Live briefing: United Nations General Assembly Convenes in New York
The longest speech was Fidel Castro’s in 1960, at 4 hours and 29 minutes, which the Cuban leader began with these words: “Although we have been given the reputation of speaking at great length, the Assembly need not worry. We shall do our best to be brief, saying only what we regard it as our duty to say here.”
The shortest speech, according to the United Nations Association-U.K., was one minute, in 1948, by Herbert Vere Evatt, foreign minister of Australia, who thanked the General Assembly for electing him president. — RICK GLADSTONE
If the shoe fits, brandish it: famous speech props.
Khrushchev’s shoe: In his 1960 General Assembly speech (the same year as Castro’s marathoner), the Soviet leader Nikita S. Khrushchev brandished a shoe as he expressed rage at the Philippine delegation for having accused the Kremlin of swallowing Eastern Europe. Whether Khrushchev actually banged the shoe on the podium — and whether it was even his shoe — has long been in dispute.
Netanyahu’s bomb: In 2012, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel displayed a cartoonish drawing of a bomb to illustrate his belief that Iran could not be trusted in negotiations and was capable of quickly developing nuclear weapons. Critics ridiculed the prop, which also created confusion in Israel. — RICK GLADSTONE
When it’s time to speak, Brazil goes first.
Brazil has almost always been the first to speak at the General Assembly, a tradition traced to the early days of the United Nations and the Cold War.
According to Antonio Patriota, a former Brazilian ambassador to the United Nations, Brazil demonstrated deft diplomacy in presiding over the first few General Assembly debates. That, he said, convinced the two main powers — the United States and the Soviet Union — that Brazil should always speak first. The United States, the host country, has almost always gone second.
There have been some notable exceptions. In 1983 and 1984, the United States went first and Brazil second. Last year, Chad went second because President Barack Obama was running late. — SOMINI SENGUPTA AND RICK GLADSTONE
Qaddafi’s (very) brief tenure as a Trump tenant.
In 2009, as Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi of Libya was making arrangements to speak at the General Assembly, he was desperate to find a property in the New York metropolitan area that would permit him to pitch his Bedouin tent.
Colonel Qaddafi finally thought he had a willing landlord: Donald J. Trump, who owned a property in Bedford, N.Y., that was a possibility. The prospect created a storm of opposition among officials in Westchester County, and shortly after the tent was erected, the Trump Organization ordered it dismantled. “Mr. Qaddafi will not be going to the property,” the organization said. — RICK GLADSTONE
What the U.S. pays for at the U.N.
President Trump said in his speech on Monday that no country should bear a disproportionate burden of keeping the world safe and sound — “that’s militarily and financially.”
So what does the United States shoulder at the United Nations?
Financially, Washington is the largest single contributor, paying 22 percent of the $5.4 billion core budget that keeps the lights on at the United Nations. That was calculated after a series of negotiations and based on the size of the American economy, the largest in the world.
The United States also pays a slightly larger share of the United Nations peacekeeping budget. The Trump administration’s envoy, Nikki R. Haley, succeeded this year in lowering the American share of peacekeeping costs to 25 percent from 28 percent.
Militarily, the United States shoulders virtually nothing. Of the roughly 97,000 soldiers and police officers serving on United Nations peacekeeping missions, 74 are American, according to figures released in June.
The Trump administration has proposed significant cuts in funding for the State Department and for international organizations including the United Nations. A spokesman for the global body said the cuts would “simply make it impossible” for the United Nations to maintain essential operations, including hosting Syria peace talks, monitoring nuclear proliferation and immunizing children.
Congress has pushed back a bit on Mr. Trump’s efforts to diminish American payments. For instance, the Senate appropriations committee approved a $10 million contribution to the United Nations body that oversees the implementation of an international agreement on climate change, even though the Trump administration plans to withdraw from it.
The United States was already in arrears, owing about $270 million, according to the United Nations Foundation. The latest budget proposals from Capitol Hill, which include big cuts to peacekeeping, would add $230 million to those arrears, the foundation said. — SOMINI SENGUPTA
Iran’s president hosts a party, and gets an earful.
In the New York Hilton ballroom where President Trump had held his election night victory party, President Hassan Rouhani of Iran hosted a dinner on Sunday for Iranian-Americans, a traditional part of his annual visit to the General Assembly.
Iran’s national colors — red, green and white — were projected from the ceiling. And the stage was lined with Iranian flags, behind a table where Mr. Rouhani sat alongside Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, and its ambassador to the United Nations, Gholamali Khoshroo.
Before Mr. Rouhani addressed the crowd, the Iranian delegation invited an Iranian-American woman from California to make a short speech. She was described as an activist who had helped Iranians in California vote in Iran’s election in May.
“President Rouhani, will you allow women to enter soccer stadiums?” the woman asked in Persian, looking at Mr. Rouhani directly. Mr. Zarif responded by clapping.
She went on to say that Iranian women were resilient and did great things, citing as an example Maryam Mirzakhani, an Iranian-American who was the first and only female recipient of the Fields Medal, the most prestigious prize in mathematics.
“Women should be allowed to enter stadiums, those who couldn’t should be allowed to get citizenship, and their kids should be allowed to get Iranian citizenship,” the speaker said, commenting on Iran’s nationality law, which states that only men can pass citizenship to spouses or children.
For his part, Mr. Rouhani and his subordinates extolled Iranian-Americans as model immigrants, and they rebuked the Trump administration over its targeted travel ban, which restricts entry to the United States for citizens of six predominantly Muslim countries, including Iran.
Projectors displayed videos showing what the government considers Iran’s greatest pride, including Olympic athletes, historical sites, and the launch of a missile — a move that the Trump administration has called a threat. — NILO TABRIZY
Trump drops the bombast but calls for change.
President Trump opened his first visit to the United Nations since taking office with a polite but firm call for the 72-year-old institution to overhaul itself and a veiled threat to pull out of the Iran nuclear agreement.
In a meeting on Monday with counterparts from around the world, Mr. Trump said that spending and staff at the United Nations had grown enormously over the years, but that “we are not seeing the results in line with this investment.”
Calling for the organization to “focus more on people and less on bureaucracy,” he said that any overhaul should ensure that no single member “shoulders a disproportionate share of the burden, and that’s militarily or financially.” He made no mention of whether he would follow through on his proposal to cut American funding for the organization.
His comments to the meeting lasted just four minutes and included none of the bombast he had directed at foreign institutions in the past. In December, Mr. Trump dismissed the United Nations as “just a club for people to get together, talk and have a good time.” — PETER BAKER and SOMINI SENGUPTA
Report on refugees counters Trump view on financial contributions.
As President Trump considers cutting the number of refugees allowed into the United States to the lowest level in decades, his administration is grappling with a new appraisal of what refugees add to the nation: tens of billions of dollars in taxes.
One of the arguments for such a reduction is that refugees cost American taxpayers too much money. But a draft study commissioned by the administration found that refugees put a lot more money into government coffers than they take out: $63 billion from 2004 to 2014, according to the study, which was carried out by the Department of Health and Human Services and has been seen by The New York Times.
Whether Mr. Trump will address his stance on refugees during his speech before the General Assembly on Tuesday was unclear. The United Nations has repeatedly appealed to countries around the world to help resettle 1.2 million refugees fleeing war and persecution. — SOMINI SENGUPTA