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G.L.U.C.O.S.E.

UN General Assembly Daily Brief: Let the General Debate begin!

  • Caitlin Hu
By Caitlin Hu

Geopolitics Editor

Published Last updated on This article is more than 2 years old.

Good morning, globalists! Welcome to the 73rd United Nations General Assembly.

This daily email from Quartz is your guide to UNGA news and chatter, whether you’re already queuing for the next acronym-packed high-level diplomatic event (APHLD-E, anyone?) or just watching from afar.

I’m Caitlin Hu, your UNGA interpreter for the week. Joining me are reporters Annalisa Merelli, Max de Haldevang, Heather Timmons, Abdi Latif Dahir and Ideas editor Georgia Frances King.

It’s the first week of fall, and temperatures will be in the low 70s (~21 Celsius) with a splash of rain. Bring an umbrella for sprints between buildings, and plan to spend at least 30 minutes getting it through the UN’s labyrinth of security checks.

What to watch for

The General Debate kicks off. Every nation gets the chance to address the UN, and more than 80 heads of state and 44 heads of government are attending this year. Donald Trump is expected to stress US sovereignty (a gentler approach than last year’s threat to “totally destroy” North Korea), while France’s Emmanuel Macron and Iran’s Hassan Rouhani will present rather different world views.

If you could add one line to Trump’s speech, what would it be? Send in your suggestions.

Leaders in the news hold court on the sidelines. Justin Trudeau won’t speak at the General Debate, but he will discuss Canada’s “global outlook” at the Council on Foreign Relations this morning. Fresh from a new US-Korea trade deal, South Korea’s Moon Jae-In will take the same stage to discuss peace on the Korean Peninsula in the afternoon.

The top US trade official speaks. Between NAFTA renegotiations, an escalating trade war with China, and tariffs on steel all around, Robert Lighthizer found time to prepare a speech. Expect a more measured version of Trump’s calls for sovereignty from the man who first pushed tariffs against China as part of the Ronald Reagan White House.

What we can learn from the International Space Station. Heads of state, NGOs and UN officials will discuss how international cooperation in space can translate into peace on earth.

📺You can livestream the General Debate on UNTV (also the source of UNGA’s most reliable schedule of events) starting at 9am EDT. At 11:30am, heads of state will debate how to keep technology from exacerbating inequality.

📚Read up with our essential guide to the 2018 UN General Assembly.

Wait but why…does Brazil always speak first at the General Debate? “In very early times, when no one wanted to speak first, Brazil always…offered to speak first. And so they have earned the right to speak first at the General Assembly,” the UN’s then-protocol chief Desmond Parker told NPR in 2010. The tradition is now 63 years old.

What everyone is talking about

The kids are all right. With the help of Korean boy band BTS, UN secretary-general António Guterres launched Youth2030, a program to protect the rights of people under the age of 24, and to put more youth in positions of leadership. Appropriately, a new Ipsos poll found that younger people are more likely to be optimistic about the future than older generations.

You’re hired! White House emissaries Ivanka Trump and labor secretary Alexander Acosta touted low US unemployment rates at the satellite Concordia Summit. In an aside on fame and work, Trump commented: “[People] start getting Google alerts and they go down the rabbit hole of caring what people think about them…Not only is it pointless, not only does it drain your energy, not only does it sometimes cause your internal compass to go awry but […] I find getting too sort of engaged in the daily chaos as distracting.”

The power of cities. From Kampala to New York City, representatives of 10 cities around the world gathered at the Concordia Summit to discuss their role in protecting migrant and refugee residents—regardless of national policies on immigration.

Remembering Nelson Mandela. In honor of the centenary of the birth of the South African anti-apartheid leader, the UN held a high-level session to commemorate his legacy. “We need to face the forces that threaten us with the wisdom, courage, and fortitude that Nelson Mandela embodied,” Guterres said.

Photo of the day

Clarke Gayford, partner to New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern, holds their baby Neve. (Reuters/Carlo Allegri)

Gayford also tweeted a bonus photo of the first baby’s security pass, an essential UNGA accessory.

Missing in action

No-shows China’s Xi Jinping and Russia’s Vladimir Putin kept low profiles yesterday. German chancellor Angela Merkel apologized for promoting a controversial top spy. And Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni tweeted the important news that he opened a new paddock on his country estate.

Chart interlude

In 2016 (latest data available) Peacekeeping Operations had by far the largest UN budget—more than three times that of the World Health Organization.

Overheard at UNGA

“Young people make up 25% of the population but 100% of the future.”—Youtuber Lilly Singh, aka IISuperwomanII, at the Youth2030 launch.

“China is the wrong battle.”—Andrew Liveris, former chairman and CEO of Dow Chemical, on automation’s threat to job security in the US and globally.

“Members of this esteemed chamber, do not let this just be another “talk shop” summit.”—Graça Machel, member of The Elders and widow of Nelson Mandela to the General Assembly.

“America First does not mean America Alone.”—Ivanka Trump at Concordia Summit.
“Yeah, sure.”—Audience member.

“Maybe I made mistakes yesterday, but yesterday’s me is still me, and today I am who I am with all of my faults and mistakes.”—Kim Namjoon, member of Korean boy band BTS.

Acronym of the day

At one of the world’s biggest bureaucracies, acronyms are an art form. Send us your best guess for what the official UN acronym G.L.U.C.O.S.E. stands for.

News from around the world

Brett Kavanaugh defended himself against allegations of sexual misconduct. Trump’s Supreme Court nominee described accusations from two women as “smears, pure and simple.” Kavanaugh also took the unusual step of appearing on Fox News (paywall) ahead of a hearing scheduled for Thursday, at which the judge and one of his accusers, Christine Blasey Ford, are expected to testify.

The US-China trade spat intensified. A senior Chinese official said the US had “a knife to China’s neck” on trade issues, another sign of Beijing’s increasing reluctance to negotiate with Donald Trump. Analysts suggest the superpower might wait until Trump’s presidency ends to resume talks. The US slapped tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese goods this week, prompting China to respond in kind on $60 billion worth of US products.

Venezuela’s president accused Chile, Colombia, and Mexico of assisting terrorists who tried to kill him. The three countries refuted Nicolás Maduro’s accusations that they were linked to a drone attack last month. Maduro escaped unharmed after two drones carrying explosives (paywall) detonated near him as he was giving a speech at a military parade.

Matters of debate

Asian-American CEOs are doomed to fail. Seen as hard-working and self-sacrificing, they’re often hired to save a company when it’s already too far gone.

The internet will split in two by 2028. Former Google chief Eric Schmidt says half will belong to China (paywall)—where Google plans to reestablish its business—and half to the US.

The famed Harvard Business School case study is out of touch. Even the man credited with establishing the method thought it was too indifferent to larger societal ills.

Surprising discoveries

HBO wants to open Westeros to tourists. Parts of Northern Ireland where Game of Thrones was shot will be turned into tourist attractions.

Desert ants are gastronomes. North African ants are able to distinguish between a dozen scents, and remember some for the rest of their lives.

Scrabble said “OK” to “yowza.” Losers will “facepalm” after a “beatdown” while victors reach a state of “zen” using newly approved words.

Our best wishes for a productive and peaceful day. Please send tips, acronyms, and lost heads of state to chu@qz.com. You can read more of our UNGA 2018 coverage here. And if you have colleagues or friends who would enjoy these emails, be an influencer and forward this along.

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