UN High-Level General Assembly Week

unacto1Early October saw the end of the 68th UN General Assembly High-level Meetings. The annual gathering of the United Nations took place in the midst of a very turbulent and important period for the international community. In the lead up to UN week, many complex diplomatic events were unfolding, many of which had the UN at their core. The week saw multiple issues being discussed, treaties being signed, hands being shaken, and rants delivered. Certainly too much to cover in this article but I will attempt to summarize the main talking points.

The UN has been in the background of the diplomatic freeze which has left the international community powerless to improve the situation for the Syrian people. However, recent hard work by Secretary of State, John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, paved the way for the UN Security Council to find a breakthrough. The Council unanimously passed a resolution which will require Syria to hand over its arsenal of Chemical weapons so they can be destroyed. This is a hugely positive step forward on this matter. Secretary Kerry, when asked about the long awaited Resolution, said that the “Security Council has demonstrated that “diplomacy can be so powerful, it can diffuse the worst weapons of war.”

A similar breScreen Shot 2013-10-22 at 8.47.48 PMakthrough in terms of dangerous weapons was the United States signing the UN’s International Arms Trade Treaty. This was a considerable coup for the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs as the treaty is only as strong as its signatories. 113 states have signed the treaty since its adoption by the UNGA last April. The treaty establishes a global framework to regulate the trade of conventional arms across borders and halt the destabilizing proliferation of arms to conflict regions. America’s signature is invaluable to the success of this treaty. It is important that other influential countries, Canada included, follow suit.

Another tentative breakthrough was the atmosphere surrounding the new President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Hassan Rouhani’s trip to headquarters. Rouhani used the UN as a neutral ground to introduce himself to the wider world. His performance has been cautiously seen as positive, with Iran seemingly looking to improve ties with the west in an effort to ease the devastating sanctions being imposed on the country. We witnessed what not long ago seemed impossible, when Obama spoke on the phone with Rouhani, this was the highest level of direct talks between the two countries since 1969. If this trend were to continue it would allow for a very thorny issue in the Middle East to be eased paving the way for Iran to play a more constructive role in the region. This was certainly a positive two weeks after decades of brinkmanship.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which is the assessment body within the United Nation’s Environment Programme (UNEP), released its much anticipated report on human’s influence on the warming of the planet, its most thorough to date. The report was stark. The panel did not thread lightly, calling for sustained global action as they are now 95% sure humans are causing global warming. Our actions are resulting in ice sheets losing mass, thawing permafrost in the northern hemisphere amongst other worrying trends. Articles discussing the report make for sobering reading, two headlines which standout are: “Thirty years to Climate Calamity” and “Climate Change will have no Bailout.”

All in all, it was a very lively meeting of the UN General Assembly. These stories will need to be watched closely to see what steps the international community takes next.

Post written by UNAC-Vancouver website writer, Barry Hynes. 

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