Another U.N. General Assembly (UNGA) General Debate session is in the books, and—as we have in years past—B’nai B’rith has been actively engaged throughout the week, meeting with presidents, prime ministers, foreign ministers and other diplomats from over 30 countries. The countries we met with this year spanned the Middle East, Europe, Latin America and Asia. B’nai B’rith not only meets with these leaders, but also has the special role of coordinating many of the meetings for a group of major American and international Jewish organizations. We are not the only Jewish organization that meets with world leaders during that week, but we are distinguished by having this role during this time of year at the U.N.
Usually one of the Jewish holidays (either Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur or Sukkot) will fall during UNGA week. However, this year the Chagim started late, which meant that for the first time in a few years, we had a full, uninterrupted week of meetings.
The broad issues that are on our advocacy agenda for the week—Iran, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, global anti-Semitism, and U.N. bias against Israel—are similar from year to year. However, within each issue area, the topics of discussion can change based on developments on the ground in the Middle East and around the world. The importance of the UNGA week is not due to a specific meeting that we may or may not have in a given year, but because it facilitates an ongoing dialogue with the leadership of an expanding list of countries, so that the specific concerns of the global Jewish community are understood. B’nai B’rith International’s reach, including our offices, units, members and supporters around the world, allows us to play this role.
Though marathon speechmaking of the General Debate has ended--as has our own diplomatic marathon--for the General Assembly (G.A.), the work is now just beginning. The G.A. is quickly moving to start its business for the year, as the G.A.’s committees convene and start negotiations on many resolutions that will be brought up to the floor of the G.A. for voting later this fall. B’nai B’rith will be monitoring the key resolutions that are annually voted upon each year at the G.A., including the resolutions that renew the mandate of the Palestinian propaganda bodies housed within the U.N. system (most notoriously, the Committee for the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People and the Division for Palestinian Rights) and the renewal of the mandate of the U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), among other important resolutions.
The start of the Jewish new year and the U.N.’s calendar year often intersect (and, as stated above, sometimes directly conflict). The start of a Jewish new year is a time for optimism and hope for good things to come; the start of a new year at the U.N., sadly, does not inspire the same feelings. At the U.N., we hope for slow progress towards having a world body that lives up to its own goals, and often prepare ourselves for a hard struggle to ensure that the U.N. does not backslide to even more absurd and dangerous positions.
Oren Drori is the Program Officer for United Nations Affairs at B’nai B’rith International where he supports advocacy and programming efforts that advance B’nai B’rith’s goals at the U.N., which include: defending Israel, combating anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism, and promoting global human rights and humanitarian concerns. He received a B.A. in Political Science from the University of Minnesota in 2004 and an M.A. in International Relations from the University of Chicago in 2006. Click here to view more of his additional content.
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