World leaders meet this week in the 69th Session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York. Many pressing global issues are being discussed, in what Acting Assistant Secretary of State for International Organizations Dean Pittman said is a “challenging time for the United States and its partners”:
“It’s really hard to imagine a time of so many divergent challenges confronting the international community. We have the security and humanitarian situations in Syria and Iraq, and the serious threat posed by the terrorist group known as ISIL. … We have a conflict in Ukraine which poses a threat to European security. We have an acute regional health emergency in West Africa. The situation in Gaza remains a key concern. And these are just the headlines.”
Secretary of State John Kerry chaired a Security Council meeting, demonstrating broad and unified international support for the new Iraqi government and its fight against ISIL. President Obama chairs the Security Council this week to focus high-level attention and action on the unprecedented flow of terrorist fighters over international borders to fuel conflicts in the Horn of Africa, Libya, Yemen, Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria. Many high-level meetings will focus on the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, said Pittman, as collaboration is key in that fight.
Beyond the headlines, said Pittman, there are a significant number of other issues that require what President Obama calls “collective action”.
Climate Change receives significant attention this year, with numerous high level meetings. A World Conference on Indigenous Peoples is on the agenda, striving to strengthen protections for indigenous cultural heritage and advance progress toward the goals of the UN Declaration of Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The post-2015 Development Agenda is high on the list of priorities, as the UN works to redefine the world’s development goals for the next fifteen years.
Peacekeeping is a major focus for the United States, as it supplies $2 billion a year funding in support of UN Peacekeeping missions.
“The UN General Assembly doesn’t end when all the heads of state go home,” said Pittman. “The work, the initiatives, the collaboration, they are all just beginning.”