Turkish diplomat Volkan Bozkir was elected President of the forthcoming session of the UN General Assembly in a vote held on Wednesday that was emblematic of its time.
Wearing facemasks and practicing physical distancing, ambassadors from 192 UN Member States filed into the iconic but empty General Assembly Hall to cast their ballots during pre-determined time slots: an added layer of protection in the COVID-19 era.
“Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have all had to work under extraordinary conditions to overcome the myriad of challenges facing us,” the current General Assembly President, Tijjani Muhammad-Bande, said ahead of the elections.
“Indeed,” he added, “(they) represent our common commitment to ensuring the uninterrupted continuation of the important work of the United Nations, in accordance with the values and principles of the United Nations Charter.”
New faces in the Security Council, ECOSOC
Mr. Bozkir, a veteran diplomat and parliamentarian, will preside over the landmark 75th session of the UN General Assembly, which opens in September. He was the sole candidate for the post.
Ambassadors also voted for five new countries to join the UN Security Council as non-permanent members.
The Council comprises five permanent members – China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States – and 10 non-permanent members, who serve for two-year periods.
While three countries vied for two seats allocated to African and Asia-Pacific States, only India was confirmed. Djibouti and Kenya face a second round of voting to be held on Thursday.
A similar race occurred for the Western European and other States group, where Canada did not secure the required two-thirds majority, or 128 votes.
Norway and Ireland will begin their terms starting in January, as will Mexico, representative for the Latin America and Caribbean region.
Eighteen countries will also occupy vacant seats in the Economic and Social Council, another of the six main organs of the UN.
They are: Argentina, Austria, Bolivia, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Guatemala, Indonesia, Japan, Liberia, Libya, Madagascar, Mexico, Nigeria, Portugal, the Solomon Islands, the United Kingdom and Zimbabwe.
Preparing for September
While this year’s General Assembly falls during the UN’s 75th anniversary, the pandemic adds to its historic significance, and the need to maintain safety measures.
Plans are in motion for the annual high-level week, where Heads of State address the world from the dais in the General Assembly Hall.
Mr. Muhammad-Bande, the current President, has written to Member States about a scenario that foresees his successor and UN Secretary-General António Guterres present in the Hall for the official opening, while world leaders will deliver their speeches via pre-recorded video statements.
Delegations have until noon on Friday to submit their feedback.