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Radio report

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

UN Headquarters

05 May 2008


Opening comments at press encounter following the ground-breaking ceremony for the Capital Master Plan for the renovation of the UN Headquarters complex

Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.

It is a great pleasure to see you again. It took me two weeks to visit many countries in Africa and Europe.

I have just come from the groundbreaking ceremony for the Capital Master Plan, known as CMP, marking the renovation, even the rebirth, of UN Headquarters. Over the next five years, we will make our facilities safer, greener and more modern and efficient.

As you know, I spent the last two weeks in West Africa and Europe. Topic A at most stops was the global food crisis.

I won't repeat what you already know and what I have already stated during the last several days. Let me simply emphasize the gravity of the emergency and the need for an urgent response. The first thing I will do, back here in New York, will be to get our Task Force on the Global Food Crisis moving at full speed.

I am going to have a first Task Force [meeting] on Monday next week.

At the UNCTAD trade conference in Ghana, I described the stakes very bluntly. If not properly handled, this crisis could cascade into multiple crises affecting trade, development and even social and political security around the world. The livelihoods of hundreds of millions of people are threatened.

We have made promising steps in recent days to address emergency needs. But the longer-term challenge -- and the realm in which the broader UN family must lead and act as one --is to boost agricultural development, particularly in Africa and other regions most affected. I have called on leaders not to take measures that distort trade and push up prices. We need immediate action to get seeds, fertilizer and other agricultural “inputs” to the world's small farmers. This crisis did not come out of the blue. It grew out of more than a decade of neglect and ineffective development policy. We need a new start.

My Task Force will study the root causes of the crisis and propose solutions -- to be executed decisively through coordinated global action -- at the upcoming food summit in Rome early in June. I call on world leaders to join me there in Rome. Please come with fresh ideas. It is time for real commitment and real action.

You know, too, that the UN has major peacekeeping and peacebuilding missions in West Africa. In Liberia and Côte d'Ivoire, leaders warned me explicitly that the food crisis could derail their efforts to recover from years of conflict. Côte d'Ivoire, especially, has scheduled elections for November 30.

These must succeed. In Abidjan, I got the parties to sign a code of conduct so that their campaigns can be held freely and without violence, and to abide by the results. I also witnessed the signing of a Protocol of Understanding whereby international donors agreed to underwrite the elections and help finance Côte d'Ivoire's steps toward political stability. As in everything we do, peace and development go hand in hand. There cannot be one without the other.

On the way home for today's groundbreaking, I stopped in London for the meeting of the Quartet last Friday. In fact, I chaired the Quartet and the “Quartet plus Arab Partners” meetings. We agreed that there must be urgent progress, if there's to be any reasonable prospect of building a Palestinian state living side by side with Israel in peace and security.

I repeat today what we set forth in London: Israel must halt settlement building in the West Bank. The Palestinian Authority must fulfill its commitment to fight terrorism. The rocket attacks on Israel must stop. The humanitarian suffering in Gaza must end. I am committed to work with the Quartet and with our Arab and Israeli partners toward these goals.

A final note: the Capital Master Plan effort will bring considerable inconvenience to how we function, both in the conduct of conferences and meetings, and the way we carry out our office duties day to day.

It is important that we all work together -- Member States, Host Country, Secretariat, staff, and all of you, the media. We need your continued support and cooperation so that we will be able to see this building in five years time – refurbished - a greener, more efficient and effective and more comfortable place to work in.

Thank you very much. I will be happy to answer your questions.