by Robin Gericke, Staff Writer
What do the European immigration crisis, the Syrian civil war and the Palestinian flag have in common? They were all important topics discussed during the 70th session of the United Nations General Assembly, which began on Sept. 15 in New York and ongoing through the month of October.
The General Assembly is a global body that meets to discuss issues about international peace and security. It can make recommendations, but the resolutions passed are not binding law. This year’s annual meeting attracted a record number of world leaders, including Russian President Vladimir Putin. Items on the agenda included the refugee crisis and Syrian conflict.
As thousands of refugees flee to European countries, European leaders urged U.N. member states to introduce global refugee quotas. According The New York Times, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said Europe will be unable to handle the burden of the refugees on its own and that the global quota system is needed to fairly distribute asylum-seekers.
President Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin had a side meeting during the assembly. The private 90-minute meeting was dominated by discussion about the crises in Syria and the Ukraine, according to the Washington Post. Obama and Putin disagree about the future of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad. Obama believes that peace for the country will not come with Assad in power whereas Putin supports Assad, saying his military has the best chance to defeat ISIS.
A special event happened during this year’s General Assembly: the Palestinian flag was raised for the first time at the United Nations. Designated as a non-member observer state by the U.N. in 2012, Palestine can now fly their flag outside the U.N. Headquarters. This is due to Palestinian campaigning for a General Assembly resolution to allow U.N. observer states to fly their flags alongside those of the 193 U.N. member states. According to The New York Times, more than 300 ministers, diplomats and well-wishers were present at the rose garden at the U.N. Headquarters as Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas raised the flag.
In President Obama’s speech to the General Assembly, he outlined how the United States is taking action to address issues discussed at the General Assembly. He talked about the United States and Russia’s plan to reduce strategic warheads and launchers in an effort to create a world free from nuclear weapons. Obama spoke about the $80 billion the United States has invested in clean energy and his work to restore Middle East peace. On the other hand, his speech also focused on the fact that the United States can’t do any of that alone.
“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,” Obama said. “We have sought in word and deed a new era of engagement with the world, and now is the time for all of us to take our share of responsibility for a global response to global challenges.”