UNGA 69: Why the UN Matters More Than Ever

Posted by H. Dean Pittman
September 17, 2014
President Barack Obama Addresses the 67th Session of the General Assembly at United Nations Headquarters

September 22 marks the opening of the 69th United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) High-Level Week in New York.  World leaders and representatives from 194 countries will come together to work on an agenda packed with burning issues: foreign terrorist fighters, Ebola, climate change, and much more.

Incredible things can happen at UNGA -- diplomacy often breaks out in uncommon and unanticipated ways, and the convening gravity of the United Nations gives Manhattan a decidedly multilateral tilt every September.  In his speech earlier this year at West Point, the President discussed at some length his vision of American foreign policy leadership -- leadership that would not shrink from challenges to U.S. interests, but would also seek to seize and employ opportunities for collective action when such a path offered the best chance for realizing U.S. goals. 

UNGA is very much about collective action, and at a time in history when the world is facing unprecedented threats to global health, the very real dangers associated with climate change, and the dangers of foreign terrorist fighters, the world needs an effective mechanism to apply its collective will. 

UNGA this year will also coincide with the U.S. presidency of the Security Council, offering unique opportunities for the United States to draw the world’s attention to urgent issues, including the situations in Iraq and Syria.  In addition, we anticipate ambitious action on climate and oceans, action to address the threat of foreign terrorist fighters, new international commitments to UN peacekeeping, strengthened international collaboration on Ebola, and much more.

The annual UNGA is a frantic, frenzied spectacle.  It is also a diplomatic marvel, and though we will certainly not agree with everything that is said, proposed, or concluded in these next few crazed days, we embrace the opportunities it presents to advance U.S. interests and strengthen collective action on urgent needs.   

About the author: Dean Pittman serves as the Acting Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of International Organization Affairs.


Acting Assistant Secretary Pittman will answer questions about the upcoming UN General Assembly live on Facebook on Wednesday, September 17 at 3:30 p.m. (EDT) at www.facebook.com/usdos.

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