World has ‘responsibility to deliver’ in year of crises, Ban declares

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon holds end of year press conference

17 December 2008 – United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned today that the coming year promises to be no less difficult than 2008, which he called the “the year of multiple crises.”

“Our commitments and good intentions will be tested as never before,” he told an end of year news conference at UN Headquarters in New York, outlining a host of challenges from climate change to the economic meltdown to ongoing crises in Sudan’s Darfur region, the Middle East, Iraq, Somalia, Zimbabwe and Afghanistan.

Mr. Ban stressed that 2009 will be the year of climate change culminating in a meeting in Copenhagen next December to draw up a new treaty to slash global warming greenhouse gases. He added that he would hold a climate change summit at the UN in September.

“We have only 12 short months to Copenhagen. We have no more time to waste. We must reach a global climate change deal before the end of the year – one that is balanced, comprehensive and ratifiable by all nations. Success will require extraordinary leadership,” he stated.

“The European Union’s historic agreement on climate change and energy package, reached last weekend, demonstrates its commitment. I salute President Nicolas Sarkozy and Jose Manuel Barroso of the European Commission for their strenuous leadership. The United States under its new President-elect, Barack Obama, also promises bold new leadership,” he added.

Mr. Ban said he was pleased at the way the world had come together in the face of the global economic recession. “Yet I fear we are only at the end of the beginning; this crisis will challenge the sense of global solidarity that is key to any solution,” he warned.

He stressed the “the responsibility to protect” in the realm of human rights and “in the larger sphere of common international endeavour, we should speak of the responsibility to deliver.”

Turning to a long list of crises confronting the world, Mr. Ban made the following points:

  • Myanmar – the Government was unwilling to deliver on its promises for democratic dialogue and a release of political prisoners.
  • Democratic Republic of the Congo – UN forces have held the line with bravery under the difficult circumstances but have not been able to protect innocent people from violence
  • .
  • Human rights – “Our record on human rights is on trial in many places, in many ways” as the world marks the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
  • Darfur – deployment of the joint UN-African Union force has been slower than hoped and still lacks mission-critical assets, including helicopters while renewed fighting and political rivalry makes a political solution difficult.
  • Kosovo – the UN has managed the potentially explosive situation through quiet diplomacy.
  • Food crisis – “We have coped particularly well with one of the year’s most serious challenges. The food crisis no longer dominates news headlines but has not gone away.”
  • Middle East – Israelis and Palestinians have held intensive negotiations, creating trust where none existed. It is important to keep up momentum so that 2009 could be the year of peace.
  • Iraq – security has improved. Iraqi leaders must work in a spirit of reconciliation as they assume full responsibility for national affairs and the UN will give the necessary strong support.
  • Zimbabwe – the humanitarian situation grows more alarming every day yet President Robert Mugabe says the timing is not right to receive a special UN envoy. “If this is not the time, when is?” Mr. Ban asked.
  • Somalia – the need to act is clear; the African Union mission should be reinforced and the Security Council’s authorization of international action against pirates on land is welcome.
  • Afghanistan – the humanitarian situation is worsening, insurgent attacks are increasing and a political “surge” and a clear change of direction are required.

“It is our responsibility to deliver, for we know only too well the consequences of failure,” Mr. Ban concluded.


News Tracker: past stories on this issue

In Doha, Ban urges ‘bold’ steps to prevent financial turmoil becoming human crisis

Related Stories





More videos »


In-depth Interviews