|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Secretary-General Thanks UN Hospitality Committee for Fostering
Community in ‘Time of Great International Turmoil’
Following are UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, at the spring luncheon of the United Nations Hospitality Committee, in New York, 9 May:
Thank you so much for inviting me to this wonderful luncheon. I am especially grateful to Ambassador Reed. I join a long line of Secretaries-General who have benefited from his advice over the decades. I can always count on Ambassador [Joseph Verner] Reed to provide thoughtful counsel based on his rich diplomatic career.
Lately, Ambassador Reed has been helping us with the Capital Master Plan. He worked closely with our “CMP” Executive Director, Mr. [Michael] Adlerstein, to facilitate the move. Right before coming here, I asked about the status of the Hospitality Committee in the renovation. I was delighted to hear that you found good temporary premises in the North Lawn Building.
I thank our Hospitality Committee President, Katherine Donnelley, for volunteering so much of her time to the United Nations — always with a smile. I also thank our Emcee, Tony Fouracre, a UN veteran. As the head of the United Nations Postal Administration, he made sure UN stamps were an effective public information tool, raising awareness about the United Nations around the world.
I have a special place in my heart for the Hospitality Committee. Long before I became Secretary-General, you welcomed me and my family when we first moved to New York in 2001. Now, everyone gives me the red-carpet treatment. But then, not everyone recognized me as the Chef de Cabinet of the President of the General Assembly. The Hospitality Committee treated my wife and me with the greatest kindness.
Once, they arranged for us to celebrate Thanksgiving with a family in Connecticut. We are still friends with that family to this day. And we owe it all to the volunteers who make up this wonderful group. My wife is privileged to serve as the Honorary Chair of the Hospitality Committee. She really enjoys staying engaged with friends from the local diplomatic community. I often take her out of New York on trips around the world, but whenever she is here, she tries to attend your monthly teas.
Your work to build a sense of community among diplomatic families in New York supports our global efforts to find common ground in the international community. This is more urgent than ever. We live at a time of great international turmoil. Markets are failing. Thousands of children die each day from diseases we know how to prevent. Civilians are killed in wars that they never started and wish would end. Members of our human family suffer from atrocious rights abuses because of discrimination and hatred.
As Secretary-General, I have seen these devastating problems in different settings around the world. I will never forget the children I have met in refugee camps who just want to find their families again. I will always remember the survivors of rape I have spoken to in hospitals. I have seen the effects of climate change up close, in shrinking lakes and ice glaciers — and in areas devastated by natural disasters. The problems of poverty, environmental degradation and financial crisis are interlinked. They affect every country. And they demand a concerted international response.
The United Nations brings countries together to overcome global challenges we face. We are an Organization of Governments. But, more than ever, the United Nations has opened its doors to other partners.
As Secretary-General, I deal with diplomats and officials on a daily basis. But, I also consult with human rights groups. I encourage businesses to work for development. I address university students who are helping to shape the future. I consult with professors who have studied global trends in depth. I meet with artists who can bring the work of the United Nations to new audiences. We need all of these different influential members of the international community to help advance the goals of the United Nations.
Ideally, we strive to prevent problems before they start. Investing now in stopping a problem from growing bigger is always far less costly in financial terms and in human suffering than waiting to deal with the consequences.
That is why we are advancing the rule of law and strengthening the fight against impunity. We have a roster of mediators who can rush to troubled areas to ease tensions before they flare into fighting. We have regional offices around the world that support prevention. Our work to advance development is based in part on the understanding that ending poverty is central to achieving peace.
At the same time, anyone opening a newspaper sees horrific reminders that we have to do more than prevent fighting — we have to deal with dangerous situations unfolding now in many parts of the world.
I am gravely concerned about the fighting in Syria. More than 70,000 people have been killed. More than five and a half million Syrians have fled their homes. The United Nations has set up a team to examine the troubling allegations of chemical weapons use. At the same time, we are pushing for a political solution that will bring lasting peace.
I am also closely following events in Mali. The French and African military forces served to improve security for affected civilians. Now we have to focus on restoring Mali’s constitutional order and territorial integrity. Here, too, a lasting solution requires political progress.
To address the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, we are teaming up with key players in Africa to get to the root causes of the conflict.
The Security Council recently adopted a new approach to strengthen our political efforts and improve the military effectiveness of our peacekeeping mission, MONUSCO [United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo]. The Mission will now have an intervention brigade to address the dangers posed by armed groups. I am fortunate that the very capable former President of Ireland and former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, is serving as my Special Envoy for the Great Lakes region.
The Middle East peace process remains a priority. We cannot allow the window for achieving a two-State solution to close any further. All involved should work to breathe new life into the peace process, create an environment conducive for the resumption of negotiations.
The situation in the Korean peninsula remains highly volatile. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is carrying out provocative acts, including the nuclear test. The international community has been measured in its response. We are resolved that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea will not be accepted as a nuclear-weapon-State.
I continue to urge the leadership in Pyongyang to return to the negotiating table. I have spoken with leaders in China, the United States, the Republic of Korea and many other countries. I recently met with South Korean President Park Geun Hye. I firmly believe that her Government’s recent offer of dialogue is genuine. I hope that DPRK takes it seriously. As Secretary-General, I will continue my efforts to facilitate meaningful dialogue.
I will also continue sounding the alarm about the serious humanitarian and human rights situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. The authorities should do everything possible to address the well-being of the many people there who are suffering. These are just some of the areas where the United Nations is working to end fighting and achieve lasting peace.
Dear friends, this is an inspiring setting. I almost feel like I am inside a ship! All of the model ships they have here remind us of the drama of travel. For thousands of years, ships have made the world smaller. Today, we have new technologies, like electronic networks, that bring people together. We are connected by networks on the high seas and on the information superhighway.
The UN Hospitality [Committee] understands the importance of human connections. You are cultivating friendships, making the most of our diversity and bringing us closer together as a community. I am inspired by your example, and I thank you for your contributions.
* *** *For information media • not an official record