(Photo: Facebook / United Nations Information Centre)
The 67th Session of the UN General Assembly starts on Tuesday. Vuk Jeremić of Serbia will take over as General Assembly President and countries will shuffle their seats as Jamaica takes its place at the first desk.
The bursts of fresh wind, the churning water in the East River and the rain against the pavement perhaps foreshadowed the upcoming storm that may be the United Nation General Assembly's 67th session.
But the atmosphere inside the conference room at the General Assembly Building was distinctly calm on Tuesday afternoon as Serbia's Vuk Jeremić took the gavel from Qatar's Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser and began his term as President of the 67th Session.
In his opening speech to the assembled delegates, Jeremić spoke of the work to be done, as a few cell phones rings interrupted him around the hall and a few gaggles of tourists wandered through the upper gallery above the mostly-empty press section. A few aides wandered in and out among the delegates seated on the bottom floor.
"Never measure the height of a mountain until you have reached the top," Jeremić said, quoting the late Dag Hammerskjöld, the second Secretary-General of the U.N. "Then you will see how low it was."
September 18 marked the 50th anniversary of Hammerskjöld's death: He was killed in 1961 en route to negotiate a cease fire between U.N. forces and Katangese troops in the Democratic Republic of theCongo, when his plane crashed. In his address, current Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon also paid a small tribute to him, noting his death in the line of duty.
Neither Ban nor Jeremić directly mentioned Syria, Iran, or any of the protests flaring up in the Middle East and elsewhere in response to the "Innocence of Muslims" film, but in his address Ban said that one of the U.N.'s main priorities "has been to promote prevention and peaceful means of resolving differences."
"There is great unexplored potential in this area," Ban said. "We are seeing examples of intolerance and hatred that is then exploited by others. Voices of moderation and calm need to be heard, and this organization is being asked to do more than ever before. The United Nations must rise to the moment."
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