By: Margery Cohen, Alternate UN Observer, LWVUS and Rosalee Keech, UN Observer, LWVUS
The General Assembly, meeting over two weeks, is the main deliberative, policymaking and representative forum of the United Nations (UN). Comprising all 193 members of the UN, it provides a unique forum for multilateral discussion of the full spectrum of international issues covered by the charter.
President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry both spoke at this year’s General Assembly. President Obama spoke about the progress that has been made for a more stable world and also focused on the dangers that remained: Kenya, Pakistan, convulsions in the Middle East and Iran, North Africa and Syria and chemical weapons. He outlined the US positions on these issues with a particular focus on Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons and the Arab-Israeli conflict.
The President concluded his address to the General Assembly saying, “I know what side of history I want the United States to be on. We are ready to meet tomorrow’s challenges with you- firm in the belief that all men and women are created equal, each individual possessed with a dignity and inalienable rights that cannot be denied. …And that’s why we remain convinced that this community of nations can deliver a more peaceful, prosperous and just world to the next generation.”
Secretary Kerry made a number of appearances at different committees to state US positions on specific issues. At the Arms Trade Signing Ceremony, Secretary Kerry signed the treaty on behalf of the United States and spoke about how to cooperatively address the illicit trade in conventional weapons. Meeting at a High-Level Meeting of the UN GA on Disability and Development Secretary Kerry asked for a commitment to pursue the policies of inclusivity for disabled persons who comprise 15 percent of the world’s population. He also spoke at a meeting of the Equal Futures Partnership about respecting women’s ability and capacity to take part and share in all aspects of society.
High-level meetings of the 68th Session include forums on the Disability and Development, Millennium Development Goals, Sustainable Development, a meeting of the General Assembly on nuclear disarmament and High-level dialogue on International Migration and Development as well as Financing for Development. These issues are discussed by the representatives of the member states with different views being expressed but by the end of the two weeks, the member states hope to come out with a document that expresses the conclusions they have reached and made commitments to work to achieve progress that will address the problems of the peoples of the world.
Other events during the General Assembly include meeting about The Convention of the Rights of the Child and its Optional Protocols. Its purpose is to protect children from violence and their exploitation as victims of sale, prostitution or pornography. Member States will have an opportunity to sign-on or ratify important child rights treaties. While, the United States has signed the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, we are one of three UN members not to have ratified it (other non-ratifying members being Somalia and South Sudan).
The LWVUS UN Observer team looks forward to representing the League at the UN at the 68th Session.