Obama: Countries must unite to solve global problems

President Barack Obama today challenged world leaders to join a newly engaged US in helping solve global problems.

In his first address to the United Nations General Assembly, Mr Obama stressed that America had moved away from the unilateralism associated with the Bush Administration.

Highlighting policy shifts implemented since he came to power on issues such as climate change and the treatment of terror suspects, he called on countries to drop preconceived ideas about the US and help shoulder the burden.

During the address in New York, Mr Obama noted the “scepticism and distrust” with which the US was viewed at the time he came to office.

He told world leaders: “Part of this was due to misperceptions and misinformation about my country. Part of this was due to opposition to specific policies and a belief that on certain issues America had acted unilaterally without regard for the interests of others.”

This, Mr Obama said, had led to “an almost reflexive anti-Americanism which too often has served as an excuse for collective inaction”.

But he listed areas in which the US had changed and reached out to the international community since the beginning of the year.

He cited the planned closure of Guantanamo Bay, a commitment to reduce nuclear arms and a $80bn (€54.2bn) investment in clean energy.

Mr Obama also outlined how the US had worked with other G20 nations to bring about a co-ordinated response to the global financial crisis.

Implying a renewed commitment to internationalism, Mr Obama added: “We have also re-engaged the United Nations. We have paid our bills. We have joined the Human Rights Council.”

To this, he added signing up to the Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Millennium Development Goals.

“This is what we have already done, but this is just a beginning,” he said, adding: “Some of our actions have yielded progress, some have laid the groundwork for progress in the future.”

But improving the world “cannot solely be America’s endeavour”, he told the 100-plus countries represented at the general assembly.

Issuing a challenge to those present, he said: “Those who used to chastise America for acting alone in the world cannot now stand by and wait for America to solve the world’s problems alone.

“We have sought in word and deed a new era of engagement with the world, and now is the time for all of us to take our share of responsibility for a global response to global challenges.”

The address was periodically interrupted by applause in the UN chamber.

It comes ahead of talks in Pittsburgh with other leaders of the G20 countries.

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