President Barack Obama warned Tuesday that the forces of globalization have exposed “deep fault lines” across the globe, calling for a “course correction” to ensure that nations and their peoples don’t retreat into a more sharply divided world.
Obama, in his final speech to the UN General Assembly, lamented that the world has become safer and more prosperous at the same time that nations are struggling with a devastating refugee crisis, terrorism and a breakdown in basic order in the Middle East. He said governing had become more difficult as people lose faith in public institutions and tensions among nations spiral out of control more rapidly.
“This is the paradox that defines the world today,” Obama said. “We must go forward, and not backward.”
Obama sought to use his last appearance before the global body to define how his leadership had put the world on a better trajectory over the last eight years. At the heart of that approach, Obama said, is the notion that the biggest conflicts are best solved when nations cooperate rather than tackle them individually.
It’s a theme that Democrat Hillary Clinton has put at the forefront of her campaign for president, casting herself as the natural continuation of Obama’s legacy. In a subtle reference to her opponent, Donald Trump, Obama bemoaned how terrorist networks had spread their ideology on social media, spurring anger toward “innocent immigrants and Muslims.”
The president cited his administration’s outreach to former adversaries Cuba and Myanmar as key examples of progress, along with global cooperation to cut emissions blamed for global warming. At the same time, he said he sought not to “whitewash” challenges across the globe, some of which he attributed to deepening anxieties about the profound shifts inflicted by technology and growing international interdependence.
“In order to move forward though, we do have to acknowledge that the existing path to global integration requires a course correction,” Obama said.