UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will be making his first virtual visit since the start of last year’s COVID-19 lockdowns to participate in events in London commemorating the 75th anniversary of the first session of the United Nations General Assembly, which was held in the British capital.
U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric announced Thursday that Guterres will speak at the main event Sunday titled “We the Peoples” — the first words of the United Nations Charter — where he is expected to highlight U.N. achievements and call for “a renewed global partnership to address the many challenges we face.”
Among those challenges are ending the COVID-19 pandemic and addressing its devastating impact on the global economy as well as tackling climate change.
Guterres had hoped to attend the commemoration in London’s Central Hall across from the Houses of Parliament where the 51 countries that were the founding members of the General Assembly met for the first time on Jan. 10, 1946. But the United Kingdom is in lockdown because of rising coronavirus infections, hospitalizations and deaths, so his visit will be virtual.
Britain’s U.N. ambassador, Barbara Woodward, told The Associated Press that one of the themes will be “the importance of healing.” This was one of the messages in the secretary-general’s New Year’s address, “and very resonant with COVID and vaccines and healing the economic rift and the inequality which has been exacerbated by the pandemic,” she said.
Even though the visit will now be virtual, Woodward said Sunday’s commemoration will be “a great way” to mark the United Kingdom’s participation at the founding of the United Nations and its participation as a permanent member for 75 years. “She said it will also highlight the work Guterres “has been doing there on `the future we want and the U.N. we need’,” the theme of the year-long anniversary.
It will also include a “conversation” between the secretary-general and British officials, civil society representatives and young people.
Woodward said climate change will also be “a huge theme” of Guterres’ visit because the United Kingdom is chairing the United Nations global climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, next November, formally known as the 26th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
Dujarric said the secretary-general will speak Monday at the “COP26 Virtual Roundtable on Clean Power Transition.”
“The event is designed to showcase and generate more commitments and action to accelerate the transition to renewable, affordable, and resilient power systems in Africa and European countries, as well as the importance of a just transition to ensure green job” opportunities, the U.N. spokesman said.
Guterres will be joined by Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab and incoming COP26 President Alok Sharma, Dujarric said.
He is also expected to hold virtual meetings with Prime Minister Boris Johnson and other officials during the visit.