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UN General Assembly set to start annual general debate


World leaders are set to take part in the general debate of the 71st Session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, with the toughest global challenges, including terrorism and the refugee crisis, high on their agenda.

The meetings will begin later on Tuesday, and will continue until September 26, with over 140 heads of state and government scheduled to deliver speeches at the General Assembly Hall during the sessions throughout the week.

“The Sustainable Development Goals: a universal push to transform our world” has been proposed as the theme for the assembly’s general debate.

The 71st session of the assembly is facing one of the toughest to-do lists as the world is currently grappling with serious issues, including violence, terrorism, refugee crisis, climate change and nuclear proliferation.

Among the important topics on the agenda is Syria’s five-year militancy, which has so far claimed the lives of more than 400,000 people, according to UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura.

The worst refugee crisis in 70 years is also among the challenges that the session hopes to tackle.

Europe is hardly hit by an influx of refugees, most of whom are fleeing conflict-ridden zones in Africa and the Middle East, particularly Syria. More than 3,200 people have died at sea this year while trying to reach the continent.

On Monday, the UN General Assembly held a first-ever summit on the refugee crisis, during which delegations adopted the New York Declaration aimed at addressing the current crisis and preparing the world for future challenges.

Greek lifeguards help a refugee child out of a boat that reached the shores of Lesbos, having crossed the Aegean Sea from Turkey. 

The declaration calls for the start of negotiations on an international conference, which could adopt a global compact for safe, orderly and regular migration in 2018.

Protecting the human rights of all refugees, especially women and children, and preventing sexual violence were also among the challenges discussed during the summit.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called the declaration a breakthrough.

“More children can attend school; more workers can securely seek jobs abroad, instead of being at the mercy of criminal smugglers, and more people will have real choices about whether to move once we end conflict, sustain peace and increase opportunities at home,” he said.

A second follow-up summit on the issue will be hosted by US President Barack Obama on Tuesday.

The event will seek concrete pledges from leaders to help bear the cost of assisting and resettling the refugees.

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