5 Highlights of This Week’s United Nations General Assembly (Thus Far)

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Perhaps the most striking aspect of the ongoing United Nations meeting in New York City is the conspicuous absence of outright acrimony. The UN General Assembly has been the preferred venue for world leaders to spout off their vitriol and venom while verbally attacking their fellow UN members. It was at the General Assembly that Hugo Chavez referred to George W. Bush as “el Diablo” (the Devil) and it was there that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad regularly denounced Israel as “Zionists” to be purged from the map. So far, however, this session has been marked by an almost bizarre civility and a sense of common purpose.

5 Ban Ki-Moon Says We’re in It Together

We paraphrase, of course, but that was essentially the message of the Secretary General of the United Nations in his opening remarks to the General Assembly. In commentary on the Syrian crisis, he said: “There will be little peace or enjoyment of human rights unless we confront a world awash with deadly weapons.” Secretary Ban spoke in much loftier, more general rhetoric, placing the UN and its members in a larger context of duty to human rights and to the “call of history.” Ban described how the greatest obstacles to peace and prosperity were not war, but malnutrition, climate change and bigotry.

4 Iran’s Rouhani Walks Softly

And he didn’t threaten anyone with a big stick or WMD, either. Since taking office only a few months ago, Rouhani has distanced himself from his firebrand predecessor, in the process hoping to lessen the distance between Iran and much of the world community. The tone of his speech was moderate and its content appealed for peaceful dialogue among nations, including perennial Iranian foes like the US and Israel. To quote the man directly: “Iran poses absolutely no threat to the world or the region.” We sincerely hope he sincerely means it.

3 African Leaders Turn Focus on the Future; Development

The Presidents of Zambia, Uganda and Malawi all had similar messages for the world community, with Michael Chilufya of Zambia saying that “global partnerships that are supported by commitments towards regional and international cooperation” were more crucial than mere aid when it comes to bettering the lot of millions of Africans. Yoweri Museveni of Uganda echoed those sentiments, saying that with international partners, his country can leverage “resources from oil and gas, [and] be able to fund all [their] infrastructure needs.” President Joyce Banda of Malawi stressed the need for higher and more reliable income for poorer citizens, especially those in rural areas who are trapped in a poverty cycle.

2 The Real Power Player in Obama’s White House

During this week’s General Assembly meeting, a stray remark from President Obama was caught by a live microphone wherein he jokingly revealed who hold the real power at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. The President told another meeting attendee that he had kicked his smoking habit six years ago “Because I’m scared of my wife.” Perhaps we need to dispatch Michelle O. to the UN Security Council, then?

1 The Syrian Crises Takes Center Stage

If there is one thing on which all UN delegates can agree it is that something must be done about the deteriorating situation in Syria. Secretary General Ban called the results of a UN investigation “overwhelming and indisputable” evidence of President Assad’s use of chemical weapons, while President Michel Suleiman of Lebanon reached out to the international community seeking assistance for the hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees who have crossed the border into his country. Meanwhile President Obama stressed that America and the international community must stay engaged on the crisis, seeing it through to a new start for the nation, as, in his words, “The notion that Syria can return to a pre-war status quo is a fantasy.”

Barack had to learn the hard way. Fortunately, you can read the Top 5 Reasons Not To Mess with Michelle Obama.

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