We’re covering the UN General Assembly with a special edition of the Quartz Daily Brief, from Sept. 19 to 22, 2017. Sign up here to get it in your inbox.
Good morning, UNGA watchers!
If you’ve just landed in New York for the world’s biggest diplomacy-fest, welcome. If you haven’t landed yet, good luck: We’re expecting heavy rain and high winds from Hurricane Jose today and tomorrow. (Check the status at JFK, La Guardia, and Newark airports.)
And if you’re just following along from a distance—smart move. This city is a zoo right now.
This is your daily guide to the 72nd UN General Assembly. For the next four days we’ll bring you the top things to look out for each day and the best of the previous day’s news, gossip, and impossibly UNGA-ish moments. Moment #1 is this year’s theme: “Focusing on people—Striving for Peace and a Decent Life for All on a Sustainable Planet.” Make of that what you will.
I’m Gideon Lichfield, Quartz’s geopolitics editor and your UNGA sherpa. You can email me your news, diplomatic gossip, pictures of celebrities, and UN security horror stories. (And be warned, I might use them, so tell me if you want anonymity.) Joining me are a slew of Quartz reporters and editors—here’s all their coverage.
Coming up next: Your essential schedule for Tuesday. But first, for those attending…
Know your way in. Don’t be like me and spend 25 minutes getting redirected in circles by clueless NYC cops. The best way into the complex once you have your badge is via 46th St and 2nd Ave. A sign there also tells you where to pick up the various classes of badge. Allow time for security checkpoints, and remember your umbrella!
Know where to eat. There are half a dozen cafes in the UN complex, listed on p. 78 of the delegates’ handbook (pdf), though access may depend on your badge type. The food is… well, let’s just say there’s a trade-off between quality and convenience. If you have time to leave the complex, BluePass lists some hidden gems within a few minutes walk.
Know your jargon. Say “UNGA” to rhyme with hunger (as spoken by a Brit). Refer liberally to the SDGs, or Sustainable Development Goals; the P5, the five permanent members of the UN Security Council (not to be confused with a P-5, which is a UN pay grade); and the SG, who is António Guterres, the secretary general, and whose last name is pronounced Goo-terr-esh, not Goo-tyerr-ez. For total authenticity, make the rr sound like you’re clearing phlegm from your throat.
Know what’s happening. This is astonishingly hard to work out. The official UNGA meeting schedule is useless. The best look-ahead guide to some (but not all) of the main events is actually the UN TV page, which also live-streams them. The UN Journal (pdf) publishes a full daily schedule, but only on the morning of each day. This page lists only the world leaders who will speak the following day. Here’s a provisional list (pdf) of them for the whole week, which you won’t find on any UN website. For the panoply of side events like the Bloomberg Global Business Forum and Climate Week NYC, here are a couple of good listings.
Know everything else. The UN’s delegates’ handbook (pdf) has all the other information you could possibly need—somewhere in its 114 pages.
OK, down to business.
All eyes on Trump. By tradition, the US president speaks second at the UNGA’s general debate; Brazil’s is first. (Why? Glad you asked.) Trump was reassuringly nice at yesterday’s meeting on UN reform; even Guterres sounded more critical about the organization’s flaws. But will Trump grandstand on North Korea’s nukes, or open up to diplomacy? Will he dangle the possibility of the US re-joining the Paris climate agreement or lambast the other 194 nations that signed it? Will he plug his own buildings again? Tune in at around 9:30am ET to find out.
Macron’s moment. Likely hoping a bit of American air will help inflate his plummeting popularity at home, the French president is expected to exploit the UN platform to pitch France as a global leader, particularly with Germany’s Angela Merkel staying away.
Big data in the service of humanity? If the development sector were as good as Facebook or Google at using big data, think of how it could predict and react to disease outbreaks, migration patterns, or droughts. But how do you make sure data are used well and wisely? A large line-up of business, government, and NGO leaders will discuss what works at a panel at UN headquarters.
The internet is only half everywhere. Nearly 4 billion people have no way to connect to the web. Are there ways to get them online that don’t just rely on self-serving private initiatives such as Facebook’s Internet.org? At the World Economic Forum’s UNGA side conference, several countries’ communications ministers and telco executives discuss the options.
The refugee crisis in Myanmar. In a televised speech from the capital Naypitaw earlier today, state counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi stopped short of condemning the army for abuses reported by Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh. “We have to make sure those allegations are based on solid evidence before we take action,” she stressed. Guterres said this was her “last chance” to intervene and stop the catastrophe. An estimated 415,000 Rohingya have crossed from Myanmar into Bangladesh since Aug. 25, and nearly 300,000 people, including 154,000 children under five and nearly 55,000 pregnant women, need additional food assistance.
Technical difficulties. If you’re going to run a High-Level Event on Innovation and Technology, make sure the microphones work first, notes Quartz’s deputy ideas editor Georgia Frances King. Despite industry titans such as LinkedIn’s Reid Hoffman, Wikipedia’s Jimmy Wales, and Mozilla chair Mitchell Baker among the speakers, the session was plagued with tech issues, including the entire room going dark due to an electricity blackout—twice. The topic at hand, ironically, was infrastructure and how (or if) Silicon Valley bigwigs and government officials could work together to improve it.
Think you can negotiate a global climate accord? At a side event on climate change, Quartz environment reporter Zoë Schlanger began collecting metaphors she heard to describe the talks on the Paris climate agreement. ”A difficult Thanksgiving dinner is an understatement,” “It was kind of a high dive into a fish bowl,” and “It was like building an Empire State Building out of toothpicks.”
Smoke alert. The cafe on the second floor of the UN building was bathed in a haze of smoke at lunchtime, reports Quartz India editor Devjyot Ghoshal, but it wasn’t anything to be worried about: The culprit was a grill station that was turning out steaks and burgers by the dozen. Eventually security had to come and shut it down.
“It’s a values issue. It’s about warm beer and the sound of cricket bats, which they seem to prefer to any economic growth.”—Leonard Doyle of the UN International Organization for Migration, on anti-immigrant sentiment in a European country that shall remain nameless
Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, tips, annotated delegate handbooks, and tortured metaphors to firstname.lastname@example.org. To get future editions of the Quartz UNGA Daily Brief in your inbox, sign up here.