people everywhere, and to defend the tenets of the United Nations.”