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At UN General Assembly, 50 male speakers before the first woman

Speeches from each of the 193 UN member nations began Tuesday; President Zuzana Čaputová of Slovakia will be first female to take podium Wednesday

Adela Raz (left), Vice-President of the 75th session of the General Assembly and Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to the United Nations,and Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed at the UN General Assembly's 75th session on September 22, 2020. (UN Photo/Manuel Elías)
Adela Raz (left), Vice-President of the 75th session of the General Assembly and Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to the United Nations,and Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed at the UN General Assembly's 75th session on September 22, 2020. (UN Photo/Manuel Elías)

As the world’s leaders gathered remotely this year for the UN General Assembly due to restrictions of movement caused by the coronavirus, something else looked unusual: All of the speakers on the first day were men.

As the schedule goes, it will be some 50 speakers before President Zuzana Čaputová of Slovakia gives her prerecorded remarks Wednesday afternoon.

Speeches from each of the 193 UN member nations began Tuesday, which traditionally serves as a platform for countries to tout accomplishments, seek support, stoke rivalries, and express views on global priorities.

According to tradition, Brazil speaks first and the United States second at the UN gathering. After that, the world body said, “the speaking order is based on the level of representation, preference, and other criteria such as geographic balance.”

Slovak presidential candidate Zuzana Caputova leaves after voting in the second round of the presidential elections at a polling station on March 30, 2019 in the town of Pezinok, Slovakia. (Vladimir Simicek/AFP)

Just two other women are set to speak Wednesday: Bolivia’s interim president, Jeanine Anez, and Simonetta Sommaruga, president of the Swiss Confederation.

Incidentally, the UN has never had a female secretary-general, though a spirited campaign pressed for one ahead of the selection of current UN chief Antonio Guterres.

Due to COVID-19, just one representative from each of the  UN members was allowed to attend the event in person, and only someone who was already in the United States. Everyone else must appear by videoconference, including some 160-170 heads of state and government planning addresses.

“Diplomacy, to be effective, requires personal contacts, and I am very sorry that we are not going to have the opportunity to bring together leaders of countries,” said UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

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