6 Ways To Participate In The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) – As A Non-Diplomat

If you’re in NewYork this September…tis’ the season to network with diplomats.

Every September, the Big Apple is buzzing with diplomats, world leaders, advocacy organizations, nonprofits, foundations and even celebrities, who come to participate in the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA).

The General Assembly is one of the six organs of the United Nations, and the only one in which all 193 Member States have equal representation.

All members are called to discuss global policy issues in the General Debate. This year is the 73rd session, and the debate theme will be ‘Making the United Nations Relevant to All People: Global Leadership and Shared Responsibilities for Peaceful, Equitable and Sustainable Societies.’

@lizgrossman87 highlights 6 ways you can participate in the @UN General Assembly, even if you're not a diplomat. Click To Tweet

UNGA 73 opens on 18 September 2018, with the first day of the high-level general debate set to happen on Tuesday, 25 September 2018.

The debate is scheduled to last for nine working days, and will be presided by Maria Fernanda Espinosa Garcés, an Ecuadorian politician and diplomat. She is also the 4th woman in history to be elected President of the General Assembly.

This year on September 24, the  Nelson Mandela Peace Summit: UNGA High-level Plenary on Global Peace will be held to commemorate the centenary of his birth.

There will also be high level dialogues on the fight against tuberculosis, the prevention of non-communicable diseases and many other topics related to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s).

But what if you aren’t a UN delegate?

Fear not. UNGA is a gathering where anyone can make contacts, learn about current events, and even contribute to policy making. So how can you get involved and join the conversation?

Here are a few tips on how to get in on the action.

1. Attend side events

Because so many people travel to New York for UNGA, organizations capitalize on this and host their own related events to dive deeper into the topics they work on.

In recent years, major campaigns such as Global Goals Week and Climate Week NYC offer opportunities for gatherings on the sidelines of the General Debate. You can also use the UNGA Guide to search by keyword, date and sector to find relevant events, or browse Eventbrite.

2. Contact your permanent mission

You can get in touch with the permanent mission to the UN of your country to see what events they are hosting or partnering with.

Sometimes, you can get lucky and snag a ticket or pass if they have extras simply by inquiring.

3. Hang out in the lobby of the Millenium Hilton New York One UN Plaza

 Set yourself up working remotely, having coffee, reading, or swiping through your Instagram feed from the lobby of the hotel where most of the diplomats are staying. You may start up interesting conversations with some VIPs (or those who know the VIPs) just by being present.

Disclaimer: don’t break any federal or international stalking laws, and don’t be too aggressive, especially when someone is clearly working or busy.

To attend the @UN General Assembly, you can set yourself up working remotely, having coffee, reading, from the lobby of the hotel where most of the diplomats are staying. Click To Tweet

4. Register to attend or volunteer at related conferences

In the same spirit of side events, some major conferences also happen on the sidelines of UNGA, such as the Social Good Summit, Concordia Summit, World Economic Forum Sustainable Development Impact Summit, Goalkeepers and more.

These may be by invitation only or involve a registration fee, but you can also reach out to the organizers to see if they need any volunteers. Getting your foot in the door is the first step.

5. Just show up

Some of the most meaningful connections you can make during UNGA is when you just show up. Even if you don’t have a ticket or you don’t know the organizers,  If you are confident enough, sometimes you can just walk in and sit down like you own the place.

If you need security clearance to get into the UN headquarters, you may just meet a kind stranger who is willing and able to escort you as a guest.

If all else fails, and you remain outside, you may still be brushing shoulders with people you can network with.

6. Use social media to contribute to the debates

 Most UN agencies, leaders, and attendees tweet, publish live videos, and share their thoughts during the debates. Follow the UN on Twitter for updates, as well as the different agencies most relevant to your interests.

Different events, sectors, agencies and groups use different hashtags, but you can follow the overall debate using #UNGA and #UNGA73.

 If you’d like to get featured on our Facebook page, click here to share your startup story with us.