With tight security unprecedented in the annals of the United Nations Annual General Assembly meetings, Ghana’s President John Dramani Mahama would take his turn today– among other heads of states and governments, to address the 68TH General Assembly of the United Nations, currently underway in New York.
His speech is expected to highlight Ghana’s achievements and challenges towards meeting the UN Millennium Development Goal by the year 2015.
So far, President Mahama, has chaired and addressed a number of plenary sessions on several issues relevant to the MDG, held a number of bilateral sessions on the sidelines of the UN meetings—having delivered a lecture at The Columbia University’s Global Leaders Forum last Monday.
Under a perfectly pitched theme –“ The Post-2015 Development Agenda: Setting the Stage”, the meetings are being held in the backdrop of the Syrian conflict, the Arab Spring, and the recent killings in Washington, Kenya, and Pakistan–with leaders from about 200 countries and territories, heads of governments, civil society groups, captains of industry, philanthropists, academics, as well as celebrities, pushing against “business-as-usual” that has always marked the UN system.
In a somber, yet strong tone, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, epitomized the challenges better while addressing the opening: “ The Pressure on people and the planet are building: Youth without jobs. A warming climate. Unresolved Conflicts. Events are moving with 21st-century speed, often outpacing the institutions, and systems designed for another age,” He lamented, adding that “In streets and squares across the world, people are pressing those in power. They want you, the world’s leaders, to listen. They want to know that we are doing all it takes to secure a life of dignity for all.”
The Secretary-General further observed that “ for more than a decade, the end of the year 2015 has been our long horizon. What once seemed a distant moment is now just around the corner. The 2015 is the year by which we have pledged to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDG). It is the year in which we will adopt a new development agenda. And it is the year in which you have agreed to complete a global agreement on climate change.” He asserted, but deplored the fact that the MDG goals are lagging in many areas under the agenda.
Mr. Ban Ki-moon therefore charged world leaders to rededicate themselves for a new development agenda that is ambitious and universal—“with ending poverty as its top priority, sustainable development at its core, and governance as its glue, with a single set of goals.”
In swift, acerbic tone, United States President Barak Obama, spoke on a number of issues ranging from Syria, Iran, Israel and Palestine ,as well as the Arab Spring. He observed that, although the end of America’s involvement in a decade of war was a shift away from a “perpetual war-footing”, a glance at today’s headlines indicated the dangers that remained. The convulsions in the Middle East and North Africa had laid bare deep divisions within societies. Peaceful movements had been answered by violence — from those resisting change and from extremists trying to hijack change. Nowhere had those trends converged more powerfully than in Syria. The international community recognized the stakes, but its response had not matched the scale of the challenge. Aid could not keep pace with the suffering; a peace process was still-born; extremist groups had taken root to exploit the crisis; Assad’s traditional allies had propped him up, and, on 21 August, the regime used chemical weapons in an attack that killed more than 1,000 people, including hundreds of children.
“If we don’t want to choose between inaction and war, we must get better — all of us — at the policies that prevent the breakdown of basic order,” he said. Through respect for the responsibilities of nations and the rights of individuals; through meaningful sanctions for those who break the rules; through dogged diplomacy that resolves the root causes of conflict and not merely its aftermath; and through development assistance that brings hope to the marginalized. Sometimes, all that would not be enough and, in such moments, the international community would need to acknowledge that the multilateral use of military force might be required to prevent the very worst from occurring,” he added.
President of the General Assembly John W. Ashe, also bemoaned the fact that world’s headlines are filled with reports of wars, civil and sectarian blood-shed, poverty and malnutrition, gender violence, adverse effects of climate change and loss of valuable biodiversity, and the struggle to live in human dignity. And cautioned that “ as we start this session, we urgently need tangible results and action by our Assembly. We are face with high levels of optimism, and cynicism that we will not be up to task and that we lack the efforts and discipline to effectively address the world’s needs,”
“Let us prove our nay-sayers wrong. Let us focus on the business ahead, cognizant of the sacred trust which brings us here, Committed to the people we serve.” he added.
Others speakers on the first day were Nigeria, South Africa, Turkey, Brazil. On the sidelines of the debates, dozens of plenary and bilateral sessions are taking place–all calibrated to help set the stage for the final push towards achieving the MDG—come 2015.