The world’s most pressing challenges can only be solved when countries unite through the United Nations, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told dozens of world leaders gathered today for the opening of the General Assembly’s annual high-level meeting in New York.
“Now is our time. A time to put the ‘united’ back into the United Nations,” Mr. Ban emphasized, calling for the international community to be both united in purpose and in action.
Simultaneous crises on multiple fronts –food, energy, recession and pandemic flu – have shown the importance of renewed multilateralism, he said in his address to the 192-member Assembly’s General Debate at UN Headquarters.
“The world looks to us for answers,” the Secretary-General stressed, adding that the moment is now to “create a United Nations of genuine collective action.”
He spotlighted the need for joint efforts on issues ranging from climate change and disarmament to ensuring that the world’s poorest people are not left behind by efforts to deal with the economic crisis.
The threat posed by climate change is the greatest challenge faced by humanity, he said, appealing for united global efforts to tackle the problem ahead of this December’s conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, where negotiations on an ambitious new agreement on curbing greenhouse gas emissions is set to wrap up.
Yesterday, the Secretary-General convened the largest-ever summit on the issue, with some 100 heads of State and government taking part and affirming their commitment to ‘sealing a deal’ in the Danish capital.
At the end of the day-long event, he voiced optimism that negotiations towards an agreement in Copenhagen are on the “right track,” but also warned that momentum must be maintained in the run-up to the December conference.
In his address to the General Assembly today, Mr. Ban also called for this year to be the one in which the world takes advantage of growing momentum and finally agrees to rid itself of nuclear weapons.
“For too long, this great cause has lain dormant,” he said, but expressed optimism that the international climate is changing thanks to recent developments, including the agreement between Russia and the United States to cut their nuclear arsenals. Tomorrow, US President Barack Obama will chair a “historic” Security Council meeting on disarmament.
“Together, let us make this the year we agreed to banish the bomb,” the Secretary-General said.
On the fight against poverty, Mr. Ban also called for this year to focus on “those left behind” and help the “near-poor” who are on the verge of falling below the poverty line.
“People are angry. They believe the global economy is stacked against them,” he said.
In a wide-ranging speech, the Secretary-General’s address also touched on the situation in the war-torn Sudanese region of Darfur, the Middle East and Afghanistan.
“So much is possible if we act together,” he said. “We are the best hope for human kind. And now is our time.”