Updated: February 26, 2021
At least 150 heads of state and government are expected to attend the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, Professor Tijjani Muhammad-Bande, the President of the United Nations General Assembly, said during an exclusive interview he granted TODAY NEWS AFRICA USA on Friday evening.
Speaking from New York, Professor Muhammad-Bande said although the official attendance figures would be known as final confirmations are received, at least 100 heads of state and 50 heads of government had indicated they would be attending the UN General Assembly 2019.
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He said many African leaders would also be in attendance, an indication that Africa has a positive view of the United Nations as a global player in international affairs.
At the center of the discussions would be climate change, peace and security, including global terrorism as well as protectionism and trade wars.
Professor Tijjani Muhammad-Bande, a Nigerian political scientist, administrator and career diplomat, who was elected as President of the United Nations General Assembly on June 4, 2019, said Africa was a strong partner of the UN but there would not be an African agenda because the African agenda was already embedded in the global agenda.
The former permanent representative of Nigeria to the United Nations who served as Vice-President of the General Assembly during its 71st session in September 2016 addressed global issues from Iran to Russia, from Japan to Cameroon, as well as Africa and the United States.
On climate change, which is one of the biggest topics at the 74th session of the General Assembly, Professor Muhammad-Bande said the UN would continue to seek a close collaboration with the United States, noting that climate change was affecting everyone, irrespective of country, location or worldview.
President Donald Trump pulled the US from the Climate Change Paris Accord but many states and politicians in the United States have argued that science and scientists rather than economic and financial interests should guide policymakers.
On Iran, Professor Muhammad-bande reacted to the drama that surrounded the visa applications of senior government officials, including President Hassan Rouhani.
The United States was said to have first delayed or denied visas to the Iranian delegation, following the bombing by a drone of oil facilities in Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia blamed Iran for the devastating attacks that left oil well crippled, and the President Trump warned that the United States was ready to defend its allies, pointing the fingers at Iran and raising the possibility of war with one of America’s greatest adversaries in the Middle East.
But Professor Muhammad-Bande said despite disagreements, the United Nations was set up to be a platform for everyone, adding that there were clear legal documents allowing every member country the right to attend deliberations at the UN headquarters in New York.
On the Nigerian leader Muhammadu Buhari speaking first among African heads of state, Professor Muhammad-Bande downplayed the significance of speaking first or on the first day, saying that what is important is for every head of state to have the opportunity to highlight their country’s understanding of global issues.