UNITED NATIONS APPOINTS REPUBLIC OF KOREA’S BAN KI-MOON AS NEXT SECRETARY-GENERAL; BAN, DEEPLY TOUCHED AND INSPIRED, VOWS TO 'BUILD BRIDGES, BRIDGE DIVIDES’

13 October 2006
GA/10514

UNITED NATIONS APPOINTS REPUBLIC OF KOREA’S BAN KI-MOON AS NEXT SECRETARY-GENERAL; BAN, DEEPLY TOUCHED AND INSPIRED, VOWS TO 'BUILD BRIDGES, BRIDGE DIVIDES’

13 October 2006
General Assembly
GA/10514
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-first General Assembly

Plenary

31st Meeting (PM)

UNITED NATIONS APPOINTS REPUBLIC OF KOREA’S BAN KI-MOON AS NEXT SECRETARY-GENERAL;

BAN, DEEPLY TOUCHED AND INSPIRED, VOWS TO ‘BUILD BRIDGES, BRIDGE DIVIDES’

Secretary-General Praises Ban as ‘Exceptionally Attuned’ to All Countries, Peoples

The General Assembly today appointed Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon of the Republic of Korea as the next United Nations Secretary-General, giving him a two-and-one-half-month transition before taking over the helm of the world body from Kofi Annan on 1 January.

Acting on the Security Council’s recommendation, the Assembly adopted a resolution formally appointing Mr. Ban to a five-year term.  Diplomats and United Nations staff in the packed chamber cheered the decision.  Mr. Ban becomes the eighth Secretary-General in the United Nations’ 60-year history, and will oversee an Organization with nearly 100,000 peacekeepers in 18 countries around the world, and a $5 billion annual budget.

Mr. Ban will succeed 2001 Nobel Peace Prize winner Kofi Annan, of Ghana, who will retire at the end of December, after leading the 192-member world body for a decade.  Earlier in his 40-year diplomatic career, Mr. Ban, 62, served in his country’s Mission to the United Nations and, in 2001, was Chef de Cabinet to then-Assembly President Han Seung-soo, of the Republic of Korea.  Mr. Ban will be the first Asian to lead the Organization since U Thant, who held the post from 1961 to 1971.

“I stand before you deeply touched and inspired,” Mr. Ban told the Assembly.  As Secretary-General, he vowed to work “diligently to materialize our responsibility to protect the most vulnerable members of humanity, and for the peaceful resolution of threats to international security”.  He added that:  “The true measure of the success of the UN is not how much we promise, but how much we deliver for those who need us most…  We need not shout [the Organization’s] praises or preach its virtues.  We simply need to live them every day:  step by step, programme by programme, mandate by mandate,” he said.

Pledging to carry out reforms, building on Mr. Annan’s legacy, the Secretary-General-designate said:  “My tenure will be marked by ceaseless efforts to build bridges and close divides.”  He declared that his leadership would be one of harmony, foreswearing division.

“Let us remember that reform is not to please others, but because we value what this Organization stands for,” he said, laying out his vision of a truly reformed United Nations that could effectively meet the challenges of the twenty-first century.  “We need reform because we believe in the future.  To revitalize our common endeavour is to renew our faith not only in the UN’s programmes and purposes but also in each other.  We should demand more of ourselves, as well as of our organization,” he said.

Mr. Annan praised Ban as “a future Secretary-General who is exceptionally attuned to the sensitivities of countries and constituencies in every continent -- a man with a truly global mind at the helm of the world’s only universal organization”.

He recalled that, more than 50 years ago, the first Secretary-General, Trygve Lie, had used the following words in greeting his successor, Dag Hammarskjöld:  “You are about to take over the most impossible job on Earth.”  Mr. Annan said that, while that might be true, he would have to add:  “This is also the best possible job on Earth.”

Welcoming Mr. Ban, General Assembly President Sheikha Haya Al Khalifa of Bahrain said his appointment came at a time when the United Nations was deeply engaged in a wide-ranging reform process.  “We are grateful to Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who has played a major role in shaping a clear and comprehensive vision to address the many global challenges confronting us,” she declared.  She was confident that the Organization would build upon its past achievements and move ahead to become an even more effective body under Mr. Ban’s leadership.

Kenzo Oshima of Japan, whose delegation holds the Security Council’s rotating Presidency for the month, presented the work undertaken by that 15-nation body leading to Mr. Ban’s appointment by the Assembly.  The chairpersons of the United Nations five regional groups, and representatives of the European Union and the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, as well as of the host country, each took the podium, praising the Secretary-General-designate for his diplomatic skills and personal qualities.  They said the world body would be in able hands, as it faced the challenges to come.  The speakers also paid tribute to Mr. Annan for his work in steering the United Nations through 10 difficult years.

The General Assembly will meet on Monday, 16 October, at 10 a.m., to elect five non-permanent members of the United Nations Security Council.

Background

The General Assembly met this afternoon to consider a draft resolution on the appointment of the next United Nations Secretary-General.

Statement by General Assembly President

The General Assembly President Sheikha HAYA RASHED AL KHALIFA said the General Assembly, having just adopted the resolution on the appointment of His Excellency, Ban Ki-Moon of the Republic of Korea, as the eighth Secretary-General of the United Nations, welcomed him, saying he had already devoted a considerable part of his diplomatic career to the Organization.  His appointment came at a time when the United Nations was engaged in a wide-ranging reform process, she said.

Thanking Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who had played a major role in shaping a clear and comprehensive vision to address global challenges, she said the Organization would build upon Mr. Annan’s achievements and become even more effective under the leadership of Secretary-General-designate Ban Ki-Moon.

Many challenges from extreme poverty, hunger, armed conflicts, disease and international terrorism remained before the United Nations, but she said she was sure the Organization would find the most appropriate way to make globalization work for all.  The credibility of the United Nations would be tested by its ability to work in unity and meet the expectations of millions of people of the world.  She appealed to all member States to extend to Secretary-General-designate Ban Ki-Moon the utmost support, to ensure a smooth transition.

Statement by Secretary-General

Outgoing United Nations Secretary-General, KOFI ANNAN, congratulated his successor and said he was pleased his election had been “early and orderly”.  He believed everyone recognized the depth of Mr. Ban’s experience, the breadth of his connections, and his ability to operate effectively at the highest levels.

“But as someone who has known and worked with you several years, I think they will soon discover something more, if they do not see that already:  a future Secretary-General who is exceptionally attuned to the sensitivities of countries and constituencies in every continent.  A man with a truly global mind at the helm of the world’s most universal Organization,” Mr. Annan said.

Mr. Ban’s early election will give the United Nations community a head start in ensuring the smoothest possible transition, said Mr. Annan, giving the new United Nations chief one piece of advice: “Try to make full use of the unparalleled resource you will find in the staff of the Organization.  Their commitment is the United Nations’ greatest asset, and has been the surest source of strength for me in my work as Secretary-General.”

He said that, more that 50 years ago, the first Secretary-General of the United Nations, Trygve Lie, greeted his successor, Dag Hammarskjold, by saying: “you are about to take over the most impossible job on Earth.” And, while that might be true, Mr. Annan said he would now add “this is also the best possible job on Earth”.

“As you ready yourself to take over, I wish you strength and courage.  You will need those attributes, but equally, you will need a healthy sense of humour -– which I know you posses in abundance, so don’t forget to have fun along the way,” said Mr. Annan, in closing.

Statements by Regional Groups and the Host Country

CRISPIN GREY-JOHNSON (Gambia), speaking in his capacity as Chair of the Group of the African States, noted that the Republic of Korea had made the transition from a least developed State to an industrialized, highly developed nation, with the eleventh largest economy in the world, in a period of less than 40 years.  Mr. Ban had contributed to the transition in no small measure, and that experience would come in handy, as he led the way in implementing the Millennium Development Goals.  His experience in peacebuilding and conflict prevention would also be called up, particularly in the area of disarmament and moving forward on the de-nuclearization agenda, while mediating the very complex security situation now unfolding in the Korean Peninsula.

Continuing, he said that the immediate preoccupation was with reform of the Organization.  Africa looked forward to working with him on the many priority issues adopted by the Summit Heads of State last year, especially those under the category of Africa’s special needs.  Africa also took the opportunity to commend outgoing Secretary-General Kofi Annan, whose tremendous contributions to multilateralism and to the principles and purposes of the United Nations for over 10 years had enabled Africa to play a leading role in maintaining world peace, promoting sustainable development and preventing, and resolving, conflicts.

KENZO OSHIMA (Japan), speaking on behalf of the Asian States, expressed the Group’s appreciation for the acclamation given to the region’s candidate, by both the Security Council, and the Assembly.  He also thanked the regional groups for their support, and the other excellent candidates of the region, whose considerate cooperation had led to the broad consensus on the appointment of Mr. Ban.

Noting that the Asian region had carried out remarkable achievements in reducing poverty, attaining economic growth, providing education and promoting democracy, he said Mr. Ban’s country was an example of the phenomenal growth and change that had occurred in Asia.  It was most appropriate that such a country was sending one of its most outstanding public servants to steer the course of the United Nations at the start of the twenty-first century.

MILOS M. PRICA (Bosnia and Herzegovina), speaking on behalf of the Eastern European Group, welcomed the newly appointed Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-Moon, and said the world was looking to him with renewed hope that he would lead the Organization with credibility, independence and efficiency. He called on Mr. Ban to strive to find the best global solutions, utilizing his broad experience in international relations and the unanimous support he enjoyed among the United Nations member States.

He said that the activities of the Secretary-General would remain challenging, and would include unresolved conflicts, continuing threats to peace and stability, and even obstacles to complete further United Nations reforms.  He was convinced that, under Mr. Ban’s mandate, the Organization would continue to renovate and revitalize, reaching completion on the Millennium Development Goals and becoming stronger on the basis of tolerance, diversity and multilateralism.  Mr. Ban had already demonstrated his commitment to peace and security, promotion of sustainable development, protection of human rights and the environment, and social justice.

On behalf of the Eastern European Group, he offered his deepest appreciation to Secretary-General Kofi Annan, for his tireless efforts and personal contribution to the success of the United Nations, under his decade-long leadership; his legacy would continue to be a foundation to the Organization’s work for decades to come.

DIEGO CORDOVEZ (Ecuador), on behalf of the Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC), said the principles of the United Nations were as valid today, as they were when the Organization was founded 61 years ago.  He thanked Secretary-General Kofi Annan for 10 years of diligent work in favour of peace and development, and for the serenity, hope and strength he had maintained during moments of turbulence and adversity.  Mr. Annan’s efforts in favour of collective security, and his desire to eliminate the tensions generated by international conflict, could not be ignored.  He wished the new Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon the greatest success because that would also be the Organization’s success.  Mr. Ban’s diplomatic talent and his peaceful, but firm, temperament would help him accomplish the tasks and duties that were being trusted to him upon his designation.

Stating that the change in leadership came at a moment of uncertainty, and even confusion about the role the United Nations played in the world, he said that international public opinion was demanding that the Security Council and other bodies of the Organization become more effective.  A thorough reform was necessary to enable the United Nations to become a base, a forum, and a mode that would enable the international community to take advantage of opportunities and neutralize potential risks.  That, he stressed, was the challenge of the new Secretary-General.

Member States would have to show political will and approve the reforms, he said, adding that it was inconceivable that the Organization had been discussing the reform of the Security Council for decades, yet that body remained immutable to the critics for its lack of representativeness.  He urged member States to reach a compromise and work towards accomplishing a consensus.

CHRISTIAN WENAWESER (Liechtenstein), speaking on behalf of the Western European and Other States Group, recalled the two-fold responsibility of the Organization’s chief executive -- one to work with member States in realizing the purposes and principles of the Charter, and the other to manage the Secretariat efficiently.  That daunting and complex challenge required the active support of member States.

He said that the manifold and complex challenges to the multilateral system now made the need for a strong United Nations system more urgent than ever.  But, member States had to make the right decision for the Organization’s future.  Close, constructive and productive cooperation were also indispensable for maintaining and strengthening the place of the United Nations in the international system.  “We owe such cooperation to the peoples that we represent and to the organization”, he added.

JOHN BOLTON (United States), speaking on behalf of the host country, said that Mr. Ban was the right person to lead the United Nations at a decisive moment in history, as the Organization struggled to fulfil the terms of the reform agenda agreed by world leaders last fall.  As he led the reform effort to build on the modest steps already achieved, member States were responsible for working with him; they should lend the support he needed to act decisively in strengthening the Organization, including in the first months, as he shaped the Secretariat to meet the challenges ahead.

Saying he was confident Mr. Ban would represent and instil the highest standards of integrity into the United Nations system, he extended his appreciation to the other candidates for the position, and to the States who had recommended them.  He also expressed appreciation to outgoing Secretary-General Annan for his efforts during his years of service, and to his top team of advisors who would also be moving on to new challenges.

DUMISANI S. KUMALO (South Africa), speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 developing country and China, offered his support and congratulations to the Secretary-General-designate Ban Ki-Moon, and said the United Nations had survived because a long line of Secretaries-General had remained neutral and committed to the ideals set out in the Charter.  He was encouraged by assurances received from Mr. Ban that he would build on the foundations set by Secretary-General Kofi Annan.  The United Nations had made considerable progress in meeting the ambitions of the people of the world, especially the poor and marginalized, and the challenge left to the new Secretary-General would be to consolidate the progress made to date, and to maintain the momentum into the future.

He said that the Group of 77 and China believed that the development agenda was an important pillar, and one where considerable work remained to be done.  The Group was encouraged by Mr. Ban’s commitment towards advancing the Millennium Development Goals, and assured him that it would support his efforts in strengthening the global partnership on development.  The Secretary-General-designate should act in the interests of all member States, and the member States, in turn, should respect the responsibilities of the Secretary-General’s office.  He conveyed warm wishes and congratulations to Secretary-General Kofi Annan, adding that the United Nations owed him tremendous gratitude.

KIRSTI LINTONEN (Finland), speaking on behalf of the European Union, congratulated Secretary-General-designate Ban Ki-Moon and said she was convinced that his personal skills and vast experience would enable him to successfully lead the world Organization.  As a strong supporter of multilateralism, the European Union would continue to support the work of the United Nations, including the ongoing comprehensive reforms, she said.

Statement by Secretary-General-designate

BAN KI-MOON, United Nations Secretary-General-designate, said he stood before the Assembly “deeply touched and inspired”.  He followed a line of remarkable leaders, each of whom had faced this moment at a critical juncture in the Organization’s history.  In particular, outgoing Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who had astutely guided the United Nations into the twenty-first century.  “You have defined an ambitious agenda that has made the United Nations truly indispensable to peace, prosperity and human dignity around the world.  Our debt to your courage and vision is immeasurable.  I resolve to build on your legacy,” he told Mr. Annan.

He said that his own rapid election by the Assembly had provided him with an unprecedented opportunity:  never in the history of the Organization had an incoming Secretary-General been given sufficient time to prepare for the job.  He would use the next two months to consult widely on how to proceed with the Organization’s common agenda of reform and revitalization.  “I will listen attentively to your concerns, expectations and ambitions,” he said.  Proud to be the second Asian to lead the Organization -- following U Thant -- he said his dynamic and diverse region aspired to take greater responsibilities in the world.

He was from a part of the world where modesty was a virtue, but that was about demeanour, not vision and goals, he explained.  The Asian region also exemplified “quiet determination in action to get things done without so much fanfare,” adding that that “might be the key to Asia’s success, and to the United Nations’ future.”  He said:  “We should be modest in our words, but not in our performance.  The true measure of the success of the UN is not how much we promise, but how much we deliver for those who need us most…We need not shout [the Organization’s] praises or preach its virtues.  We simply need to live them every day:  step by step, programme by programme, mandate by mandate.”

The United Nations was needed now more than ever, Mr. Ban said.  In the previous century, the Organization’s core mission was to keep countries from fighting each other; in the new century, the United Nations’ defining mandate was to strengthen the inter-State system, so that humanity might be better served amid new challenges.

“From the Balkans to Africa, from Asia to the Middle East, we have witnessed the weakening, or absence, of effective governance, leading to the ravaging of human rights and the abandonment of longstanding humanitarian principles,” he said, stressing that the international community needed “competent and responsible States” to meet the needs of the people for whom the United Nations was committed.  “And the world’s people will not be fully served unless peace, development and human rights -- the three pillars of the United Nations -- are advanced together with equal vigour,” he added.

He said that “the road we must pave toward a world of peace, prosperity and dignity for all has many pitfalls”.  As Secretary-General, he would make the most of the authority vested in his Office by the Charter and the mandate given to him by the member States.  He would work with dignity to make real the responsibility to protect the most vulnerable members of humanity and for the peaceful resolution of threats to international peace and security.

Turning to Organizational reform, he said that the thorough-going exercise had taxed the attention and energies of both delegations, and the Secretariat.  “But, we must stay the course,” he said, calling on the United Nations family to muster the human, institutional and intellectual resources required for the task, and organize them properly.

“We should do our part in meeting the Millennium Development Goals, expanding peace operations, threats posed by terrorism, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, HIV/AIDS and other pandemics, environmental degradation and the imperatives of human rights,” he said.

At the same time, he went on, the United Nations was not reforming to please others.  “We reform because we value what the Organization stands for.  We reform because we believe in its future.”  He urged the member States to demand more of each other, and of the Organization.  To cut through the “fog of mistrust,” however, was going to take more intensive dialogue.  “We cannot choose everything at once, but if we choose wisely, and work together transparently, flexibly and honestly, progress in a few areas would lead to progress in many more,” he promised.

He pledged to build bridges, in order to bridge gaps, to foreswear divisions, and to remain faithful to his constituency.  He would also take full responsibility for Secretariat management.

He was proud to join the ranks of the world’s premier Secretariat, and pledged his utmost support, dedication and solidarity to the able and courageous men and women who served the Organization, he said.  The aim of Secretariat reform was not to penalize, but to reward, so that talent and skill, experience and dedication might be fully mobilized and utilized.  Calling for the Secretariat’s unsparing support as he took up the helm of the Organization, he pledged to seek excellence with humility, and to lead by example.  Promises should be kept, and he pledged to work with all stakeholders for a United Nations that delivered on its promises.

“I earnestly hope that the young boys and girls of today will grow up knowing that the United Nations is working hard to build a better future for them.  As Secretary-General, I will embrace their hopes and hear their appeals.  I am an optimist, and I am full of hope about the future of our global Organization.  Let us work together for a United Nations that can deliver more and better,” he said.

* *** *

For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.