"Unprecedented" conflicts, disease to be focus of annual UN high-level debate
22 September 2014, 09:19
United Nations - The general debate of the 69th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) will kick off Wednesday, as over 140 heads of state and government and representatives of all 193 members of the world body are scheduled to speak.
Although the debate traditionally starts on Tuesday, one week after the opening of the UNGA session, this year's debate is delayed for one day as UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will host the world climate change summit attended by country leaders on Tuesday.
"I chose the theme of ... 'Delivering on and implementing a transformative post-2015 development agenda,'" said Sam Kutesa, Uganda's foreign minister and also president of this session.
Kutesa explained that the year 2015 is the deadline for achievement of the eight anti-poverty targets known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
All told, 196 speakers, including representatives of the European Union and Palestine, could expound on any topic they fancy in the debate even if the president has declared the theme.
A host of crises will be talked by leaders this year: the rampage of violent Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, the exponential spread of the deadly Ebola virus in Africa, stalled negotiations on Iran's nuclear program, the long-term issues of climate change, poverty and hunger.
Ban said last week that these topics reflected "(an) unprecedented level of crises," including "atrocious attacks on civilians ... and sharp divisions within the international community itself over the response."
"The world is facing multiple crises," he said, as "the advance of Boko Haram grow more alarming every day" in Nigeria and "terrorist organizations are not only carrying out attacks but seizing large areas of land beyond the government's control" in Syria and Iraq.
"In the aftermath of yet another devastating war in Gaza, Israelis and Palestinians seem more polarized than ever," Ban said, adding the social order was "breaking down in Libya," and the situation "in and around Ukraine remains volatile" with an uneasy truce in its east.
The UN chief promised in his main speech to "call on world leaders to unite and uphold human dignity, the rule of law and the principles of the United Nations Charter."
"We will also place a special focus on Ebola virus disease, which is a cause of huge concern in West Africa and beyond," he said.
Last week both the UNGA and the Security Council passed resolutions, calling for cooperation and robust international response in the fight against Ebola.