Ban Ki-moon's speeches

Opening remarks at press encounter

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, UN Headquarters, 16 October 2014

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. It is a great pleasure to see you.

As you know, I just returned from my week-long trip to the Middle East. I carried a two-fold message: spare no effort to rebuild Gaza – and spare no time to jump-start peace talks.

I travelled to Gaza two days ago to survey the needs for myself. I saw whole communities destroyed, and an economy in ruins. I met with the parents of some of the more than 500 children killed in the fighting. I heard heartbreaking accounts of epic loss. So many people are homeless with winter approaching.

At the reconstruction conference in Cairo, the international community showed its solidarity by pledging $5.4 billion. We must turn those commitments into tangible assistance.

I also visited a kibbutz in southern Israel and met with the family of a four-year-old boy named Daniel, who was killed by a Hamas rocket. I visited a tunnel discovered months before the fighting and years in the making.

I fully understand the security threat from rockets above and tunnels below. At the same time, the scale of the destruction in Gaza has left deep questions about proportionality.

I left the region with a heavy heart but a measure of hope. As I entered Gaza on Tuesday, so did the first shipment of critical building materials under a UN-brokered mechanism. I urge both sides to continue to implement this temporary mechanism in good faith.

The Gaza situation is a symptom of a larger problem: the stalemate in the Middle East Peace Process. People are understandably disillusioned with a decades-long effort that has failed to deliver a final deal. I know that trust has been eroded and unilateral actions look tempting.

But the two-state solution is the only way to end the senseless cycle of war. The international community has an obligation to press for peace and I want to once again commend the efforts of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. I reiterate my strong concern about provocations at Jerusalem’s holy sites, which only inflame tensions at a time when the parties need to find their way back to the negotiating table.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I remain alarmed at the situation in Syria. I once again call for steps to prevent a massacre and protect civilians in Kobane.

But let us remember that civilians across Syria are under imminent threat. In addition to the barbarity of ISIL, or Daesh, the Syrian Government continues to indiscriminately attack populated areas, including with barrel bombs.

The Daesh phenomenon in Syria is a consequence, not the cause, of the conflict. Daesh will continue to threaten Syria unless the deep political drivers of the conflict are resolved through a credible and comprehensive process.

Let me turn now to the Ebola outbreak.

Ebola is a huge and urgent global problem that demands a huge and urgent global response.

The people and governments of West Africa are demonstrating significant resilience, but they have asked for our help.

Dozens of countries are showing their solidarity. But we need to turn pledges into action. We need more doctors, nurses, equipment, treatment centres and medevac capacities. I appeal to the international community to provide the $1 billion launch that will enable us to get ahead of the curve and meet our target of reducing the rate of transmission by December 1st.

The United Nations system has mobilized to meet this monumental task. We have established UNMEER – the UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response -- to coordinate and scale up action. I have also formed a Global Ebola Response Coalition.

Ebola can be beaten if we work together effectively. We all have a responsibility to act.

I salute the courage of the medical and support personnel working on the front-lines. I offer condolences to the family of AbdelFadeel Mohammed Basheer, a laboratory technician and member of the United Nations family from Sudan who died this week from Ebola. He was the second person from the UN Mission in Liberia to succumb to this unforgiving disease.

Meanwhile, peacekeeping personnel continue to face other dangers.

Two UNAMID (United Nations-African Union Hybrid Operation in Darfur) peacekeepers were killed today in an attack in Darfur. This has been a bloody October for UN Peacekeeping. In Darfur, Mali and the Central African Republic, we have lost 14 peacekeepers in hostile acts -- nearly one per day.

This highlights the exceptionally challenging environments in which today's peacekeepers operate. Blue Helmets must be allowed to undertake their life-saving work without interference.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Finally, if you will allow me, I would like to draw your attention to my tie today.

I almost always wear UN blue. On one occasion last year, I wore an orange tie to show my support for the UN’s campaign to end violence against women.

Today my tie and socks are purple -- the colour of choice for “Spirit Day”, which is observed in the United States and many other countries as a day of solidarity with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth, who face bullying and discrimination.

Through the UN’s Free & Equal campaign, the United Nations will continue to speak out against homophobia -- and speak up for the human rights of all LGBT people.

Thank you for your attention.