|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Secretary-General Highlights Challenges of Terrorism, Climate Change,
Violence against Women, at State Governor’s Reception in Australia
Following are UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks at the reception hosted by the Governor of New South Wales in Australia today, 7 September:
Thank you so much, Governor [Marie] Bashir, for hosting this reception. I admire your dedication to public service. You have worked for the health of indigenous peoples. You have stood on the side of children and adolescents. You fight for equality for all people.
I want to thank you for welcoming me. As you know, I had to change the original plans for my trip because of the international meeting on Libya in Paris. The global community has been focused on a united response to the situation in Libya. We are working to help the Libyan people usher in a democratic future.
At the same time, the United Nations is dealing with many other threats. We recently suffered a terrible terrorist attack on our compound in Abuja. This was an attack on more than the United Nations premises; it was an assault on the values we uphold — development, human rights and peace. But it was also an attack on human beings — fathers and mothers, colleagues and friends. We are heartbroken by the losses. The entire United Nations family is in mourning.
But terrorists can never kill our ideals. They may kill our lives but we will never be beaten. We are determined to carry on our work. And I thank the members of the United Nations Association here and many leaders of civil society. Every citizen can play a very important role at this time when the United Nations is leading to address such global challenges. The threats against the United Nations are real but we keep our doors open to all people of goodwill who support our work.
On this trip, I have met with presidents and prime ministers from across the Pacific. I have met with village elders in Kiribati and with young people in the Solomon Islands. I was the first Secretary-General of the United Nations in 65 years of the United Nations’ history to visit these two Pacific island States.
And I have had interactive dialogue with all 16 leaders of the Pacific Islands Forum. My visit to the Solomon Islands and Kiribati has increased my strong conviction that the international community must address this climate change. Climate change is not an issue of the distant future; it is an issue of today and now.
And I was so, so touched by a young boy who came up during my meeting to talk about how the United Nations can help him. He was afraid to go to bed every night as he was not sure what would happen while he was asleep. The high tide had been impacting and inundating these villages.
I think we have to work together. And also I have spoken to journalists and fishermen, university professors and priests. I consider each of these meetings crucially important because we need all hands on deck.
This is especially true for our global campaign to end violence against women, which we were originally going to discuss at some length before my schedule changed. And I am sorry for that. I have met many members of the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) and UN Women and I am very much grateful to the Governor for her commitment to the promotion of gender empowerment, and in that regard, today I hope you do not mind if I share some thoughts on this important subject now.
As Secretary-General, I can pick up the phone and call just about any leader in the world. Government officials are critical to ending gender-based violence. But if a man is beating his wife, the best person to address the problem may be his local minister. If a girl thinks she is inferior to a boy, the best person to help may be her teacher. On this problem like on so many others, we need to come together as one society, one world.
I am proud to be the first Secretary-General in history who can look around my table and see nearly as many women as men. During my four-and-a-half years, I have appointed many more women senior advisers than my seven predecessors combined. And I have appointed more United Nations women peace envoys. In just 62 years, before I came, there were only two or three women peace envoys who were in charge of peacekeeping missions and political issues. Now I have appointed seven; seven women in charge of 10,000 peacekeepers and heads of political missions. I think they are doing an excellent job. There are many more women waiting in line to be promoted to that effort.
My mandate is taken straight from the United Nations Charter, which affirms the “equal rights of men and women” right in its preamble. I hope the world remembers that it was an Australian political activist, Jessie Street, who helped get this language in the Charter. She was a “founding mother” of the United Nations. She knew we have a moral imperative to create a world where women and men are equal. Today, Australia’s National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and Their Children is one of the most forward-looking in the world.
In all of our efforts, we have to pay special attention to women and girls who struggle with vulnerability and deprivation. Governor Bashir, you have been doing this throughout your career. We need to help adolescents, women with HIV, immigrants, indigenous communities and ethnic minorities. I hope Australia will continue reaching out to partners in the Pacific islands. Violence against women is one of the most important challenges facing this region. I have been speaking to many leaders of the countries where sexual violence is prevalent; some of the African countries where I have been urging them, “Mr. President, if you do not address this issue you must be accountable.”
AusAID is doing wonderful work by supporting 100 organizations that empower women across the Pacific. One of our greatest advocates at the United Nations is a famous daughter of Australia, an international superstar. You know Nicole Kidman for her movies. She is an incredibly talented actress but I am even more impressed by her activism. She is encouraging all people to say no to violence against women.
It takes superstars and secretaries-general, activists, officials and ordinary people to address all of the global threats we face. And it takes hope. I draw hope from being here with so many like-minded people. I am counting on you to support the United Nations in our campaigns for peace, justice and human rights.
Together, we can provide greater safety, strength and solidarity for all people.
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