Previewing the 68th Session of the U.N. General Assembly: Questions and Expectations

The high-level meetings of the 68th U.N. General Assembly convened in New York on September 23rd, 2013 and will conclude on October 8th, 2013.

The U.N. General Assembly will once again convene this week as member states will take part in a highly promising yet perilous conference that will focus on the ongoing crisis in Syria,  newly elected Iranian president Hassan Rouhani’s speech, and Israeli-Palestine peace talks. But questions abound on various global development issues that CGP will be monitoring in the coming week:

General Assembly President John Ashe has declared  “The Post 2015 Development Agenda: Setting the Stage” as the theme for this week’s assembly. The body’s eight millennium development goals, first enumerated in 2000, expire in 2015, giving U.N. member states the opportunity to shape the future priorities of development and recommit to current goals. Most notably, “MDGs three, four, and five to address gender imbalances and reduce child and maternal mortality rates are the most off track” and many other MDG deadlines appear unreachable by 2015 unless action is taken now. How will future priorities begin to take shape? Will CSOs take a more meaningful role in international development via the U.N. system? The preliminary talks with such organizations are encouraging but a set of universal goals on intricate issues such as climate change and women’s reproductive rights will be tough to articulate this week in New York.


Official development assistance (ODA) has fallen in two consecutive years and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has urged countries to reverse this trend. ODA fell by 4% in real terms in 2012 and by 2% in 2011.  Despite the OECD’s Development Assistance Committee (DAC) surveys that indicate an oncoming recovery in aid levels this year, will donor states be able to establish a timetable for meeting ODA targets and the longstanding goal of 0.7% of GNI? Can the U.N. Secretary General renew the focus on sustainability as he outlines a future development agenda?

Conflict Mediation
As aforementioned, with the current development cycle coming to a close in 2015, member states have the valuable opportunity to shape the future of development and also focus on the diluting effect armed violence and conflict has on progress. The facts are indisputable and rather startling: 9 out of the 10 countries with the lowest human development index have experienced armed conflict within the last 20 years and many post-conflict countries often experience a relapse. According to the Control Arms Campaign, a person dies from armed violence somewhere in the world every minute. Will the pressing issue of conflict mediation and stability make its way into the development discourse?  Will building long-term peace and stability continue to be separate from the work of long-term human development?


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