UN General Assembly guide, Sept. 22: The home stretch, Trudeau mania, and chefugees

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Good morning, UNGA survivors!

Yesterday morning, at least, the security guards at the UN plaza were still in high spirits. “Welcome aboard!” they were heard saying to passing diplomats. “Only two days to go!”

Fact-check: Not true. The general debate doesn’t end until Monday, and there are other meetings trickling on until Sept. 29. But this is the fourth and last issue of Quartz’s guide to all things UNGA. We hope you’ve enjoyed the ride. Here’s the archive, for when you want to share this moment with your grandchildren. And here’s all our UNGA coverage.

What to watch for today

All over bar the shouting. Cuba speaks at the general debate today—one of the only countries that hasn’t yet had a chance to respond to Donald Trump’s mauling (“corrupt and destabilizing”) on Tuesday. Venezuela (“failed ideology”) gets a word in tomorrow. Also today: Kenya, whose speaker may squirm a bit to explain why the government held an election so flawed the supreme court annulled it.

Glum faces. Yesterday was the International Day of Peace, but don’t expect much optimism at the high-level event on Yemen at 8am this morning; the UN’s special envoy to the war-torn country, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, was unremittingly bleak in a press briefing yesterday, says Quartz’s Zoë Schlanger, as he has been in his last few speeches.

The silver linings cookbook. More cheerfully, The Refugee Food and Art Festival kicks off with a $70-a-head dinner where you can taste food created by refugee chefs (“chefugees”) who have built new lives in America. There are still tickets.

What everyone is talking about

Trudeau-mania. Going against decades of UNGA tradition, the Canadian prime minister spent his entire speech criticizing human-rights abuses in his own country. Later, outside a room where he was holding a press briefing, a battalion of smartphone-wielding fans (mostly women) jostled for position; when Trudeau was spotted entering an elevator, there was a surge and cries of, “Oh my God, he’s there!”

Inside the UN’s hardest job. Quartz’s Nikhil Sonnad spent this week with members of the UN interpreter corps, watching them tackle the most demanding and high-stakes simultaneous translations in the world. He delivers a raft of quotations, statistics, and anecdotes, plus asides on the history, neuroscience, and technology of interpretation.

The audacity of optimism. Barack Obama at the Gates Goalkeepers event recommended ”infectious and relentless optimism” as the way to get things done in life. He wasn’t alone: Melinda Gates, Apple’s Tim Cook, Alibaba’s Jack Ma, and (who else) Justin Trudeau all heavily extolled the virtues of unbridled positivity, which can sometimes seem like the UN’s official religion.

UNGA session titles, reimagined by Quartz. Given how intensely they have to compete for the scarce attention of policymakers and journalists, the names of UNGA events are astonishingly turgid, jargon-laden, and abstruse. We’ve fixed that for you.

Quotes of the day

“Unfortunately we had to wait for Irma and Maria to let the world understand what we’ve been saying to them for a long time.” The prime minister of Dominica, Roosevelt Skerrit, who earlier this week watched Hurricane Maria rip the roof off his house while he was in it, and who is talking at the UNGA today.

“It’s a bunch of hot air in there, and it’s like a cool breeze in here.” Social entrepreneur Amir Dossal, contrasting the Sustainable Development Goals media tent in which he was sitting with the UN main building next to it.

“If you have a message, don’t take more than two minutes to deliver it.” Afghanistan’s president Ashraf Ghani, offering advice on how to talk to Trump.

“Making money is happiness, but making other people happy is super happiness.” Bangladeshi microfinance pioneer Muhammad Yunus, at the We The Future conference.

“He’s a walking quote machine. I just want to hug him.” A starstruck Quartz journalist, on Yunus.

Statistic of the day

Three jumbo jets crashing every hour. That’s the current pace of deaths due to pollution worldwide (12.6 million people per year), according to Ibrahim Thiaw, deputy head of the UN Environment Programme.


Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, tips, hot air, and punchy session titles to hi@qz.com.