President Obama, in his final speech to the United Nations Tuesday, made an impassioned plea on behalf of a liberal world order that he admitted was under growing threat from wars in the Middle East and rising nationalism at home and in Europe.
Speaking to the U.N. General Assembly for the eighth and last time as president, Obama sought to rise above the conflicts of the moment and outline a future of international cooperation, stressing the importance of the global liberal institutions formed after World War II, including the United Nations.
“The world is by many measures less violent and more prosperous than ever before,” Obama said. But he acknowledged a growing global unease, fueled by terrorism and economic anxiety, which has led some Western politicians, including Republican nominee Donald Trump, to call for tough, new restrictions on immigration and global trade.
Obama often seemed to be speaking simultaneously to history and to an American electorate facing a historic choice.
The problems plaguing the world called for a “course correction,” the president said. He then catalogued the crises that have exposed “deep fault lines in the existing international order,” describing the financial disruptions caused by globalization, chaos in the Middle East and the massive refugee flows into Europe.
“Our societies are filled with uncertainty and unease and strife,” he said. “Despite enormous progress, as people lose trust in institutions, governing becomes more difficult and tensions between nations become more quick to surface.”