Expect ISIS and Ebola to be major topics at this week's General Assembly special debate
Climate change is set to be the top focus on Tuesday
Ukraine will make an appeal to the United Nations not to let it stand alone
Leonardo DiCaprio, a U.N. messenger of peace, plans to to attend
The world comes to New York this week, accompanied by baggage full of crises.
It’s the 69th annual United Nations General Assembly special debate, and it has not been a peaceful year.
The 120-plus presidents and prime ministers maneuvering through New York City traffic will be grappling with issues such as ISIS, Ebola and Ukraine in their public speeches and private diplomacy. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said, “the world is facing multiple crises. Each has its own dynamics and requires its own approach.”
There are 193 states in the United Nations. However, it’s what the President of the United States does and says that tends to dominate the proceedings.
President Barack Obama will be here for 48 hours. Not enough time to solve the world’s problems. The U.S. leader’s top priority will be terrorism. A Security Council meeting he will chair on ISIS and the threat posed by foreign fighters is a centerpiece of U.S. efforts here.
The United States is hoping to get unanimous approval for a legally binding resolution compelling countries to crack down on their citizens departing to join ISIS and other militant groups and block them from returning to threaten their native countries using passports already granted.
Obama is likely to focus his Wednesday morning speech to the General Assembly on ISIS and call for the world to come to the aid of a new under threat Iraqi government.
It’s a different tone regarding the United States, the United Nations and Iraq. President George W. Bush was not cheered in the General Assembly after the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Now, France is aggressively on the side of Washington. The usually quarreling big powers in the Security Council can find common ground against a common enemy.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told the Security Council on Friday, “I don’t need to remind anyone here that the last two times the eyes of the world were focused on Iraq was when its government was in confrontation with the international community, with great consequences. Today, however, we come together in support of the new Iraqi government.”
A health menace also on the minds of world leaders is Ebola. Leaders of some of the most affected countries will be attending.
U.N. authorities are counting on the African countries to provide screening of travelers heading to the General Assembly summit. Obama and other world leaders will plot further strategies at a Thursday session on Ebola. Never before has a health issue prompted U.N. emergency sessions and a fast-paced, urgent response to slow Ebola’s spread that still requires more money, doctors and anti-Ebola supplies.
Ukraine and Russia tensions may have eased, but fears remain among many leaders regarding Russia’s future intentions. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko will appeal to the General Assembly to not let Ukraine stand alone. President Vladimir Putin of Russia is not attending. U.S. and Russian ambassadors to the United Nations once again exchanged sharp criticism of each country’s position on the downing of Malaysia Flight 17 in a public U.N. meeting Friday.
Under the radar but not in terms of importance is climate change. Ban Ki-moon feels it’s the No. 1 crisis overall. On Tuesday, he will lead a special day of focus on climate. Obama will speak a day ahead of his traditional General Assembly remarks. However, the leaders of India and China – two countries that advocates say could do more to limit carbon emissions – are not expected to attend on climate day, though will be represented by ministers.
Climate change: ‘I’m on the front lines of the crisis’
Making a titanic appearance on the rostrum of the Assembly will be actor Leonardo DiCaprio, an environmental activist and named last week as a U.N. messenger of peace.
It’s always hard to measure the success of one of these international talkfests. Several foreign ministers have said it’s like “speed-dating diplomacy” – five minutes with this country, five minutes with that government minister.
Kerry reminded the Security Council on Friday that good diplomacy requires patience.
If it is indeed international speed dating, then expect lots of frustration while praying for a successful outcome.