World leaders gather at the United Nations for their annual meeting Tuesday with an array of global crises that desperately need solutions, topped by the Syrian conflict, escalating attacks around the world by Islamic extremists, and millions of people fleeing fighting and poverty.

Whether the 135 heads of state and government and more than 50 ministers are able to make any progress before the high-level meeting of the General Assembly ends on Sept. 26 remains to be seen. While hopes are high, expectations are low.

The leaders are meeting against a backdrop of rising ethnic and religious tension, fighting elsewhere in the Mideast and Africa, a warming planet, and unfulfilled goals to give every child in the world a primary school education and to achieve equality for women.