Ban Ki-moon's speeches

Opening remarks to the media at press conference

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, UN Headquarters, 06 June 2011

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen.

It is a great pleasure to see you this morning, and thanks for your participation.

I have been travelling heavily and wanted to brief you before departing for South America later this week, on Friday.

As you know, I returned from Rome on Friday, where leaders gathered to mark the 150th anniversary of Italian unification.

Apart from my meetings with President [Giorgio] Napolitano, Prime Minister [Silvio] Berlusconi and others, I also met with the President of the Palestinian National Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, who briefed me on his thoughts and plans for Palestinian reconciliation and Palestinian statehood. For my part, I emphasized the imperative that both sides, Israel and the Palestinian Authority, return to the negotiating table.

Let me also say a few words about my prior visits to Africa and France for the G-8 Summit Meeting.

During the Africa swing, I attended the inauguration ceremony of President Alassane Ouattara of Côte d'Ivoire – where the United Nations stood firm on democratic principle and in defence of human rights.

I also devoted considerable attention to the new “Every Woman, Every Child” initiative – an integral element of our global strategy for women's and children's health. Our challenge is to turn the $40 billion which have been pledged during last year's Millenium Development Goals Summit Meeting into concrete delivery on the ground. And with the passage of a landmark health bill, the government of Nigeria is poised to do just that.

As you may know, I have established the Accountability Commission lead by President Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania and Prime Minister Stephen Harper of Canada who have been meeting to ensure that this $40 billion support should come and should be delivered exactly to those people who are in need.

During my visit to both Nigeria and Ethiopia, I was impressed by how effectively the UN system is working as one – alongside governments, NGOs, businesses and foundations to scale-up our work for women and children, in particular, and the Millennium Development Goals in general.

Let me also note that issues of global health will be the focus of this week's General Assembly High-Level Meeting on HIV/AIDS, beginning tomorrow. For only the second time in history of the UN Security Council, the Security Council is also taking up the issue – further highlighting its importance.

At the G-8 discussions in Deauville, France, Libya figured large. My Special Envoy, Abdul-Ilah al-Khatib, will travel to Tripoli again tomorrow. He will visit both Tripoli and Bengazi and will then attend the Contact Group meeting in the United Arab Emirates on 9 June. He then returns to New York to brief the Security Council on 14 June.

As for Syria, we previously noted the Government's declaration of an amnesty and call for dialogue. Unfortunately, that has been overtaken by recent events. I am especially concerned by reports of children killed or tortured. Such matters must be investigated thoroughly and their perpetrators brought to justice. Once again, we call on the Syrian Government to respect the rights of its people.

Regarding the weekend's shootings along the Golan Heights: let me emphasize – the parties concerned share responsibility for preventing needless civilian deaths.

Regarding Bahrain, as you know, I met last Friday with Crown Prince Salman Al-Khalifa and his Foreign Minister. We welcomed the Government's decision to lift the state-of-emergency and the King's call for national dialogue. Here, too, I emphasized that any such agreement must be inclusive and responsive to the aspirations of the Bahraini people that should also lead to genuine and meaningful dialogue.

A final word on the debate over nuclear safety: every state has the right to decide its own national energy policies. That said, the Fukushima incident underscores the enormous importance of nuclear safety and disaster-risk reduction. It demands a collective and global response – which is why I will convene a High-Level Meeting on Nuclear Safety and Security on 22 September in New York.

Ladies and gentlemen,

You have asked me often about my intentions for the future.

This morning, I sent a letter to the membership of the General Assembly and the Security Council, offering humbly, myself for consideration for a second term as Secretary-General of the United Nations.

It has been an enormous privilege to lead this great Organization. If supported by the Members States, I would be deeply honoured to serve once more.

Throughout my time in office, I have sought to be a bridge-builder – among the Member States, within the United Nations system and among a rich diversity of global partners. Finding common ground is central to delivering results.

Looking back, these four and a half years have marked a period of extraordinary challenge – for the United Nations and the international community. And we can be proud of what we have accomplished together.

  • We have raised climate change to the top of the global agenda.

  • We have responded quickly and effectively to a series of devastating humanitarian emergencies – in Myanmar, Haiti, Pakistan and elsewhere.

  • We have saved many lives and sown the seeds of peace in Sudan, Somalia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Côte d'Ivoire. They must be nurtured carefully.

  • Amid the worst economic crisis in [generations], we kept the world's focus firmly on the needs of the most vulnerable.

  • Most recently, during the dramatic events of the “Arab spring,” we spoke out – firmly and without ambiguity. Listen to the voices of your people, we told the region's rulers. Respect their aspirations. Act boldly, now, before it is too late. Let me say it again: this is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to advance freedom and democracy. The United Nations will support these efforts to the maximum.

Throughout all these remarkable developments, amid all these crises, the United Nations has been at the forefront. At a time of unprecedented global change, the world increasingly looks to us, the United Nations, to lead on the great collective issues of the day.

That is our challenge as we now look ahead.

In recent years, we have begun to make real progress on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation. We must maintain that critical momentum.

We must redouble our efforts to deliver on the Millennium Development Goals. For hundreds of millions of the world's people, development means hope. We cannot fall short.

And beyond that, we face the “50-50-50” challenge. By the year 2050, the world's population will reach 9 billion – 50 percent more [than] a decade ago. By that time, the world must cut global greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent.

We are changing the face of the UN, quite literally, and we will continue to do so. We have moved decisively to create UN Women. We must carry that drive forward. Along the way, we have appointed more women to senior posts than ever in UN history – a 45 percent increase at the highest levels.

From the very beginning, from our first day in office, we have worked persistently and resolutely for a “Stronger UN for a Better World.” This effort to make the UN more transparent, accountable, efficient and results-oriented has found expression in new measures – financial disclosure, performance compacts, the Global Field Support Strategy, more modern information management. Most recently, we established a change management team to lead the effort to adapt our business practices to the best possible standards.

All this is important work – difficult and inspiring. It demands commitment and passion – not only from the Secretary-General, but everyone who has been called to this mission. Let me pay credit where it is most due: our success has largely been thanks to the extraordinary talents and dedication of our UN staff, who strive each and every day to make the world a better place.

There is only one solution to the generational challenges of tomorrow. That is to begin our work today:

By standing for democracy. Advancing human rights and international justice. Feeding the hungry and raising people from poverty. Keeping our planet environmentally healthy. Promoting sustainable development.

In the months to come, in close partnership with the Member States and our entire UN family, I look forward to sharing my thoughts on our common agenda for the future and hearing theirs.

One thing we can say with confidence: for an organization as vital and indispensable as the United Nations, the one constant is unity amid change.

Only by working together, all nations and the broader UN family as one, can we advance the noble goals of this great Organization. Only by working together can we deliver on the high expectations of the world's people.

Thank you very much for your attention.