Women’s voices in the UN General Assembly are few, but growing



NEW YORK – As cascading crises cast a veil over the debates at this year’s United Nations General Assembly, Slovak President Zuzana ÄŒaputová had this reminder on the first day of the debate: “We cannot save our planet if we leave aside the vulnerable – women, girls, minorities.

But gender parity at the preeminent forum of world leaders still seems far from sight. Eight women are expected to speak at the United Nations General Assembly on Friday. That’s more than double the number – five – of women who spoke in the first three days of the summit.

On Friday, three vice presidents and five prime ministers, including Bangladeshi Sheikh Hasina and New Zealand Jacinda Arden, will speak or deliver remarks in a pre-recorded video.

“As the first woman president in the history of my country, the burden of expecting gender equality is heavier on my shoulder,” said Samia Suluhu Hassan, President of Tanzania. Regarding such a tie, she said: “” COVID-19 threatens to roll back the gains we have made, ”

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Hassan was the only woman to address the General Assembly on Thursday.

Despite these 13 women making up less than 10% of the speakers in the first four days, the 13 represent an increase over last year, when only nine women were talking during the session. There are also three other women Heads of State or Heads of Government – 24 – than there were at this stage in 2020.

“There can be no democracy, security and development without half of humanity,” Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid said on Wednesday, also stressing the vulnerability of women in society.

The theme of vulnerability was at the forefront for a week haunted by the ever-looming specters of climate change, coronavirus and conflict. Most of the speeches took on the tenor of the precipitous appeals, pushing aside the summit’s theme of “building resilience through hope”.

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The dire predictions were not confined to the General Assembly. At a meeting of the UN Security Council on Thursday, senior officials called for increased action to address the security implications of climate change and make global warming a key component of all United Nations peacekeeping operations. They said warming is making the world less secure, pointing to the conflict-ridden Sahel region in Africa, as well as Syria and Iraq.

Dozens of executives have already spoken, and many have left New York entirely. But some of the most anticipated countries have yet to deliver their speeches: North Korea, Myanmar and Afghanistan – all of them forever but also recently in the news – are expected to close the session on Monday afternoon.

Friday alone promises fireworks, with a list of speakers from countries plagued by internal and external conflicts.

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The ethnically divided President of Cyprus is expected to open the debates, soon to be followed by a Lebanon also torn by internal strife. The morning plenary session will also see the speeches of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and the Armenian Prime Minister, castigated Thursday in the speech of Azerbaijan in the aftermath of the Nagorno-Karabakh war.

The afternoon will see both Albania and Serbia perpetually at odds over Kosovo, as well as Pakistan feeling pressure on its eastern border with India and its western border with Afghanistan.

“Their victory instilled immense hope. It’s a bullet in the arm, at a time when we don’t even have the right to speak openly ”, a former Kashmiri rebel who fought India told The Associated Press last week of the rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan.

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Pakistan and India, which goes on Saturday, are historically avid users of the “right of reply” function, which allows diplomats to launch polemics defending their countries in response to the speeches of hostile nations. This window of opportunity opens on Friday evening, following the conclusion of the leaders’ speeches.

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