World lead­ers face crises in North Korea and Myan­mar

The Malta Independent on Sunday - - WORLD -

Edith M. Led­erer Fac­ing an es­ca­lat­ing nu­clear threat from North Korea and the mass flight of mi­nor­ity Mus­lims from Myan­mar, world lead­ers gather at the United Na­tions start­ing Mon­day to tackle these and other tough chal­lenges – from the spread of ter­ror­ism to a warm­ing planet.

The spot­light will be on US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and France’s new leader, Em­manuel Macron, who will both be mak­ing their first ap­pear­ance at the Gen­eral Assem­bly. They will be joined by more than 100 heads of state and gov­ern­ment, in­clud­ing Zim­babwe’s Pres­i­dent Robert Mu­gabe, one of Africa’s long­est-serv­ing lead­ers who is said to be bring­ing a 70-mem­ber en­tourage.

While Trump’s speeches and meet­ings will be closely fol­lowed, it will be North Korea, which Sec­re­tary-Gen­eral Antonio Guter­res calls “the most dan­ger­ous cri­sis that we face today”, that will be most care­fully watched. No of­fi­cial event ad­dress­ing Py­ongyang’s re­lent­less cam­paign to de­velop nu­clear weapons ca­pa­ble of hit­ting the United States is on the UN agenda, but it is ex­pected to be the No. 1 is­sue for most lead­ers.

Not far be­hind will be the plight of Myan­mar’s Ro­hingya Mus­lims, vic­tims of what Guter­res calls a cam­paign of eth­nic cleans­ing that has driven nearly 400,000 to flee to Bangladesh in the past three weeks. The Se­cu­rity Coun­cil, in its first state­ment on Myan­mar in nine years, con­demned the vi­o­lence and called for im­me­di­ate steps to end it. British For­eign Sec­re­tary Boris John­son is host­ing a closed meet­ing on the cri­sis tomorrow, and the Or­ga­ni­za­tion of Is­lamic Co­op­er­a­tion’s con­tact group on the Ro­hingyas is sched­uled to meet on Tues­day.

Guter­res said lead­ers would also be fo­cus­ing on a third ma­jor threat – cli­mate change. The num­ber of nat­u­ral dis­as­ters has nearly quadru­pled and he pointed to un­prece­dented weather events in re­cent weeks from Texas, Florida and the Caribbean to Bangladesh, In­dia, Nepal and Sierra Leone.

While Trump has an­nounced that the United States will pull out of the 2015 Paris Cli­mate Agree­ment, Macron will be host­ing a meet­ing on Tues­day to spur its im­ple­men­ta­tion. And a late ad­di­tion to the hun­dreds of of­fi­cial meet­ings and side events dur­ing the min­is­te­rial week is a high-level ses- sion tomorrow on the dev­as­ta­tion caused by Hur­ri­cane Irma.

Sev­eral ter­ror­ism-re­lated events are on the agenda. Macron is hold­ing a meet­ing tomorrow with lead­ers of five African na­tions – Mali, Mau­ri­ta­nia, Niger, Burk­ina Faso and Chad – that are putting to­gether a 5,000-strong force to fight the grow­ing threat from ex­trem­ists in the vast Sa­hel re­gion.

A side event Wed­nes­day on “Pre­vent­ing Ter­ror­ist Use of the In­ter­net” will be at­tended by se­nior rep­re­sen­ta­tives of ma­jor so­cial me­dia com­pa­nies. Co-hosts Bri­tain, France and Italy said a global re­sponse is needed “to make the on­line space a hos­tile en­vi­ron­ment for ter­ror­ists”.

Trump has ac­cused Iran of sup­port­ing ter­ror­ists and is threat­en­ing to rip up the 2015 deal to rein in its nu­clear pro­gramme. With a US de­ci­sion due in Oc­to­ber, min­is­ters from the six par­ties to the agree­ment are ex­pected to meet next week. The five oth­ers strongly sup­port the deal.

Trump has also been crit­i­cal of the United Na­tions and has promised to cut the US con­tri­bu­tion to its bud­get, which is the largest. So some diplo­mats were sur­prised that the United States would spon­sor an event tomorrow on re­form­ing the 193-mem­ber world body.

Trump and Guter­res will speak, and the United States has asked all coun­tries to sign a dec­la­ra­tion on UN re­forms. Over 100 have added their names, but Rus­sia’s UN Am­bas­sador Vass­ily Neben­zia said on Fri­day that “we are not sure we will sign this dec­la­ra­tion”.

He said that while “lots of ideas con­tained in this doc­u­ment are im­por­tant and look sim­i­lar to what the sec­re­tary­gen­eral pro­poses”, UN re­forms should re­sult from ne­go­ti­a­tions among all coun­tries in­stead of from “a dec­la­ra­tion of like-minded coun­tries”.

The Se­cu­rity Coun­cil is hold­ing a high-level meet­ing on Wed­nes­day on UN peace­keep­ing op­er­a­tions, which cost nearly $8 bil­lion a year. The United States, which pays over 28 per cent of the peace­keep­ing bud­get, is re­view­ing all the mis­sions in an ef­fort to cut costs and make them more ef­fec­tive.

While there are many side events on other global hotspots from Cen­tral African Repub­lic and South Su­dan to Libya, Mali and Somalia, the min­is­te­rial meet­ing will also see ses­sions on achiev­ing UN goals for 2030 to end ex­treme poverty and pre­serve the planet, women’s eco­nomic em­pow­er­ment, mi­gra­tion and con­flict pre­ven­tion – a top pri­or­ity of the sec­re­tary-gen­eral.

Ger­many’s UN Am­bas­sador Christoph Heusgen said the most im­por­tant thing about the Gen­eral Assem­bly min­is­te­rial ses­sion, which of­fi­cially be­gins on Tues­day and ends on 25th Septem­ber, is the op­por­tu­nity for lead­ers to talk one-on-one or get to­gether in groups.

“I think this is in­deed the Su­per Bowl,” he said. “If it didn’t ex­ist, one had to cre­ate this op­por­tu­nity so that can peo­ple can talk to each other.”

Gen­eral Assem­bly Pres­i­dent Miroslav La­j­cak re­minded mem­ber states that even rep­re­sen­ta­tives of coun­tries “with pro­found dis­agree­ments on fun­da­men­tal is­sues will sit side-by-side”.

He sug­gested a sim­ple rule: “Treat ev­ery speaker on this podium as if he or she is our own head of del­e­ga­tion.”

“As long as we can use these meet­ing rooms to talk and reach com­pro­mises in good will, then we all have the col­lec­tive op­por­tu­nity to use the UN to make the world a bet­ter, and more peace­ful place,” La­j­cak said. “If we don’t do this, the fail­ure will lie with us – not the UN.”

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