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UNGA President, UN Secretary-General Urge Leaders to Prioritize Sustainable Development

21 September 2011: The 66th UN General Assembly (UNGA) opened with calls from its President, Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser of Qatar, and the UN Secretary-General to address sustainable development as a top priority.

Al-Nasser identified four areas of emphasis for the session: peaceful settlement of disputes; UN reform and revitalization; improving disaster prevention and response; and sustainable development and global prosperity. He also noted the upcoming global conferences on sustainable development, climate change, desertification, poverty eradication and achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and urged leaders to find consensus and take “strong and urgent action to ensure fruitful outcomes.”

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon spoke of five imperatives, or "generational opportunities" to shape the world. The “first and greatest” of these is sustainable development, he said, calling it “the imperative of the 21st century.” He said the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD, or Rio+20) “must succeed” and expressed hope of developing a new set of sustainable development goals to follow the MDGs.

On climate change, Ban called on leaders to reach a binding agreement “with more ambitious national and global emissions targets.” He stressed the need for immediate action to cut emissions and advance adaptation. He recalled his recent visits to Kiribati and the Solomon Islands and voiced their fears of climate change and rising waters, suggesting that the distance between the Assembly Hall and the Pacific belied the immediacy of the challenges.

On energy, Ban highlighted the recent launch of the “Sustainable Energy for All” initiative.  [Statement of UNGA President] [Statement of UN Secretary-General]