Secretary-General Ban stresses Darfur, Middle East and conflict prevention as key issues

Ban Ki-moon addresses Security Council

8 January 2007 – United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today told the Security Council that stepping up efforts to resolve the Darfur crisis is one of his top priorities, warning of an ever worsening humanitarian crisis in this strife-torn part of Sudan, as he also highlighted the Middle East and UN peacekeeping worldwide as other key challenges.

Mr. Ban, who was addressing the Council for the first time since becoming Secretary-General on 1 January, assured the 15-member body of his “deep sense of mission, duty and dedication” during a debate on threats to international peace and security, after which the Council issued a presidential statement pledging to work closely with the Secretary-General to deal with these issues.

“Some of our most acute and persistent challenges are in Africa. One of my top priorities will be to step up efforts to address the crisis in Darfur, where the humanitarian situation is growing worse, despite all the declarations and proclamations of the international community over the past three years,” Mr. Ban said, adding he would discuss this and other regional issues with African Union leaders in Addis Ababa later this month.

He also pledged to “to inject new momentum into our search for peace and stability in the Middle East,” calling for a rededication to the work of the Quartet – the UN, European Union, United States and Russian Federation – in resolving differences between Israel and Palestine.

Mr. Ban also highlighted other countries, including Afghanistan and Kosovo, before focusing on broader problems – such as terrorism, HIV/AIDS and extreme poverty – that “present threats to the security of people around the world, and to the entire international community.”

“Responding to such threats is, after all, one of the primary purposes of the United Nations, and a particular responsibility of the Security Council,” he said. “This is true whether we are considering the threat of terrorism – a faceless enemy which knows no boundaries – or weapons of mass destruction, which present a unique existential threat to all humanity.”

“Both demand urgent, sustained and comprehensive attention from the international community. The same is true of HIV/AIDS and the other pandemics that not only take a huge human, 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.”

Highlighting the “special challenges posed by the cases of Iran and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK),” Mr. Ban also called for more to be done in the areas of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, saying it is essential that the international community works as one to address these challenges.

“I am committed to strengthening and consolidating the work of the United Nations in this direction. In such an endeavour, I shall try to play the role of harmonizer and bridge-builder, and work to restore trust between Member States and the Secretariat,” he said, while also stressing the world body’s wider role in conflict prevention and peacekeeping.

He also pledged to strengthen the UN’s ability to play its role to the fullest extent in conflict prevention, peacemaking, peacekeeping and peacebuilding. “I see all of those as a continuum and the role of the United Nations as one that must be coordinated, comprehensive and consistent.”

All 15 members of the Council took part in the debate, before Ambassador Vitaly Churkin of Russia, which holds this month’s Council presidency, read out a presidential statement pledging close cooperation with the Secretary-General to address the myriad challenges to peace confronting the world.

“The Council commits itself to work closely and in a focused and action oriented manner with him in order to better address the multifaceted and interconnected challenges and threats confronting our world within its primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security,” Mr. Churkin said.

“The Council reaffirms its commitment to address the whole range of threats to international peace and security, including armed conflict, terrorism and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction,” he said, recognizing “the essential role of the United Nations in the global effort to combat terrorism, which in all its forms and manifestations constitutes one of the most serious threats to peace and security.”

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