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Highlights of the UN General Assembly’s Opening Session: A Podcast on What to Expect


Secretary-General António Guterres giving a toast at the annual heads of state luncheon during the opening session of the UN General Assembly, Sept. 25, 2018. This year, the session will include conferences on climate change, universal health care and the Sustainable Development Goals. And, of course, there will be the parade of speeches by global leaders. LI MUZI/UNCA POOL PHOTO

The 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly opened on Tuesday, Sept. 17, which means that the world’s leaders — mainly heads of state and heads of government and their entourages — are heading to New York City for the climate change meeting on Sept. 23; the annual speechmaking, called the general debate, beginning on Sept. 24, in the General Assembly Hall; as well as other high-level meetings and side events.

The opening session runs through Sept. 30, with the 74th session ending in mid-September 2020.

PassBlue’s latest episode of our podcast series, UN-Scripted, tells listeners what and who to look for — and why: from Donald Trump to Angela Merkel, from Jacinda Ardern to Emmanuel Macron, from Narendra Modi to Imran Khan and nearly 200 other leaders and government ministers jostling to push their national agendas in this global setting and possibly even make the world a better place. This is the UN, after all, whose job is to maintain peace and security.

In this episode, you’ll also hear from five reporters who are members of the UN press corps representing media outlets from around the world. For this part of the episode, we interviewed Valeria Robecco from Ansa, Italy’s largest news agency; Maria Khrenova, the correspondent for the Russian media site Tass; Arthur MacMillan, who writes for an Emirati paper, The National; Sherwin Bryce-Pease, from South Africa’s SABC news; and Kaori Yoshida, a reporter for Nikkei, a business publication in Japan.

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In addition, we spoke with Barbara Crossette, our senior consulting editor and a former New York Times foreign correspondent and UN bureau chief for the paper, about key moments she witnessed at UN General Assembly opening sessions in years past. Her takeaway? Look for the stories that no one else is following because that will reap rewards down the road.

To hear the full episode about UNGA74, as the General Assembly opening session is called, download PassBlue’s podcast, UN-Scripted, or go to Apple Podcasts, Spotify, SoundCloud, Stitcher, TuneIn, iTunes or Google Play. — STÉPHANIE FILLION and KACIE CANDELA with research by Brianna Lyman


We welcome your comments on this article.  What are your thoughts?

Stéphanie Fillion is a New York-based reporter specializing in foreign affairs and human rights. She has a master’s degree in journalism, politics and global affairs from Columbia University and a B.A. in political science from McGill University. Fillion was awarded a European Union in Canada Young Journalists fellowship in 2015 and was an editorial fellow for La Stampa in 2017.

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Kacie Candela is an assistant editor for PassBlue and a news anchor and reporter with WFUV, a public-radio station in the Bronx, N.Y., where she covers the UN and other beats. Her work has won various awards from the New York State Associated Press Association, New York State Broadcasters Association, PRNDI and the Alliance for Women in Media. She is a recent graduate of Fordham University, where she is now a law student.

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