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Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

London (UK)

16 June 2008

Remarks to the International Maritime Organization

Mr. Secretary-General of IMO,
Madame Secretary of State, the right honourable Ruth Kelly,
Minister of Shipping, Mr. Fitzpatrick,
Excellencies, members of the diplomatic corps, distinguished delegate,
Ladies and gentlemen,

First of all, I would like to thank you for your warm welcome and kind introduction by Mr. Mitropoulous.

I’m happy to be here at this very important time in the history of the International Maritime Organization. It is exactly 60 years since this Organization’s convention was adopted, and a half century since it entered into force. We’ve reached the 100th meeting of the IMO Executive Council. And the Organization has moved back to a newly refurbished headquarters twenty-five years after its opening. And I highly commend the leadership and the initiative of Secretary-General Mitropoulous and count on your continued commitment. And thank you very much for reminding me of the Capital Master Plan of the United Nations Headquarters building, [for] which I have taken every note of every corner of this building; now I should carry out my refurbishing effort in New York.

When the IMO was first established, it filled a crying need for international standards to regulate shipping. And in the fifty years since then, this Organization has broadened its activities to keep pace with emerging global demands.

At the outset, the IMO was mostly concerned with maritime safety. Then came the 1960s and ‘70s, when the Organization began addressing the threat of oil pollution from ships.

In recent years, environmental concerns have been at the top of the IMO’s agenda.

I commend you for focusing on the impact that shipping has on our fragile planet Earth. This is critical to our quality of life today – and to future generations who will inherit the world of tomorrow.

I am personally doing all that I can to galvanize global action on climate change. All of us have a stake in this – individuals, governments and industries.

The IMO has carried out laudable work to deal with pollution and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from ships, but it is clear that more needs to be done. In order to respond to what the world’s scientists have told us, we must step up our efforts to respond to calls to further reduce air pollution and tackle greenhouse gas emissions. We need strong policies, and at the same time it is essential to help developing countries implement such measures.

I have confidence that the IMO will play its part in this global campaign to address the problem of climate change.

You already have a solid track record of working closely with other partners in the UN family to tackle a range of complex issues. And I would like to take this opportunity to thank [the contribution] as a member of the Chief Executives Board that Mr. Mitropoulous has been making. First of all, he works as a member of one United Nations, and second, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from all means of shipping. I have learned a great deal from him about how the shipping industry can contribute to global common efforts to address climate change, which is the most important priority of my agenda as Secretary-General.

The IMO joined forces last year with the World Food Programme to urge action to end piracy off the coast of Somalia, where humanitarian ships and other vessels were being hijacked by bandits. And earlier this month, the Security Council adopted a resolution authorizing States cooperating with Somalia’s transitional government to use “all necessary means” to repress acts of piracy and armed robbery at sea. I again commend your leadership and vision on this issue.

Welcoming that resolution, Secretary-General Mitropoulos pointed out that we all need to work together to prevent piracy. I completely agree with this position.

The IMO is not only working with partners to address environmental and security concerns – it is also supporting sustainable development, including efforts to reach the Millennium Development Goals, our set of targets for addressing a range of social ills by the year 2015.

Trade is critical to poverty eradication. Even in today’s high-tech world, where we send information electronically in a matter of seconds, shipping remains one of the world’s most international industries, serving more than 90 per cent of global trade. It provides an important source of income and employment for many poor States. The IMO is assisting developing countries in building safe, secure and efficient shipping services while protecting their waters and coasts.

Helping developing countries to boost their shipping while preserving the environment contributes to the prosperity of humanity as a whole. Here again we see how the IMO is central to our broader United Nations mission to achieve peace and progress.

Let me warmly congratulate this valuable Organization and its Members and staff on this milestone anniversary. Let me also take this opportunity to express on behalf of the United Nations to the Government of the United Kingdom for this strong support and cooperation to make IMO work smoothly and conduct its business. IMO is the only United Nations specialized agency located in London. Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth feels very proud of having the IMO here. And I would like to again express my sincere appreciation for all the Member States of the IMO, and the staff and delegates, for their continued efforts and cooperation. I am looking forward to you for even more advances in the years to come.

Thank you.