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Global challenges top UN agenda
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General debate

The week-long debate will be held under an overarching theme, " Effective responses to global crises: strengthening multilateralism and dialogue among civilizations for international peace, security and development," proposed by the new assembly president, Ali Abdussalam Treki of Libya.

But, held in the shadow of the global economic and financial crisis, which does not yet appear to have bottomed out, member states are also expected to discuss and propose changes to the existing global financial, economic, monetary and trade governance.

Also, as the 2015 deadline for a set of anti-poverty goals draws near, the general debate is also likely to delve into the progress of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

A UN report has warned that major advances in the fight against poverty and hunger have begun to slow or even reverse as a result of the global economic and food crises.

With some member states appearing unlikely to meet the MDGs, in particular those from Africa, many developing countries are calling for intensified international efforts to accelerate progress with strong political commitment and sufficient funding.

Other likely hot topics include the Security Council reform, a long and tedious process which has gained certain momentum following the onset of intergovernmental negotiations earlier this year, as some member states are expected to call for the continuation of such a process.

Symbolic return

During his stay at the UN, Obama will also host a lunch for heads of state and government from sub-Saharan Africa, focusing on building what has been described by US officials as "a 21st century partnership to increase economic and social development in Africa."

It would be Obama's first attendance at a UN assembly since he assumed the US presidency in January. Some analysts have viewed this as an opportunity for Obama to manifest his country's symbolic return to multilateralism following years of the unilateralist policy pursued by his predecessor, George W. Bush.

"This is an opportunity for the United States to underscore the value we see in this institution as well as to highlight areas where we hope and expected its performance can be improved," Rice, the US ambassador, said. "It is fully consistent with the United States' active re-engagement in this institution and other multilateral institutions."

On the sidelines of the general debate, a number of important events concerning regional and international peace and security are expected to take place at the UN Headquarters.

The UN Security Council's five permanent members and Germany have agreed to discuss Iran's nuclear issue, although no new sanctions are expected to come out of the yet undated meeting.

On the Palestine-Israel front, there are expectations that the Obama administration might arrange a three-way meeting during the General Assembly, and even announce a resumption of peace talks. But such a prospect is growing dim because of a dispute over Israel's settlement activity.

(Xinhua News Agency September 16, 2009)

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