The Week Ahead at the UN

So much to do, so little time. The UN General Assembly high-level section wraps-up. There were, as usual, long speeches, aspirational word salads, and a few brilliant deliveries sprinkled through.

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French President Emmanuel Macron will be at the groundbreaking ceremony of the World Health Organisation Academy, in Lyon, France, together with WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros, this Monday 27 September. France and Germany have made sure that the WHO is well-funded and spreading its offices and reach throughout Europe. Just earlier this month, the WHO opened a $USD 100 million facility for Pandemics and Epidemic Intelligence in Berlin, funded largely by the German government.


The WTO Public Forum takes place this week in Geneva. It is the moment when civil society comes to the trade body to share their views and rub shoulders with trade experts, diplomats, economists, international trade lawyers, and governments.

UN Women

The Women Entrepreneurship Accelerator is celebrating its 2nd Anniversary, on the 28 September, with a #UNGA side-event, with the participation of Pamela Coke-Hamilton, Executive-Director of the International Trade Centre; Sanda Ojiambo, CEO and Executive-Director of the United Nations Global Compact; Deborah Gibbins, Chief Operating Officer of Mary Kay Global; and Vinícius Carvalho Pinheiro, Director for Latin America and the Caribbean of the International Labour Organization (ILO), and other UN executives. Register here.

Presented by Microsoft

Learn more about Microsoft’s engagement with the United Nations

Geneva, 27 September, 2021 — The 76th UN General Assembly high-level portion wraps-up. The environment, the pandemic, and gender equality at the centre of it all.

Two very important parallel gatherings took place last week, the UN Global Compact where businesses hob-nob with development actors to align with the UN Sustainable Development Goals, and the Food Systems Summit, where industry giants, agtech, and NGO’s representing indigenous communities and small holder farmers had a crash course on sustainability and how the global food supply chain needs to catch-up with mitigation measures to address the climate crisis.

Lofty goals no more. The UN is having a moment again. Just like when it was created in 1947. There is the acute certainty that the challenges ahead require international cooperation. Many side events were looking at the digital transformation of developing countries, as Ian Bremmer’s Zero Media-led discussions on infrastructure and its impact on bringing the other 3.7 billion people that are not online yet to the digital economy.

What a change. A few years ago if you were to mention the impact of tech in multilateral organisations, or the increased participation of the private sector at the UN you would be seen as a “traitor”. If the UN was an intergovernmental organisation at its foundation, it is now a multilateral organisation, or maybe even a polylateral organisation?

But how can governments exist without tech? No event could avoid grappling with the question of how tech permeates our everyday lives and sets the course of our professional lives.

Beyond policy, beyond guidelines, beyond seeing the publication of yet another paper on the ills of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, the general public needs to understand how algorithms impact their lives from discrimination in a job-search, to getting social security benefits they are entitled too, to having their health data protected, to being denied loans and housing in the US and Europe.

A lot more needs to be addressed on the uses of these new technologies in public services, notwithstanding their immense benefits in terms of efficiencies, as the International Labour Organisation Director-General Guy Ryder and Shahra Razavi, Director, Social Protection Department, said recently at a press conference at ILO HQ.

Because some sectors require human presence and intervention, even perhaps do not lend themselves to automation at scale, and speed is not always necessarily a good thing.

As we speak of greater connectivity at the global level — with many great initiatives underway by UNICEF and the International Telecommunication Union, together with Microsoft, Google, and Facebook — the conversation is gearing also to the ethical uses of data in the developing countries where these ambitious connectivity projects will be deployed.

Last year The UN Brief interviewed Chris Fabian, Innovation Lead at UNICEF in New York, who has led many initiatives to bring Venture Capital to the mix in order to invest in entrepreneurship in developing economies. He is now focusing on infrastructure, with GIGA Connect, that a year later is continuing its growth, with more stakeholders engaged at the local and national levels given the never ending pandemic and the realisation that we cannot live without the Internet, nor can we speak of development without addressing connectivity issues.

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What else to look for this week:

  1. The interim government of Afghanistan will speak at #UNGA on Monday

  2. The WTO Secretariat announced that WTO members are meeting on the 27 September 2021, to grab the Dispute Settlement Body by the horns. WTO members are ready to do it. Since the previous US administration the body is limping along. (Sorry, cannot help with the cheesy metaphors). A bit of trivia: “the meeting notice is circulated in the form of a document officially called an ‘airgram’”.

  3. Virtual Meeting: Promoting Transparency to Counter Disinformation and Build Trust will be co-hosted by a number of UN agencies working together to support Member States during the sanitary crisis and to counter the #infodemic that has people drinking Clorox and taking horse deworming agents in an attempt to “cure” or prevent COVID-19 disease.

  4. President of the United Nations Economic and Social Council, Mr. Collen Vixen Kelapile, and Citi Vice Chairman for Banking, Capital Markets and Advisory, Mr. Jay Collins, will brief reporters at UN headquarters on the Sustainable Development Goals Investment Fair, which will take place 28-29 September.

The UN Brief interviews on financing the SDG’s: