Last week hundreds of world leaders converged in New York City for the annual opening of the United Nations General Assembly; on the agenda were hot topics such as Syria, Israel and Iran. However, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the rights of women and children have also been on the agenda. Governments and aid organizations alike made pledges to improve the rights and health of women and children at the current session of the U.N. General Assembly. A number of countries are backing the Equal Futures Partnership, an initiative intended to increase the participation of women in business and politics (The Development Newswire blog).
This week, the United States signed a new Declaration on Women’s Participation. Next year, we should each announce the steps we are taking to break down economic and political barriers that stand in the way of women and girls. That is what our commitment to human progress demands. -President Obama’s Address to the United Nations General Assembly, September 21, 2011 (White House)
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton launched the Equal Futures Partnership on behalf of the United States along with 12 other founding members (Australia, Benin, Bangladesh, Denmark, Finland, Indonesia, Jordan, the Netherlands, Peru, Senegal, Tunisia, and the EU). Multilateral stakeholders including U.N. Women and the World Bank and leading businesses and non-profit institutions have also pledged support for the partnership.
Additionally, global health issues affecting children were at the top of the international agenda. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon stated that eradicating polio is at the top of his second-term goals, and he expressed optimism about achieving it in the next few years:
“We have reduced polio by 99% worldwide,” Ban said during the UN General Assembly, and he called on leaders to help Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan eliminate the last remaining cases. Timothy E. Wirth, president of the United Nations Foundation, called it “the most important international meeting on polio eradication in the last 20 years.” (Google/The Associated Press)
Another important task before the General Assembly was coming up with a strategy for creating a new set of international development goals once the MDGs expire. The MDGs were a set of eight global health and poverty eradication goals world leaders agreed to at the U.N. in 2000; however, they expire in 2015. The international community has begun to nail down the details of a post-MDGs global development agenda. “We need a clear post-2015 development agenda — an agenda with shared responsibilities for all countries, with the fight against poverty at the fore and sustainable development at the core,” said United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (AlertNet).
In his address titled, “A Call to Ambition,” to the 67th session of the U.N. General Assembly, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon stated,
“Still, we must raise our levels of ambition. Poverty and inequality remain rampant. Ecosystems are reaching the breaking point. The world’s best science is irrefutable: we must change course. That is why I have urged world leaders to press ahead with initiatives on sustainable energy, education, nutrition and women’s and children’s health. The economic crisis should not be an excuse to default on commitments to the basics that all people need.”