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PM addresses the UN General Assembly

Prime Minister David Cameron focused on the Arab Spring uprisings in his speech at the United Nations General Assembly in New York. External site: [Read the full transcript of the PM's General Assembly speech]( External site: [Watch the speech again on the United Nations website](

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In his first speech to the United Nations General Assembly in New York, the Prime Minister has told world leaders that the popular uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East have provided a huge opportunity to spread peace, prosperity, democracy and security.

The Prime Minister stressed, however, that opportunities for peace brought with them new responsibilities for the United Nations.

Mr Cameron said:

Here at the UN, we have a responsibility to stand up against regimes that persecute their people.

To fail to act is to fail those who need our help.

The Prime Minister said the international community needed to use a combination of military action or “hard power” and “soft power” like diplomacy and financial aid.

Speaking about Libya, the Prime Minister argued that Libyans had made clear their aspirations for greater freedom, more accountable governments and an end to corruption.

Mr Cameron said:

There are important lessons from what has happened in Libya.

The Libyans liberated themselves.

Ordinary Libyans from all walks of life came together and showed incredible resilience and bravery as they rose up and drove out Qadhafi.

The PM identified the Arab Spring uprisings as an opportunity to increase equity and prosperity in the region, particularly for women:

The future is for the people of this region to determine, but I would urge them not to reject something they never had, a genuine, open, fair and transparent market economy which has proved the world over to be the best way to create wealth and jobs.

And the need for economic success is vital, because this is a region where 60 per cent of the population is under 25.

And youth unemployment is nearly double the world average.

And these jobs shouldn’t just be for men. Let’s be honest, it’s not just the men of the region who want a job and a voice. And it’s not only the economy, they are denied the chance to play a fuller role in society, politics and culture too.

So in this historic period, when the voice of this region is finally being heard

there is now a unique opportunity for women to fulfil their ambitions too.

Let’s be clear, you can’t build strong economies, open societies and inclusive political systems if you lock out women.

So the Arab Spring will not succeed if the opportunities that are opening up are denied to half the population.

 The Prime Minister ended his speech by describing how the downfall of oppressive regimes would also improve national security:

We must recognise that political and economic reform in the Middle East is not just good in its own right, but it’s also a key part of how in the end we will defeat Al Qaeda.

Of course we must meet terrorist activity with a strong and resolute security response.

But in the long term we must defeat not only the terrorists, but the extremist ideology that feeds them.

Al Qaeda’s poisonous ideology has thrived on repression.

Democracy is what it fears most.

People aren’t in Tahrir Square in Cairo and Freedom Square in Libya for an Islamist caliphate but for a job, a voice and a future.

And we must heed their call.

For their freedom and for the security of us all.

Published 22 September 2011