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UN Secretary-General Calls for Multilateral Approach to Solve Global Problems

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon says the international community needs to join together in a "new multilateralism" to solve global issues. He says climate change should be a top priority and blames a lack of political will for the continuing conflict in Sudan's Darfur region.

During a speech in Washington Thursday, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said a new multilateral approach is necessary to prevent hunger and improve health care, education and global security. He said the economic crisis demonstrates the world's interdependence in the most visible way.

"Who would have thought, a few years ago, that a mortgage crisis in Arizona or Florida would bring down governments in Europe and shake the economies and societies of Latin America, Asia and Africa? Perhaps we should have seen it coming, and acted sooner. Even so, our response has been encouraging. We have confronted the crisis in a spirit of cooperation and coordination that is unprecedented," he said.

Mr. Ban said the international response to the H1N1 flu epidemic is another example of countries cooperating together. "We insisted that information, medicines, vaccines and financial resources be shared by all, so that the poorest and most vulnerable nations would not be disproportionately hurt and all of us endangered," he said.

But the U.N. Secretary-General said the international community must put more effort into tackling issues such as climate change. He said before time runs out an agreement must be reached to reduce greenhouse gases blamed for global warming.

"I have seen the ice sheets breaking up in Antarctica and glaciers melting in the Andes. I have been to the Amazon River basin and to Lake Chad, whose waters once supported 30 million people, now shrunk to one-tenth the size it was 30 years ago. Before the year is out I will go to the North Pole, as well as to regions where drought and competition for water threaten peoples' lives and well-being," he said.

Although the U.N. has deployed about 26-thousand peacekeeping troops in the Darfur region of Sudan, Mr. Ban said, they have not been able to stop the fighting between rebels and the government. He blamed the difficulty on stalled political negotiations and a failure of multilateralism.

"We got the troops in, but nations calling for them did not fully back them. They did not put up the resources - such as helicopters - to allow us to project our forces and effectively fulfill our mission: saving lives and helping those in need. Darfur shows what happens when multilateralism does not work as it should, when good intentions flag and leaders do not deliver on promises and their high-minded rhetoric," he said.

Mr. Ban said the U.N. is working to intervene early to prevent worldwide conflicts and the need for expensive peacekeeping missions. He said, however, that the international community must join together and help.