Obama Refines U.S. Approach To World Aid

President Obama goes before the United Nations General Assembly Thursday morning for a second time in two days. On Wednesday, he laid out a new direction for U.S. development assistance. He said he would step up his commitment to fight hunger, poverty and disease.

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President Obama goes before the U.N. general assembly this morning for the second time in two days. Yesterday, he laid out a new direction for U.S. development assistance and said he would step up his commitment to fight hunger, poverty and disease. NPRs Michele Kelemen reports from the U.N.

MICHELE KELEMEN: President Obama used his speech to a special summit on development yesterday to talk about how he hopes not just to increase aid but to improve the way it is delivered. He says this is a national security issue not just charity.

President BARACK OBAMA: I suspect that some in wealthier countries may ask, with our economies struggling, so many people out of work, and so many families barely getting by, why a summit on development? And the answer is simple. In our global economy, progress in even the poorest countries can advance the prosperity and security of people far beyond their borders, including my fellow Americans.

KELEMEN: He said hed be working with congress to update legislation and make sure trade policies are helping not hurting the developing world.

Pres. OBAMA: Aid alone is not development. Development is helping nations to actually develop - moving from poverty to prosperity. And we need more than just aid to unleash that change. We need to harness all the tools at our disposal, from our diplomacy to our trade policies to our investment policies.

KELEMEN: The presidents speech capped several days of meetings at the U.N. on the so called millennium development goals. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon wrapped up that part of the week by announcing a $40 billion plan to make headway on one of the goals that's lagging far behind: maternal and child health. The secretary general said millions of children are dying from treatable diseases and women in many countries have yet to benefit from advances that have made childbirth safer.

Mr. BAN KI MOON (U.N. Secretary General): These realities are simply unacceptable. The 21st century must be and will be different. We can do this by addressing the savage inequalities that affect women and children.

KELEMEN: Today, in the United States general assembly world leaders take the stage to talk about whatever else is on their mind. President Obama is expected to touch on a long list of challenges from Middle East peace talks to nuclear non proliferation.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has already been working on the sidelines on all these issues. Yesterday, she met her security council counterparts and other diplomats involved in the diplomacy on Iran. The European unions foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton read out a statement encouraging Iran to return to the negotiating table to talk about its suspect nuclear program.

Mr. CATHERINE ASHTON (Policy Chief, European Union): Our objective continues to be a comprehensive long-term negotiated solution which restores international confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature of Irans nuclear program, while respecting Irans legitimate right to the peaceful use of nuclear energy.

KELEMEN: A diplomat involved in the talks called it a good meeting that showed everyone is still on the same page, including Russia and China. Speaking privately, the diplomat added that the hope now is to, quote, "raise the game with Iran" to get it into a serious dialogue that go beyond what the official called rather useless previous meetings.

Irans president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is to address the United Nations general assembly this afternoon several hours after President Obama speaks. U.S. officials tend to stay out of the room, though, when the Iranian leader takes the podium.

Michele Kelemen, NPR News, the United Nations.

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