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During the United Nations assembly, leaders had a brief chance to share the narratives of their respective nations


Pakistan’s new Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif took center stage at the U.N., ready to weave a narrative of his nation’s challenges, including floods and climate change, affecting over 33 million people. As he began his address with the words, “As I stand here today to tell the story of my country…”, he echoed the core purpose shared by every world leader present during the past week.

Each leader, representing diverse traditions under one roof, seized their moment to craft a narrative about their nation and the global landscape, aiming to captivate their audience. In this era of globalized politics and instant dissemination of information, storytelling remains a potent tool, capable of shaping perceptions and garnering attention.

However, the proliferation of storytelling, coupled with the spread of disinformation, poses challenges even for the most influential leaders. Evan Cornog, author of “The Power and the Story: How the Crafted Presidential Narrative Has Determined Political Success,” emphasized the difficulty of breaking through the noise in today’s discourse.

Yet amidst this backdrop, the U.N. General Assembly served as a platform for leaders to share their narratives, with urgency emerging as a common theme. Some speeches resonated with emotional appeals and vivid imagery, while others focused on practical priorities or policy details.

Notably, leaders like Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines’ Ralph Gonsalves showcased their storytelling prowess, leveraging visual elements and rhetorical flair to make an impact.

Beyond verbal storytelling, memorable moments at the U.N. have been shaped by actions, such as Nikita Khrushchev’s shoe-banging incident and Moammar Gadhafi’s dramatic gestures.

However, the art of storytelling extends beyond oratory, encompassing various forms of communication tailored to specific audiences and objectives. As William Muck, a political science expert, highlighted, leaders are still learning to harness storytelling effectively in today’s media landscape.

While COVID-19 dominated previous U.N. sessions, this year saw a shift in focus towards issues like war, climate change, and food insecurity. Nevertheless, the importance of storytelling in fostering understanding and promoting peace remains paramount, reflecting a fundamental aspect of 21st-century literacy and leadership.