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Posted on on February 16th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (

At the meeting on Monday at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, I hoped that the UNSG will propose in Washington the UN as a partner to the US President on issues derived from what was expected to be in the President’s Tuesday speech. Now, going over material from the UNSG trip, I at first came to the conclusion that the UNSG did not make such suggestions, but then I was helped to more complete information.

On Wednesday the UNSG met the Members of the Permanent Council of the Organization of American States, and derived from the official reports it seems the subjects of discussion were Syria, Mali, and the Palestinian-Israeli situation. All these three topics seem to have little to do with the OAS region, while it was the fourth (or actually the first topic suggested by the UNSG at the CFR) – Climate Change – would have been more to the point.

In effect – thinking about energy and fuels – the only place in the reports where I found such words was in the sentence: “The time is right. You have experiences to share, ideas to spread, energy to help fuel global solutions.” That was said in context of cooperation within a region (like the OAS region) and between the regions.

But in his presentation Mr. Ban eventually did turn to Sustainable Development and said that the Americas have made significant progress in reducing poverty and meeting the MDGs. “Your economies showed tremendous resiliency in the face of the 2008 financial crisis. But structural problems persist. Inequality runs deep and we know inequality feeds instability,” he said. From that he eventually spoke to the region about the need to address the “clear and present danger of climate change.” And then – “Following the success of Rio+20, the time is ripe to rethink the DEVELOPMENT AGENDA with Sustainability at the core, and equality as a driver of growth.” So, on Wednesday to the whole Western Hemisphere, the UNSG presented his program that starts with the appointment of a High-Level Panel on the post 2015 Development Agenda, as he was instructed to do by that Conference outcome.
He told his audience that the High-Level Panel includes members from Brazil, Colombia, Cuba, Mexico, and the US.

There was thus no basic problem with the meeting at the OAS building, but we are less excited by the fact that according to the transcripts no references to Climate Change were made at all in the releases to the UN media here in New York, following the UNSG meeting with the new Secretary of State – the former Senator John Kerry. Here it was Syria, Mali, Palestinians-Israel, and North Korea. No indication whatsoever about a reference to the new Obama Concept of saving the economy while doing the right things for the environment.

But this is not correct. In effect from the actual transcript I found: “In addition to these and other crises, the United Nations is striving to defeat poverty and advance sustainable development. I have been encouraged by President Obama’s call to action on climate change both at his Inauguration and in the State of the Union Address. This is a global imperative,” he said.

Then I looked at the readouts of the UNSG meetings with the leadership and members of the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the House – including Republican Edward R. Royce and Democrat Eliot L. Engel, and the leaders and members of the Committee on Foreign Relations of the Senate, Democrat Robert Menendez, and Republican Bob Corker, and found that Climate Change was touched upon in those meetings as well.

My problem is thus – why did climate change and sustainable development not find their way into the briefings to the media here in New York?

Did the dispensers of information at the UN not get the message that Sustainable Development and Climate Change are not taboos and that the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is actually talking about those subjects whenever he has a chance?

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