President Obama opened a three-day series of meetings at the United Nations on Sunday by calling on all countries to “step up” efforts to eradicate poverty, and by scheduling a meeting on Tuesday with Cuban counterpart Raul Castro.
Addressing a U.N. meeting on sustainable development, Obama said that the world has made progress on reducing hunger, improving the treatment of disease, and lifting people out of poverty, but challenges remain.
“We are also here today because we understand that our work is nowhere near done,” Obama told delegates who gathered for the annual opening of the U.N. General Assembly. “We can take pride in what we’ve accomplished, but we cannot be complacent.”
Development programs are working, Obama said, but results can improve if the U.S. and other countries can address such issues as bad governance; gender, racial, and income inequality; fulfilling the economic potential of Africa; and the ravages of wars.
Illustrating some of these challenges, Obama said it is “a moral outrage” that “many children are just one mosquito bite away from death.” He also said that, “today, some 60 million men, women and children have been forced from their homes, many by conflicts in the Middle East and in Africa.”
Obama also cited the global challenge he plans to emphasize throughout his U.N. meetings: climate change. “All of our countries will be affected by a changing climate,” Obama said, but he added that “the world’s poorest people will bear the heaviest burden.”
As Obama flew to New York City aboard Air Force One early Sunday, the White House announced an addition to his U.N. schedule: the Tuesday meeting with Castro, Obama’s second face-to-face with the communist leader since the U.S. and Cuba restored diplomatic relations in late 2014.
They met in April on the sidelines of a Summit of Americas meeting in Panama. The two also spoke by phone earlier this month, before the visit of Pope Francis to both Cuba and the United States.
This is Castro’s first trip to the annual opening of the U.N. General Assembly.
After speaking at a mid-afternoon meeting on the U.N.’s global development agenda, Obama visited the U.S. mission to the United Nations to meet with employees and their families.
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