US President Barack Obama will chair a historic meeting of the United Nations Security Council on Sept. 24 that is expected to ask nations with nuclear weapons to scrap their deadly arsenals. It will be the first time a US president has chaired a Security Council summit since the elite panel was established in 1946. Diplomats said council members were expected to unanimously adopt a U.S.-drafted resolution that declares there is a "need to pursue further efforts in the sphere of nuclear disarmament" and urges all countries that have not signed the 1970 nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) to do so. All five permanent Security Council members – the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France – have atom bombs.

More than 120 world leaders meet Sept. 23 on the heels of a climate change summit to tackle other crucial issues on the international agenda from terrorism and the spread of nuclear weapons to growing poverty resulting from the global financial crisis. The following day, on the opening of the UN General Assembly's 64th ministerial session, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was to urge leaders to take steps to free the world of nuclear weapons, to address the "red flags of warning" about a global economic recovery and make a fresh push to achieve UN anti-poverty goals especially reducing maternal and child mortality rates which remain very high, according to his prepared text. Ban was also to call for a revival of peace negotiations in the Mideast and a two-state solution where Israel and Palestine live side-by-side. He was also to pledge to see the Afghans "through their long night" and stand as well with the people of Pakistan.

United Nations agencies are stepping up emergency relief efforts in West Africa where severe flooding has affected 600,000 people, damaging infrastructure, schools and hospitals, inundating large swathes of farmland and destroying crops. Burkina Faso, Ghana, Guinea, Mali, Niger and Senegal are the worst affected countries. "In Burkina Faso UN agencies and their NGO (non-governmental organization) partners have launched a flash appeal for USD18.4 million to respond to the flood emergency. Only 1.6 per cent of the required amount has been contributed," the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported Sept. 23.

The world will have to produce 70 percent more food by 2050 to feed a projected extra 2.3 billion people and as incomes rise, the FAO said. Global cereals demand for food and animal feed is expected to rise to 3 billion tonnes by 2050 and more demand may come from the biofuels industry, the UN's food agency said. Annual cereals output would have to grow by almost one billion tonnes from about 2.1 billion tonnes at present to meet the projected food and feed demand by 2050, while meat output should increase by more than 200 million tonnes to reach 470 million tonnes in 2050. "FAO is cautiously optimistic about the world's potential to feed itself by 2050," said FAO's Assistant Director-General Hafez Ghanem. But he added that climate change and biofuels demand would be the main challenges for world agriculture.

Yugoslav war crimes tribunal prosecutors are resisting calls by the UN court's judges to further streamline their case against Radovan Karadzic, saying it could mean dropping key charges against the former Bosnian Serb leader. Prosecutors said Sept. 22 that further cutting down their 11-count indictment against Karadzic to squeeze it into a year would prevent them presenting evidence encompassing all his alleged crimes. "The prosecution cannot … complete its case within a calendar year without sacrificing a core component of its case," prosecutors warned. Karadzic has pleaded innocent to charges including genocide and crimes against humanity alleging he masterminded atrocities by Bosnian Serb forces throughout the 1992-95 Bosnian war. His trial is scheduled to begin Oct. 19.

Human rights activists in Colombia are being persecuted and subjected to arbitrary arrest by state security agents, Margaret Sekaggya, UN special rapporteur on human rights defenders, said Sept. 18.Victims also blame leftist guerrillas and other armed groups for abuses, she said. Colombia's conservative president, Alvaro Uribe, Washington's top ally in South America, has long faced criticism for the country's poor record on rights."A prime reason for the insecurity of human rights defenders lies in the systematic stigmatization and branding of defenders by government officials," Sekaggya told reporters at the end of a two-week fact-finding mission in the country.

A Bulgarian diplomat on Sept. 21 became the first woman to lead the UN's agency for culture and education, beating out a controversial Egyptian candidate whose one-time threat to burn Israeli books had galvanized opposition. Irina Bokova, 57, defeated Egyptian Culture Minister Farouk Hosny after a suspenseful and drawn-out race, sealing victory in the fifth round of balloting at the organization's Paris headquarters. The vote among UNESCO board members was 31 to 27. For months, Hosny had been considered the favorite. But critics raised Egypt's contentious record of cultural censorship and highlighted his threat last year to burn Israeli books, a comment he later apologized for. Bokova's candidacy took off late in the race as delegates sought a consensus figure.

One of the world's most recognizable faces will lend her good looks to the cause of global environmental action, with supermodel Gisele Bundchen of Brazil being designated a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). In her new role, she will help the agency raise awareness and inspire action to protect the environment, taking on some of the biggest threats facing the planet, such as climate change and environmental degradation. "The environment has always been my passion," said Bundchen, who grew up in a small town in Brazil surrounded by nature.

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