Syria, nuclear arms and refugees top UN Assembly agenda

Annual meeting of world leaders in New York more likely to heighten world’s tribulations than solve them as world leaders arrived at the United Nations headquarters for an annual confab with hopes of addressing everything from superbugs to climate change and a global anti-poverty drive that is already faltering in its first year.

Presidents, diplomats and their delegations must also broach impromptu items, such as North Korea’s recent nuclear test. A US air raid that allegedly killed at least 62 Syrian government soldiers on Saturday threatens a fragile truce in that country and sparked fresh rows at the UN.

On top of that, the United States, Russia, China and other UN heavyweights must see beyond their differences and agree on who will run the world body once the incumbent, Ban Ki-moon, steps down at the end of the year.

On Monday, the UN will host a summit for refugees and migrants that may have already failed – countries refused to commit themselves to a UN target of resettling 10 percent of refugees each year.

The outcome is a “watered-down version of what we had hoped for”, Erol Kekic, from the refugee aid group Church World Service, told Al Jazeera, adding that denying hope to the world’s 21 million refugees was “irresponsible and frankly dangerous”.

A separate meeting on refugees, to be hosted by US President Barack Obama on Tuesday, will probably gain more traction, not least because any leader showing up must come bearing gifts. Guests will be giving cash, letting more refugees into their countries or helping them find jobs.

Obama’s presence raises a question all of its own. His internationalism has buoyed UN meetings over the past eight years, but he leaves office in January and US voters have yet to decide who will replace him.

On Wednesday, leaders will be asked to ratify a climate change deal agreed in Paris in December – pushing it closer to the 55 ratifying states, covering at least 55 percent of global emissions, needed before it comes into force.

UN officials say that deal could be sealed by early 2017.

Also on Wednesday, the UN will launch a scheme to combat antibiotics-resistant bugs. Convincing the world’s farmers to stop using the drugs to fatten livestock is top of a list of challenges, health expert
Laurie Garrett told Al Jazeera.

In all, the UN expects some 140 world leaders to show up for a gruelling, diplomatic marathon that plays out over two weeks. Diplomats have booked out rooms for 11,000 private, bilateral sit-downs and 545 larger meetings.

Expected in Manhattan are Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Myanmar’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi and Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, who will present his historic peace deal with FARC rebels.

The Democratic presidential candidate in the US election, Hillary Clinton will also be in town, burnishing her foreign policy credentials by meeting the Presidents of Egypt, Abdel- Fattah el-Sisi, and Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko.

Human rights lawyer Amal Clooney lent some stardust to proceedings on Friday, railing against human trafficking. Other celebrities will visit New York to advance pet projects.

Actor Ben Affleck is expected to discuss Congo’s war and Coldplay frontman Chris Martin will sing against poverty in Central Park.

But, for the UN, the big 2016 General Assembly theme is the set of environmental and anti-poverty targets that were agreed last year by all 193 members, with the headline ambitions of ending poverty and hunger everywhere by 2030.