Leading Issues at UN General Assembly Opening This Week

by Kenneth Anderson

With UN meetings underway, here are a couple of links discussing leading issues on the table.  Everyone agrees that Syria leads the list, but pretty much everyone also agrees that it leads the list of things unlikely to be resolved or pushed materially to a resolution.  Neal MacFarquhar, the NYT UN correspondent, puts it this way in today’s Times, quoting SG Ban:

“The deteriorating situation in Syria will be the foremost on our minds,” Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations secretary general, said at a news conference last week outlining the priorities of the main session and some 50 side meetings. “It is really troubling that this situation is continuing without any immediate end to this crisis.”  Attention is one thing, however, and progress something else entirely.

Despite at least three high-level meetings on Syria, and countless other talks, not to mention day after day of speeches from presidents, kings and other potentates, no broad new initiatives are expected. “Everybody will think of Syria, everybody will speak of Syria, especially in the speeches to the General Assembly, but I don’t see anything substantial on Syria coming out of the meetings,” said one veteran Western diplomat, speaking anonymously under his ministry’s rules.

UNDispatch has an article on the “5 Stories to Watch” during the UN meetings [link doesn’t seem to work, but I will try and get it fixed later].  They are:

  • Syria
  • Crisis in the Sahel
  • US Election
  • Iran, Israel, and Nuclear Drama
  • Sustainable Development Goals

A journalist covering the meetings for a Japanese newspaper called to ask me if I thought that what MacFarquhar calls President Obama’s “drive by” trip to address the UN is a diss on the UN.  I told him I thought no one in the world actually took it as a diss (even if they said some dissed-sounding things to the press) but just the reality of what happens in US presidential election years.  There’s little if any upside in it for any sitting president, and really only downside, particularly if there’s anything that might be spun by the opposition in any direction.  It’s hard if not impossible for a US president not to show up, of course, but in electoral terms, there’s only downside in actually saying anything.

(I’d be curious if anyone has a different list; feel free to put yours in the comments.)


Comments are closed.