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World leaders address darkness and hope at 69th General Assembly


25 September 2014 - The United Nations General Assembly's annual high-level debate kicked off addressing, Ebola, terrorism, climate, the economy and global inequity after more than 120 leaders have already spent a day focusing on the existential threat of climate change and getting a head start on an agenda dominated by an unprecedented number of challenges facing the world today.

Highlighting her own country’s success in slashing extreme poverty, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff used her role as first national leader to address the annual General Debate of the United Nations General Assembly to stress the urgent need to revive the global economy and “work towards fostering investment, international trade and the reduction of inequalities among countries."

President of the United States Barack Obama. UN Photo: Mark GartenUnited States President Barack Obama who addressed the General Assembly right after president Rousseff, urged cooperation at the United Nations, as the world "finds itself at a crossroads between war and peace, disorder and integration”, in order to tackle “two defining questions at the root of many of our challenges”: rebuilding the fractured multilateral system on which the UN is based and “rejecting the cancer of violent extremism” spread by groups such as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). EBola in Guinea. Photo: EUropean Commission

“There is a pervasive unease in our world – a sense that the very forces that have brought us together have created new dangers, and made it difficult for any single nation to insulate itself from global forces,” Mr. Obama said, noting that right now, “an outbreak of  Ebola overwhelms public health systems in West Africa; Russian aggression in Europe recalls the days when large nations trampled small ones in pursuit of territorial ambition; and the brutality of terrorists in Syria and Iraq forces us to look into the heart of darkness.”

Leaders from the Gulf and Middle East regions called for a collective strategy to contain and address extremists in Iraq, Syria and other parts of the world, while also calling for international efforts to reconstruct Gaza.

“It is imperative for the international community to work hard to put an end to the bloodshed and the systematic destruction of Syria by a regime that has put its people between a rock and a hard place to choose between accepting its presence at the helm or burning down their country,” Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, Amir of Qatar, told the 69th annual high-level meeting.

European leaders took the podium to pledge their commitment to United Nations efforts to achieve peace and development across a whole range of issues while highlighting their own specific concerns.

President of Finland Sauli Niinistö. Un Photo Cia PakCiting the conflicts in Ukraine and Syria and Iraq which violated core UN rules and values, President Sauli Niinisto of Finland said the grim state of international relations should be seen as “a call to redouble our diplomatic efforts.”

“We must act with determination and we must act now,” he declared. “Unfortunately, the UN Security Council has not been able to uphold its responsibilities neither in Ukraine nor in Syria. We need to reform the Security Council. Finland supports the efforts to restrict the use of veto.” Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenuk of Ukraine addresses the General Assembly. UN Photo/Hubi Hoffmann

“De-escalation in Ukraine cannot happen without Russia's active steps,” he further warned. “Russia should control its border and prevent the flow of arms and fighters, and thereby contribute to stabilization of the situation in Eastern Ukraine. There can be only a political solution to the crisis.”

Telling the United Nations General Assembly that his country knows what terrorism is; “not merely in words but in practice,” Arseniy Yatsenuk, Prime Minister of Ukraine, reiterated his Government’s commitment to restore law and order and urged Russia to adhere to its international obligations and seek a diplomatic path out of the current crisis.

Erasing Inequality

Leaders from Latin America and the Caribbean region urged global action to erase inequality and spur development.

Michelle Bachelet, President of Chile, addresses the general debate of the sixty-ninth session of the General Assembly. Un pHoto: Cia Pak“Inequality is one of the greatest threats to development and international security because it fosters poverty, exclusion and breeds social unrest, resentment and violence”, said Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, the first among several leaders from the Latin America and the Caribbean region to address the General Assembly today. Echoing the sentiments of President Niinistö, Bachelet as well as the other Latin American Heads of States emphasized the need for a reform of the Security Council.

“The Council must evolve to represent today's world by creating long-term seats with the possibility of immediate re-election based on a more equitable geographic representation”, said Mexico's President Enrique Peña Nieto.

The African leaders also emphasized the need reform, but also called for economic and security partnerships. Ugandan President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, the first of several African leaders to address the603005-GeneralDebate69-Uganda high-level opening of the 96th United Nations General Assembly, highlighted the growing potential of investment and partnerships with countries on the continent. According to Mr. Museveni, Africa is regenerating and “emerging from the long night of decline” and its countries are becoming “more credible partners with any serious actors beyond our shores.”

603286-SriLankaThe President of Sri Lanka, Mahinda Rajapaksa in his address to world leaders at the United Nations this evening, said that the post-2015 agenda must focus on strengthening partnerships between developing and developed countries, which are essential for countries in the South to access financial resources and technology.

“It is vital that we also address structural obstacles and political barriers that prevented the realisation of the Millennium Development Goals, such as unfair trade and investment rules,” he said.

With strong commitment and political will, the impossible could become possible, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, President of Indonesia said. "It is time to stop playing the game of "us" against "them”, and begin the hard work of creating a new, equitable world order." 

“Now is the time for all of us to get into the serious business of building a new world of peace, prosperity and justice. The business of making everybody a winner.” He told the Assembly’s annual general 88596045 072b9c8544 zdebate, adding: “By creating and nurturing the ‘New WE’…that leaves no one behind.”

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