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3 global challenges facing Biden at annual UN meeting: climate, COVID and US alliances

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden faces a series of headaches big and small going into the United Nations’ annual summit.

The 76th General Assembly meeting in New York City comes after weeks of international incidents grabbing the White House’s attention. Biden, who once chaired the Senate Foreign Committee and often frames his agenda with an international outlook, will address challenges new and old at a key moment for U.S. foreign policy.

The hybrid event will feature speeches from global leaders, with more than 100 planning to attend the event in person, while others attend virtually.

The range of guests at U.N. meetings regularly personifies the drama of international politics, something the Biden team is bound to run into this week.

In addition to the global challenges of the coronavirus pandemic and climate change, Biden’s team will navigate the pressures of shifting alliances, the limits of American power in the face of U.S. defeat in Afghanistan, and broader questions of stability in an emerging world order.

Here are the major issues to look out for. Pandemic dominates global concerns

Top of the mind for world leaders is the coronavirus pandemic, which continues to ravage large swaths of the world.

Many rich nations, like the U.S., have been accused of hoarding resources like vaccines for their own populations while allowing the virus to devastate and mutate in developing countries. Biden is likely to be needled by leaders, including Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director-general of the U.N.-run World Health Organization.

U.N. Secretary General Antonio Gueterres is expected to call for a 70% global vaccination rate by September 2022, according to Reuters.

The U.S. asked the U.N. to scale back the meeting to avoid a “superspreader” event that would burden New York City’s health care system.

Yet many diplomats and world leaders are attending in person, after complaining that video calls are no substitute, potentially presenting both a public health and security headache for local and federal governments.

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