UNGA: Inability to enforce Covid vaccine rule as world leaders meet exposes 'global hypocrisy'

Members of the New York City Police Department walk near the United Nations headquarters, Sunday, Sept. 19, 2021, in New York. The 76th Session of the U.N. General Assembly begins this week. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)
New York City Police Department near the United Nations headquarters. Credit: AP

In the midst of a global pandemic, a meeting of global leaders may not seem like the best plan.

Indeed the US administration was so concerned about the risk of a “super-spreader event” it tried, but largely failed to keep delegations away. As a year and a half of headlines around the world would attest, Covid has no respect for status or seniority.

No wonder New York isn’t exactly delighted to see the throngs heading for the United Nations (UN) this week.

There’s lots of talk about diplomacy being much more successful face to face but world leaders, like the rest of us, have been largely house or palace bound and in reality found the chance to get out irresistible.

In the hope of taming cases, the authorities in New York are offering free testing and a free jab to any of those not already vaccinated.

Under local regulations, all those over 12 must prove they have been vaccinated before going to a large indoor gathering, which of course is what the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) is.

All too familiar with feeling powerless to contain nations' actions abroad, the UN is now facing the problem quite literally on its own doorstep.

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It accepts the vaccination policy applies to the general assembly but knows there’s not a chance of being able to enforce it.

In the hope of maintaining some control, an honour system has been put in place.

Those entering the chamber are only meant to do so if they have a recognised jab. That immediately rules out Russia and other nations, cue huge indignation from them.

Abdulla Shahid pounds the gavel signaling his start as the new president of the 76th session of UNGA Credit: Evan Schneider/United Nations via AP

Even more embarrassing for the UN is the fact the very first speaker, Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro is proudly announcing that he won’t be vaccinated because, having had the illness, he has antibodies.

This gathering is meant to be a chance for world powers to work together to tackle Covid.

In reality, before it has even begun, it’s exposing the global hypocrisy that has allowed this virus to take such a hold.

So much for diplomacy being better face to face.