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Lazarus Chakwera cancels UN assembly trip

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Sean Kampondeni

President Lazarus Chakwera will not go to New York, the Unites States (US), to attend this year’s United Nations General Assembly (UNGA ) next month, with the State House saying the President has important engagements to attend to locally.

The State House initially indicated that Chakwera would attend the global indaba in person.

“The President was scheduled to leave for New York on September 18. He has, however, decided not to go to New York and [instead] attend the meeting virtually. The President has made the decision because he has other important issues to attend to locally,” State House Director of Communications Sean Kampondeni told journalists at the State House fortnightly briefing at Sanjika Palace in Blantyre.

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The development comes at a time the US government has urged leaders of more than 150 countries to consider giving a video address to avoid a situation where the annual high-level event becomes “a super-spreader event” of coronavirus.

In a note from the US Mission sent to 192 other United Nations (UN) member states, the host country has further called for all UN-hosted meetings and side events to be virtual, indicating that parallel meetings that draw travellers to New York are likely to put lives of New York residents and other travellers at risk.

The UN decided, in late July, to let world leaders attend its annual gathering, known as the General Debate, from September 21 to 27 in person — or to deliver pre-recorded speeches if Covid restrictions prevent them from travelling but the US note says the US feels strongly that the General Debate should be the only event held with in-person participation during the high-level week

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“In light of current health concerns, heads of delegation should consider delivering their statements to the UN General Assembly’s General Debate by video. If delegations choose to travel to New York for the General Debate, the United States requests delegations to bring the minimum number of travellers necessary,” the note reads.

The Unga is the main policy-making organ of the UN and provides a platform for multilateral discussion of the full spectrum of international issues covered by the Charter of the United Nations. Each of the 193 Member States of the United Nations has an equal vote.

The UNGA also makes key decisions for the UN, including: appointing the Secretary- General on the recommendation of the Security Council, electing non-permanent members of the Security Council and approving the UN budget

“The Assembly meets in regular sessions from September to December each year, and thereafter as required. It discusses specific issues through dedicated agenda items or sub-items, which lead to the adoption of resolutions.

“In the wake of the Covid pandemic, the UN General Assembly has been carrying out its work since 2020 via novel means to guarantee business continuity and mitigate the spread of the disease. Specific examples include the use of virtual platforms to conduct meetings and the adoption of e-voting through procedure for decision-making when an in-person meeting is not possible,” the UN indicates.

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