The 68th Session of the United Nations General Assembly opened on Tuesday, with its new president, John W. Ashe of Antigua and Barbuda, outlining the need to lay the groundwork for global sustainable development after the end of the current development cycle in 2015 which is the deadline for achieving the U.N. Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The crisis in Syria is also expected to dominate the debate.
"The upcoming year will be pivotal for this Assembly as we seek to identify the parameters of the post-2015 development agenda," 68th General Assembly President Ashe told the 193-member state body in his opening address.
Several global leaders and heads of states will hold the annual general debate on the issues and challenges the world faces.
"The magnitude of the task before us will require decisive action and the highest levels of collaboration and we must prove ourselves and our efforts to be equal to the enormity of the task," President Ashe told the assembly.
The MDGs' agenda set out eight anti-poverty targets agreed by world leaders at a U.N. summit in 2000. The specific goals under MDGs included poverty alleviation, education, gender equality, child and maternal health, environmental stability, HIV/AIDS reduction and a global partnership for development.
Representing the agenda before global leaders to lay the groundwork for global sustainable development, the theme for the 68th General Assembly is "The Post 2015 Development Agenda: Setting the Stage."
It was a theme underscored by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in his address to the General Assembly.
"We will intensify our efforts to define a post-2015 development agenda, including with a single set of goals for sustainable development that we hope will address the complex challenges of this new era and capture the imagination of the people of the world, as the MDGs did," Ban said.
Ban added that attention would also be focussed on speeding achievement of the MDG in the 1,000 days left before the deadline. He added that he also intended to convene a high-level meeting on climate change.
However, Ban said, the crisis in Syria is likely to figure prominently in the speeches and meetings during the General Debate next week.
"Syria is without doubt the biggest crisis facing the international community," he stressed. "The Assembly has a role and a voice in our efforts to resolve it and respond to the suffering."
There had been over 100,000 people dead. More than 2 million people fled Syria and sought refuge in neighbouring countries, while 4 million people were internally displaced. The conflict between the Syrian government and the opposition groups that seek to oust President Bashar Al-Assad has been going on for two and a half years.
(Image credit: Aotearoa via Wikimedia Commons under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported)
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