The United Nations General Assembly opened its 59th session in New York today with a clarion call from its new President for urgent and effective action as the world body approaches its 60th anniversary amid multiple threats and challenges ranging from wars and terrorism to disease and poverty.
"Confronting such a situation, the peoples of the world more than ever have their eyes turned towards the United Nations, the sole institution with a universal vocation where the concerns and aspirations of all humankind are expressed in all their diversity," Foreign Minister Jean Ping of Gabon told the opening meeting.
"The multiplicity of zones of conflict and humanitarian crises, the proliferation of weapons, the recurrence of terrorist acts, the increase in poverty and other afflictions such as the HIV/AIDS pandemic, the degradation of the environment, the resurgence of trans-national crime, illicit drug trafficking, the violations of human rights as well as assaults on the rule of law and democracy are, each and every one, concerns for which we must urgently find answers," he said.
Such topics will most likely be among those addressed during the annual gathering of world leaders for the Assembly's general debate, which gets underway next Tuesday in New York.
Mr. Ping, who succeeds Julian R. Hunte of St. Lucia, President of the 58th session, highlighted the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and its impact on international peace and security, the "deeply troubling" situation in Iraq and Afghanistan, the crisis in the Darfur region of western Sudan and the recent massacre of Congolese refugees in Burundi.
He called for revamping coordination in the field between inter-governmental and non-governmental organizations, enhancing measures to prevent conflict and demobilize combatants, and above all boosting resources for post-conflict reconstruction.
"We must act quickly to find the best means to fight most effectively against terrorism," he added. "Indeed, the scope and tragic brutality of the events that occurred in recent years, even here in New York and across the world, demand from us common action and unending vigilance."
But he warned that the daily requirements of peace and security must not detract from other pressing questions such as development. "That is to say how necessary it is that we act simultaneously in both fields," he declared.
He underscored the importance of fulfilling development pledges such as those contained in the UN Millennium Declaration aimed at halving extreme poverty and hunger, reducing infant and maternal mortality and boosting access to education and development, all by 2015, in order to slash disparities between and within nations.
"We have no other choice," he said. "Our nations, our respective peoples expect much. We cannot remain deaf to this legitimate aspiration for a better world, these legitimate demands for respect for the rights of man, for the security or personas and particularly the most vulnerable."
Mr. Ping recited a litany of needs crying out for a solution, from the famine and malnutrition that afflict marginalized populations to fair global trade to debt payment and development funding.
"It is thus fitting, and it can never be said too often, to reinforce the role and authority of the UN and endow it with all the resources necessary for accomplishing its multiple missions," he declared.