Ban Ki-moon's speeches

Opening remarks at press conference

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, UN Headquarters, 17 September 2013

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am pleased to join you for my traditional press conference as we kick-off the 68th session of the General Assembly.

This is a crucial period for global cooperation.

Syria is the biggest peace, security and humanitarian challenge we face.

Let us be clear: the use of chemical weapons in Syria is only the tip of the iceberg.

The suffering in Syria must end. Next week, as world leaders gather here, I will make a strong appeal to Member States for action now.

Many other issues on our agenda also merit urgent attention – not only other conflicts but also important questions of sustainable development, health, hunger and climate change. I understand tha you had a good press conference with the President of the General Assembly. Over the coming days, we will put a spotlight on these, as well.

At least 131 Heads of State or Government will be here next week -- one of the highest turnouts in United Nations history. At least 60 Foreign Ministers will join them.

I will meet with as many world leaders as I can. I am determined to pack a lot into these encounters. We have much to discuss.

In my speech to the General Assembly, I will call on world leaders to uphold their political and moral responsibilities to serve, to listen, to invest, to respond to the rising and justifiable demands of people across the world for lives of freedom and prosperity.

We are moving ahead at full steam towards the crucial year of 2015, the deadline for achieving the Millennium Development Goals. We will showcase MDG successes throughout the week and at a special partnership event on Monday.

The global discussion on the post-2015 development agenda is also well under way. I will use next Wednesday’s special event to officially launch my report, “A Life of Dignity for All”, which contains my vision of the transformations we need.

This month will also see the release of another critical report: the latest assessment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Its message will surprise no one: the heat is on all of us.

I also want to stress the importance of the very first event of the week: the Assembly’s high-level session on disabilities and development. Fifteen per cent of the world’s people – a huge portion of humankind – live with some form of disability. The post-2015 agenda must take their needs and aspirations into account. A world that recognizes their rights is a world that will benefit all of us.

The situations in Afghanistan, Egypt, Mali and the Central African Republic will also be high on the agenda, as we assess new approaches we are taking in peacekeeping, diplomacy and support for countries in transition.

We will hold a meeting of the oversight mechanism for the peace agreement that the United Nations brokered earlier this year for the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Great Lakes Region. And the Middle East Quartet will meet for the first time in more than a year to support the resumed Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

The next week or two will bring many opportunities for common progress. But success will depend on ever deeper levels of cooperation – and contributions from our partners.

In that spirit, I look forward to joining Stevie Wonder and thousands of other good friends of the United Nations at the Global Citizen Festival in Central Park. Ihope you will all join that event. We will raise our voices for action against poverty – the number one struggle of our time.

We have a full agenda. But the events of the past days have shown once again the power of the United Nations to uncover the facts – to resolve differences – to help avoid bloodshed and forge consensus for peace and progress.

We must harness that spirit for action to address our immediate crises and achieve our longer-term goals.

Thank you for your attention.