|UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon speaks at the opening of the General Debate of the 68th session of the UN General Assembly at the UN headquarters in New York, the United States, on Sept. 24, 2013. The 68th session of the UN General Assembly began its annual general debate here Tuesday. (Xinhua/Niu Xiaolei)
UNITED NATIONS, Sept. 24 (Xinhua) -- The 68th session of the UN General Assembly began its annual general debate here Tuesday.
More than 130 heads of state, heads of government and deputy prime ministers will address the conference.
"We come together not to preserve the status quo, but to drive our world forward," UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in his opening speech.
While noting that the current era was one of wondrous opportunity, he said that pressures on the planet and people are building. Young people are without jobs; the world's climate is warming; and scattered conflicts remained unresolved, he said.
"2015 is the year by which we have pledged to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)," he said, adding that it is also the year in which the international community will adopt a new development agenda.
The UN chief stressed that the MDGs captured the imagination, generated remarkable gains, and beat back doubts about development itself. "Yet on some goals, we lag badly," he said, noting that inequality is growing, and too many people face exploitation - from the fields to the factory floor.
"A new development agenda must be as inspiring as the MDGs, but it must go further," Ban declared, urging a universal framework with ending poverty as a top priority, sustainable development at its core and governance as its glue.
Moreover, the rights of women and girls must be at the heart of all such efforts, he continued, calling for the 21st century to be the century of women.
Turning to the conflict in Syria, the secretary-general urged member states to bring the parties to the negotiating table to end nearly three years of bloodshed.
"Military victory is an illusion. The only answer is a political settlement," he noted.
In addition, Ban called on the member states to take "bold" steps and work together to tackle a host of concerns, including a new climate change regime and the situation in Middle East and North Africa.
In his speech at the opening ceremony, president of the assembly John Ashe said it is crucial to the overall work and longer term efficacy of the UN to identify the parameters of the post-2015 sustainability agenda, which will succeed the MDGs - the eight anti-poverty targets that galvanized the world in 2000.
"This new development agenda is expected to have poverty eradication as its central and over-arching goal and to address the inseparable link between economic growth, equity and social inclusion, and environmental sustainability," he said.
From Sept. 24 through Oct.1, the general debate will provide an opportunity for high-level political officials to weigh in on individual national and wider international relevance. The theme for the 68th session's general debate is "The Post-2015 Development Agenda: Setting the Stage," as proposed by Ashe upon his election on June 14, 2013.
Just like last year, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff is the first speaker at the general debate.
She will be followed by U.S. President Barack Obama, according to the latest updated list of speakers.
The General Assembly is the main deliberative, policymaking and representative organ of the United Nations. Comprising all 193 members of the United Nations, it provides a unique forum for multilateral discussion of the full spectrum of international issues covered by the UN Charter.
Thus far, 84 heads of state, 41 heads of government, 11 deputy prime ministers and 65 foreign ministers are scheduled to address the Assembly on sustainable development, poverty eradication, climate change, human rights, and a range of peace and security issues.