Diplomacy in Action: The United Nations General Assembly

President Barack Obama delivers remarks during his address to the United Nations General Assembly

President Barack Obama delivers remarks during his address to the United Nations General Assembly in New York, N.Y., Sept. 23, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon)

On September 23 and 24, President Obama joined Heads of State from all around the world at the opening of the 68th session of the U.N. General Assembly. Over the course of the two days, the President led a high-level event on supporting civil society, engaged in bilateral discussions with Nigerian, Lebanese, and Palestinian leaders, and addressed the General Assembly.

The President’s speech to the General Assembly outlined the United States’ perspective on the challenges that the international community is confronting with the Syrian crisis, the destabilization of the region, and the conflicts between and within countries in the Middle East and North Africa. In his remarks, the President:

  • Stated that there must be a “strong Security Council Resolution” to verify that the Asad regime is keeping its commitments with respect to chemical weapons and “there must be consequences” if they fail to do so;
  • Emphasized the U.S. commitment to resolving the issue of Iran’s nuclear weapons, noting that resolution of that issue could “serve as a major step down a long road towards a different relationship—one based on mutual interests and mutual respect;” 
  • Called for global support for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, asking the “entire international community to get behind the pursuit of peace”;
  • Described certain core interests that the United States would be prepared to use all elements of our power, including military force, to secure;
  • Made clear the United States’ continued commitment to promoting democracy, human rights, and open markets, in partnership with the international community; and
  • Stated that the United States stands “ready to do our part to prevent mass atrocities and protect human rights,” while sharing the burdens with our international partners, as we have done in supporting French efforts in Mali, working with African partners to counter the Lord’s Resistance Army, and in joining an international coalition to protect civilians in Libya.

For the United States, the week-long high-level opening session of the General Assembly offers an unparalleled opportunity to engage leaders from all the world's countries. As the President said in his address, the "for decades, the United Nations has in fact made a difference -- from helping to eradicate disease, to educating children, to brokering peace." And we remain strongly committed to working in partnership with the international community and the United Nations to meet the challenges of our time.

Steve Pomper is the Senior Director for Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights