UNITED NATIONS – Global leaders on Thursday warned colleagues that coordinated international action to end the worldwide recession and reverse climate change must not fall victim to routine political divisions and pitfalls.
"Recuperation will be slow and time-consuming," said President Zeljko Komsic of Bosnia and Herzegovina, one of the U.N.'s newer nation-states, born from the breakup of Yugoslavia in the 1990s.
Komsic, speaking at the U.N. General Assembly's 64th annual session, called the global meltdown the "worst economic crisis since the founding of the United Nations, especially for poor and sub-Saharan countries."
Cypriot President Demetris Christofias fingered corporate crime and greed as the culprits, denouncing "market lawlessness."
"Globalization is driven by the pursuit of excessive profits," Christofias said. "As a result the rich are becoming richer and the poor, poorer."
His remarks echoed those of French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Wednesday, who condemned "the behavior of those who still continue to grow indecently rich, after leading the world to the brink of disaster."
For some people, Sierra Leone's President Ernest Bai Koroma said Thursday, "The impact of the crisis may be on the size of their bonuses; on others it may be on whether they acquire a second car or not. But for the vast number of people, particularly in Africa, the impact of the crisis creates life-threatening situations."
"The benefits of globalization have been negligible in the majority of developing countries," said Ghana's President John Evans Atta Mills.
"Despite almost a decade of impressive growth of about 5 percent, only a few countries have been able to reduce the proportion of their population living on less than $1 per day," Mills said.
The president of Rwanda, another nation bathed in a bloody genocide in the 1990s, said Thursday that the way forward out of economic recession will require expanded participation, beyond the insider club of the wealthy G-8 nations or even the broader G-20.
"Most of the proposals fall short of the steps essential for the recovery of low-income countries," Rwandan President Paul Kagame said.
"The G-20 is now playing a crucial role in restoring global economic instability; but should we not even broaden the base further to include many nations that are most vulnerable to the decisions of the few?" asked Kagame.
Bosnia-Herzegovina's Komsic had anticipated him: "It become more than obvious that only a strong, multilateral approach can provide the right answers."
Adding support from the developed world, Swiss President Hans-Rudolf Merz noted that "The G-20 lacks legitimacy; basic considerations of due process are absent in the sanctions procedures. The members of the G-20 are not subject to the same scrutiny. Switzerland advocates a level playing field and much better consultation among non-members of the G-20."
Japan's Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama offered a mediating role "to forge systems to rein in the issues of poverty and economic disparity, which are difficult to coordinate by simply leaving them to market mechanisms, as well as excessive money-making games."
Lithuania's President Dalia Grybauskaite had an ominous message to beleaguered taxpayers everywhere: "With all due regard for the domestic concerns and needs of national taxpayers, we need to adapt to the reality of global complexity, to respect our common responsibility and international commitments."
Koroma, from Sierra Leone, explained that "the world's developed countries must take a leadership role by providing adequate and predictable financial and technical support to less developed countries" to promote green technologies to roll back global warming.
The General Assembly was largely overshadowed on two fronts Thursday, by a Security Council meeting on nuclear disarmament, with President Barack Obama chairing the session; and the opening of the two-day G-20 meeting of nations grappling with the world financial crisis, convening in Pittsburgh.
Many of the world leaders in New York for the U.N. events will head to Pittsburgh later Thursday for the G-20 meeting.
The financial focus highlighted how the steep drop in economic output and living standards around the world, together with global warming, overshadowed other issues such as Iran's nuclear program. It is expected to dominate speeches during the weeklong ministerial session which continued Thursday with speeches by nearly two dozen more leaders including from Japan, Turkey, Israel and Iraq.