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Syria and Refugee Crisis to Dominate the upcoming UN Meetings in New York

The second UN meeting will be hosted by President Barack Obama on Tuesday

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United Nations headquarters in New York, seen from the East River. Source- Wikimedia commons
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  • The meetings at New York will be on various important humanitarian issues but the war in Syria and the refugee crisis which has overwhelmed neighboring countries and Europe will dominate the meeting
  • U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Sheba Crocker hopes that the summit will result in significant new, sustained commitments to U.N. humanitarian appeals, expanded refugee resettlement programs or alternative legal pathways for admission
  • This will be the last General Assembly meeting for Ban Ki-moon as the Secretary-General of the United Nations. His decade-long tenure ends on December 31, 2016

The war in Syria and the refugee crisis it has created are expected to dominate the agenda at the annual U.N. meetings with world leaders in New York next week.

Leaders want to limit the spillover from the Syrian war. Mainly, the human exodus to overwhelmed neighboring countries and Europe. They will discuss the issue at two summits focusing on refugees. U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon will host the first meeting on Monday.

“More countries must resettle more people who have been forced from their homes. More countries must recognize the benefits of migration. And everyone, everywhere, must stand up against the animosity that so many refugees, migrants, and minority communities face,” said Ban.

President Barack Obama will host the second summit on Tuesday. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Sheba Crocker expects action on humanitarian issues.

“We expect that the summit will result in significant new, sustained commitments to U.N. humanitarian appeals, expanded refugee resettlement programs or alternative legal pathways for admission,” said Crocker.

Syrian refugees board a Jordanian army vehicle at the Rakban refugee camp. Source-VOA
Syrian refugees board a Jordanian army vehicle at the Rakban refugee camp.
Source-VOA

But there is skepticism from some, such as Richard Gowan of Columbia University, that either summit will do much to improve the situation of the nearly 5 million Syrians who have fled their homeland.

“The only way you solve the Syrian crisis is a political deal. I’m sure there will be some talk about that at the General Assembly, but Vladimir Putin is not coming to New York, and if Putin is not here, you cannot have serious talks about Syria,” said Gowan.

The United States and Russia agreed to a deal earlier this month for a cease-fire and on getting aid into Syria. The two countries also plan to cooperate on targeting terrorists, including the so-called Islamic State. Whether that deal is working or failing will likely shape discussions in New York.

The U.N. Security Council will hold a high-level session Wednesday, intended to put the spotlight on Syria, but expectations for results are low.

“The reality is decisions about Syria are made in Washington, Moscow, and Iran — not in the Security Council chamber,” said Gowan.

The rest of the week will be dominated by leaders’ speeches in the General Assembly.

Some big names like Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping, and Angela Merkel will be absent. It will be President Obama’s final time as U.S. president at the international gathering, and his speech will likely lay out his multilateralism legacy.

It will also be Ban Ki-moon’s final General Assembly as U.N. chief. His decade-long tenure ends on December 31.(VOA)

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Rate of autism in US reduced in the past three years

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Rate of autism in US reduced in the past three yearsRate of autism in US reduced in the past three years
FILE - Colleen Jankovich works with her 11-year-old autistic son, Matthew, in Omaha, Nebraska, May 23, 2014. VOA

Miami, Jan 2, 2018: After more than a decade of steady increase in the rate of children diagnosed with autism in the United States, the rate has plateaued in the past three years, researchers said Tuesday.

The findings were based on a nationwide study in which more than 30,000 parents reported whether their children had been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

“The estimated ASD prevalence was 2.41 percent among US children and adolescents in 2014-2016, with no statistically significant increase over the three years,” said the research letter by experts at the University of Iowa, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

The first observation of a plateau was made by a separate group in 2012, when the rate flattened out to 1.46 percent, according to the Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network.

Federal health authorities say that means about one in 68 children in the United States have the neurodevelopmental disability, whose causes remain poorly understood.

The ADDM had documented a “continuous increase from 0.67 percent in 2000 to 1.47 percent in 2010.”

The 2.4 percent rate described in the JAMA report translates to one in 47 children, but researchers cautioned that the discrepancy may be explained by “differences in study design and participant characteristics.”

The JAMA report, based on the annual National Health Interview Survey, did not delve into “underlying causes for the findings and cannot make conclusions about their medical significance.”

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also noted a plateau in the autism rate in 2016, but said it was “too soon to know whether ASD prevalence in the United States might be starting to stabilize.” (VOA)