NEW YORK (WCBS 880/ CBS 2/AP) – President Barack Obama told a U.N. conference that the United States is changing its approach to development to focus less on spending money and more on really helping countries develop.

That means using diplomacy, trade, investment policies and other resources to help them prosper.

The changed approach is spelled out in the administration’s new global development policy, which Obama announced in a speech Wednesday at the United Nations in New York.

Obama said the administration will demand accountability from the U.S. and the countries it is trying to help. But, he says, make no mistake, the U.S. will remain a world leader in providing assistance.

He said the U.S. will not abandon countries that need lifesaving help.

Obama’s trip to the United Nations Wednesday afternoon  did not offer the sense of anticipation that came with his first presidential address to the General Assembly last September. That event was about defining his new brand of U.S. engagement; this one is more about defending it.

In his centerpiece speech to world leaders Thursday, Obama is expected to describe what he sees as clear progress since he took office — a “cover the waterfront” reminder, as one aide put it, of how the U.S. has ditched unilateral leadership and worked with the world over the last 20 months. He is less likely to unveil anything significantly new as he is to recount the international efforts to keep Iran in line, slow the spread of nuclear weapons and revive plodding economies.

The president’s visit to New York also meant major traffic logjams on the East Side.  Rush hour traffic moved at a snail’s pace Wednesday, CBS 2’s Pablo Guzman reported.

An NYPD traffic advisory is seen on the East Side - New York, NY - Sep 22, 2010 - Photo: Paul Murnane / WCBS 880

An NYPD traffic advisory is seen on the East Side - New York, NY - Sep 22, 2010 - Photo: Paul Murnane / WCBS 880

LISTEN: WCBS 880’s Paul Murnane reports

RELATED: Full List of U.N.-Related Street Closures

The biggest traffic hassle for motorists seemed to come when they tried to go crosstown.

“I didn’t even know this was going on,” one motorist told Guzman.

“Oh man, it’s really bad out here,” another man said, “I [was] supposed to be at a meeting since 1:30, now it’s 2:40.”

“Traffic is too horrible,” another man said.

First Avenue was relatively empty looking back towards the UN area.

The less-stress approach taken by some including  Eugene Weaver seemed to be to deal with the situation.

“I know how it can get when the president’s in town…life if too short, you’ve got to take it easy,” Weaver said.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

Watch & Listen LIVE