UN General Assembly 78: World Leaders Return to New York in Force

Politically Speaking
3 min readSep 28, 2023


DPPA’s Under-Secretary-General and Assistant Secretaries-General highlighted political challenges as they engaged with world leaders.

Dennis Francis, President of the seventy-eighth session of the United Nations General Assembly, at the opening of seventy-eighth session of the General Assembly Debate, 19 September 2023. UN Photo/Laura Jarriel

New York City, 28 September 2023 — The United Nations General Assembly’s seventy-eighth annual General Debate drew to a close on 26 September, marking a welcome “return to normal” in world diplomacy after years of COVID-19-related restrictions. Over one week, UN headquarters hosted leaders and senior officials from around the globe: 88 Heads of State, including several monarchs, six vice-presidents, 43 Heads of Government, four deputy prime ministers and 41 ministers.

Over 10,800 passes were issued for delegates, up from 6,755 last year, and a further 2,255 media access passes were granted, up from 1,141 in 2022. Some 40,000 special event tickets were issued, compared to about 12,000 last year, according to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

During this whirlwind of diplomatic activity, Under-Secretary-General Rosemary DiCarlo engaged in 32 bilateral meetings with senior officials from various regions. Additionally, she joined the Secretary-General in 52 meetings with world leaders.

Ukraine and the Russian invasion of that country figured in many of the discussions, as did the series of coups affecting West and Central Africa.

On the margins of the General Debate, DiCarlo also participated in five side events focusing on the Middle East, Afghanistan, Sudan, and the vital role of mediation, as well as on the role of the Peacebuilding Commission. DiCarlo attended the latter with Assistant Secretary-General for Peacebuilding Support Elizabeth Spehar.

During the meeting on the Middle East, DiCarlo said of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that the potential for a substantial peace dividend was vast, and advocated for collective efforts to achieve “a just and lasting peace.” On Afghanistan, she decried the deteriorating conditions for women and girls, highlighting concerns of gender-based persecution. On Sudan, the Under-Secretary-General condemned the humanitarian cost of inaction, underscoring the need for accountability and a meaningful ceasefire. On the role of the Peacebuilding Commission, she noted that “A New Agenda for Peace” called for the intergovernmental body to be used as a key convener on issues that impact peace and development, such as violence and conflict, as well as on the 2030 Agenda as it relates to prevention and peacebuilding. Finally, at an event on mediation, DiCarlo stressed the importance of trust-building to tackle today’s intricate geopolitical challenges, underlining the significance of inclusive mediation approaches.

Also that week, Assistant Secretary-General for the Middle East, Asia and the Pacific Khaled Khiari spoke on behalf of the Secretary-General at a high-level General Assembly side event on the Rohingya crisis, in which he reaffirmed the UN’s support for the Rohingya and all the people of Myanmar. In addition, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Regional Office for Central Africa (UNOCA), Abdou Abarry, took part in a high-level meeting on the challenges and perspectives of the political transition in Chad moderated by Assistant Secretary-General for Africa Martha Pobee.

As the high-level debate continued, on 21 September, the Security Council convened an informal interactive dialogue between its members, representatives of the Arab Summit Troika, and the Secretary-General of the League of Arab States. Under-Secretary-General DiCarlo provided a comprehensive assessment of current global challenges, underlining the need for enhanced international cooperation and collective action and aligning her stance with the Secretary-General’s “A New Agenda for Peace” policy brief.

Also that day, Assistant Secretary-General for Europe, Central Asia and the Americas Miroslav Jenča delivered remarks at a Council meeting on Azerbaijan and Armenia.

Now that the heads of state and ministers have departed UN Headquarters in New York, the echoes of their discussions and commitments will continue to resonate. The high level of attendance and participation in the General Debate is a reminder that in an increasingly divided world, face-to-face diplomatic engagement and dialogue remain unparalleled.




Politically Speaking

The online magazine of the United Nations Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs