At a Headquarters press conference on the margins of the world body’s opening of its high-level general debate, the Spanish leader listed those three challenges as the outcome of the world economic recession, global security and stability, and an assessment by next year of progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals.
Mr. Zapatero described the sixty-fourth session of the General Assembly as perhaps “the most relevant, the most important since the one held in 2000”, when the millennium objectives and the fight against poverty objectives were adopted. The world was living through a historical moment as a consequence of the changes that the economic recession would produce in the international order and in world governance.
“And also because, as we have seen in this morning’s session, there has been a transcendental change, which is the presence and the presidency of Barack Obama heading the United States, the first world Power. These are two very important elements which describe why the General Assembly is occurring at a very important time,” he added.
Fleshing out the three challenges, he cited a direct link between the economic recession and the global response to climate change, its actions in the energy sector and with respect to environmental sustainability. In the first part of the twenty-first century, security and stability would depend primarily on the strength of multilateralism, United Nations leadership and the creation of a “valley of understanding” between civilizations, peoples and cultures.
Turning to stocktaking of progress towards meeting the Millennium Development Goals, he said the international community would be looking at what States had done in the past 10 years to win the battle against misery and poverty. When Spain held the European Union presidency next year, it would have as a main objective to reaffirm those commitments. With fulfillment of the Goals lagging, Europe had to take “new steps” this year, despite the economic crisis, to maintain its level of commitment with regard to development aid.
Touching on the challenges and opportunities ahead at the upcoming Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, he said it should not be seen as something difficult or something that was going to demand enormous efforts or sacrifices by countries. Changing energy patterns to meet climate change demands was a fantastic opportunity to improve the global economy, by providing more equal opportunities and more democratic and sustainable efforts.
In the context of global security and stability, the pending Middle East situation remained paramount, he said, voicing strong support for President Obama’s new Middle East peace initiative. In his speech, Mr. Obama had “insisted on the fact that he will not stop to do everything necessary to do achieve peace in the Middle East. And certainly Europe and Spain are going to support, are going to share, this point of view vis-à-vis the Middle East,” Mr. Zapatero said.
The Prime Minister said he would be meeting with President Obama on 13 October, after which he would start his trip to the Middle East, visiting Israel, Syria and Occupied Palestine Territory, with the objective of strengthening the positions of Spain and the European Union in view of the country’s assumption of the European Union Presidency in January next year. Spain had much to contribute to a Middle East peace, he said, acknowledging the European Union’s obligation in that regard.
When asked about guarantees that his proposal outlined yesterday of 0.7 per cent investment in technologies to fight emissions of CO2 this year would be fulfilled when the 0.7 per cent gross domestic product (GDP) promised in official development assistance (ODA) had not been met in 2008, he said that there were many countries that were fulfilling the 0.7 per cent development assistance target -– all of them European, especially Nordic countries –- and they were an example for all, including Spain. He urged the developed countries to do everything possible to meet their commitments.
Noting that Spain was a driving force behind the Alliance of Civilizations, along with Turkey, a correspondent asked why Israel was not included in a dialogue aimed at bringing together peoples of different religions and beliefs. The Spanish leader said Israel was, in fact, included, and there were Israelis who had already participated in the Alliance’s different forums.
Responding to a question about United Nations reform, he said there was no doubt the Organization required such reform, including reform of the Security Council. However, at present, with the prevailing economic recession, there were more pressing issues than reforms of the United Nations, such as taking serious steps on climate change and bringing order to the world economic situation.
Asked about Honduras, Mr. Zapatero said the situation would be discussed later today at a meeting to