In his address to the 69th Session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York City on Wednesday U.S. President Barack Obama urged continued progress from the international community in endeavors to bring about greater health and economic opportunity, a more sustainable environment and peace to all populations of the world. However, he warned that violent extremism from groups like ISIL, al-Qaeda and Boko Haram is a “cancer” in the world which “could derail so much progress” if left unchecked.
“In this century, we have faced a more lethal and ideological brand of terrorists who have perverted one of the world’s great religions,” President Obama stated. “With access to technology that allows small groups to do great harm, they have embraced a nightmarish vision that would divide the world into adherents and infidels – killing as many innocent civilians as possible, employing the most brutal methods to intimidate people within their communities.”
While stating that the United States would continue to strike against violent extremist groups, he made clear, “We reject any suggestion of a clash of civilizations. Belief in permanent religious war is the misguided refuge of extremists who cannot build or create anything, and therefore peddle only fanaticism and hate. And it is no exaggeration to say that humanity’s future depends on us uniting against those who would divide us along the fault lines of tribe or sect, race or religion.”
In combating global violent extremism, Obama discussed the following four steps which he said the international community needs to take:
- The degradation and destruction of ISIL
- The outright rejection by the world and in particular Muslim communities of the methods and ideology of violent extremist groups like al-Qaeda and ISIL
- The rejection of the use of conflict, including sectarian conflict, as a means to push ideology; instead, peaceful political solutions must be sought
- The development by Arab and Muslim countries of the potential of their citizens through the expansion of access to education, health services and economic opportunity
Turning to another region of conflict President Obama noted that Russia’s military role in Ukraine echoes back to an era where large countries controlled the destinies of smaller ones, adding that through continuing sanctions the U.S. will “impose a cost on Russia for aggression.” Even so, he also said that should Russia decide to choose “the path of diplomacy and peace,” sanctions would be lifted.
Other key global issues which Obama said that America is addressing while urging the international community to do likewise are the reduction of carbon emissions, the development of clean energy, the Ebola outbreak in western Africa, a diplomatic solution to the Iranian nuclear issue and the eradication of extreme poverty by 2030.
“If we lift our eyes beyond our borders – if we think globally and if we act cooperatively – we can shape the course of this century, as our predecessors shaped the post-World War II age,” Obama noted emphatically. He closed by stating of the United States, “We are heirs to a proud legacy of freedom, and we’re prepared to do what is necessary to secure that legacy for generations to come.” He then continued stating to member nations, “I ask that you join us in this common mission, for today’s children and tomorrow’s.”