GA Debates: Today was marked by additional speeches by Heads of State in the GA Hall today, notably by Egypt’s new president Mohammed Morsi and the President of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Morsi outlined his plan for a growing democracy, his support for the Palestinian cause, as well as his desire for a regional solution to the conflict in Syria. The Iranian President called for a “just and fair” new world order and said the UN lacks the efficiency to bring it about, saying that the existence of veto rights in the Security Council and the monopolization of power in the 15-member body have made it nearly impossible to defend the rights of nations. To explain the absence of the US delegation during Ahmadinejad’s speech, the US Mission issued a statement which also called out the “paranoid theories and repulsive slurs against Israel” made by Ahmadinejad.

Sahel: During a High-Level Meeting on the Sahel today, the SG called the situation in the region the “perfect storm of vulnerability.” The crisis, which includes the conflict in Mali, is compounded by ongoing drought and environmental shocks in the region – affecting over 18 million people – which threatens developmental gains that have been achieved. In response, the UN is developing an Integrated Regional Strategy on the Sahel that will strengthen regional capacities to combat insecurity, prevent and respond to large-scale crises, and promote democratic governance and respect for human rights.

Life-saving Commodities: The UN presented a plan to make life-saving health supplies more accessible at a meeting of the UN Commission on Life-Saving Commodities for Women and Children. The Commission aims to improve access and use of essential medicines, medical devices and health supplies that effectively address causes of death during pregnancy, childbirth and into childhood.

Education First: Today, the SG announced that he has secured $1.5 billion in commitments for a new initiative to increase access to, and the quality of, education for children worldwide. The launch of the Education First Initiative featured remarks by the SG, his Special Envoy for Education Gordon Brown, several heads of State (including South Africa, Denmark and Australia), UN leadership (Irina Bokova, Anthony Lake, Jim Yong Kim) and the private sector, all of whom expressed their commitment to the initiative, including financial commitments made by several members of the private sector.  In a panel discussion that followed, Her Majesty Queen Rania of Jordan and Aung San Suu Kyi spoke about prioritizing education.  Her Majesty Queen Rania noted that 61 million children are still out of school, while another 200 million in school lack quality education and cannot read or write.

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