Secretary-General Highlights Crucial Role Civil Society Organizations Can Play in Sustainable Development, Disarmament, Helping Countries in Transition

26 October 2011
SG/SM/13904-NGO/741

Secretary-General Highlights Crucial Role Civil Society Organizations Can Play in Sustainable Development, Disarmament, Helping Countries in Transition

26 October 2011
Secretary-General
SG/SM/13904 NGO/741
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Secretary-General Highlights Crucial Role Civil Society Organizations Can Play

 

in Sustainable Development, Disarmament, Helping Countries in Transition

 

Following are UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks to non-governmental organizations, in New York, 26 October:

It is a great pleasure to meet you today.  Thank you very much for taking time and I appreciate your strong commitment and leadership and willingness to work together with the United Nations in addressing many important challenges which we are facing these days.

I will keep my remarks brief since I am here to listen to you.  I am more interested in listening to your views.

Perhaps the most important thing I wanted to tell you is:  thank you.  Thank you very much for all you have been doing for humanity.

Thank you for everything you do to support the United Nations.

We simply could not do without your passion, your ideas — and your criticism, too.

In recent weeks, I have started a discussion about priorities and opportunities during my forthcoming five year term as Secretary-General.

Your voices and views are crucial. 

The world needs to forge a common agenda for sustainable peace, prosperity, freedom and justice. 

I see three areas where your efforts will be especially important.

First, sustainable development.

The first Earth Summit in 1992 was a landmark.  It produced Agenda 21 and binding conventions on climate change and biodiversity.  Global awareness soared.

So did NGO (non-governmental organization) engagement.  Next year’s Rio+20 Conference is a chance to build on that spirit.

I welcome the declaration you adopted at last month’s DPI/NGO conference in Bonn.  Your views are being shared with all Member States.  I will continue to count on you to drive this agenda forward.

The second area where NGOs can make a big difference is disarmament.

We have seen encouraging progress in recent years, advanced in large measure by civil society and organizations such as yourselves.

I welcomed your decision to make disarmament the focus of the DPI/NGO conference in Mexico City two years ago — one of the largest assemblies of disarmament NGOs ever to be held.

We need you to keep pushing — for greater transparency, for deeper reductions in arsenals, and for more ratifications of disarmament treaties, above all the CTBT (Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty).

Too many people dismiss disarmament as a pie-in-the-sky ideal.  Let us work together to bring disarmament down to earth.

The third major opportunity:  helping countries in transition.  This year has been a most remarkable year for all of us.  Not only those countries in the Middle East and North Africa — Tunisia, Egypt and Libya face major challenges — organizing elections, drafting new constitutions, promoting democratic practices, building independent judiciaries and free media.

There can be no success without a healthy civil society.

Please, do your part.  Help these women’s groups, social media activists, human rights defenders and others to take their rightful place in society — in government, in parliament, in every public institution.

One of the most important lessons I have learned as Secretary-General is the power of partnerships.

Governments cannot do it alone.  We need support from business communities, civil societies, philanthropists, and faith leaders, and we need coalitions, we need alliances, multi-stakeholder platforms.  This is our business model, and we know that it works.

Thanks to the power of partnership, we are closing in on a day when we can eliminate deaths from malaria.  Our target is 2015.  By that time, we expect that there will be no malaria-related deaths.

It is the operational strategy underlying our new initiative for maternal and child health, “Every Woman Every Child”. 

That is also our approach with the new “Sustainable Energy for All” initiative.

By working together — NGOs, business, philanthropic groups, the United Nations and other international agencies — we can leverage our efforts and resources.

Together, in close coordination and cooperation, we can achieve outsized results on virtually every aspect of our shared agenda.

And we will continue. 

These are difficult economic times.  Tight budgets.  Cutbacks.  Belt tightening. 

You are living all of this, too.  Everywhere, people are living in fear — fear of losing their jobs, fear of being unable to feed their families, fear that Governments and public institutions will fail them yet again.

It is up to us — organizations like yours and mine — to help restore that faith.  To deliver for people in need; to not forget people in need, especially now when times are so hard.  These are some of the messages which I am going to deliver next week to the G-20 (Group of Twenty) summit meeting in Cannes.

During this era of new austerity, I often say that we must learn to “do more with less.”

In fact, however, we must think and act in a deeper way. 

The austerity challenge is not merely about quantity; it is about quality.  It is not merely about “doing more with less” but about “doing better with less”. 

By that, I mean increasing the impact of our work, making a bigger and measurable difference in the daily lives of real people. 

I know that we can do that with you by our side — as partners across the full spectrum of our work.  That is the power of partnership.

Let me close on a more personal note.

Many of you have told me, often more than once, that we do not see one another often enough.  That we must do more to cement this partnership and amplify its potential power.

I also know of the frustrations many of you experience getting into this United Nations complex — please understand and endure because we are going through this major renovation.  By the end of next year we will finish this major renovation known as the Capital Master Plan.

Let me say that I understand. And I am committed to doing what I can to nurture and deepen this United Nations-NGO relationship. 

In our modern world, so complex and fast-changing, no nation or institution can prosper alone.

Only by working in concert, in strong partnership, can we advance our common goals.

Thank you very much for your strong support for United Nations goals and your own personal engagement and leadership.  Thank you.

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