Yearender: UN plays active role addressing global crises

10:11, December 30, 2009      

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The year 2009 will be remembered not only as a year of overwhelming challenges such as climate change, the A/H1N1 flu outbreak and economic turmoil, but also as a year of the returned cooperative spirit.

Throughout the year, upholding multilateralism, the United Nations has been committed to coordinating worldwide efforts to address the various challenges, demonstrating once again its guiding role as the world's most important multilateral institution.

  CLIMATE CHANGE AS TOP PRIORITY

The year 2009 was the "Year of Climate Change" for the UN. From the five rounds of climate change negotiations in Bonn, Bangkok and Barcelona throughout the year, to the first climate change summit at the UN headquarters in September, and to the recently concluded Copenhagen conference, the UN has exerted great efforts in bridging the gaps between developing and developed countries.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has made climate change "a top priority" since his first day in office. After being the first UN chief to set foot on Antarctica in 2007, Ban traveled to the Arctic ice rim in August to see the negative impact of global warming on the front lines.

"Climate change demonstrates the need for global leadership rather than short-term thinking or nations trying to protect their own interests," he said. "The UN is therefore the natural forum for building international consensus."

After two weeks of marathon negotiations, world leaders finally hatched the Copenhagen Accord, a non-binding political document, pledging to curb global temperature increases to below 2 degrees Celsius, reduce or limit emissions, and mobilize 30 billion U.S. dollars a year for developing countries to combat global warming.

Well aware that the Copenhagen meeting "did not go as far as many would have hoped," Ban said it still "represents an essential beginning."

"We have taken an important step in the right direction," the secretary-general said.

Robert Orr, assistant secretary-general for policy planning, said it was the active advocacy of the United Nations and the secretary-general that brought the climate change issue high on the agenda of world leaders, and their role "can't be underestimated."

"The Secretary-General has been the one calling for heads of state and governments to own the climate issue themselves and it was phenomenal what we saw in Copenhagen -- 108 heads of state and governments coming and getting down into the real guts of the debate over climate change," he said.

PROMOTING NUCLEAR NON-PROLIFERATION

The United Nations has long been an ardent advocate of a nuclear-free world. After 12 years of stalemate, the Geneva Conference on Disarmament adopted a program of work for its 2009 session in May. In July, Russia and the United States finally agreed to significantly reduce their nuclear stockpiles, which renewed the momentum for international nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament.

In September, the UN Security Council convened a historic summit on nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament chaired by U.S. President Barack Obama, calling upon all states to comply with their obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

On the sidelines of the debate among the heads of state at the General Assembly, a two-day conference on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty called on the remaining nine countries, whose ratification was among the 44 specifically required, to trigger the treaty's entry into force.

Additionally, the UN chief pledged that he will remain committed to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, and shares the desire of the international community to resolve the situation involving Iran.

"Nuclear weapons remain an apocalyptic threat and the world cannot afford to place disarmament and non-proliferation on a backburner," Ban has said.

Next May, the 2010 review conference of the NPT parties will beheld at UN headquarters in New York. In his report to the General Assembly, Ban said the international community has the "opportunity to make real progress" in the coming year. It was expected that the 192-member body would continue to play an indispensable role in the coming year.

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