Ban Ki-moon's speeches

Remarks at Reception hosted by Governor of New South Wales [As prepared for delivery]

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, New South Wales (Australia), 07 September 2011

Dr. Marie Bashir, Governor of New South Wales,
Ladies and gentlemen,

Thank you so much, Governor Bashir, for hosting this reception. I admire your dedication to public service. You have worked for the health of indigenous peoples. You have stood on the side of children and adolescents. You fight for equality for all people.

I am the first Secretary-General to come to Australia in more than a decade – and now I have been here twice in one week!

I want to thank you for welcoming me. As you know, I had to change the original plans for my trip because of the international meeting on Libya in Paris. The global community has been focused on a united response to the situation in Libya. We are working to help the Libyan people usher in a democratic future.

At the same time, the United Nations is dealing with many other threats. We recently suffered a terrible terrorist attack on our compound in Abuja.

This was an attack on more than the United Nations premises – it was an assault on the values we uphold – development, human rights and peace. But it was also an attack on human beings – fathers and mothers, colleagues and friends. We are heartbroken by the losses. The entire United Nations family is in mourning.

But terrorists can never kill our ideals. We are determined to carry on our work.

The threats against the United Nations are real, but we keep our doors open to all people of goodwill who support our work.

In this trip, I have met with presidents and prime ministers from across the Pacific. I have met with village elders in Kiribati and with young people in the Solomon Islands. I have spoken to journalists and fishermen, university professors and priests. I consider each of these meetings crucially important. Because we need all hands on deck.

This is especially true for our global campaign to end violence against women, which we were originally going to discuss at some length before my schedule changed. I hope you do not mind if I share some thoughts on this important subject now.

As Secretary-General, I can pick up the phone and call just about any leader in the world. Government officials are critical to ending gender-based violence. But if a man is beating his wife, the best person to address the problem may be his local minister. If a girl thinks she is inferior to a boy, the best person to help may be her teacher. On this problem like on so many others, we need to come together as one society, one world.

I am proud to be the first Secretary-General in history who can look around my cabinet and see nearly as many women as men. I am very proud to have sent more women peace envoys to the field than all my predecessors combined.

My mandate is taken straight from the United Nations Charter, which affirms the “equal rights of men and women” right in its preamble. I hope the world remembers that it was an Australian political activist, Jessie Street, who helped get this language in the Charter. She was a “founding mother” of the UN. She knew we have a moral imperative to create a world where women and men are equal.

Today, Australia's National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children is one of the most forward-looking in the world.

In all of our efforts, we have to pay special attention to women and girls who struggle with vulnerability and deprivation. Governor Bashir, you have been doing this throughout your career. We need to help adolescents, women with HIV, immigrants, indigenous communities and ethnic minorities.

I hope Australia will continue reaching out to partners in the Pacific Islands. Violence against women is one of the most important challenges facing this region. AusAID is doing wonderful work by supporting 100 organizations that empower women across the Pacific.

One of our greatest advocates at the United Nations is a famous daughter of Australia, an international superstar. You know Nicole Kidman for her movies. She is an incredibly talented actress, but I am even more impressed by her activism. She is encouraging all people to say no to violence against women.

Ladies and gentlemen,

It takes superstars and secretaries-general, activists, officials and ordinary people to address all of the global threats we face.

And it takes hope.

I draw hope from being here with so many like-minded people. I am counting on you to support the United Nations in our campaigns for peace, justice and human rights.

Together, we can provide greater safety, strength and solidarity for all people.

Thank you.