President Obama and the United Nations
The 64th United Nations General Assembly began on September 14, 2009. President Barack Obama addressed the General Assembly and made two noteworthy addresses regarding nuclear weapons and climate change. In Obama's speech to the General Assembly, he outlined four pillars: non-proliferation and disarmament, promotion of peace, environmental protection, and economic growth for all. When he convened a U.N. Security Council Summit to discuss and adopt his resolution on nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament. In his plenary speech, Obama explained the need for a renewed agreement to address nuclear proliferation, a "fundamental threat to the security of all peoples and all nations." Echoing the principles he laid out in a speech in Prague last April, the U.S. resolution calls for a broad, multilateral framework to reduce the nuclear threat and provide a means to agreement among nuclear, non-nuclear, and countries. In President Obama's climate change speech, he emphasized America's commitment to combating climate change, detailing that his administration has made "our government's largest ever investment in renewable energy".
Throughout all of his speeches, Obama distinguished himself from his predecessor and set up ambitious and progressive policies for the United States. Below you will find the full text of the speeches and the text of the Security Council Resolution. You can read:
speech to the U.N. General Assembly
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As the media has covered President Obama's speech to the General Assembly, many news media outlets have either focused on his stance on Israeli settlements, his "apology" for the Bush administration, or his rhetoric toward North Korea and Iran. Little has been said about his four pillars: non-proliferation and disarmament, promotion of peace, environmental protection, and economic growth for all. When viewed together, they create a more secure world. President Obama stressed that he has no illusions about the tasks ahead of him and the international community. However, will his political capital extend past borders of the United States and into the legislative bodies of nations across the world?
President Obama's addressed his first pillar, nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament, and its growing importance in the 21st century. He stressed international standards of non-proliferation and specifically mentioned the desires of North Korea and Iran to obtain nuclear weapons.
President Obama stressed his desire to reassert values of peace throughout the world. His stance for promoting peace must move beyond the Israeli-Palestine conflict as this conflict was heavily focused on in his speech. Across the globe the U.S. can and must engage in stronger initiatives to end conflict and protect civilians. President Obama obviously understands the importance of finding comprehensive solutions to global problems and "enabling every human being to live with dignity and security."
President Obama addressed the fact that even though developed economies have caused most of the Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions, developing countries will face the most severe consequences in combating climate change. President Obama announced that there must be "sweeping but necessary change" as the world prepares for Copenhagen Conference on Climate Change. The President reminded world leaders that unless each state takes steps to reduce carbon emissions everyone is in peril. While agreeing that developed countries should create more sustainable economies, President Obama stressed that developing economies must stop hiding behind economic development and blaming developed countries. President Obama promised to aid developing economies and requested that other advanced economies do the same.
He also stressed the need for fair international trade so that developing countries can grow and be on the same level as the developed economies. If not climate change will continue down this dangerous path. As President Obama noted going down this path will increase degradation of natural resources, eventually stagnate economic growth, and will cause further instability and thus will increase threats to each nation's security.
entire climate change speech
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President Obama's speech on climate change at the U.N. marks an important change in the way the American government plans to conduct itself in the world. President Obama stated that "Because no one nation can meet this challenge alone, the United States has also engaged more allies and partners in finding a solution than ever before." It is crucial that America becomes a cooperative and collaborative force in the global fight against climate change, as well as human rights, peacekeeping, and the United Nations.
The Obama Administration has made "our government's largest ever investment in renewable energy". This is true, and President Obama is pushing the Senate to pass legislation for carbon-emissions trading before the Copenhagen climate change conference this December. In the speech, Obama stated plans for the United States to continue "investing in renewable energy, promoting greater efficiency, and slashing our emissions to reach the targets we set for 2020 and our long-term goal for 2050." Despite the fact that these targets have not yet been set, it is important that Obama is dedicated to creating emissions reduction targets. The United States has to play an exemplary role in the climate change problem, and by setting definitive targets, America's dedication will be displayed to the world.
The United States should also promote the creation of a standardized system of emissions reduction measurements and targets. While some of the G20 countries have committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the metrics which they have used are not standardized, making it difficult to compare each nation's goals and commitments.
President Obama also stated that developed countries, which have damaged the environment more than developing nations, must take the lead on climate change. President Obama emphasized that industrialized nations, like China and India (neither of these nations have made binding commitments to emissions reductions), need to take definitive steps toward lowering emissions. A new track must be taken by developed and developing countries alike to aim towards sustainable development, or green growth. Obama's recognition of the need for the developed countries to help the developing countries is crucial because much of the global South does not have the financial capacity to support sustainable development- so aid from other nations is vital.
Unfortunately, President Obama's speech, for the most part, lacked specificity and clear-cut goals for climate change policies in the future. The acting director of the World Wildlife Fund, Keya Chatterjee, stated, "The speech as a whole represents a missed opportunity for the U.S. to take a leadership role and signal to the rest of the world that it is serious about tackling the threat of climate change." In order for the world to move forward and combat the threat of climate change, real and feasible proposals must be made and implemented, and the United States needs to take a leadership role in any of these plans. Hopefully, the upcoming Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark will yield enforceable proposals that show commitment to the problem of climate change.
opening remarks at the United Nations Security Council meeting on nuclear non-proliferation
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On September 24, 2009, President Obama convened a U.N. Security Council Summit to discuss and adopt his resolution on nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament, threats to the "security of all peoples and all nations." The U.S. resolution calls for a broad, multilateral framework to reduce the nuclear threat. First, the resolution provides for all nations to have the right to peaceful nuclear energy. Second, current nuclear powers must work toward disarmament. Third, countries currently without nuclear weapons must not build or acquire them.
Citing the resolution in his speech, Obama focused on the collective responsibility all countries have to meet the threat stating: "The world must stand together. And we must demonstrate that international law is not an empty promise, and that treaties will be enforced." Obama also outlined future efforts to address the problem by pursuing START II talks with Russia and the NPT Review Conference in May 2010.
In closing, President Obama urged the Security Council to take up the difficult yet critical task ahead of them: working towards a world free of nuclear weapons; emphasizing the collective responsibility that "no difference or division is worth destroying all that we have built and all that we love."
Security Council Resolution adopted after Obama chaired the meeting
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"We harbor no illusions about the difficulty of bringing about a world without nuclear weapons. We know there are plenty of cynics, and that there will be setbacks to prove their point. But there will also be days like today that push us forward - days that tell a different story."
On September 24, 2009, President Obama chaired a meeting of the U.N. Security Council to urge strides toward a world free of nuclear weapons.
At the heart of the Obama Administration's efforts to set a new tone at the meeting was his nuclear nonproliferation proposal (UNSC Resolution 1887). Reiterating his speech in April 2009 in Prague, Czech Republic, President Obama's resolution seeks to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and offers support for new nuclear nonproliferation initiatives.
This resolution was unanimously cosponsored and adopted, committing the U.N. Security Council "to work toward a world without nuclear weapons and endorsing a broad framework of actions to reduce global nuclear dangers." UNSC Resolution 1887 represents a departure from the previous administration in two fundamental ways. First, it endorses a shared commitment by the world's nuclear powers to not attack non-nuclear states with nuclear weapons. Second, it spells out how a nation's "right" to pursue nuclear energy must be in accordance with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
The resolution expresses the Security Council's deep concern regarding the threat of nuclear nonproliferation and the need for coordinated international action to address it. The resolution also sends a message to those not complying with their international obligations although it does not specifically single out Iran or North Korea. The White House stated that the resolution re-affirms previous U.N. Security Council resolutions dealing with the nuclear weapons programs of Iran and North Korea, even if they are not named. Anne Bayefsky, Senior Fellow at the Hudson Institute, disagreed with this approach, chastising Obama for seeking Security Council approval of a general set of standards without specifically targeting Iran or North Korea.
Henry Sokolski, Executive Director of the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center, criticized the resolution for focusing too much on disarmament at the expense of proliferation. Sokolski also criticized the resolution for its lack of specific steps to address nonproliferation efforts globally, including a failure to provide the International Atomic Energy Association (IAEA) any new authority. Daryl Kimball, Executive Director of the Arms Control Association, however, argues that the decision to frame the Security Council's nonproliferation strategy as a set of universally applicable standards is correct. He agreed that the U.N. resolution could have included stronger and more specific nonproliferation commitments but were probably worded to attain broad-based support. Furthermore, Kimball notes that the resolution "does not break radically new ground, but it is very helpful in stitching together a broad-based consensus on the nonproliferation system." Perhaps the U.N. Security Council resolution's greatest strength lies in its ability to help restart an international conversation on the threat posed by nuclear proliferation.
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