Latin America and the Caribbean in the 2021 UNGA 76 General Debate

September 16, 2022

By Javier Surasky
Programme Officer, Governance and Financing for Sustainable Development

On September 20, 2022, the world’s leaders will once again gather at the main multilateralism event: the General Debate of the UN General Assembly, which will be entirely in person after two years of being held in a hybrid format due to the pandemic. 

New York will become the center of international activity, with the participation of more than 140 heads of state and government

The context for this high-level meeting is far from the best: The environmental crisis, the lag in SDGs implementation, the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and its global implications added to the already complex humanitarian, energy and food situations and, of course, the recovery from COVID-19 and its unequal economic, social and health effects.

In response to these (and other) challenging global problems, the UN is seeking to generate solutions. Thus the central theme of the debates will be: “A watershed moment: Transformative solutions to interlocking challenges.”

However, except for the war in Ukraine, these issues of interest, ranging from the fragile environmental situation to COVID-19, are not new and were present in last year’s General Debate. Focusing on Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC), we consider it timely to review what happened in 2021 in the interest of the expectations and elements that will require attention in the region’s discourses this year. [1]

As for gender equality, we can mention that in 2021, of the 33 statements delivered by LAC countries, only one was delivered by a woman.

Likewise, these were the most recurrent themes in the 2021 statements.  

Most mentioned issues by Latin American and Caribbean countries in the 76th General Debate

Fuente: Cepei 2022

The most referenced matters by LAC leaders were COVID-19 (32 statements), addressing environmental challenges (28 statements), peace (25 statements), the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs, human rights, and enhanced multilateralism (19 mentions each). Despite the priority of environmental concerns, the Paris Agreement was only considered in 12 speeches, which seems contradictory to the call for reinforced multilateralism. It will therefore be essential to be aware in this year’s speeches if the call for a stronger multilateral order is repeated and if it is expressed in concrete terms, aligned to documents with globally agreed commitments, such as the Paris Agreement. 

The pressing need to take action on climate change and the uneven efforts to address it was raised in the 2021 speeches. As the Bahamas put it: “We are running out of time. We stand with CARICOM countries and Small Island Developing States to remind the world that the most affected by climate change’s impact are the least responsible.” 

It is worth noting that in the speeches the region’s countries delivered in 2021, SDG 13 on climate action was the most referenced (27 mentions). However, this presents a new contradiction; the least considered Goal was SDG 12 on sustainable production and consumption when it is clear that the fight against climate change requires changes in consumption patterns. 

The invasion of Ukraine by Russia may generate tension concerning some calls made by countries in the region in 2021. As in the case of Cuba, which has refused to condemn the aggression openly, but in last year’s General Debate stated: “Our peoples have the right to live in peace and security, to development, to well-being and social justice. A revitalized, democratized, and strengthened United Nations is called upon to play a central role in this effort.”

This new edition of the General Debate will allow us to update our knowledge on the positions and issues of most significant concern to the Latin American and Caribbean governments, identify converging points and tensions, and learn more about the coherence of their multiple positions. At this decisive moment in our history, we must demand world leaders stop repeating possible solutions and present “transformative solutions to interlocking challenges.”

[1] For further details, read Cepei report Latin America and the Caribbean at the 76th UN General Assembly.

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