Sustainable development tops UN chief’s priorities for 2010

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon briefs the press on priorities

11 January 2010 – Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today outlined seven priorities for 2010, beginning with the urgent need for a renewed focus on sustainable development, including advancing efforts to achieve the globally agreed targets aimed at ending poverty, disease and hunger.

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) – as the targets are known – are among the seven “strategic opportunities” to be realized not over decades but within the next twelve months, Mr. Ban told the 192-member General Assembly.

“Taken together, they can make the world safer, fairer and more prosperous today and in the future,” he stated. “I ask that we join together to make 2010 a year of sustainable development – to meet the MDGs, address climate change, promote global health and take the necessary steps for lasting and robust economic recovery.”

Mr. Ban highlighted the special MDG summit he will be convening in September in conjunction with the Assembly’s annual General Debate. Prior to that, in March, he will present his own assessment to the membership on the gaps and needs on this issue.

Negotiating a binding agreement on climate change, as well as to deliver on commitments made to date, was the second priority emphasized by the Secretary-General. Last month, countries ‘sealed the deal’ on a political accord which seeks to jump-start immediate action on climate change and guide negotiations on long-term action.

It also includes an agreement to working towards curbing global temperature rise to below 2 degrees Celsius, efforts to reduce or limit emissions, and pledges to mobilize $100 billion a year for developing countries to combat climate change. Mr. Ban said he intends to launch a high-level panel on climate change and sustainable development, which will deliver its own recommendations on the way ahead.

The Secretary-General also called for empowering women as never before during 2010, and pointed to the need to work towards setting up the new gender entity to be established within the UN, and step up efforts to prevent violence against women. The appointment of a Special Representative on the prevention of sexual violence in armed conflict will be announced soon, he added.

Noting encouraging progress in the field of disarmament, Mr. Ban’s fourth priority is working towards a nuclear-free world. “As with the MDG summit, we must prepare the ground for success,” he stated, listing a series of meetings that he will be attending on the issue in Geneva, Paris and Washington.

“The fifth strategic opportunity lies in preventing and resolving deadly conflicts around the world,” the Secretary-General went on to say, adding that 2010 will undoubtedly bring unforeseen political and humanitarian crises.

Among the challenges anticipated are critical elections in Iraq, Sudan, Cote d’Ivoire and Myanmar. In addition, the situations in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Guinea, among others, will continue to demand attention.

“In the Middle East, we must generate new momentum in the search for a comprehensive, just and lasting peace,” Mr. Ban stated. “One year after the Gaza conflict, a fundamentally different approach is required to address the major humanitarian and reconstruction challenges still facing its people.”

The sixth priority, said the Secretary-General, is to advance on issues “at the heart of who we are – human rights and the rule of law.” In this regard, he urged the Assembly in the coming weeks to conduct a thorough and clear-eyed review of the Human Rights Council.

He also called for strengthening the International Criminal Court (ICC), describing it as the “centrepiece of our system of international criminal justice,” and urged all nations to become parties to the Court’s Statute.

Last, but not least, Mr. Ban cited the need to strengthen the UN system. “In the last years, we have made important progress in realigning the United Nations with new global realities. But more has to be done.

“As an Organization, we have to commit to continuously improve the way we are doing business. Changing with changing times and evolving needs has to become a way of life at the United Nations,” he said, noting the need to rejuvenate management, develop the emerging leaders of the future, and build a flexible workforce for the 21st century, as well as make better use of modern technologies.

“I sense renewed energy as we start the new year and take on the heavy agenda ahead,” Mr. Ban stressed to reporters following his informal briefing to the Assembly.

“We can make 2010 a year for action on a number of fronts,” he added. “We are ready to act, ready to deliver, and ready to make 2010 a year of results for people.”

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