World leaders kicked off their annual debate at the United Nations today as the UN chief Ban Ki-moon appealed to the more than 120 leaders for "genuine" collective action to roll back climate change as well as global poverty and push for nuclear disarmament. "If ever there were a time to act in a spirit of renewed multilateralism a moment to create a United Nations of genuine collective action it is now," Mr Ban told the assembly.
But all eyes were to be on Mr Obama who has vowed a close partnership with the United Nations after the administration of his predecessor, George W Bush, was accused of riding roughshod over the 192-member body. "Those who used to chastise America for acting alone in the world cannot now stand by and wait for America to solve the world's problems alone," Mr Obama was to tell the assembly, according to advance extracts released by the White House.
"We have sought in word and deed a new era of engagement with the world. Now is the time for all of us to take our share of responsibility for a global response to global challenges." In a reminder of the dangers facing the world, in the city still scarred by the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center, Mr Obama was to warn of the heavy price to pay if global leaders fail to act against militants.
"Consider the course that we are on if we fail to confront the status quo. Extremists sowing terror in pockets of the world. Protracted conflicts that grind on and on," the president is expected to say. "Genocide and mass atrocities. More and more nations with nuclear weapons. Melting ice caps and ravaged populations. Persistent poverty and pandemic disease. "I say this not to sow fear, but to state a fact: the magnitude of our challenges has yet to be met by the measure of our action."
The rising temperatures inside the UN headquarters may be matched by protests on the streets outside, and organisers have said thousands are set to rally "to warn against the dire implications of offering diplomatic and political incentives to the Iranian regime." *AFP