Biden will ‘rally’ member nations to tackle ‘enormous challenges’ in UN General Assembly speech

President Joe Biden will use his third annual address to the United Nations General Assembly to call for a renewed vision for what the UN and other multilateral organisations can do to solve the world’s most intractable and pressing problems, according to senior administration officials.

According to excerpts of his remarks released by the White House, the president will tell attendees at UN Headquarters in New York that the US “seeks a more secure, more prosperous, more equitable world for all people, because we know our future is bound up with yours,” and will say that “no nation can meet the challenges of today alone”.

The president will also reference climate-related disasters across the world, including “record-breaking heatwaves in the United States and China,” wildfires in North America and Europe, five years of drought in Africa, and the recent floods in Libya as parts of “an urgent story of what awaits us if we fail to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and begin to climate-proof our world”.

He will also call on the UN to continue to support Ukraine’s defence against Russia, and will warn attendees against allowing the world to “grow weary” and letting Moscow “brutalise” Ukraine “without consequence”.

He will ask the gathered diplomats and leaders: “If we abandon the core principles of the UN Charter to appease an aggressor, can any member state feel confident that they are protected? If we allow Ukraine to be carved up, is the independence of any nation secure?” “The answer is no. We must stand up to this naked aggression today to deter other would-be aggressors tomorrow,” he will say.

“That is why the United States together with our Allies and partners around the world will continue to stand with the brave people of Ukraine as they defend their sovereignty and territorial integrity – and their freedom”.

Mr Biden, who is the only one of the five UN Security Council permanent member heads of state to attend the general assembly this year, is slated to speak at the annual gathering at 10am ET on Tuesday – an event that a senior White House official described as “one of the world’s preeminent venues for diplomacy” with “leaders and senior officials from all over the world convening in just a few square blocks” in New York City.

The official said Mr Biden sees the massive diplomatic confab as “an outstanding opportunity for him and his leadership to advance US interests and values on a range of issues.”

This will include “mobilising resources for sustainable development and infrastructure, galvanising cooperation on the climate crisis and strengthening global support for Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity”.

The official added: “The headquarters of the UN is an ideal location for the president to reaffirm our country's commitment to the foundational principles of the United Nations, particularly those laid out in the documents such as the UN Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

“This is an essential forum to demonstrate the President's commitment to inclusive and effective international cooperation to solve big problems.”

The official also said the president would use his address – the text of which was still under review as of late Monday evening – to “lay out to the world the steps that he and his administration have taken to work with others to solve the world's most serious challenge” and “outline his vision for how countries working within reformed and modernised international institutions can harness their efforts to end conflict, defend human rights and the rule of law and help countries develop their economies”.

Mr Biden’s first day at the general assembly will include a bilateral meeting with Antonio Guterres, the UN Secretary-General.

During the meeting, the two leaders will discuss ways to strengthen the US-UN partnership to “tackle global issues, including mobilising resources for development, combating climate change, ending conflicts and working together to uphold the UN's foundational principles”.

Additionally, a senior official said the president will convene the first-ever “C Five + One” summit with the heads of state from a quintet of Central Asian countries: Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.

The six leaders will “discuss a range of issues related to regional security, trading conductivity, climate and reforms to improve governance and the rule of law”, the official said.

On Wednesday, the president will hold bilateral meetings with two other leaders: President Lula Da Silva of Brazil and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Joe Biden arrives into New York City ahead of UN General Assembly (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)
Joe Biden arrives into New York City ahead of UN General Assembly (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Following his meeting with the Brazilian leader – their second sit-down this year – a US official said the president would join him in meeting Brazilian labour movement leaders “to highlight the role that workers play in building a sustainable, democratic, equitable and peaceful world”.

Mr Biden’s meeting with Mr Netanyahu will be the first since the controversial Israeli leader regained his prior office as prime minister, and will be notable due to the venue.

Mr Netanyahu and his right-wing government are currently engaged in an effort to reshape Israel’s judiciary to make it more compliant with the whims of parliamentary majorities. That effort has drawn months of massive protests across a wide swath of the Israeli public, and many opposition leaders – and American Jewish groups – had urged Mr Biden to deny his Israeli counterpart a meeting at the White House.

But a White House official said Mr Biden intends for his focus at this year’s general assembly to be on how the nearly century-old global body can still be a force for good even in the face of efforts to weaken multilateral organisations by antidemocratic forces.

“This is a time of geopolitical tension. Russia is brutal and illegal war has greatly violated the UN Charter and we have indisputable disagreements with China. You will also hear about the great challenges facing poor countries with developing nations demanding more action to solve the problems affecting them such as deaths, health development, the climate crisis,” the official said.

“President Biden is going into this year's general assembly with the United States confidence. We have strong allies and new partners. We have a vision for institutional reform at the UN at the World Bank and elsewhere, and we have initiatives to deliver on infrastructure, unhealth on climate and other global public goods.

“The president recognises the world faces enormous challenges that no one country can solve alone. But he has a vision of how American leadership based on principles, working in partnership with others can help tackle these challenges. So here at the UN – the one place where the world comes together – the President will lift up that vision and rally countries to do more to make our world safer, more just and more prosperous”.