Ban Ki-moon's speeches

Opening remarks at press conference

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, UN Headquarters, 15 September 2011

Thank you. Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. It is a great pleasure to see you as we are preparing for the 66th session of the General Debate. Once again, this is a good opportunity for us to share our views and listen to your views too. I trust everybody will be busy. I trust you will be wearing your running shoes.

Our agenda will be crowded, the pace even faster than usual.

World leaders will be coming together at a moment of uncommon turbulence and high anxiety.

The global economic crisis continues to shake banks, businesses, governments and families around the world.

We face an extraordinary array of geopolitical and humanitarian challenges – famine in Somalia, the aftershocks of the Arab Spring, ongoing conflicts in some countries and difficult transitions in others.

All this is in addition to the deeper political, economic and environmental transformations that are reshaping our world.

So far, we know that 121 heads of state and government will attend. Of these, 12 are women leaders. For the first time in the 66-year history of the United Nations, a woman leader will be the first speaker of the General Debate, she is the Brazilian president, Dilma Rousseff.

Next week, in my speech to the General Assembly, I will share my vision of the challenges and the way ahead. I have already discussed with Member States, [up to] early this week.

It begins with the passionate conviction, drawn from my five years of experience as UN Secretary-General, that the United Nations has never been more needed. In this age of anxiety, the world's people look to us for answers and action.

-- We know that the UN remains our best hope for building a safer, more secure and just world.

-- We know that saving the planet requires us to invest in people, particularly women and youth. Sustainable development is the way of the future.

-- We know that we must place new emphasis on prevention, both of conflicts and natural disasters.

-- We know that we must devote new effort to assist nations in transition – from war to peace, autocracy to democracy, poverty to prosperity.

-- We recognize the power of partnership. Consider the events of the past year – Libya and Côte d'Ivoire, the Arab Spring, a series of natural disasters, the ongoing economic crisis. In all these, the UN responded effectively because we worked closely with international partners, particularly regional organizations such as the African Union, Arab League, Organization of Islamic Cooperation, and the European Union, and many others. During my second term, we will continue to reach out across the full spectrum of our work.

-- Lastly, we will continue the work to put our UN house in order. Transparency and accountability remain our watchwords. At a time of austerity, we must do more with the resources we have, not those we might wish to have.

On the margins of the General Debate, we will also host a series of important meetings that will carry our agenda forward.

We start, on Monday, with a symposium on counter-terrorism. Having just observed the anniversary of September 11th - the tenth anniversary - we can say one thing with certainty – the terrorist threat has not gone away. Witness the recent attacks in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan and India, to name but a few.

Increasingly, the United Nations is a target – most recently in Nigeria. Monday's meetings will aim to strengthen the global response. As for the United Nations, let me say that we will be conducting a broad review of our security. We will not retreat into some fortress UN, but we will protect our staff.

Building on this week's sessions on malaria, we will take several other big steps on global public health.

That begins with Monday's high-level meeting on non-communicable diseases – a first for the General Assembly. Three out of every five deaths worldwide are caused by cancer, diabetes, cardio-vascular and lung disease. More than 80 percent of these are in low- and middle-income countries. This is not just a matter of public health. It is a threat to development and stability.

At last year's General Assembly, we launched the Every Woman Every Child initiative. It raised $40 billion and became a model for broad-based international partnership.

Next Tuesday, we will apply it to another global challenge: Sustainable Energy for All.

On Wednesday, we have an important high-level meeting on nuclear safety and security. We will again explore ways to advance the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty – key to our effort to create a nuclear-weapon-free world.

A related issue is the safety and security of nuclear installations. Nuclear energy may well be the future for many nations, but it is important that we develop the strongest possible international safety standards.

Let me close with a few words on recent political developments:

Next week we will host a special session on Libya, on September 20th – a high level meeting will be held on Libya. I look forward to prompt Security Council action on my proposals for a UN support mission to help the transitional authorities and the Libyan people during this critical post-conflict phase. My Special Advisor for Post-Conflict Planning, Ian Martin, is currently in Libya with a small core team. Their consultations will focus on three priorities: elections, policing and transitional justice.

We will also make a special plea for the Horn of Africa. The number of people in need has grown – from 12.4 million to 13.3 million people. In Somalia, in particular, the famine has spread. At least 750,000 people remain at risk. We have asked for $2.4 billion in assistance; so far, we have received two-thirds of that amount. I hope to make up the remainder next week.

On the Middle East: I am profoundly troubled by the lack of progress in the peace negotiations. It is vital that they resume. Ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and achieving a two-state solution is long overdue. Time is not our friend.

On Syria: For six months, we have seen escalating violence and repression. The international community has repeatedly appealed to President Assad to stop – most recently the foreign ministers of the Arab League. He has repeatedly pledged to do so and to carry out reforms consistent with the aspirations of his people. Once again, I urge him to keep his word.

Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you very much for your attention, and now your questions.