The leaders of the 192 member states of the United Nations gather on Sep 15 to open the 64th General Assembly. General debate begins Sep 23, and some leaders will stay on for focus summits: climate Sep 22; maternal health Sep 23; and a Security Council summit on nuclear arms, led by President Barak Obama, Sep 24. Sixty-fourth session business includes follow-up on two recent UN initiatives -- reforming UN peacekeeping operations and naming and shaming governments that recruit child soldiers.
The climate summit will be an opportunity to try to coax China and other developing countries to accept an emissions caps in time for a planned December UN climate summit in Copenhagen. Prime Minister Gordon Brown of Britain and the United Nations secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, are focusing on the maternal health goal, and are trying to organize a landmark global health session on Sep 23. Obama has vowed to take new steps to reduce US stockpiles of nuclear weapons. He and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev agreed in Moscow in July to reduce their Cold War arsenals of deployed nuclear warheads by around one third from current levels. The session will be focused on nuclear nonproliferation and nuclear disarmament broadly, however, and not on any specific countries, according to Susan Rice, the United States ambassador to the United Nations. The general debate is likely to delve into the growing likelihood that some UN members won't be able to meet, by 2015, the Millennium Development Goals they set at a special summit in 2000. These are the eradication of hunger and poverty, achieving universal education, promoting gender equality, reducing child mortality, improving maternal health, combating HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases, ensuring environment sustainability and developing a global partnership for development. Alain Le Roy, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, told the 15-member body at the start of a Security Council gathering in August that the so-called New Horizons process seeks to revitalize the peacekeeping partnership to boost management and oversight. Britain and France are leading efforts to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of peacekeeping missions, some of which have faced charges of corruption and sexual abuse. The United Nations has been conducting its own internal review and found that peacekeeping was overstretched and needed clearer mandates from the Security Council and more resources, especially equipment and well-trained troops. Some 60 governments and armed groups continue violating internationl law and the rights and protection of children in armed conflicts, according to the United Nations, by recruiting child soldiers and allowing children in war zones to be killed, maimed and raped. The initiative involves taking action against them, which could include sanctions. In 2005 the UN Security Council addressed the exploitation of children as combatants. The United Nations says there are still some 250,000 child soldiers. Aug/09
Date written/update: 2009-09-15