(by Betsy Pisik, WashingtonTimes.com) NEW YORK – Pushed by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and his prodigious work ethic, diplomats this week are engaged in what Mr. Ban has called “the most intense” period of diplomacy in U.N. history.
The main event, attracting a diverse group of world leaders from President Bush to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is the annual General Assembly opening debate, which begins with speeches by Mr. Bush and others tomorrow.
But Mr. Ban and various leaders already have taken part in weekend meetings on Sudan”s Darfur region, Iraq, Afghanistan and the Middle East. Today, ministers of foreign affairs and the environment will participate in a daylong session on climate change.
The weekend conferences, including a session last night of the Middle East Quartet, have forced governments to focus on some of the world body’s thorniest projects, which is just what the new secretary-general wanted.
“This will be a most intense period of multilateral diplomacy ever in the United Nations history, I believe,” Mr. Ban said last week. “As we move well into the 21st century, the United Nations is, once again, the global forum where issues are discussed and solutions are hammered out.”
Mr. Bush, who begins a three-day stay in New York today, has a packed schedule. He meets today with Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, and Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva before attending a dinner with foreign leaders to discuss climate change.
Tomorrow, he meets with Mr. Ban, delivers his speech to the General Assembly and meets with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. On Wednesday, he talks with Afghan President Hamid Karzai before returning to Washington.
Mr. Ahmadinejad, meanwhile, already has generated headlines with a proposal to visit ground zero, the site of the Twin Towers felled by terrorists on September 11, 2001.
His visit – including a scheduled appearance at Columbia University this afternoon – has generated outcries from 2008 presidential candidates, the New York Police Department and activists from all corners of the peace movement.
Foreign leaders hostile to the United States have long found the U.N. opening an irresistible opportunity to tweak U.S. leaders. Last year, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez attacked Mr. Bush from the podium as a drunk and a devil.
The threat of global warming is likely to be one of the thickest threads running through the annual debate, which runs for more than seven days and will likely include 80 world leaders or their senior ministers.
The back-to-back speeches often are a recitation of familiar themes, aimed as much at the audiences back home as at the other delegates. Any real exchange of ideas is likely to take place on the sidelines, not in the carefully prepared speeches.
Developing countries are expected to emphasize their commitment to good governance, the need for debt relief and a package of poverty reduction initiatives known as the Millennium Development Goals, as well as the enlargement of the U.N. Security Council.
The industrialized nations, meanwhile, are likely to focus on terrorism, nuclear proliferation and human rights.
The environment will figure heavily in nearly all the speeches, as leaders grapple with the predicted consequences of global warming – including rising seas that will consume small islands and creeping desertification that renders arable land almost useless.
“It is expensive to mitigate and adapt, but money spent now will save money later,” said Francesco Bandarin of the UNESCO World Heritage Center, who warned that 125 World Heritage Sites will be destroyed if no action is taken to protect them. “We must immediately improve monitoring and early-warning systems, even before global action is taken.”
Away from the spotlight, Mr. Ban has scheduled roughly 100 bilateral meetings with visiting heads of delegation, while thousands more are scheduled at U.N. headquarters and in diplomatic missions and hotel rooms throughout Midtown Manhattan.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will be in New York most of the week, meeting with foreign ministers from South Korea, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, India and Turkey, and spending time with her Security Council member-country counterparts.
Copyright 2007 News World Communications, Inc. Reprinted with permission of the Washington Times. This reprint does not constitute or imply any endorsement or sponsorship of any product, service, company or organization. Visit the website at www.washingtontimes.com.
NOTE TO STUDENTS: This article might not seem very interesting to you. But don’t get discouraged – you will start voting soon and it is important for you to understand various national/global issues so that you can be an informed voter. The issues discussed at the U.N. are very important to every American citizen, as the U.S. dues to the U.N. are approximately 22% of the entire general budget (in 2005 the U.S. dues were approximately $440 million, and total U.S. contributions to the UN in 2005 were: $1,959,053,000). That money comes from your taxes. 191 countries are members of the U.N. and the U.S. pays almost 1/4 of the dues. (Read more about money paid by the U.S. to the U.N. at unausa.org.)
1. Who is Ban Ki-moon?
2. Prior to the opening of the annual U.N. General Assembly debate, on what issues did Mr. Ban and other leaders conduct meetings?
3. What is President Bush’s itinerary for the three days he will be in New York?
4. This year, media attention is on Iranian President Ahmadinejad. What visits outside the U.N. have angered U.S. citizens and caused others including 2008 presidential candidates and the NY Police Department to denounce his ability to travel outside the U.N. meetings?
5. What is the purpose of the speeches by world leaders during the annual debate?
6. How do the issues emphasized by developing countries differ from those of industrialized nations?
7. Secretary Ban said “As we move well into the 21st century, the United Nations is, once again, the global forum where issues are discussed and solutions are hammered out.”
Ask a parent to read this article and then ask whether he/she thinks that the U.N. is doing the job it should be doing. What do you think based upon what you know and what your parent thinks?
At the foundation of the UN in 1945, democracy dominated the character of the majority of member states, despite pockets of instability. Nevertheless, democracy was not made a pre-condition for membership in the UN. Sixty years later, the majority of UN members are not full-fledged democracies. The consequences for UN operations and outcomes are profound. Eye on the UN is dedicated to making transparent the UN’s record on its fundamental promise – to identify, condemn, and protect against human rights violations and confront and respond to threats to international peace and security.
Visit the website at eyeontheun.org
Many high schools have a Model UN club. A Model UN is a simulation of the United Nations that aims to educate participants about civics, effective communication, globalization and multilateral diplomacy. In Model UN, students take on roles as foreign diplomats and participate in a simulated session of an intergovernmental organization (IGO). Participants research a country, take on roles as diplomats, investigate international issues, debate, deliberate, consult, and then develop solutions to world problems.
Visit the website here
Read what the U.N. says about itself at the U.N. website un.org.
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