Ban Ki-moon's speeches


Opening remarks at year-end press conference

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, UN Headquarters, 19 December 2012

Good morning. It is a great pleasure to see you . I would like to express my sincere thanks for all you have been doing in and around the United Nations.

Best wishes for the holiday season. I look forward to seeing you tonight at the UNCA dinner.

A tumultuous year is coming to a close.

2012 saw tension from Syria to the Sahel, and from Eastern Congo to the Middle East.

Turmoil tested us, once again, on our founding obligation: to stop conflict and build peace.

At the same time, the United Nations helped to lay foundations for progress on the top challenge of the 21st century: sustainable development.

Let me start with the situation in Syria.

Syria began the year in conflict, and ends the year in war. Day by day, the death toll has climbed. Month by month, the regional spillover has grown.

The Syrian opposition is coming together. This is critical. I am deeply concerned about the increased militarization of the conflict and the potential for sectarian atrocities.

Earlier this month, the Deputy Secretary-General visited Lebanon, where Government officials and others voiced serious concern about the worsening regional implications.

As you know very well, I visited Syrian refugees in Jordan and Turkey to see the situation for myself. They expressed grief at the destruction of their cities and villages, and fear and anger at the growing targeting of people because of their religious or ethnic identity.

The exodus has reached more than 500,000 people. It will grow in number as fighting rages, and in intensity as winter takes hold. Neighbouring countries face a huge financial burden in sheltering and caring for them. The increasing peril faced by Palestinian refugees in Syria is another growing concern. I call on the international community to respond generously and urgently to the humanitarian appeal launched today in Geneva. I am considering convening an international donor conference, in close coordination with key partners, early next year.

I also urge the international community to unite firmly behind the mediation efforts of the Joint Special Envoy, Mr. Lakhdar Brahimi. Syria needs a peaceful, political solution that brings democratic change, while preserving the fabric of Syrian society and the peaceful coexistence of its communities.

In the Sahel region, some 20 million people across nine countries are in crisis, their lives upended by a volatile mix of drought, hunger, poor governance, drug trafficking, terrorism and extremism.

The situation in Mali is especially urgent. We must do all we can to help Malians restore their democracy, recover their territory, address the humanitarian crisis and end the shocking human rights violations. Dialogue and negotiations should be pursued seriously, even as military options are carefully prepared.

We welcome the appointment of Prime Minister [Django] Cissoko as an opportunity to bring new momentum to the political process. Yet we remain concerned over the military’s continued interference in politics.

The eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo remains the scene of instability, including sexual violence committed by combatants on all sides. The time has come for the international community to rethink its approach to the DRC and the Great Lakes region. The underlying causes of the conflict in the region must be addressed in a comprehensive manner.

In Northeast Asia, at a time when many countries are undergoing leadership transitions, I hope high priority will be given by the new leaders to building a more prosperous future based on stability and the peaceful resolution of disputes. The provocative rocket launch by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has raised regional concerns and defied the international community. I look forward to the outcome of Security Council consultations on an appropriate response.

The global economy continues to leave too many people behind. As the United Nations reported yesterday in our latest economic outlook, growth continues to be weak -- meaning it will take a long time to ease the global jobs crisis. Our response must protect -- and invest in -- the world's poorest people and nations.

The killings of health workers in Pakistan were cruel, senseless and inexcusable acts that I condemn in the strongest terms. Those killed were among thousands across Pakistan, especially women, who are working selflessly to achieve the historic goal of polio eradication. I call on all concerned to do their utmost to create the secure environment needed to provide life-saving health services to Pakistan’s children.

While bombs and rockets have stopped falling in Gaza and Israel, it has become clearer than ever that peace must be more than the absence of war.

The Middle East peace process is in a deep freeze. The two sides seem more polarized than ever, and a two-state solution is farther away than at any time since the Oslo process began. I am deeply concerned by heightened settlement activity in the West Bank, in particular around Jerusalem. This gravely threatens efforts to establish a viable Palestinian state. I call on Israel to refrain from continuing on this dangerous path, which will undermine the prospects for a resumption of dialogue and a peaceful future for Palestinians and Israelis alike. Let us get the peace process back on track before it is too late.

The United Nations has mobilized to face these and many other tests. All our tools are at work: from peacekeeping and good offices to human rights monitoring, humanitarian relief and development assistance.

Transitions are taking hold in Libya, Myanmar, Somalia and Yemen.

Last month Sierra Leone held successful elections. At the end of this month, the UN peacekeeping mandate in Timor-Leste will end, a measure of the progress the country has made from fragility to stability.

Egypt’s transition is at another critical moment. I have spoken with President [Mohamed] Morsi in recent days and expressed my hope that the transition will be able to move forward in a peaceful, consensual manner.

My hope is for compromise on all sides so that Egypt can focus on its pressing socio-economic needs and build a “pyramid of democracy” in the heart of the Arab world.This is an Egyptian-led process. It will take time. It is crucial for Egyptians to resolve their differences through dialogue and build a new Egypt that respects and protects the rights of all.

In the past year the United Nations also took major steps to advance economic and social progress and to build solid foundations for long-term peace.

The Rio+20 conference in June took us further along the path towards a sustainable world of dynamic growth, shared prosperity and environmental protection.

In September, Member States adopted a landmark declaration on the rule of law.

The Doha climate change conference, which I attended earlier this month, delivered what we need to keep us on track for a legally binding global agreement by 2015. That is what governments have pledged to do, and it is what they must achieve. As a spur to what we know will be very difficult negotiations, I intend to bring world leaders together in 2014.

Finally, 2012 also saw the launch of crucially important discussions on the post-2015 development agenda and a set of sustainable development goals. We aim to build on the progress we have made towards the Millennium Development Goals - and press harder as the deadline approaches.

The gains of 2012 position us for further advances in the years ahead. We have seized some opportunities, but failed on many others.

Too much of our progress is lost to conflict or remains fragile for want of investment and commitment.

There is too little emphasis on prevention, people and global citizenship.

Far too often, short-term thinking trumps long-term vision.

I will have more to say about my forward agenda in the New Year. We continue to work with Member States and staff to build a coherent global Secretariat and to modernize the management of our resources and workforce. I count on the Member States’ support and timely guidance.

I will speak to staff at a town hall meeting in early January. Later in the month, I will make my annual presentation to the Member States and then speak to you again.

The New Year coincides with new beginnings here in the Secretariat building. I am glad to be back in what is now a modern, eco-friendly facility. I thank the Member States for their generous support of the renovation. Our work will benefit greatly from the improvements. I look forward to your own move back in the weeks ahead.

For now, let me express my thanks to you all for another year of covering the big issues that face the United Nations. I pledge my ongoing availability to you as we go about our work together.

Thank you very much for your attention.