This week, the U.N. General Assembly began its meetings at U.N. headquarters in New York City and ignored the city’s new COVID vaccine passport rules governing public assemblies and convention centers.
Organizers of the Manhattan U.N. complex meetings advised the world leaders, diplomats, and staffers coming to the General Assembly that vaccination documents would not be required on arrival.
The U.N. decided to implement an honor system as the only check on attendees’ vaccination status. Organizers have asked that attendees attest to their status by swiping their identification badges when entering the assembly hall. This procedure follows the lead of the organizers of the G7 meeting earlier this year in the U.K.
The decision to use an honor system instead of adhering to the NYC passport mandate came after a challenge lodged by Russia against the passport requirement. Russia’s ambassador to the U.N Vasily Nebenzya wrote that Russia strongly objected to a rule that only people with vaccination proof should be admitted to the General Assembly. He added that it was a “clearly discriminatory measure” and stopping qualified delegates from entering the assembly was a clear violation of the U.N. charter.
Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro addressed the assembly in person on Tuesday and said his government was against the concept of vaccine passports but supported efforts to urge citizens to receive the vaccines.
Bolsonaro has affirmed that he is not vaccinated and has no plans to receive the shots. He said that if the purpose of the vaccine is to have antibodies, his “antibody levels are way up high.” He added that he would decide about getting the jab “after everybody in Brazil is vaccinated.”
Before the meeting, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio maintained his office intended to protect attendees and New York citizens from the coronavirus. Although the U.N. ignored his warning, he held fast to his position as late as Monday, when he told diplomats and world leaders who were not explicitly vaccinated, naming Bolsonaro to “not bother to come.
Many national leaders will address the assembly by video link, while dozens will speak in New York, including the prime ministers of Japan, Israel, the U.K., and India.
The sessions of the General Assembly run through the following Monday.