Ban Ki-moon's speeches


Opening remarks at news conference

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, UN Headquarters, 07 January 2008

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. First of all, I would like to send my best wishes for a very happy, healthy and prosperous New Year. I hope that New Year 2008 will bring to all of you and your families best wishes, happiness and prosperity. It has been a great privilege for me to work with you during last year, my first year, and I count on continuing such a good relationship and friendship and exchange of ideas, including constructive criticism, even. Thank you very much.

By tradition, this is the season for taking stock – and for looking ahead.

We mourn the loss of 42 UN colleagues during the year 2007, including 17 killed in the Algiers terrorist bombing. Yet we enter 2008 with new determination – and new opportunities – to strengthen the UN's role in the world.

You know that I am not one to speak easily of successes. The past year was one of immense challenges. But I think we have made certain progress. We opened a new chapter on climate change. We took on new and daunting challenges in peacekeeping, most specifically in Darfur.

We must build on this foundation. Protecting our planet and its people – our global commons – requires all our best efforts. So does the task of securing economic wellbeing, social justice, security and other global public goods. This requires sustained and coherent international action beyond what nations or markets can provide by themselves.

That is why I believe so strongly in the United Nations. Only the United Nations can take on the issues that affect us all, that shape the fate of the earth and its peoples.

These are powerful concepts: the “global commons” and “global public goods.” They are the basic building blocks of modern globalized society. If they are to have meaning, we must be mindful of the responsibilities they impose upon us.

We must address ourselves to the needs of the weak, the disadvantaged, those who have been excluded from the mainstream international community. I speak here of those who are most vulnerable to climate change. Those who suffer the most grinding poverty. Those who do not enjoy basic human rights.

And so I say, let 2008 be the year of the “bottom billion.”

That's the phrase some economists use to describe the poorest of the world's poor. They are the forgotten ones, the nearly one billion left behind by global economic growth. Most live in Africa or the small developing islands of Asia, eking out lives of hardship on incomes of less than $1 a day.

We must pay careful attention to these nations with special needs. We must heed the voices of the world's poorest people, who too often go unheard.

For this reason, I shall work over the coming year to strengthen the UN's role in development. We are at the mid-point of a great campaign to end world poverty, set forth in the Millennium Development Goals. Too many nations have fallen behind. We need fresh ideas and fresh approaches.

That is why, last year, I established the MDG Africa Steering Group. In April, world leaders will gather in Accra, Ghana, for the UNCTAD summit on trade and development. In September, we will host a high-level meeting at the beginning of the General Debate. The goal: to re-energize the world's commitment to the Millennium Development Goals, with special attention to the poorest of the poor.

Last year, we used a similar forum to galvanize world action on climate change. This year, we will do the same for the bottom billion.

In the pursuit of the global good, human rights must be a core principle. It is fitting, then, that 2008 should also mark the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

As I have said before, I say again. Economic and social advancement is an implicit human right. I will use this milestone year, therefore, to call for the universal ratification of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights as well as the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

I am determined to press ahead with the special tribunal in Lebanon and to work with the international courts to promote justice and oppose impunity. We will launch a new global awareness campaign on human rights, push more aggressively to better protect women and children against violence, and strengthen the office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights.

The demands on the UN grow ever greater. If anything, the coming year promises to be even tougher than the last. Look how it has begun, with turmoil in Kenya and renewed violence in Sri Lanka. We must nurture a fragile peace process in the Middle East. We must do more to help the people of Iraq emerge from conflict and rebuild shattered lives. We must stay the course in Afghanistan, so that it does not again fall into lawless anarchy.

In Darfur, we must do our utmost to push the peace talks to a successful conclusion. We must manage the very complex deployment of UN-African Union forces. To succeed, we need the full cooperation of the government of Sudan. We also need the Member States – including the Security Council – to live up to their commitments.

The road from Bali will be difficult as well. Two years is not a long time to win a climate change deal that all nations can embrace. I intend to keep up the momentum. We need a global grassroots public awareness campaign to focus political pressure and keep global warming at the forefront of public consciousness.

We therefore move into the new year with renewed commitment to our ultimate mission – building a stronger UN for a better world. As ever, I seek results, not easy rhetoric. Our watchword must be effectiveness. I will continue my push to modernize, revitalize and streamline the UN system, upholding the highest standards of ethics, performance and accountability.

I want to stress this word. Accountability is not a technicality. It must be the fundamental operational principle of the UN – for the Secretariat, the agencies and Member States alike.

We will continue our work to stiffen procurement and management procedures. I will shortly ask all senior executives to sign management compacts with me, laying out specific and measurable benchmarks for performance. Last year we re-organized our Department of Peacekeeping Operations. This year, we will do the same with our development-related bodies and the Department of Political Affairs. I want it to become more proactive in tackling global crises, especially in the realm of preventive diplomacy.

Member States, too, must hold themselves accountable. They must put up the resources to deliver on their mandates. We must deliver on our promises – openly, effectively and promptly.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Since my first day in office, I have sought an open and active dialogue with you in the UN press corps. You were the first people I met last year on my first day, and you are the first – after my Town Hall meeting with the staff this year – that I am meeting in this new year.

I look forward to our healthy, frank exchanges. They are valuable and, often, fun. Let me start by taking your questions. And again, my best wishes to you all for a very successful, rewarding 2008.