Ban Ki-moon's speeches

Opening remarks at first press conference of the year 2014

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, UN Headquarters, 10 January 2014

Good morning, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure to see you at the beginning of the New Year, and I would like to extend my warmest regards and Happy New Year to you. Thank you very much.

The year ahead needs to be a period of intensified diplomacy, inroads against poverty and action on climate change.

2014 will be crucial for the Millennium Development Goals as the 2015 deadline approaches fast.

We need clear progress on the post-2015 development agenda, a set of sustainable development goals and the financial means to make it happen.

And if we are to adopt a new global agreement on climate change in 2015, we need to arrive in Lima in December of this year with a solid draft for negotiation, as was agreed by Member States in Warsaw last year. The Climate Summit which I will host on September 23rd this year aims to advance bold action on the ground and mobilize political will for an ambitious agreement.

As we focus on these long-term foundations for prosperity and peace, the United Nations also faces an overflowing inbox of conflicts and disasters of growing severity, frequency and complexity. These will require much more from the international community – more political attention, more resources, more support.

The situations in Syria, South Sudan and the Central African Republic have gone from bad to worse.

These are avoidable tragedies in which millions of civilians are paying an unconscionable price. I am especially alarmed by the spread of sectarian animosity, and by the dangerous regional and global spillover effects. Years of development are at stake. A generation of young people is at risk.

The United Nations is doing its utmost to ease the suffering and to stay and deliver aid wherever we can even as people flee their homes and countries. UN personnel are all showing tremendous courage and professionalism in volatile conditions.

Humanitarian assistance, vital as it is, can be only part of our response. The international community must pull together to help these countries find the path of peace. Together, we must send a strong message that there will be accountability for the killing, raping, chemical weapons attacks and other atrocious crimes that have been committed.

This past Monday, I have issued formal invitations to the Geneva Conference on Syria, which will begin on January 22nd, that is in just 12 days. I appeal to the warring parties, and all those with influence over them, to recognize that there is no military solution to this conflict and to work for a political solution that implements the Geneva Communiqué.

More immediately, there must be an end to all violence, including the Syrian Government’s use of barrel bombs and other heavy weapons that kill and maim so indiscriminately.

All parties must improve humanitarian access to people in besieged areas. The situation in Eastern Ghouta is shocking: 160,000 people have gone without aid for more than a year. The United Nations is prepared to enter the area to provide assistance, but we need the full cooperation of the Syrian Government.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I welcome the beginning of talks in Addis Ababa on the crisis in South Sudan, in a process led by [the] Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD). There must be no further delays in agreeing on a cessation of hostilities.

I called President Salva Kiir yesterday again and urged him to demonstrate leadership and political flexibility by immediately releasing political prisoners. South Sudan is at a crossroads; this crisis can be resolved only at the negotiating table; and I urge the two sides to negotiate in earnest.

In the Central African Republic, we must strengthen the African-led mission and do more to prevent the spiral of violence from spreading.

Earlier today, the President of the Transition and the Prime Minister resigned. I take note of their decision. I urge all political actors in the country to work urgently to restore security and law and order, and to address the root causes of the persisting instability.

In each of these crises, humanitarian needs are escalating and funding is falling short. I urge all donors to show their solidarity, including at the humanitarian pledging conference for Syria and the affected neighbours that I will chair next Wednesday, January 15th, in Kuwait.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

2014 is also a year in which the United Nations will support the people of Afghanistan at a time of transition.

We will continue to help other countries where transitions have gone astray, fragility is growing, institutions are failing and democratic governance has faltered.

Over the past three days I have been in touch by telephone with Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra of Thailand and the leader of the opposition Democrat Party, Mr. Abhisit Vejjajiv, in an effort to help them bridge their differences. I am very concerned that the situation could escalate in the days ahead, particularly next Monday, January 13th, when protestors said they will shut down Bangkok. I urge all involved to show restraint, avoid provocative acts and settle their differences peacefully, through dialogue.

In the months ahead we will look to Israelis and Palestinians to make decisive progress in resolving their conflict and drawing back from a perilous status quo. I am alarmed by this morning's announcement of well over 1,000 settlement units; such activity is not only illegal but also an obstacle to peace.

This year marks a milestone in Sierra Leone, as the last UN mission prepares to close -- a measure of the tremendous distance the country has travelled since the years of conflict. The long engagement of the United Nations in Sierra Leone demonstrates the value of staying the course through the hard process of keeping, consolidating and building peace.

2014 will see the United Nations strengthen disaster resilience and push for progress towards a nuclear-weapon-free world.

We will deepen our work on the new Rights Up Front initiative, highlighting the integral role of human rights in the Organization’s global mission.

And with the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, we will finish the job of eliminating Syria’s chemical weapons materials and programmes, building on the progress that has been made despite wartime conditions and the complex nature of the task.

Last year’s chemical weapons attacks in Syria reminded us of the horrors in the fields of Flanders during the First World War. The revulsion at that senseless conflict sparked a deeply felt need among all humankind for an effective instrument of common progress – a need that was met decades later with the birth of the United Nations.

In this year that marks the 100th anniversary of the First World War, we will strive to push the boundaries of [diplomacy] and collective action. Despite crises and concerns, 2014 also brings major opportunities to build a safer, more just and prosperous world.

I am determined to make this a year of progress for people and the planet.

I thank you, and I wish you and your families continued good health, happiness and prosperity in this happy new year. Thank you.