The 72nd edition of the UN General Assembly is, as usual, the appropriate opportunity for global leaders to outline the current state of global affairs. They will be able to do this by revealing the issues that preoccupy their own countries and regions, while at the same time presenting what must be done to improve the state of the international system – from the standpoint of development or the elimination of economic underdevelopment, of climate change, of conflicts and crises that dot the continents, of the balance of power at global level or in distinct regions of the globe –, outlining projects and tabling proposals, holding bilateral meetings in order to solve newer or older dossiers, to reach agreements or simply to get to know each other and socialise at political level, which is not little.
The agenda of the almost six days of debates will also be the arena of more or less trenchant positions, and not least of the unveiling of future developments or maybe of the appearance of signs of hope regarding the healing of painful wounds across the planet. After all, this is the purpose of the General Assembly of the fundamental institution of the international system, established in 1945 and representing the vehicle of debating and sanctioning most of the trends in systemic developments, of managing conflicts, of enforcing sanctions on members that behave badly at international level, but also of withering down some deleterious developments in regions of general interest.
During these debates, one can identify new elements of older but always relevant dossiers – such as nuclear proliferation or UN peacekeeping in crisis areas, to mention just two – but also the short-, medium- or long-term orientations of great powers or other important actors in crisis management or in launching beneficial initiatives that will come to fruition via collective effort. Here is, for example, this annual summit’s agenda for September 20. In the morning there will be interventions, at the level of Heads of State, from: Finland, Italy, Kyrgyzstan, Azerbaijan, Guyana, Bosnia-Hercegovina, Panama, Rwanda, Paraguay, Iran, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Cote d’Ivoire, Palestine, EU. At the level of Heads of Government: Portugal, Japan, Netherlands, United Kingdom. In the afternoon, at the level of Heads of State: Ecuador, Argentina, Congo, Chile, Latvia, South Africa, Namibia, Romania, Montenegro, Malawi, Madagascar, Senegal, Swaziland, Libya, Nauru, Myanmar (Vice President); at the level of Heads of Government: Kuwait, Norway, Fiji. Hence, 38 states that expressed, in a single day, through their highest representatives, their point of view on the current state of the world, each of the summit days being just as busy. Consider the dozens, maybe hundreds of bilateral meetings taking place on the margins of this annual summit and you will have the adequate representation of this global organisation’s extraordinary significance in managing global affairs.
The first day of the General Assembly meeting was obviously dominated by the speech given by U.S. President Donald Trump. As I mentioned in past editorials, the existence of Twitter has a great advantage. At once, the main ideas of a speech are identified and transmitted through this network, along with the issuer’s comment on them, all in a very condensed form of 140 characters at most. In the case of the speech at the UN, U.S. President Trump himself, known all over the world for his intense use of Twitter – which also drew criticism, some fierce, with him being blamed that he changes long-standing rules of diplomacy – outlined his speech for his millions of followers.
Thus, on September 19, he wrote on his Twitter account: “It was a great honor to have spoken before the countries of the world at the United Nations,” while at the same time distributing the transcript of his speech. Moreover, faced with immediate criticism, the President instantaneously answered: “After allowing North Korea to research and build Nukes while Secretary of State (Bill C. also), Crooker Hillary now criticizes.”; or thanked a follower who agrees with his opinion and retweeted his comment: “It is the height of hypocrisy. Obama and Clinton in effect gave nuclear weapons to North Korea by their policy of appeasement.” It is just that some of the ideas expressed by U.S. President Trump also faced the sharp criticism of international relations experts, from which we quote some also posted on Twitter accounts. Former Swedish Premier Carl Bildt emphasises that “Trump’s #UNGA description of the Pyongyang regime as a “band of criminals” is as undiplomatic as it is correct” or accuses the White House’s lack of a concept of global order: “For Trump the world is a game of sovereign nations all putting their interest first. No mention of rules. No concept of global order.” Or that Trump’s mention of Iran will not be “appreciated” by Tehran: “Trump #UNGA speech seems designed to live up to ‘Great Satan’ prejudices of Iran hardliners. Guess they are pleased.” The “UNGA” twitter account belongs to this UN General Assembly and we will go back to it in the next editorial with new details that will reveal the traits of today’s world. The points of view of the American President, but also the comments on them, are particularly interesting from this standpoint.