Live from the UN General Assembly: President Biden’s Speech and Other Key Moments | Pandemic Preparedness and Response (UNGA Day 3)

The annual opening of the United Nations General Assembly is always a key moment on the diplomatic calendar. Hundreds of world leaders head to New York to address the General Assembly and participate in various meetings and events around the city. And each day, I will bring you the key highlights from the 77th United Nations General Assembly.

Today’s episode was recorded on Wednesday, September 21 and under normal circumstances the President of the United States, as host of the UN, would have addressed the General Assembly yesterday. But because of the Queen’s funeral in London at the start of the week, the United States traded speaking slots with Senegal. Meaning today was the day of President Biden’s much anticipated address to the General Assembly. 

Shortly after President Biden’s speech concluded, we spoke with Richard Gowan, the UN Director of the International Crisis Group and Anjali Dayal professor of International Relations at Fordham University and Senior Scholar in residence at the US Institute of Peace.  We kick off discussing highlights from Biden’s address before turning to other key speeches and events driving the diplomatic agenda at UNGA this week.

Next, we speak with Kate Dodson, Vice President for Global Health at the United Nations Foundation. She had just come from a key meeting on Pandemic preparedness and response, which we discuss.

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Transcript lightly edited for clarity

Live from the UN General Assembly: President Biden’s Speech and Other Key Moments | Pandemic Preparedness and Response (UNGA Day 3)

Mark Leon Goldberg: [00:00:05] Welcome to a special episode of the Global Dispatches podcast, live from the United Nations General Assembly. I’m your host, Mark Leon Goldberg, a veteran international affairs journalist and editor of UN Dispatch. The annual opening of the U.N. General Assembly is always a key moment on the diplomatic calendar. Hundreds of world leaders headed to New York to address the General Assembly and participate in various meetings and events around the city. And this week, in partnership with the United Nations Foundation, I am bringing you key highlights from the 77th U.N. General Assembly in daily podcast episodes. Today is Wednesday, September 21st, and under normal circumstances, the President of the United States, as host of the U.N., would have addressed the General Assembly yesterday. But because of the queen’s funeral in London at the start of the week, the United States traded speaking slots with Senegal, meaning today was the day of President Biden’s much anticipated address to the General Assembly. Shortly after Biden’s speech concluded. I spoke with Richard Gowan, the U.N. director of the International Crisis Group, and Anjali Dayal, professor of international relations at Fordham University and a senior scholar in residence at the U.S. Institute of Peace. We kick off discussing highlights from Biden’s address before turning to other key speeches and events driving the diplomatic agenda at UNGA this week. [00:01:45][99.5]

Richard Gowan: [00:01:45] You know, I think it was a good speech. I think that it hit the right marks. But you could almost feel the different bureaucratic hands and you could feel the different offices in the State Department contributing different sections. [00:01:56][11.1]

Mark Leon Goldberg: [00:01:57] Next, I speak with Kate Dodson, vice president for global health at the United Nations Foundation. She had just come from a key meeting on pandemic preparedness and response, which we discussed. [00:02:09][11.9]

Kate Dodson: [00:02:10] So we talked this morning about the foreign ministerial level, about what are those key ingredients? Where is the world failing still in strengthening capacities for pandemic preparedness? [00:02:21][11.4]

Mark Leon Goldberg: [00:02:22] Here is my conversation with Richard Gowan and Anjali Dayal, which was recorded live this afternoon on Twitter Spaces. [00:02:30][7.6]

[00:02:41] So Richard and Anjali, we are speaking just a few minutes after Biden concluded his remarks at the General Assembly. And that’s where I want to start our conversation today. Richard, starting with you, what were your key takeaways from Biden’s speech, just concluded? [00:02:59][17.6]

Richard Gowan: [00:03:00] Well, so I think most of the speech was quite predictable. We knew that Biden had to do two things. Firstly, he had to lay out his case against Russian aggression in Ukraine, and he did that right from the start, and he did it in very plain terms. But he also had to balance that by talking about what the US is doing for countries in Africa and across the Global South, because we know that at the UN over the last six months we have seen a lot of members of the Global South get a little wary of just talking about Ukraine. And so we heard a lot from Biden on food security, which is a major US theme and very much a concern for African countries in particular. So that was his balancing act. I think the one surprise for me was that he also threw in quite a few challenging references to China and I hadn’t expected him to be challenging China in this speech. I thought he would really focus all his rhetorical fire on the Russians, but he definitely raised Taiwan. He raised the Uyghur situation, and he raised Chinese nuclear proliferation. So that will have gone down, I think, quite badly in Beijing. [00:04:16][76.2]

Mark Leon Goldberg: [00:04:17] Anjali. Same question to you. What were your key takeaways from this just concluded speech? [00:04:23][5.6]

Anjali Dayal: [00:04:24] As Richard said, one of the big tasks in the speech was going to be balancing the sort of clear centrality of Ukraine and Russia in Biden’s plan, speak to the UN General Assembly against these other global goals, many of which stemmed directly or are sort of downstream consequences of the US’s stance on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. There were a lot of specifics in the speech, a lot of specifics like the US will match up to 6 billion towards the 18 billion goal for the global funds replenishment, things like 11 billion to offset sort of climate disaster in terms of funding for adaptation and resilience worldwide. But there was also a lot of, I think, big rhetoric about the sort of nature of the UN system going back to the UN’s founding. You know, he ended on this big sort of somehow idealistic note about where the UN came from. It came from a moment of similarly smoldering disaster when cooperation was central, and tying this moment to that moment seems to be one of the things he wanted to do throughout. He began by talking about how Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was a charter violation of consequence to every country worldwide, in a legal sense, in an existential sense, as well as through these sort of more concrete senses as well of things like vast food insecurity. In that context, I thought it was really interesting that, as Richard said, he was much more confrontational about China than he was last year. But he did strike that classical liberal note about cooperation, especially in terms of climate, basically saying that, you know, cooperation with climate diplomacy isn’t a favor to the US. It isn’t something where we can afford to be competitive. It’s some place where we must be cooperative. [00:06:09][105.1]

Mark Leon Goldberg: [00:06:10] I agree. You know, Biden’s inner liberal, internationalist and idealist certainly shined. And, you know, as you noted, it was, I think, particularly interesting that he did add substance to the rhetoric, particularly on the development and food agenda in the weeks leading up to today. Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the US ambassador to the UN, sort of repeatedly was on message, saying the three top priorities of the US during this UN high level week is food security, global health, and then finally strengthening the UN charter. And to me, one interesting thing about Biden’s speech was he sort of got into specifics about how to strengthen the UN Charter, specifically how to enhance or reform the Security Council, calling for permanent seats for Latin America and the Caribbean and Africa and pledging a reduced use of the veto, saying it would be used only in extremely rare circumstances. Richard, how meaningful do you think Biden’s rhetoric on Security Council reform is, and how will other or how do other members of the United Nations interpret or appreciate that kind of rhetoric? [00:07:33][82.8]

Richard Gowan: [00:07:34] Well, let me just start by saying that I thought overall there was too much detail in this speech, to be quite honest. I mean, I think, you know, I think it was a good speech. I think that it hit the right marks. But you could almost feel the different bureaucratic hands and you could feel the different offices in the State Department contributing different sections. We heard about sort of a small nuclear module plant in Romania or something. I mean, that was too much of that. But on UN reform, Linda Thomas-Greenfield had flagged that Biden was going to raise the issue of reform, and that didn’t get a lot of international attention because she made that point in a speech at the same time that the queen died. But in UN land, there has been a lot of excitement that the US is talking quite concretely about the need to have discussion on council reform. That has been a very strong sense, quite rightly through the course of this year, that the Security Council’s weaknesses have been made plain by Russia’s war on Ukraine. And I think that the US is quite smartly positioning itself now as a power that will at least talk about reform, listen to ideas for reform. You know, ironically, although the US is sort of the strongest member of the UN system, it’s now the one that’s saying the system needs to change. And just as Biden talked about food security, because that’s something which a lot of Southern countries want to hear about, I think the US hopes that it will win goodwill from the wider UN membership by saying that it is open to reform. Now does that mean the reform will happen? That’s a very different question and it will be a very long time for any change to actually come through at the UN. But it’s certainly an important gesture from Biden. [00:09:39][124.9]

Mark Leon Goldberg: [00:09:40] And Anjali, you know, one key point that Biden made in that in the week leading up to this Linda Thomas-Greenfield made is this pledge to only very rarely use the veto. And this is obviously coming in response to Russia’s generous use of the veto in response to various resolutions on Ukraine. I guess how do you see this rhetoric around the U.S. and the use of the veto coloring, broader dynamics at the Security Council? [00:10:13][32.8]

Anjali Dayal: [00:10:14] Well, I think it’s easier to reform practice than things like membership or statute around the Security Council. We know that countries can pledge and agree to use the veto. The US, the UK and France have done that. Whether or not the US can actually adhere to that, I don’t know. It will depend a lot on what comes up on the Security Council’s agenda into the Security Council’s table, which will depend in turn a lot on sort of behind the scenes diplomacy, I think. But I do think it’s notable as a move to sort of isolate Russia diplomatically even more and say there is one member of the Security Council that is very free handed with that veto. And it is a member of the Security Council that is, you know, a primary violator of people’s rights in other sovereign countries. And as a result, you know, that move to sort of say we’re committing to use the veto less is at least, I think, more rhetorically plausible than we’re pledging to try and expand the number of permanent members of the Security Council, both, as Richard said, because a process like that would take very long, but also because this is the kind of thing we would have to really see to believe. The US has made similar noises in the past and it hasn’t really come to fruition. It’s very hard to undertake that kind of reform. There’s a reason we haven’t seen it, in part because there’s very little incentive to reform a body that you benefit from no matter really what you say. [00:11:48][94.0]

Mark Leon Goldberg: [00:11:49] So I wanted to move on a bit from Biden’s speech specifically and talk more broadly about how Ukraine is shaping and coloring of events in New York this week. Later today, Zelensky is supposed to address the General Assembly by video, and that’s significant because it took a vote in the General Assembly to permit Zelensky to appear by video as opposed to in person. And yesterday at the Clinton Global Initiative, Bill Clinton interviewed Zelensky by video on stage live. And it was interesting to see Zelensky in that kind of format in front of csivil society leaders. And from that conversation, the big takeaway I took was that the Clinton Foundation and those in that orbit are going to mobilize efforts to support the reconstruction of bombed out places of Ukraine. But obviously, Ukraine is in the midst of a hot war right now. And just today, we’re hearing news of a new mobilization by Russia of Russian troops and more nuclear saber rattling. Richard, how is the Ukraine crisis specifically coloring UNGA this year, the speeches, and how Antonío Guterres is sort of spending his time this week? [00:13:17][88.2]

Richard Gowan: [00:13:18] Well, I think pretty much every speaker has at least referred to Ukraine. But what was interesting, listening to the first day of speeches yesterday was that a lot of African and Latin American leaders would mention Ukraine. Yet somehow I wouldn’t use the word Russia. And we heard people like Macky Sall from Senegal and Bolsonaro from Brazil talking in a rather anodyne way about the need for a negotiated solution to the war. Rather than sort of putting the blame on Moscow for starting it. There were some exceptions to that, but the general feeling yesterday was that leaders from the Global South wanted to express sympathy for the Ukrainians, but did not want to do so in a way that would damage their relations with the Kremlin. And that’s very much in line with the way we’ve seen a lot of nonaligned countries behaving, at least since the late spring or early summer at the UN. But President Putin also gave a speech today from Moscow. And as you say, you know, he did make nuclear threats. And it is clear that he’s on a pathway to annexing the parts of Ukraine that Russia currently occupies. And I think the fact that he gave that speech will change the dynamic around the General Assembly for the next few days, because although a lot of countries don’t want to offend Russia unnecessarily, I think there is an underlying feeling that annexation is a red line for a lot of countries in the global south. You know, question of territorial integrity is absolutely central to the UN charter. And so I will be listening to see if we start to hear African and Asian and Latin American speakers over the next few days adopt a slightly harder tone towards Russia than people like Macky Sall did yesterday. I mean, as for Guterres, he is reaping the benefits of the UN’s role in crafting the Black Sea Grain Deal. That’s something which Joe Biden referred to and many other leaders have flagged. You know, Guterres has seen his diplomatic credibility increase this year because he was able to get the grain deal through in cooperation with Turkey. And he’s getting deserved praise for that at this General Assembly session. [00:15:59][161.1]

Mark Leon Goldberg: [00:16:00] And to that end, Anjali, how else might the secretary general be able to leverage the increased credibility that he has now and frankly, the increased credibility of the United Nations in general in terms of how it has been able, or how he has been able to navigate the Ukraine crisis, as Richard mentioned, by negotiating the Black Sea Grain Initiative. Before that, he negotiated the humanitarian evacuation of people trapped at that steel plant in Mariupol. And most recently, the IAEA was able to gain access to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. Is there anything this week that Guterres could do, should do that would perhaps further enhance his ability to be a key diplomatic player in the Ukraine crisis? [00:16:52][52.1]

Anjali Dayal: [00:16:54] One thing I think was really notable about his speech yesterday was how bleak it was. You know, it’s been a sort of like escalating series of ever more bleak speeches over the years. And yesterday’s, I think, was notable because it was this moment of considering that we are facing these massive, unprecedented crises. But simultaneously, the case for multilateralism has never been clearer. And I think his speech really played into that sort of space. And I think that really highlights the role that the organization can play in the U.N., particularly the Secretariat, particularly the Secretary-General and the agencies. Because one thing that I think is really emerged over the last week of these speeches of sort of coming to to the U.N. to talk, is that the UN is many things, right? And it is many things in a way that we don’t often hear in sort of broad coverage. Right. The U.N. does this, the UN does that. But the UN is both this body of completely paralyzed, fractured Security Council action on Ukraine and this body that uniquely has the diplomatic space to negotiate things like the grain deal, like the passage of civilians. So in that sense, I think really hitting this note of we need multilateralism because there is no other organization that can stand in the breach this way. [00:18:27][92.6]

Mark Leon Goldberg: [00:18:28] I wanted to ask you both, what are some of the other storylines or key moments or key speeches that you are following this week that you’d like the rest of us to to be a bit more aware of and interested in? [00:18:46][18.2]

Richard Gowan: [00:18:47] So I think just coming back to Ukraine, one big question I had started this week is how coherent the Europeans would be over Ukraine. I mean, we have heard repeatedly in the course of this year that the Baltic countries and Poland, for example, are much more hawkish on the war than Germany and France. And so I was listening out for sort of obvious gaps between Ukraine’s allies. But strikingly, I mean, Emmanuel Macron, who gave a bit of a barnstormer of a speech. [00:19:23][36.3]

Mark Leon Goldberg: [00:19:24] Oh, yeah. [00:19:24][0.1]

Richard Gowan: [00:19:25] He was very hard line on Russia in that speech. And. Olaf Schulz has been here and is also being pretty determined in his criticisms of Russia. And clearly, after Putin’s announcements of today, you’re going to see all the remaining European speakers toughen up. So I actually think that, generally speaking, there’s been quite a solid show of Western unity here. [00:19:50][25.0]

Mark Leon Goldberg: [00:19:51] On that point about Macron. I mean, I was also sort of fascinated by that speech. And, you know, he did have this reputation early on of always wanting to keep a line open to Moscow, which is totally understandable, something I agree with. But then that perhaps gave him a reputation of not being quite as in line with the rest of Europe, particularly like the frontline states in Eastern Europe. And what was, I think, unique about his speech and I think is also what’s unique about UNGA in general, is that it gave Macron and it gives other world leaders the opportunity to go on record with their colleagues from around the world precisely how they stand on these things. And yeah, as you said, that that speech by Macron was was quite something. But go ahead, Richard. Finish your other point. [00:20:36][45.0]

Richard Gowan: [00:20:37] I mean, in terms of the speakers I found interesting, I mean, we saw some very different speakers yesterday morning from Latin America. I mean, as always, Brazil got to kick things off. And Bolsonaro gave a frankly, fairly repugnant speech defending his government’s deforestation of the Amazon. But then we also had, you know, left wing presidents from Chile and Colombia speaking, and Petro from Colombia sort of launched an all out attack on the war on drugs and sort of signaled that the Colombian government’s approach to drug trafficking is going to take quite a significant turn during his administration. So you sort of felt the tensions between right wing and left wing politics in Latin America. And then I did also find Macky Sall interesting yesterday as the first African to speak. [00:21:30][53.0]

Mark Leon Goldberg: [00:21:31] The president of Senegal. [00:21:32][0.8]

Richard Gowan: [00:21:32] In Senegal, but also also the chair of the African Union. I mean, he had an unexpected opportunity, which was because Biden had been at the royal funeral in the UK. He had to switch from a speaking slot yesterday morning to today and he swapped with Senegal. So Macky Sall was suddenly speaking in what is traditionally the American place in the speaking order on day one. And he made a, he made a very determined call for greater respect for Africa and Africa’s interests at the UN. And I think that’s important because in the context of the great clash over Ukraine and more generally in the context of competition between China and the US at the UN, a lot of countries now are working out how do you get the African bloc to support you? How do you get African votes for resolutions in the General Assembly and the Security Council? Africa is gaining diplomatic weight in this period of competition. And Macky Sall, you know, said pretty bluntly that he wants to see the UN stop condescending to Africa and start treating it with greater respect. [00:22:37][64.1]

Mark Leon Goldberg: [00:22:38] And Anjali, what are some of the key storylines you’re following this week? Key speeches of note that you have listened to or are looking forward to hearing. And broadly, what would you like the rest of us to to sort of key in on the rest of this week. [00:22:57][19.8]

Anjali Dayal: [00:22:59] You know these last couple of years. Yesterday and today included, one of the key sets of delegations I’m listen to is this small island nations who have really come to the UN General Assembly to make the case for their lives in a lot of ways. I was really struck yesterday by the Marshall Islands representative who, you know, spoke at length about many issues of international peace and security. Expressed an explicit support for Ukraine and issues of sovereignty, said that the Marshall Islands knew very intimately what it was like to have sovereignty violations and then said, you know, the United Nations is the primary international stage for small island nations, for countries that are at the forefront of climate disaster today. And if the United Nations cannot assist island nations while the seas rise around them, then there truly is no United Nations. And I was really struck by that sort of double existential claim, right, first, that this is an unfolding, long form, complex disaster that will cost people their lives and is costing people their lives, but is also fundamentally tied to what the sort of stakes of multilateralism are and what they can do. Seychelles spoke immediately after them hit a very similar note, and this is something we’ve seen for the last couple of years. Last year, one of the breakout stars of the U.N. General Assembly speeches was Mia Mottley. She did something similar in 2019 and 2020. Yesterday in your sort of curtain riser with Elizabeth Cousens, she noted this as well. This is a set of arguments about what the value of multilateral coordination is to countries that do not have a lot of other international stages. For countries for whom the U.N. General Assembly is is a unique opportunity, even as it’s sort of like framed as a gabfest for a lot of other places with many more strategic stages and venues to make their cases. [00:24:59][120.4]

Mark Leon Goldberg: [00:25:00] And I’m glad you name dropped Mia Mottley, the Prime Minister of Barbados. As someone whose speech to look towards, I’m looking towards her speech. Also, I’ll be looking towards Dickon Mitchell of Grenada, the prime minister of Grenada as well, another sort of dynamic Caribbean leader. And this is all, of course, happening in the context of a horrific hurricane currently battering the region. So, again, as you noted, the small island states in these situations tend to bat way above their weight, I think because of the moral force of their arguments as being on the front lines of the climate crisis. And just to kind of further put these conversations on climate in context. This is all happening in the lead up to a major conference of parties COP 27, in Sharm El-Sheikh in November. And the climate issues and how climate is fitting in to conversations at UNGA is going to be the topic of tomorrow’s podcast episode. For now, though, a huge thank you to Richard and Anjali for joining me today. And of course, thank you, everyone. Good luck. Stay hydrated this week and we’ll see you next time. [00:26:13][73.1]

[00:26:13] A big thank you to Richard and Angela. It has become now an annual tradition that I speak with these two excellent analysts, of all things, U.N. during U.N. week. And now here is my conversation with Kate Dodson, vice president for global health at the United Nations Foundation. [00:26:45][31.4]

[00:27:05] Thanks for being with me, Kate. [00:27:07][1.5]

Kate Dodson: [00:27:07] It’s a real pleasure to be back with you Mark. Thanks for having me. [00:27:10][2.6]

Mark Leon Goldberg: [00:27:11] So this U.N. General Assembly is the first UNGA fully in-person since COVID, which of course, exposed the urgent need for better international cooperation on pandemic preparedness and response. How are these issues of pandemic preparedness and response being addressed at UNGA this year? [00:27:29][18.2]

Kate Dodson: [00:27:30] It’s a great question and a great backdrop that you’ve already mentioned, Mark. This is the first U.N. General Assembly in person in three years. And it’s not even your kind of normal, typical U.N. General Assembly, because the U.N. Secretariat building is largely off limits as an attempt to try to reduce kind of the size of mass gatherings. Since we are still in this acute phase, this pandemic is not over. And over the course of the last handful of days, that is a reminder that is on the tip of everyone’s lips. They’re talking about how we can’t just think about future solutions to strengthen capacities to prevent the next pandemic, because we have to make sure that we’re actually doing all that is needful to defeat the current one. COVID, especially when you combine it with the confluence of challenges right now on climate, on food insecurity, on fuel insecurity. This pandemic was a prompt for some of those challenges, but also an effect of them and the fact that we’re still in it two years on and that we still haven’t kind of overcome those gaps in solidarity to implement all the public health measures that we need to, including access to vaccination, means that people can’t stop talking about it at this General Assembly. [00:28:52][82.1]

Mark Leon Goldberg: [00:28:53] So what are some of the key meetings, gatherings, or outcomes this week to that end? [00:28:59][6.3]

Kate Dodson: [00:29:01] There are several, and for which we’re grateful because we do know how precious leaders time is this week in New York, of course, in the forefront of global health moments that this week’s General Assembly is the Global Fund replenishment, which is happening later this afternoon. We’re seeing promising signs from many donor governments who recognize that the pandemic itself eroded progress and kind of taught us that we need to accelerate gains on essential health coverage and services, especially on those three highly infectious diseases: AIDS, TB and malaria. [00:29:39][38.9]

Mark Leon Goldberg: [00:29:40] And just a quick programing note that the Global Fund Replenishment is expected to go sort of late into the afternoon after publication time of today’s episode. And we will deal with the outcomes of what happened at the Global Fund Replenishment in tomorrow’s episode, Thursday’s episode. What else is happening this week on the pandemic preparedness front specifically? [00:30:00][19.7]

Kate Dodson: [00:30:01] Yeah, so I’m just out of a session organized by the governments of South Africa, Sweden and Costa Rica, together with the World Health Organization, on exactly this topic of pandemic prevention, preparedness, and response. Those three governments in particular pushed very hard in recent months for a resolution to pass through the U.N. General Assembly that calls for a high level meeting no later than September of 2023 to ensure political will maintains at high level on pandemic preparedness and response. So we talked this morning about the foreign ministerial level, about what are those key ingredients, where is the world failing still in strengthening capacities for pandemic preparedness? And what can we do and achieve in order to make sure we are better prepared? I heard four key themes come out. One, overwhelmingly, we need a strong, well-financed, well-supported World Health Organization. That is a non-negotiable for member states. WHO we’ve seen has been in the forefront of responding to this COVID pandemic, and its role needs to be both safeguarded and further empowered. We heard a lot about the need for incremental and sustained financing. We learned in this pandemic in the last couple of years that the world has underinvested preparedness. We’ve underinvested as a global community in frontline health workforce, in resilient supply chains, in countermeasure research and development, on novel vaccines and novel therapeutics and new platforms and technologies that can be turned rapidly if needed in a pandemic. So we talked about that need for incremental financing. We talked about the imperative of meeting with and driving towards equity. And that’s something where I think the world has clearly gotten it wrong, probably resoundingly so no matter who you ask that this has been an incredibly unequal response over the past two years to this pandemic. So how can we ensure that no matter where a person lives, no matter the income level of a country, they’re able to access the science, the tools, the resources they need to both better prepare for, but also respond in the context of a health crisis. And we also talked about the imperative of leadership and political leadership above all else. Right. It’s the responsibility of political leaders, again, at the community or local level, at national level, and then certainly at the global and multilateral level. To overcome that self-interest, that short term has driven policy decisions and instead look towards a sustained engagement and preparedness that will hopefully mean that we won’t go through the same kind of episode as we have over the past two years. [00:33:10][189.5]

Mark Leon Goldberg: [00:33:11] So it sounds like this meeting you attended with key foreign ministers and members of civil society was intended to both provide substance and also some, you know, political will or momentum to next year, having around this time potentially a high level meeting on pandemic preparedness and in UN speak, high level meeting means like when presidents and heads of state address the U.N. on a specific topic. And so this is kind of laying the groundwork for that. [00:33:37][26.3]

Kate Dodson: [00:33:38] That’s exactly right. And it’s our collective responsibility to make sure those leaders do show up. They show up with solutions, with solutions that are sustained, that are well-resourced, and that get it the kind of comprehensive package of issues that are behind this agenda. [00:33:55][16.9]

Mark Leon Goldberg: [00:33:56] Lastly, a related issue that I know is on the agenda this week and is a key part of the Sustainable Development Goals is universal health coverage. How is that issue being addressed and in what context is that issue being addressed throughout New York this week? [00:34:16][19.8]

Kate Dodson: [00:34:17] So it is being addressed. The high level meeting on pandemic preparedness that we’ve just been talking about that should happen next year is not the only one. There will be a high level meeting on universal health coverage next September. Again anticipated at the head of state and government level. And we actually talked a lot about that in this morning’s meeting. And there’s a ministerial session still ahead of us later this morning to talk about universal health coverage. But one community, a country, a world, cannot be sufficiently prepared to prevent or respond to any future crisis, health crisis in particular, like a pandemic, if it does not have as a bedrock resilient health systems. We talked a lot this morning about the role of health workforce and not only being the front line of response in a pandemic, but certainly the front line in preventative care and treatment for what communities need every day. Malaria prevention tools, family planning tools, access to treatment for non-communicable diseases. This is the same workforce that we’ve certainly over relied on and we owe so much to over the past two years, but is incumbent and a prerequisite to both achieve pandemic preparedness and universal health coverage. So that’s a theme we’re hearing a lot and I think will resonate into 2023. These high level meetings, the fact that they will both happen in the same calendar year is a chance for governments and for stakeholders to signal that these issues are two sides of the same coin. You can’t have universal health coverage without strong preparedness and capacities that help mitigate extraordinary shocks that pandemics can be. But you also can’t have good prevention and preparedness for pandemics without the backbone of a resilient, primary health care-centric system that is the bedrock of universal health coverage. [00:36:19][121.7]

Mark Leon Goldberg: [00:36:20] Kate, thank you so much for your time. I know this is the day for key global health conversations around UNGA and New York. Thank you so much for taking a few moments to speak with me. And let the audience know what’s going on. I appreciate it. [00:36:34][14.4]

Kate Dodson: [00:36:35] A pleasure to be with you, Mark. And good luck with the rest of your week as well. [00:36:38][2.9]

Mark Leon Goldberg: [00:36:45] Thank you for listening to Global Dispatches. Our show is produced by me, Mark Leon Goldberg, and edited and mixed by Levi Sharpe. If you have any questions or comments, please email us using the contact button on GlobalDispatchesPodcast.com or hit me up on Twitter @MarkLGoldberg. Please rate and subscribe to our show on Apple Podcasts.

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