U.N. gathering of world leaders unlikely to be ‘business as usual’

By Michelle Nichols

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – The United Nations is looking at different ways to hold its 75th annual gathering of world leaders – traditionally held in New York City – because “we’re not going to have business as usual in September,” a U.N. spokesman said on Thursday.

New York City is an epicenter for the global coronavirus pandemic. The new coronavirus causes the respiratory illness COVID-19 and has killed hundreds of thousands of people globally.

“It’s hard to imagine that the traditional General Assembly with thousands and thousands of people descending on New¬†York and on the U.N. compound can be held this September as if nothing happened,” U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.

Dujarric was responding to questions about an interview given by U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to Paris Match. Guterres said it was “unlikely” the United Nations could bring together in New York thousands of people from around the world.

“We are studying different alternatives that digital technology offers to enable us to hold this General Assembly which would correspond to the 75th anniversary of the U.N.,” Guterres said. “It will be up to the member states to decide.”

The 193-member United Nations General Assembly and the 15-member Security Council have been operating virtually for two months and that is likely to continue until at least the end of June.

World leaders normally travel to New York to address the General Assembly. Hundreds of other events are also held during the week-long gathering, but diplomats say those side events are likely to be cancelled this year.

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols at United Nations; Additional reporting by John Irish in Paris; Editing by Matthew Lewis)

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