Five things Obama will do at the UN

President Obama hasn’t had much time lately for anything other than the economy, jobs, and maybe a little worrying about the midterm elections. But he’ll focus a good chunk of this week on foreign affairs when he decamps Washington for the United Nations in New York, spending the better part of three days – from Wednesday afternoon to Friday evening – on many of the bigger issues on his international plate.

Here are five things Mr. Obama will do while in New York.

1. Call for an overhaul of the UN campaign to improve living conditions for the world’s poorest

Zimbabwean children attend a ceremony where South Korea Ambassador Vae-hack Oh handed over a donation of thousands of library books and computers to Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai in Harare on August 23. Zimbabwe has the lowest per capita GDP in the world.

Obama will participate Wednesday in the closing session of a two-day summit on the UN’s Millennium Development Goals, the eight-point strategy adopted by world leaders in 2000 for lifting the standard of living of the world’s poorest by 2015. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called the summit both to take stock of progress and to prod the international community to renewed action, pressing participants from more than 145 countries to do better on everything from reducing hunger to tackling maternal and infant mortality to raising access to primary education

Obama will remind attendees that the US, the world’s largest provider of development assistance, is at the forefront of efforts. But he will also encourage both wealthy and developing countries to rethink their strategies for reducing poverty, putting greater emphasis on local economic development programs and plans that reach more of the world’s least-accessible rural poor. He is also expected to say more attention must be paid to accountability and weeding out corruption.

A controversial indicator to watch for: how much importance Obama places on the role family-planning services play in economic development. Conservatives who suspect the administration of opening the door to abortion will be ready to pounce.

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