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Many powerful leaders skipped the UN this year. That created space for emerging voices to rise
Togo’s foreign minister wasn’t having any of it
UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Togo's foreign minister wasn't having any of it. He talked of an accelerating “African awakening,” of a resolve to “fight our own battles,” of a refusal to be banished to the children's table while the musclebound great powers of the 20th century moved chess pieces around the board.
“Nobody is at the center of the world," Robert Dussey said in French, his voice emphatic. “We don’t want to be relegated to the background as the world develops.”
Africa was Dussey's subject. But he might have been one of any number of leaders speaking at the United Nations this past week — the voices of smaller nations that typically command less attention. They come, they air grievances and concerns, and then the oxygen is gobbled up by others — often the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council.
This year, though, Volydymyr Zelenskyy's high-profile presence notwithstanding, things felt different. Top leaders of four of the five permanent member nations didn't attend. Climate change helped amplify the concerns of smaller nations — not coincidentally, those most affected by it. And speech by speech, speaker by speaker, it became clear: On the international stage, other voices are beginning to rise — and to be heard.