On September 13, 2016, the 71st Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) opened. Three high priority meetings will take place amongst Heads of State, civil society organizations, international organizations, academics and other players. Prior to the opening, the first of the three meetings, covering UN Peacekeeping, was held in London on September 8th. Two additional meetings will follow the UNGA opening: the UN Summit on Refugees and Migrants, followed by the UN Meeting on Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR).
London Conference on UN Peacekeeping
As a follow up to United States (US) President Barack Obama’s joint Leaders’ Summit on Peacekeeping, co-hosted by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in September 2015, the London Conference on UN Peacekeeping brought together eighty nations in September 2016 for a day-long event. NATO was also present to share updates from the NATO Secretary-General’s pledges from last September’s Summit. Like its predecessor, this year’s Peacekeeping Summit sought to improve action affecting the world’s most vulnerable populations, worldwide security and peace through the coordination of police, military and nongovernmental organization-based work. Defence ministers from the eighty nations who attended this year’s Conference met with the United Kingdom’s Secretary of State for Defence Michael Fallon. Their task was to develop a series of pledges and requests for the UN Secretary-General in an outcome document that detailed major goals that would build on goals set during last year’s Summit.
The outcome document focused on what was referred to as the Three P’s of peacekeeping: planning, pledging and performing. Some of the overall goals in the document include:
• a pledge to make military and police units more readily deployable, within strict 30, 60 and 90-day deadlines;
• a request to the Secretary-General to prioritize the enlistment of women in military and police activities by doubling their involvement by 2020; and
• universal support for a standard of conduct by all Peacekeeping workers, including a standards set by the Sexual Exploitation and Abuse policy.
The UN-Under Secretary-General for Field Support Atul Khare and UN-Under Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Herve Ladsous also encouraged nations to help better budget peacekeeping efforts funded through the UN secretariat and UN procurement spending.
UN Summit on Refugees and Migrants
Following the opening of the UNGA, the historic UN Summit on Refugees and Migrants is set to take place at the UN headquarters in New York as a single-day, high-level meeting on September 19th. This Summit marks the first time that the General Assembly called for a summit at the Heads of State and government level regarding the topic of refugees and migrants.
The UN defines refugees as persons forced to flee a place out of fear of persecution or war; refugees seek asylum in the countries they are fleeing to by demonstrating that their reason for leaving is valid, be it fear of violence, war or persecution. Migrants, on the other hand, are defined as persons who leave out of choice to pursue work or social establishment in another country. The UN Summit on Refugees and Migrants seeks to coordinate an international, predictable system to responding to international movements of migrants and refugees.
This Summit will go hand-in-hand with a separate Leaders’ Summit on Refugees hosted by US President Obama the following day on September 20th, co-hosted by Canada, Ethiopia, Germany, Jordan, Mexico and Sweden. This second meeting will exclude the topic of migrants. The UN Summit on Refugees and Migrants will be building on May’s World Humanitarian Summit. It will also consider the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the root causes of major refugee crises and migrant issues, and human rights concerns. Heads of State, governments, civil society organizations, private sector groups, academics and international organizations will be present on the occasion. The Summit will also work with the recently-transmitted New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants, which was developed and transmitted to the 71st Session of the UNGA by the 70th Session.
UN Meeting on Antimicrobial Resistance
On September 21st, the UNGA will convene for a high-level meeting pertaining to health – the fourth meeting of its kind in UN history, following meetings on HIV, non-communicable diseases and Ebola. The UN Meeting on Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) will develop the Global Action Plan on drug resistance, and advance policies and programs to improve human development, and tackle the issue of the increasing global resistance to Antimicrobial medication. According to the United Nations, AMR is increasingly becoming a top global health issue, as resistance to medication increases and the production of medication is slowing. Like the other meetings to be held around the opening of the UNGA, Member States, NGOs, civil society organizations, members from the private sector and academics will be present. These parties will convene to discuss and strategize how to increase awareness of AMR and how to reduce its international impact.