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U.S. Priorities for the 71st Session of the United Nations General Assembly

This guest post was written by Vera Dimoplon. Vera is a graduate student at the Seton Hall School of Diplomacy and International Relations. Her specializations are in International Organizations, Global Negotiations and Conflict Management. Vera’s interests are the operation of international institutions in multilateral community and negotiations among multinational actors.

On 21 September 2016 at New York Foreign Press Center, Bathsheba N. Crocker, Assistant Secretary of State of International Organization Affairs and Deputy Department Spokesperson Mark Toner gave a briefing on the U.S. Priorities for the 71st Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). Assistant Secretary of State Crocker opened the briefing with the remarks on how unique this UNGA is in regards to the fact that this is the last UNGA for both, President Obama as well as for Secretary- General Ban Ki- moon. She reflected on some things that have been done since last year: new commitments were accepted to strengthen UN Peacekeeping, actions that were taken to counter ISIL and violent extremism, the adoption of Sustainable Development Goals Agenda 2030, as well as the progress on the climate change negotiations.  Assistant Secretary of State Crocker identified three areas of focus for the upcoming 71st Session of the UNGA. Those areas are: humanitarian response, peace and security, and countering terrorism and violent extremism. In addition, the U.S. and U.N. member- states’ will continue to collaborate on climate change, sustainable development, human rights, nonproliferation, and the U.N. reform.

Humanitarian Response

Bathsheba N. Crocker, talked about a few events that relate to the humanitarian response issue that President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry were going to participate in during the 71st UNGA.

On 20 September 2016, John Kerry participated in a meeting on the Global Demining Initiative for Colombia with the Norwegian foreign minister. The meeting resulted in the U.S., Norway,19 other countries, as well as the European Union making a commitment to help Colombia rid itself of landmines by the year of 2021. The total amount pledged during the meeting was $105 million.

The Secretary of State delivered the U.S. national statement at the UNGA that focused on extensive movements of migrants and refugees. Member- states were asked to adopt a declaration highlighting the key principles, including shared global responsibility, international cooperation, as well as shared commitments to assisting migrants and refugees in this time of global crisis.

On 20 September 2016, President Obama hosted the Leaders’ Summit on Refugees. UN Secretary- General and leaders from Canada, Ethiopia, Germany, Sweden, Mexico, and Jordan participated in the Summit. The President urged the Global community to commit to the UN humanitarian demands: financing, expansion of refugee resettlement programs, including new opportunities for refugees and their host communities to be able to access such resources as education and employment.

Climate Change

Both Bathsheba N. Crocker and Mark Toner stressed the importance of the climate change issue and spoke about the events that John Kerry was scheduled to attend within the first week of the 71st UNGA session.

On 21 September 2016, John Kerry attended an event that Secretary- General Ban Ki- moon hosted on the climate change. Last December, approximately 200 countries adopted the Climate Change Agreement in Paris. On 3 September 2016, the U.S. and China signed the Agreement that encourages countries, joined by this agreement bring it into action by the end of the year.  During the meeting, 31 other countries joined this agreement.

On 22 September 2016, the Secretary of State hosted the Coalition for Secure Ambition, which is one of the most significant steps the global community can take in implementing the goals of the Paris Agreement on climate change. This statement is supported by the United States, the Africa Group, the European Union, Pacific Island Countries, Argentina, Australia, Canada, Chile, Colombia, El Salvador, Grenada, Haiti, Jamaica, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, the Republic of Korea, Switzerland, and Uruguay collectively representing over 105 countries.

On 23 Friday 2016, John Kerry hosted a special session on Energy and Climate Change within the Foreign Ministers of the Major Economies Forum. Major topics of discussion were expected to be concrete initiatives and joint ventures that increase access to clean energy while cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

Peace and Security

John Kerry and Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken attended meetings on Peace and Security during the first week of the UNGA session.

On 21 September 2016, the Secretary of State attended a Security Council session that focused on Syria. The meeting was called by New Zealand, which presides over the SC this month. Meanwhile, Antony Blinken attended the Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF) plenary. In his address to the GCTF, he spoke about the need for the global multilateral community to prevent the spread of violent extremism, as well as recruitment, radicalization and mobilization of young people.

Multilateral events

On 22 September 2016, John Kerry started his day with a ministerial event on Libya that he hosted with his Italian counterpart. Furthermore, during that morning, the U.S. and Croatia co- hosted a meeting of the Equal Futures Partnership: innovative multilateral initiative, which was started by President Obama several years ago. This initiative supports women’s economic and political involvement.

On 22 September 2016, John Kerry hosted the Transatlantic Dinner for the EU partners, NATO Allies, and other European partners, which has become an annual tradition at the UNGA.

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-Vera Dimoplon

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