The UN General Assembly, normally referred to as UNGA, is one of the UN’s main organs. Every September, representatives from all member states meet at the General Assembly in New York City. Here, the UN’s policy, direction and goals are adopted. At the same time, New York City is filled with a range of side events. Business leaders, politicians and thought leaders meet for a week of bilateral meetings, panel debates, and conversations. Together, they set the course for the year, until several of them meet again at the UN Climate Change Conference (cancelled this year) and in Davos during the World Economic Forum (26th-29th January, 2021).
The pandemic has quickly changed the way in which we all work and communicate. For many, it has entailed working from home, avoiding unnecessary travel and cancelling physical meetings. All over the world major events are either cancelled, or the scope and format are drastically changed to adapt to this new digital reality that prevents further spread of the coronavirus.
This year, it seems that the 75-year-old tradition of large groups meeting during the UN General Assembly is being broken. Exactly how the General Assembly will be delivered this year has not yet been announced, but the events surrounding the UN General Assembly will naturally take a different form when top leaders no longer can travel and physically meet there.
This does not mean that we need fewer conversations and arenas for experts and stakeholders to gather and discuss the implications of an ever-changing world. I would rather argue that we need the conversations and platforms more than ever before.
Since the launch of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, companies, governments and civil society have looked at how the 17 goals and 244 indicators should reflect current activities. We have less than 10 years left to reach the goals, and this year will be the year companies and organisations must create their own meeting places and kick off the decade of action.