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Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

UN Headquarters

07 October 2008

Opening comments at press conference

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen.

Before taking your questions, let me make some brief opening statement.

First, in the context of the global financial crisis, I would like to call your attention to the closing of the General Debate and the remarkable success of our two High-Level Events on the Millennium Development Goals and African Development Needs.

Everyone has felt the earthquake on Wall Street. But it has not shaken our resolve.

Banks may be failing. But the world's bottom billion can bank on us.

We showed that last week.

The global financial crisis may have over-shadowed our work, but it did not dominate it.

Despite the market turmoil, we raised $16 billion.

The generosity of these commitments is most encouraging, given the economic climate.

It means the world is not forgetting the needs of the world's poorest people, notwithstanding the prospect of harder times.

It means that, for all the obstacles, we have a good chance of meeting our Millennium Development Goals by 2015.

I urge world leaders to honour these pledges.

We saw genuinely fresh thinking and new approaches. Our new initiative on malaria, backed by a broad range of public and private partners, is a model of how a problem that we have lived with for too long can be overcome.

I also call your attention to WFP's truly innovative pilot programme for spurring agricultural development in Africa.

I urge you to remember both as you write about these issues over the coming months. As you know, they will be front-and-centre next month at the Doha conference on financing for development.

Second, a few words on issues of peace and security:

Next week, I fly to Geneva for talks with the European Union and OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) concerning the situation in Georgia and the future role of the United Nations.

As you know, I have called for a four-month technical extension of the UNOMIG mandate, which is going to expire by 15 October, next week. That should give us time to establish a firm framework for future cooperation among all the parties. My special envoy, Johan Verbeke, has just returned from his visits to Tblisi and Abkhazia and will remain fully and deeply engaged.

The situation in Darfur is deteriorating. We are seeing increasing attacks on UN and international staff.

The UNAMID mission is severely stretched.

Just yesterday, a Nigerian peacekeeper was killed in an ambush. He was the 9th UN soldier to die in Darfur in the last three months.

That is why I have sent our new head of UN Peacekeeping Operations, Alain Le Roy, to Sudan this week. The head of the UN Department of Field Services, Ms. Susana Malcorra, is also in Khartoum now. The purpose of their visit is to accelerate our deployment and push the political process, without which there can be no peace.

Despite the many obstacles, we aim to reach 65 percent deployment by the end of the year, and 85 percent by March 2009. I may have to adjust a little bit in view of the circumstances on the ground.

The first Egyptian and Ethiopian battalions will deploy by the end of October.

Yesterday I spoke with the Prime Minister of Thailand with a view toward securing the deployment of a Thai battalion in Darfur. I also discussed this matter with the Prime Minister of Nepal during the General debate. As you know, the government of Sudan has approved the deployment of both Thai and Nepalese military units. They were very positive conversations and I am assured that the Thai and Nepali governments will move ahead as soon as possible.

During the General Debate, President Viktor Yushchenko and I explored the possibility of deploying Ukrainian military helicopters and personnel to Darfur. We have had subsequent discussions with the Ukrainian Defense Minister in New York last week. These efforts are continuing.

The political and military situation in Afghanistan is precarious, at best. The multinational force is stretched to the limit of its current resources. In this context, I thank the Japanese government for its contributions, most recently the decision to extend its naval mission in the Indian Ocean.

In Somalia, three million people are in danger of starving. Nearly 90 percent of the food that feeds them arrives from the sea aboard WFP ships.

As you know, pirates are terrorizing Somalia's coastal waters. Navy vessels from the Netherlands, France, Denmark and Canada have been escorting our ships safely into the ports.

Canada's tour of duty ends on October 23. As yet, no nation has volunteered to take Canada's place.

Without escorts, those ships will not arrive. Without that aid, more people will die.

The European Union and other nations are discussing solutions. I am going to discuss this matter with Javier Solana when I visit Geneva. I urge them to bear in mind the October 23 deadline as they consider longer-term solutions to the challenge of piracy on the Horn of Africa.

The political future of Somalia is uncertain again. Yet we need to set to work on a plan for deploying a viable multinational force to help secure a peace, or at the very least sustain its people. I have been discussing this issue with a number of leaders of potential troop contributing countries.

Amid the crises of the moment, we must not forget the plight of others.

Lastly, a word on climate change.

It remains the defining challenge of our era. The danger is that, as with the MDGs, the magnitude of the threat will be obscured by shorter-term problems, and in particular the deepening financial crisis.

If so, this would be a tragedy. We have no time to lose.

In December, negotiators gather in Poznan, Poland. At that point they will have less than a year to reach a successful climate change agreement in Copenhagen.

We need to come away from Poznan with a shared vision for international cooperation, a clear work-plan with specific goals, a serious commitment to a global Adaptation Fund, and above all a strong willingness to the part of developed and developing nations alike to lead on an issue that all agree is an existential threat to our planet.

Faced with immediate economic troubles, it would be natural for governments and the people everywhere to lose sight of this fact.

Our job is to not let that happen.

Our job is to keep science at the forefront. To keep public attention focused on the issue. And above all, to keep making progress.

For in truth, no challenge is as great as this.

Grave as it may be, today's financial crisis will be overcome. We must underline the need for “crisis-proofing” of the important priorities of the United Nations from international financial turbulence.

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