Obama Addresses U.N. General Assembly, Calls For ‘New Era Of Engagement’

In his first U.N. General Assembly address, President Obama on Wednesday “called for ‘a new era of engagement’ … with the world, pledging to work together with other countries while defending the interests of the United States,” Reuters reports (9/23). The Associated Press reports that Obama “believes there are four pillars necessary to ensure that future — nuclear disarmament, the promotion of peace and security, preservation of the planet, and a global economy that offers opportunity for all people. Obama says those pillars must be ‘the guiding principle of international cooperation'” (9/23).

“Make no mistake: this cannot solely be America’s endeavor,” Obama said to the world body. “Those who used to chastise America for acting alone in the world cannot now stand by and wait for America to solve the world’s problems alone,” the Washington Post reports (Shear/Lynch, 9/23).

“Obama has made major speeches on foreign policy in the Czech Republic, Russia, Egypt and Ghana. Each carried a distinct message and was targeted to a specific audience,” the Los Angeles Times writes. “This is where he pivots to a new message: Now is the time for all of us to take concrete action to pursue common goals,” an official familiar with the address said before Obama spoke (Parsons, 9/23).

The New York Times has posted Obama’s prepared speech text, which also includes mention of the “$20 billion global food security initiative” announced at July’s G8 summit, as well as Obama’s own “$63 billion [initiative] to carry forward the fight against HIV/AIDS; to end deaths from tuberculosis and malaria; to eradicate polio; and to strengthen public health systems” (9/23).

According to the Washington Post, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon “opened Wednesday’s session by reciting a grim litany of crises the world has confronted in the past year — food and energy shortages, global recession, global warming and pandemic flu — to highlight the need for a ‘spirit of renewed multilateralism'” (9/23). The Associated Press reports from Ban’s prepared remarks that he also urged “leaders to take steps to free the world of nuclear weapons, to address the ‘red flags of warning’ about a global economic recovery and make a fresh push to achieve U.N. anti-poverty goals especially reducing maternal and child mortality rates which remain very high” (Lederer, 9/23).

In light of the U.N. General Assembly meeting, the Washington Post interviewed Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. (9/22).

Obama Addresses Climate Change

In a speech to world leaders during a climate change summit Tuesday, President Obama emphasized the U.S. commitment to initiatives aimed at mitigating the threat of climate change, including the country’s “largest investment ever in renewable energy … new standards for reducing pollution from vehicles and … making clean energy profitable,” the New York Times reports (MacFarquhar, 9/22).

“No nation, however large or small, wealthy or poor, can escape the impact of climate change … The security and stability of each nation and all peoples – our prosperity, our health, our safety – are in jeopardy. And the time we have to reverse this tide is running out,” Obama said, according to the text of his prepared speech, released by the White House (9/22). The summit, organized by Ban as part of the U.N. General Assembly meeting this week, “was a first step toward a meeting of global leaders in December in Copenhagen and came as U.S. lawmakers are wrestling with a sweeping climate-change bill in Congress,” the Washington Times writes (Bellantoni, 9/22).

Obama Meets With Leaders From Sub-Saharan Africa

Also on Tuesday, Obama met with a group of African leaders to discuss economic conditions and political instability in their countries, the Washington Times reports in a second story. During the meeting, Obama reminded leaders that “Africa’s future is up to Africans” – a point the president emphasized during a speech before the Ghanaian parliament in July. “President Obama stressed this is not a one-time conversation, but the start of a plan,” Michelle Gavin, the top Africa official on the White House National Security Council, told reporters (Pisik, 9/23).

According to Fox News’ “White House Blog,” Obama joined 25 sub-Saharan heads of state for a private lunch. “The White House described the lunch as a free flowing dialogue which focused mainly on three topics: creating jobs, particularly for youth, increasing trade and investment, and strengthening agriculture productivity,” the news service writes (McGinn, 9/22). In a related story, Inter Press Service/allAfrica.com examines the historic significance of Obama’s private meeting with the African leaders (Deen, 9/21).

Other Health Initiatives Addressed At U.N.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni appealed “for international support to local initiatives in the fight against malaria” during a meeting with Raymond Chambers, the U.N. secretary-general’s special envoy for malaria, ahead of the U.N. General Assembly meeting, the Monitor/allAfrica.com reports (9/23).

Also, “[a] United Nations program that has raised $1.2 billion over the past three years for the treatment of HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis through a small fee added to airline tickets sold in 15 countries is going global,” the New York Times reports. “The program, to be unveiled Wednesday at the United Nations under the name Massive Good, will work through various channels that people use to buy airline tickets. At the point of purchase, customers will be asked to indicate their willingness to make the contribution, while corporate travel departments will be asked to agree to add the donation to each ticket they buy for employees’ travel. Countries that have already agreed to the tax will continue to pay it” (Strom, 9/22).

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