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United Nations
H.E. Mr. Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General

23 September 2008

Statement Summary

Opening the sixty-third session’s general debate, United Nations Secretary-General BAN KI-MOON assessed the state of the world and presented his vision for the coming year, recognizing perils and challenges in the context of today’s realities:  global financial, energy and food crises; the collapse of trade talks; new outbreaks of war; and the clear threat from climate change.

The world also faced a different crisis:  the challenge of global leadership.  “We are on the eve of a great transition.  Our world has changed more than we may realize,” he declared, citing new centres of leadership in Asia, Latin America and across the newly developed world.

“In this new world, our challenges are increasingly those of collaboration rather than confrontation,” he said, and there was a danger of losing sight of that new reality; of looking inward, rather than toward a shared future.  “At this time, one thing is clear:  we must do more, not less,” he said.  “We must do more to help our fellow human beings weather the gathering storm.”

While global growth had raised billions of people out of poverty, today’s poor had never felt poverty so sharply, he said.  With the wide embrace of international law and justice, some still lived in nations where human rights were abused.  While most lived in peace and security, there was still deepening violence in nations that could least afford it:   Afghanistan, Somalia and Iraq, among them.

“We can do something about it.  And with strong global leadership, we will,” he asserted.

Turning to the three development pillars -- human rights, peace and security –- he said the situation was serious.  In the last year, the world had seen the rise of food and fuel prices.  Rich countries were afraid of a recession, while the poorest had nothing to eat.

Not all promises had been kept, but enough progress had been made to know that the Millennium Development Goals could be reached, he said, and he would bring together a new coalition of Governments, the private sector, and religious and philanthropic groups.  Last year, he had set up a new type of public-private partnership, which had marshalled funds and managed centrally at the global level.

On Thursday, at his high-level event on the Millennium Development Goals, he said he planned to announce the results of new research that showed such a partnership was a “resounding success”.  He would apply this new type of partnership to the Goals, and ask that States be both ambitious and specific in how they intended to help the United Nations achieve the Goals by 2015.  He proposed holding a summit meeting on the Goals in 2010 to take stock of follow-up.

Indeed, the United Nations was a champion of the most vulnerable, and had been involved in nations including Haiti and Myanmar.  However, he also had called for more strenuous action in Somalia.  “We at the United Nations are duty-bound to do what compassion and human decency demand of us,” he said.

With that, he said that even though it had faded from the headlines, the global food crisis had not gone away.  Rice, the food staple that fed half the world, had more than doubled in price in a single year, from $330 a ton to $730.  The Task Force on the Global Food Crisis had set forth solutions, one of which aimed to create a “green revolution” in Africa.  But there was a lack of new resources, and the global community had not matched words with deeds.

Peace and security were under threat in all quarters, he said, noting that in Sierra Leone and Timor Leste, United Nations peacekeeping missions were working to help the people maintain their peace and rebuild their countries.  On preventive diplomacy, the results were clear.  In Georgia, the United Nations could help to diffuse tension related to the recent conflict, and in Côte d’Ivoire, it would help organize elections.  At the same time, in Darfur, deployment timelines were difficult to meet, and crucial personnel was not in place.  He stressed the danger of acting as if the United Nations could settle all problems of our time without the full support of States.  Without resources, mandates were meaningless.

The global financial crisis endangered all United Nations work -- particularly in the areas of financing for development and the Millennium Development Goals.  “If there is a call for leadership, it is now”.  With the Doha Review Conference later this year, States had the chance to address critical issues of international economic cooperation and development, and he urged all Members to “engage at the highest levels” and restore order to global financial markets.

Other problems called for a “firm hand” on a global scale, including the fight against malaria and AIDS, terrorism and non-proliferation.  On the Six-Party talks on the Korean peninsula, he urged that agreements be implemented.  He also urged Iran to fully cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

On climate change, he noted that last year in Bali, Indonesia, world leaders had agreed on a road map that would follow the Kyoto Protocol.  States now needed a common idea of a new global climate change accord, he said, urging all nations to deploy their “persuasive powers” to make progress on that existential question.

In closing, he returned to the theme of his address last year -– a stronger United Nations for a better world, reminding delegates that “the foundation of all our work is accountability”.  The United Nations was accountable to its Members, which was why he had pushed so strongly for reform.  In the coming weeks, he would ask for support for his proposed new human resources framework.  States could not continue to pass resolutions mandating ambitious peace operations without the necessary troops, money and material.

“It takes leadership to speak out for justice,” he declared.  “That is why we are here.  We have ample reason to be optimistic.  Today’s uncertainties will pass.  By acting wisely and responsibly, we will set the stage for a new era of global prosperity.”

[Source: GA/10749]

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[Source: GA/10740]

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