The United States “stands ready to begin a new chapter of international cooperation,” its President Barack Obama told the General Assembly today as he called on the world to redouble its efforts to ensure that the United Nations is central to efforts to advance the common interests of people around the globe.
Speaking in New York on the opening day of the Assembly’s annual General Debate, Mr. Obama said the magnitude of the challenges facing the world meant it was critical for countries to give “meaning to the promise embedded in the name given to this institution: the United Nations.
“That is the future America wants – a future of peace and prosperity that we can only reach if we recognize that all nations have rights, but all nations have responsibilities as well. That is the bargain that makes this work. That must be the guiding principle of international cooperation.”
Mr. Obama said the importance of cooperation among States was illustrated by numerous challenges today, including efforts to promote non-proliferation and disarmament, the fight against climate change, the Middle East conflict and the struggle to recover from the global economic crisis.
The US President acknowledged that he took office earlier this year at a time when there was much scepticism and distrust about the United States and its intentions.
“Part of this was due to misperceptions and misinformation about my country. Part of this was due to opposition to specific policies, and a belief that on certain critical issues, America has acted unilaterally, without regard for the interests of others. This has fed an almost reflexive anti-Americanism, which too often has served as an excuse for our collective inaction…
“We have reached a pivotal moment. The United States stands ready to begin a new chapter of international cooperation – one that recognizes the rights and responsibilities of all nations.”
Mr. Obama stressed that it falls to the current generation to work together to make the most of the UN.
“The United Nations does extraordinary good around the world in feeding the hungry, caring for the sick, and mending places that have been broken. But it also struggles to enforce its will, and to live up to the ideals of its founding.
“I believe that those imperfections are not a reason to walk away from this institution – they are a calling to redouble our efforts. The United Nations can either be a place where we bicker about outdated grievances, or forge common ground; a place where we focus on what drives us apart, or what brings us together; a place where we indulge tyranny, or a source of moral authority.”
“In short, the United Nations can be an institution that is disconnected from what matters in the lives of our citizens, or it can be indispensable in advancing the interests of the people we serve.”