I know that many are frustrated by the lack of progress. So am I. But the question isn't the goal we seek - the question is how to reach it. And I am convinced that there is no short cut to the end of a conflict that has endured for decades. Peace will not come through statements and resolutions at the UN - if it were that easy, it would have been accomplished by now. Ultimately, it is Israelis and Palestinians who must live side by side. Ultimately, it is Israelis and Palestinians - not us - who must reach agreement on the issues that divide them: on borders and security; on refugees and Jerusalem.
Peace depends upon compromise among peoples who must live together long after our speeches are over, and our votes have been counted. That is the lesson of Northern Ireland, where ancient antagonists bridged their differences. That is the lesson of Sudan, where a negotiated settlement led to an independent state. And that is the path to a Palestinian state.
We seek a future where Palestinians live in a sovereign state of their own, with no limit to what they can achieve. There is no question that the Palestinians have seen that vision delayed for too long. And it is precisely because we believe so strongly in the aspirations of the Palestinian people that America has invested so much time and effort in the building of a Palestinian state, and the negotiations that can achieve one.
America's commitment to Israel's security is unshakable, and our friendship with Israel is deep and enduring. And so we believe that any lasting peace must acknowledge the very real security concerns that Israel faces every single day. Let's be honest: Israel is surrounded by neighbors that have waged repeated wars against it. Israel's citizens have been killed by rockets fired at their houses and suicide bombs on their buses. Israel's children come of age knowing that throughout the region, other children are taught to hate them. Israel, a small country of less than eight million people, looks out at a world where leaders of much larger nations threaten to wipe it off of the map. The Jewish people carry the burden of centuries of exile, persecution, and the fresh memory of knowing that six million people were killed simply because of who they were.
These facts cannot be denied. The Jewish people have forged a successful state in their historic homeland. Israel deserves recognition. It deserves normal relations with its neighbors. And friends of the Palestinians do them no favors by ignoring this truth, just as friends of Israel must recognize the need to pursue a two state solution with a secure Israel next to an independent Palestine.
That truth - that each side has legitimate aspirations - is what makes peace so hard. And the deadlock will only be broken when each side learns to stand in each other's shoes. That's what we should be encouraging. This body - founded, as it was, out of the ashes of war and genocide; dedicated, as it is, to the dignity of every person - must recognize the reality that is lived by both the Palestinians and the Israelis. The measure of our actions must always be whether they advance the right of Israeli and Palestinian children to live in peace and security, with dignity and opportunity. We will only succeed in that effort if we can encourage the parties to sit down together, to listen to each other, and to understand each others hopes and fears. That is the project to which America is committed. And that is what the United Nations should be focused on in the weeks and months to come.
Now, even as we confront these challenges of conflict and revolution, we must also recognize once more that peace is not just the absence of war. True peace depends upon creating the opportunity that makes life worth living. And to do that, we must confront the common enemies of human beings: nuclear weapons and poverty; ignorance and disease. These forces corrode the possibility of lasting peace, and together we are called upon to confront them.
To lift the specter of mass destruction, we must come together to pursue the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons. Over the last two years, we have begun to walk down that path. Since our Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, nearly 50 nations have taken steps to secure nuclear materials from terrorists and smugglers. Next March, a Summit in Seoul will advance our efforts to lock down all of them. The New START Treaty between the United States and Russia will cut our deployed arsenals to the lowest level in a half century, and our nations are pursuing talks on how to achieve deeper reductions. America will continue to work for a ban on the testing of nuclear weapons, and the production of fissile material needed to make them.
As we meet our obligations, we have strengthened the treaties and institutions that help stop the spread of these weapons. To do so, we must continue to hold accountable those nations that flout them. The Iranian government cannot demonstrate that its program is peaceful, has not met its obligations, and rejected offers that would provide it with peaceful nuclear power. North Korea has yet to take concrete steps toward abandoning its weapons, and continues belligerent actions against the South. There is a future of greater opportunity for the people of these nations if their governments meet their obligations. But if they continue down a path that is outside international law, they must be met with greater pressure and isolation. That is what our commitment to peace demands.
To bring prosperity to our people, we must promote the growth that creates opportunity. In this effort, let us not forget that we have made enormous progress over the last several decades. Closed societies gave way to open markets. Innovation and entrepreneurship has transformed the way we live and the things that we can do. Emerging economies from Asia to the Americas have lifted hundreds of millions from poverty. Yet three years ago, we confronted the worst financial crisis in eight decades. That crisis proved a fact that has become clearer with each passing year - our fate is interconnected; in a global economy, nations will rise, or fall, together.
Today, we confront the challenges that have followed that crisis. Recovery is fragile. Markets are volatile. Too many people are out of work. Too many others are struggling to get by. We acted together to avert a Depression in 2009. We must take urgent and coordinated action once more. Here in the United States, I have announced a plan to put Americans back to work and jump-start our economy, and committed to substantially reduce our deficit over time. We stand with our European allies as they reshape their institutions and address their own fiscal challenge. For other countries, leaders face a different challenge as they shift their economies towards more self-reliance, boosting domestic demand while slowing inflation. So we will work with emerging economies that have rebounded strongly, so that rising standards of living create new markets that promote global growth. That is what our commitment to prosperity demands.
To combat the poverty that punishes our children, we must act on the belief that freedom from want is a basic human right. The United States has made it a focus of our engagement abroad to help people to feed themselves. And today, as drought and conflict have brought famine to the Horn of Africa, our conscience calls on us to act. Together, we must continue to provide assistance, and support organizations that can reach those in need. And together, we must insist on unrestricted humanitarian access so that we can save the lives of thousands of men, women and children. Our common humanity is at stake. Let us show that the life of a child in Somalia is as precious as any other. That is what our commitment to our fellow human beings demands.
To stop disease that spreads across borders, we must strengthen our systems of public health. We will continue the fight against HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. We will focus on the health of mothers and children. And we must come together to prevent, detect, and fight every kind of biological danger - whether it is a pandemic like H1N1, a terrorist threat, or a treatable disease. This week, America signed an agreement with the World Health Organization to affirm our commitment to meet this challenge.
Today, I urge all nations to join us in meeting the WHO's goal of making sure all nations have core capacities to address public health emergencies in place by 2012. That is what our commitment to the health of our people demands.
To preserve our planet, we must not put off the action that a changing climate demands. We must tap the power of science to save those resources that are scarce. Together, we must continue our work to build on the progress made in Copenhagen and Cancun, so that all of the major economies here today follow through on the commitments that were made. Together, we must work to transform the energy that powers are economies, and support others as they move down that path. That is what our commitment to the next generation demands.
And to make sure our societies reach their potential, we must allow our citizens to reach theirs. No country can afford the cancer of corruption. Together, we must harness the power of open societies and open economies. That is why we have partnered with countries from across the globe to launch a new partnership on Open Government that helps ensure accountability and empower their citizens. No country should deny people their rights because of who they love, which is why we must stand up for the rights of gays and lesbians everywhere. And no country can realize its potential if half its population cannot reach theirs. This week, the United States signed a new Declaration on Women's Participation. Next year, we should each announce the steps we are taking to break down economic and political barriers that stand in the way of women and girls. That is what our commitment to human progress demands.
I know that there is no straight line to progress, no single path to success. We come from different cultures, and carry with us different histories. But let us never forget that even as we gather here as heads of different governments, we represent citizens who share the same basic aspirations - to live with dignity and freedom; to get an education and pursue opportunity; to love our families and our God. To live in the kind of peace that makes life worth living.
It is the nature of our imperfect world that we are forced to learn this lesson over and over again. Conflict and repression will endure so long as some people refuse to do unto others as we would have them do unto us. Yet that is precisely why we have built institutions like this that bind our fates together - because those who came before us believed that peace is preferable to war; freedom is preferable to suppression; and prosperity is preferable to poverty. That is the message that comes not from capitals, but from citizens.
When the corner-stone of this very building was put in place, President Truman came here to New York and said, "The United Nations is essentially an expression of the moral nature of man's aspirations." As we live in a world that is changing at a breathtaking pace, that is a lesson that we must never forget.
Peace is hard, but we know that it is possible. Together, let us resolve to see that it is defined by our hopes and not our fears. Together, let us work to make, not merely a peace, but a peace that will last. Thank you.