PRESIDENTS, prime ministers and diplomats will take on a variety of global challenges at the United Nations this week, from halting the advance of a devastating disease to eliminating the specter of attacks from a formidable architect of terrorism.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the weeklong annual General Assembly is among the most pressing in recent years, as global military and humanitarian quagmires mount apace.
Also to be addressed is the civil war in Syria, now three and a half years old, civil strife in South Sudan, shattered trust between Israelis and Palestinians after the war in Gaza, and simmering tensions over military clashes in Ukraine.
“I am convinced that this 69th session of the General Assembly could be the most consequential in a generation—and for a generation,” Ban said as he opened the gathering in Manhattan, welcoming up to 140 heads of government and state.
“The coming year must be a time for action; a time for results. We have important tests before us, and high expectations across the range of peace, development and human rights challenges,” he said.
President Barack Obama, who will spend three days at UN events, will be among the busiest government leaders. Last year, he spent one day at the UN.
On Tuesday, Obama will attend Ban’s high-level climate change summit, an ambitious effort encouraging world leaders to address the problem of rising seas, melting ice caps, deforestation and fossil fuel emissions. Also on Tuesday, the US president will attend the annual meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative.
In addition, Obama will chair a summit to tackle the increasing threat of the Islamic State, a rising Middle East terror group deemed a global threat. The group captured large swaths of Iraqi territory this summer after waging war against Syria’s president, Bashar Assad, and it has recently claimed responsibility for beheading Westerners in protest of US air strikes.