President Barack Obama took his call for world cooperation against terror, climate change, Ebola and a host of other issues to the United Nations Wednesday, saying the world stands at a crossroads “between war and peace; between disorder and integration; between fear and hope.”
“Fellow delegates, we come together as United Nations with a choice to make,” Obama told the delegation. “We can renew the international system that has enabled so much progress, or allow ourselves to be pulled back by an undertow of instability.”
He said many of the world’s problems are the result of “the failure of our international system to keep pace with an interconnected world” and urged greater adherence to international norms and more cooperation in the fight against extremism.
He said world leaders must decide on two defining issues: “Whether the nations here today will be able to renew the purpose of the U.N.’s founding, and whether we will come together to reject the cancer of violent extremism.”
His speech comes amid numerous international crises, including the fight against ISIS in Syria and Iraq, lingering tensions in Ukraine and the spread of Ebola in Africa, which the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently said could infect as many as 1.4 million people by early next year.
Here’s how he addressed each issue:
Ukraine: Russia’s involvement in Ukraine represents “a vision of the world in which might makes right — a world in which one nation’s borders can be redrawn by another, and civilized people are not allowed to recover the remains of their loved ones because of the truth that might be revealed.” If Russia rolls back its involvement, the United States “will lift our sanctions and welcome Russia’s role in addressing common challenges.”
Ebola: He called for a “broader effort to stop a disease that could kill hundreds of thousands, inflict horrific suffering, destabilize economies, and move rapidly across borders.”
Iran’s nuclear program: Obama urged Iranian leaders to work with the United States and others to resolve Western concerns over the country’s nuclear program. “We can reach a solution that meets your energy needs while assuring the world that your program is peaceful,” he said.
Global poverty: “We will do our part — to help people feed themselves; power their economies; and care for their sick,” he said. “If the world acts together, we can make sure that all of our children can enjoy lives of opportunity and dignity.”
Climate change: The United States will work on the issue within its own borders, but “we can only succeed in combating climate change if we are joined in this effort by every major power,” Obama said. “That’s how we can protect this planet for our children and grandchildren.”
ISIS: “Collectively, we must take concrete steps to address the danger posed by religiously motivated fanatics, and the trends that fuel their recruitment,” he said.
“No God condones this terror. No grievance justifies these actions. There can be no reasoning — no negotiation — with this brand of evil,” he said. The only language understood by killers like this is the language of force. So the United States of America will work with a broad coalition to dismantle this network of death.”
But, he said, efforts must be made to address the underlying factors leading to the rise of extremism, including education, women’s rights and other issues.
Security Council meeting
Later Wednesday, Obama was scheduled to lead a special session of the U.N. Security Council focused on ISIS, which calls itself the “Islamic State.” The terror group has seized portions of Syria and Iraq, prompting the United States and now some other nations to launch airstrikes against it.
The council is expected to consider a resolution requiring U.N. member states to take steps to make it more difficult for people to travel overseas to join ISIS, a growing problem for some European countries, particularly.