The president of the UN General Assembly says world leaders will not be coming to New York for their annual gathering in late September for the first time in the organization's 75-year history because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Tijjani Muhammad-Bande told a news conference Monday that he hopes to announce in the next two weeks how the 193 heads of state and government will give their speeches on pressing local and world issues during the assembly’s so-called General Debate. He said "world leaders cannot come to New York because they cannot come simply as individuals and it is impossible" to bring large delegations during the pandemic, the AP reports. "We cannot have them in person as we used to—what happened in the last 74 years—but it will happen," Muhammad-Bande said of the annual gathering.
Secretary-General Antonio Guterres recommended last month that the meeting of world leaders, which was supposed to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the United Nations, be dramatically scaled back because of the pandemic. On another issue, the secretary-general has told UN staff members to not join in the protests anywhere around the world that have followed the death of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis. "We are all shocked by the brutality of the murder of George Floyd," Guterres told employees in a virtual town hall, per Foreign Policy. But he said their role in international civil service means they can't appear to stray from impartiality. Some staff members and human rights advocates objected. "Internal UN rules cannot override broad international human rights norms applied in every nation," one UN official said in a statement.
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