Ban Ki-moon's speeches


Address to the African Union Summit

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Addis Ababa (Ethiopia), 29 January 2007

Mesdames et Messieurs,

Je suis très ému par votre chaleureux accueil, auquel je suis très sensible.  Permettez-moi d'exprimer mes remerciements au Président de l'Union, le Président Denis Sassou Nguesso, et au Président de la Commission, Alpha Oumar Konare, pour leur action à la tête de l'Union et pour l'engagement qu'ils ont pris de coopérer étroitement avec l'Organisation des Nations Unies et avec moi-même personnellement.

Je suis profondément honoré de prendre la parole devant vous aujourd'hui.  Après avoir été dirigée pendant 15 ans par des Africains, l'Organisation des Nations Unies a à sa tête un non-Africain.  Mais comme tous les êtres humains, j'ai mes racines dans ce berceau de l'humanité qu'est l'Afrique, et j'en suis fier.

Permettez-moi, tout d'abord, de rendre hommage à mon prédécesseur, Kofi Annan -- un grand Africain et un grand Secrétaire général.  Il a dirigé l'Organisation des Nations Unies avec courage et hauteur de vue et a su la faire entrer sans hésiter dans le XXIe siècle.  Il a aidé à forger un nouveau partenariat entre l'Organisation et l'Afrique.  Je suis résolu à poursuivre sur sa lancée.  Dans cette entreprise, comme dans tous les travaux qui attendent l'Organisation des Nations Unies, j'aurai à mes côtés en qualité de Vice-secrétaire générale -- et je m'en réjouis – une Africaine aux qualités de dirigeante singulières, Asha-Rose Migiro, que vous avez tous connue lorsqu'elle était Ministre tanzanienne des affaires étrangères.

Excellencies, I owe many of you my gratitude for supporting my candidacy for the office of Secretary-General.  It is only four weeks since I assumed this office, but I feel as if some of you have already become friends and allies.  I look forward to forging strong bonds with all of you in the years ahead.

As I join all of you today, I see a vivid illustration of the unity of purpose that characterizes this continent when it is at its best.  It was that unity of purpose that drove your countries' quest for independence.  It was that unity of purpose that laid the foundations of your Union.  It is that unity of purpose that is the key to Africa's progress in the years ahead.

Unity of purpose is also the foundation of Africa's partnership with the United Nations, as we take on the broad range of challenges we share.

We can see concrete examples of that unity of purpose in so much of our joint efforts, as expressed in the cooperation agreement between our two institutions, signed by my predecessor here in Addis last November.

Unity of purpose guides our collaboration for democracy, human rights and good governance, including through the New Partnership for Africa's Development.

It drives our collective efforts for peace and security -- including the UN's commitment to developing the African Union capacity to plan, launch and manage peacekeeping operations.

The same applies to our efforts to build enduring peace in countries recovering from conflict.  Two outstanding examples are Burundi and Sierra Leone, where, after the successful conclusion of peacekeeping mandates, the UN is working closely with these countries to help shape a better future, through the efforts of the United Nations Peacebuilding Commission.  Last week, I allocated 35 million dollars from the Peacebuilding Fund to support critical peacebuilding priorities in Burundi.  We will soon complete the process of allocating funds to Sierra Leone.

Two thirds of the blue helmets deployed in UN peacekeeping operations are in Africa.  I have just come from the Democratic Republic of Congo, where I saw, at first hand, how unity of purpose has guided our common efforts there.  Last year, the UN worked with the AU and other partners to support the Congolese people in holding the first free elections in more than 40 years.

This endeavour was a remarkable peacekeeping achievement, and the largest electoral support engagement in UN history; but above all, it was testimony to the steadfast courage and determination of the Congolese people, as 70 per cent of the electorate turned out to cast their vote in a calm and peaceful ballot.

The story of Liberia, too, shines as an example of what can be achieved through our collective will for peace and security in Africa.  Let us bring the same unity of purpose to bear on those intractable crises that bleed like open wounds on the face of the Continent.  Let us bring it to bear on our efforts to bring peace to Somalia and Côte d'Ivoire.

Above all, let us bring it to bear on the tragedy of Darfur.  We must open a new and different chapter in this story of broken hope.

I pay tribute to the valiant job the AU force has done in Darfur.  But the toll of the crisis remains unacceptable; it is also holding back the potential of Sudan as a whole to develop as a peaceful, prosperous and democratic nation -- and that, in turn, could hold back the future of the entire subregion.

Since taking office as Secretary-General, I have made Darfur my top priority.  I will continue to do so regardless of the challenges ahead, and I am looking forward to productive discussions with many of you during this Summit.  The partnership between the AU and the UN is of central importance to how we fare on this, the largest humanitarian crisis in the world.  Together, we must work to end the violence and scorched-earth policies adopted by various parties, including militias, as well as the bombings which are still a terrifying feature of life in Darfur.

We must address the regional dimensions of the crisis.  Lifesaving humanitarian work must be allowed to resume, and civil society in Darfur must have a voice in the peace process.  And we must persuade non-signatories to join, while building consensus for the urgent deployment of a UN-AU force on the ground. I sincerely hope we can reach agreement on this vital issue during our discussions in the margins of this Summit.

In many other parts of the continent, Africa has made remarkable progress in ending armed conflict.  This is not only a matter of survival and security for those whose lives have been directly affected.  It is also a condition for building better lives in the longer term for all people throughout Africa, and setting them firmly on the path of development.  I know, from my own childhood in Korea, how war robs individuals of the chance of a building a decent life, and whole societies of the chance to prosper -- long beyond the boundaries of the war zone, long after the gunfire has been silenced.

I have seen the hardship and hunger, the degradation and disease, that come with prolonged warfare.  Elderly women scavenging for scraps, toddlers weak from malnutrition and unsafe drinking water, buildings dilapidated, corn fields rotting, an infrastructure on its knees.  This I witnessed as a young boy, and the images haunt me to this day.

But I also witnessed how, through unity of purpose, my country was able to transform itself from a traumatized nation with a non-existent economy, into a vibrant, productive society and a regional economic power.  That unity of purpose brought together an unbeatable combination:  the concerted and enduring assistance of the international community, and the courage and determination of the Korean people.

Let us bring the same unity of purpose to bear on development in Africa.  Six months ago, when I spoke to this Union to present my candidacy for Secretary-General, I said that the success or failure of the United Nations in the coming years will be determined largely on this continent.  I pledged to do my best to mobilize political will -- among world leaders, international financial institutions and other stakeholders -- and work with African Governments to reach the Millennium Development Goals.  The Goals represent our common vision -- a partnership between rich and poor countries for building a better future.

I intend to hold to the promise I made to you.  I owe it to you, and to the people of Africa.

Many of your countries have made remarkable progress towards reaching the Millennium Development Goals.  Since the late 1990s, more than a dozen African nations have achieved average growth rates of above 5 per cent.  Many low-income countries have lifted sizeable proportions of their citizens above the poverty line.

Several are on course to meet the target of halving poverty by 2015.  Around 15 African countries have already achieved universal primary education, or are on track to do so.  And most Southern African countries are on course to attain gender parity at the primary school level.

These advances are precious, and we must ensure we replicate and build on them.  That means ensuring a true partnership for sharing science and technology, which is rightly one of the themes of this Summit.  And it means empowering women and girls, through education and through creative tools such as microfinance, which has proved its value, many times over, as a weapon to break the vicious circle of poverty.

If we are to make the target date of 2015, we have to see concerted action in 2007 -- the midpoint in the work to reach the Millennium Development Goals.  In the coming months, I will convene a working group on Africa and the Goals -- a coalition of the willing, bringing together key African stakeholders, as well as international organizations and donors.  We will aim to meet by March, to formulate an action plan supporting practical initiatives for accelerating progress in 2007 and 2008.  We will work to ensure the plan is ready in time for the Group of Eight summit in June.

Let me be clear:  on some of the specific Goals, we face enormous challenges.  Consider Goal Seven, that of ensuring environmental sustainability.  You who are gathered here today know that the impact of climate change will fall disproportionately on some of Africa's poorest countries.

UN figures show that 30 per cent of Africa's coastal infrastructure could be inundated by rising sea levels linked to global warming.  More than a quarter of species' habitats in Africa could be lost by 2085.  And the livelihoods of tens of millions of people could be in jeopardy.

Excellencies, by making this issue one of the main themes of your Summit, you are tackling, head on, what climate change will do to Africa.  I say “will”, for climate change and its impact are no longer a matter of speculation.  You can be sure that the challenge of climate change -- including in Africa -- will be one of my priorities as Secretary-General.

The time has come for the rest of the world to assist African countries in adapting to the effects of a warming planet, while strengthening efforts to mitigate climate change.  We must implement the adaptation plan of action adopted at last year's United Nations climate change conference in Nairobi.  And through the Nairobi Framework launched at that meeting, we must increase African participation in the Clean Development Mechanism.

This innovative mechanism, a product of the Kyoto Protocol, is mobilizing billions of dollars in private and public sector investment globally.  I will further engage the private sector by promoting market-based solutions.

At the same time, the UN is pursuing joint initiatives with a number of African Governments to factor climate change into national development plans.  I promise to work with donor Governments to ensure that all such initiatives get the full backing they need.

And I will push for ambitious emission reduction commitments by industrialized countries, since their leadership in this fight will be crucial, as well as generous, well-targeted assistance to African countries on the front line of extreme droughts and floods.

An equal challenge is the pandemics that continue to ravage Africa.  They take their worst social and economic toll on countries that can least afford it.  They also pose threats to peace and stability, in the devastation they wreak on capacity and governance.

AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria are responsible for nearly 4 million African deaths every year.

But at the same time, there is hope.  On AIDS, we have seen advances in treatment.  We have seen a steady increase in political commitment.  We have seen new resources.  And we have seen a range of promising new initiatives, such as AIDS Watch Africa -- set up by the African Union, in collaboration with UNAIDS, to help chart a direction for AIDS policy and define universal access targets until 2010.  Let us keep pushing for both treatment and prevention for all.

Let us also seize the opportunity for a breakthrough in the comprehensive control of malaria by 2010.  I pledge to work together with you for that success.

How Africa fares in reaching the Millennium Development Goals is a matter of life and death for millions of Africans.  It is also a test of the ability of the United Nations to carry out the mandate our membership has given us.  It will be one of my priorities to ensure that we meet that test -- and I will take steps to strengthen the Organization accordingly.

Through unity of purpose, I believe there is no limit to what we can achieve.  The partnership between the African Union and the United Nations is strong, broad and deep.  Let us work together in the years ahead to make it even stronger, broader and deeper.

I will conclude today by paying tribute to both our host country and the African Union, through the words of Tsegaye Gabre-Medhin.  This Ethiopian poet laureate, who passed away last year, sums up the aspirations for Africa better than I ever could, for it is his words that make up the anthem of this Union.  And so, as Gabre-Medhin unforgettably wrote, let us unite to give the best we have to Africa, the cradle of humankind.  Let us make Africa the Tree of Life.

As long as I am Secretary-General, I will spare no effort to help make it so.