U.S. President Barack Obama addresses the 71st session of the General Debate of the United Nations General Assembly at the U.N. headquarters in New York City on Tuesday. Obama called for the international community to integrate globally in terms of migration and economics. Photo by Monika Graff/UPI | License Photo
NEW YORK, Sept. 20 (UPI) -- Barack Obama called for the international community to integrate globally in terms of migration and economics during his last address to the United Nations General Assembly as the U.S. president.
Obama said that during the last eight years that he has been part of the United Nations as president, he said he saw the world's economy improve and several conflicts resolved, including a nuclear deal with Iran, the upcoming end of Colombia's decades-long conflict with the FARC rebel group and diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba re-established.
"This is important work. It has made a real difference in the lives of our people and it could not have happened had we not worked together," Obama said. "And yet, around the globe, we are seeing the same forces of global integration that has made us interdependent also expose deep fault lines in the existing international order. We see it in the headlines everyday. Around the world refugees flow across borders in flight of brutal conflict ... across vast swaths of the Middle East, basic security -- basic order has broken down."
Obama said the international community needs to either move forward with a better model of integration or recede into old divisions along the lines of inhibitors such as religion and race.
"We must go forward and not backward. I believe that as imperfect as they are, the principles of open markets and accountable governments, of democracy and human rights ... we have formed the strongest human foundation in the past century," Obama said, adding that the integration of countries in a global economy has made lives better for billions -- an "unprecedented" achievement.
Obama called for global economy to improve the lives everyone and "not just those at the top."
"A world in which 1 percent of humanity controls as much wealth as the other 99 percent will never be stable," Obama said, adding that such instability and inequality in the global economy will lead to conflict.
Obama also said the world's richest economies should aid economically ailing countries worldwide, something he said was "not charity" but essential for security. He suggested instead of spending billions on attempting to fix failed states that the institutions in those countries could be supported so the states do not fail in the first place.
"We all have to do better as leaders in tamping down rather than encouraging a notion of identity that leads us to diminish others," Obama said, partially referring to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. He called on Palestinians to stop violent incitement and for Israel to stop permanently occupying Palestinian land.
To stop the threat of nuclear war, Obama said the spread of nuclear weapons must be prevented -- specifically citing North Korea's recent nuclear missile tests.
Obama specifically criticized Russia and China, suggesting they are breaking international laws and norms, specifically over Russia's annexation of Crimea and China's territorial aggression in the South China Sea. He said such actions strengthen nationalism at home briefly but weaken their long-term security.
"Each of us as leaders -- each nation -- can choose to reject those who appeal to our worst impulses and embrace who appeal to our best. For we have shown that we can choose a better history," Obama said.
Brazilian President Michel Temer, who recently became president after Dilma Rousseff was impeached, was the first head of state to address the U.N. chamber in New York City on Tuesday morning.
On Monday, the U.N. adopted the "New York Declaration" -- a commitment to protect refugees and migrants, as well as to find solutions amid humanitarian crises.
Obama arrived late to deliver his address so the president of Chad, Idriss Deby, spoke one slot ahead. Deby urged the international community to consolidate efforts to assist Africa in eliminating the threat of global terrorism. He also called on the member states to aid in decreasing poverty and to fight against climate change.