UN summit ends with Swiss leader’s call for action beyond rhetoric

By John Heilprin, AP
Wednesday, September 29, 2010

UN summit ends with call to action beyond rhetoric

UNITED NATIONS — World leaders wrapped up an annual rite of global diplomacy Wednesday, pledging to try to do more despite many of them feeling that they have less in their pockets to contribute.

At the U.N. General Assembly’s annual high-level gathering, which lasted almost two weeks, presidents and ministers vowed to extract tens of billions more from their financially hard-hit nations to grapple with poverty, diseases and climate change, and to prop up peace as hopes wear thin from Sudan to Somalia to the Middle East.

General Assembly President Joseph Deiss of Switzerland exhorted leaders at the meeting’s end to “put aside electoral cycles and purely national interests” and to move beyond their own rhetoric in order “to make true breakthroughs” on peace and governing, human rights and the environment.

He called for them to truly listen to one other and adopt new ways of thinking in the coming year, and said he was personally struck by “the generosity and determination” of so many in trying to lift the globe’s poorest out of poverty.

This year’s session kicked off with a three-day gathering on a set of ambitious anti-poverty goals, where the world’s nations pledged more than $40 billion to battle needless deaths among poor mothers and their children. Japan and the European Union promised billions for development and education, and there was greater focus on the roles of agriculture and nutrition.

“It’s not just a question of finance, or material, or means. I think it’s much more also a question of spirit,” Deiss told The Associated Press in a brief interview just after the gathering ended Wednesday. “If we are able to produce better spirit in the whole working, we will need less money because friendship can help to find solutions much better than confrontation.”

Going into the meetings, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned leaders of the growing political polarization and social inequalities in the world and implored U.N. members to show greater tolerance and mutual respect to bring nations and peoples together.

Nicholas Haysom, Ban’s political affairs director, said Wednesday that much of the action included private one-on-one talks among leaders, a mysterious ritual that may appear to be the diplomatic equivalent of speed-dating — but is more substantial .

“But it is at the end of the day only teeing the issue up. The real test of much of what we do is the effect it has, or the translation of many of the verbal commitments, into real action,” Haysom said.

If anyone needed reminding the U.N. is a world away from surrounding Manhattan, whose traffic is choked by the high security and motorcades, the meetings kicked off with Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorin describing the U.S.-led 2003 invasion of Iraq as evidence that “blind faith in intelligence reports tailored to justify political goals must be rejected.”

Qatar’s Emir Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani declared that terrorism “should not be treated by waging wars.”

U.S. President Barack Obama urged Sudanese leaders to go ahead with a referendum on independence in the southern part of the country or risk greater international isolation. Separately, he cautioned leaders “that ancient hatreds and religious divides are once again ascendant; that a world which has grown more interconnected has somehow slipped beyond our control.”

Much of the attention focused, however, on the reliable eyebrow-raisers.

Iran’s hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad provoked more controversy, saying a majority of people in the United States and around the world believe the American government staged the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks in an attempt to assure Israel’s survival. The U.S. delegation walked out, as did delegations from all 27 European Union nations, and representatives from Australia, New Zealand, Canada and Costa Rica.

North Korea, wary of a U.S. and South Korean military buildup, resolved to strengthen its nuclear weapons stockpile. Pak Kil Yon, the vice-minister of foreign Affairs, said nuclear-armed Pyongyang, however, keeps atomic weapons solely for defensive purposes and is ready to join nuclear nonproliferation efforts.

This year’s session kicked off with a three-day gathering of about 140 leaders to sign off on a new accord reaffirming their commitment to reaching by 2015 a set of ambitious anti-poverty goals, known as the Millennium Development Goals.

“In this environment, where governments are tightening their belts at home, to be making additional investments outside their borders is, really, quite a significant development,” said Robert Orr, assistant secretary-general for policy coordination and strategic planning.

will not be displayed