UNITED NATIONS — Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff opened the 66th United Nations general debate in New York on Wednesday, becoming the first woman in the organization’s history to do so.
Speaking to the General Assembly (UNGA), which included U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and the president of the General Assembly Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, Rousseff said she was honored to be the first woman to open the debate.
“I share this emotion with more than half the human beings on the planet” she said, referring to the number of woman in the world. “I’m quite certain, ladies and gentleman, that this will be the century of women.”
Global security and financial stability were the hallmarks of Rousseff’s speech, as she touched on issues including the Arab Spring, the recognition of Palestine, the global financial crisis and membership in the U.N. Security Council.
“More than ever before, the fate of the world is in the hands of its rulers and leaders,” Rousseff said of the global financial crisis. “The current crisis is too serious to be managed by juts a few governments.”
While recognizing that Brazil as an emerging economy was affected by the global financial crisis, Rousseff added that a battle against unemployment was a key issue for the entire globe. “Unemployment impacts our families and our children,” she said. “It leaves a trail of violence and pain.”
On the contentious issue of Palestine, Rousseff reiterated her country’s support for recognizing the area and said that it should be represented as a full member of the U.N.
“We believe the time has come for us to have Palestine fully represented as a full member in this fourm,” she said. “Only a free and sovereign Palestine can live up to the legitimate yearning of Israel for peace.”
Rousseff also criticized the “brutal crackdowns” from governments throughout the Arab world. The Brazilian leaders speech came as at least three people were killed Wednesday in Yeman and Syrian security forces stormed a school, detaining students who demonstrated against President Bashar Assad’s regime.
At the same time, she reaffirmed Brazil’s commitment to diplomacy over intervention. “For the international community, resorting to force should always be the last alternative” she said.
U.S. President Barack Obama’s address to the U.N. also focused on international peace and security.
Obama, who spoke after Rousseff, played both sides of the Israel-Palestine debate, saying that he wanted Palestine recognized as its own state and yet reinforced U.S. support for its longtime ally in Israel.”There is not shortcut to fix a problem that has endured for decades,” Obama said. “If it were that easy, it would have been accomplished by now.”
Obama, however, has said the United States would veto a resolution for Palestine’s full membership in the U.N. if it were presented to the Security Council.
Echoing Rousseff, Obama praised the Arab Spring movement and chastised the leaders of countries including Syria, Yeman and Iran for failing to recognized the right’s of those countries citizens. He also added that sanctions are needed against grievous human rights offenders.
“Peace is hard, but we know that it is possible,” Obama said.
Andrew O’Reilly and Roque Planas contributed reporting from the United Nations.
Photo: Agencia Brasil.