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Obama: U.S. backs UN sustainability goals

President Barack Obama delivers his address during the

President Barack Obama delivers his address during the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit in New York City on Sunday, Sept. 27, 2015. Credit: EPA / JUSTIN LANE

UNITED NATIONS -- President Barack Obama Sunday said the United States has fully adopted the UN's 17-point agenda of global goals designed to eradicate extreme poverty and other forms of human suffering while conserving the environment.

"Today I am committing the United States to achieving the sustainable development goals," he told heads of state and government gathered in Manhattan for the UN General Assembly. "As long as I am president, and well after I am done being president, I will keep fighting for the education and housing and health care and jobs that reduce inequality and create opportunity here in the United States and around the world."

Obama's remarks were delivered as the UN's 193 member states adopted these goals, which include ending poverty, ending hunger, promoting healthy lives, inclusive and equitable education, gender equality, and access to water and sanitation, along with access to sustainable energy.

Obama is scheduled to make three other appearances over three days in New York. Monday, he will convene a donors conference on peacekeeping -- where nations will pledge troops and police for UN missions -- and deliver a speech at the General Debate. Tuesday he attends a Security Council meeting on counterterrorism.

The appearances come as the largest gathering of heads of state and government ever assembled at the UN are attending the General Assembly.

One issue to be discussed during the week is how to handle the Syria situation, one of the world's most thorny conundrums as its civil war has become a magnet for foreign fighters -- including the Islamic State group and Al Nusra Front -- bent on overthrowing President Bashar Assad.

The UN's sustainable development goals being discussed Sunday will replace the anti-poverty millennium development goals, which the UN's member states have been trying to achieve since 2000. They expire this year. The new development goals also have a 15-year life span.

During his speech, Obama listed several possible impediments to reaching these goals, including bad government, inequality, conflict and climate change, but he also stressed that they are in everyone's best interest.

"Supporting development is not charity," he said, adding that to participate in the agenda is "one of the smartest investments we can make in our own future."

During the 30-minute address, Obama said it was shameful that 800 million people live on about $1.25 a day, billions of people suffer from preventable diseases and hundreds of women die every day in childbirth.

"Now, the world must act and not leave people behind," he said.

Obama made a special effort to speak to gender equality, calling the setbacks women have experienced in every society inexcusable.

"Development is threatened by old attitudes," he said, especially those that deny rights and opportunities to women. . . . Globally, women are less likely to have a job than men and more likely to live in poverty. I've said it before and I'll say it again: One of the best indicators of whether a country will succeed is how it treats its women."

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