|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Instead of ‘Kicking the Can to Rio’, Secretary-General Tells General Assembly,
Time to Shift Gears to Reach Destination, Confront All Hard Issues Now
Following is UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s briefing at the informal meeting of the General Assembly, 9 May, in New York:
Thank you for this opportunity. I welcome the chance to continue our conversation on pressing matters before the membership and the international community. This afternoon, I would like to brief you on our collective efforts to promote sustainable development; the messages I delivered in a series of speeches in Washington, D.C., this week; the latest developments and unrest in a number of African countries; and my most recent visit to India and Myanmar.
But allow me to begin with an update on events on the ground in Syria. As you are aware, a bomb blast today near Dar’a targeted a convoy of United Nations observers. This morning, I spoke with General Robert Mood and received a full report. This attack is unacceptable. I know the world joins me in condemning it without reservation. Today’s incident is an example of what the Syrian people have endured for the past 15 months. It is a testament to the difficulty and the danger of the task entrusted to our United Nations observers. And it is a blunt reminder of the risks of violence escalating even further.
There is no escaping the reality that we see every day: innocent civilians dying, Government troops and heavy armour in city streets, growing numbers of arrests and allegations of brutal torture, an alarming upsurge in the use of improvised and other explosive devices throughout the country.
The Government and all elements of the opposition must realize that we have a brief window to stop the violence, a brief opportunity to create an opening for political engagement between the Government and those seeking change. If this opportunity is not seized, I fear that, what Joint Special Envoy Kofi Annan has warned about, will come to pass — a full-scale civil war with catastrophic effects within Syria and across the region.
It is imperative that the international community strongly unite behind his efforts. And I call on all to support the United Nations Supervision Mission in Syria, UNSMIS, as we accelerate our deployment with a view to having the full complement of 300 military observers and roughly 100 civilians on the ground before the end of the month. I thank the troop-contributing countries — representing 38 Member States, so far — for making their nationals available for this challenging assignment. These efforts represent the last, best chance for peace.
Let me now turn to our vital work to advance sustainable development. In virtually all of my meetings with world leaders, I have emphasized the historic importance of the Rio+20 Conference and urged participation at the highest levels. I have been pleased by the response. We expect a high number of Heads of State and Government to attend. I am deeply grateful to the Government of Brazil for all it is doing to make the Conference a great success. I greatly appreciate President Dilma Rousseff for her personal commitment and leadership. But the high-level participation is not a given. It depends on the level of ambition of the outcome document they would be endorsing.
We are at a crucial stage. We have about 40 days — and 40 nights — to Rio. We must use every moment. Last week, I met with the Bureau for the Rio+20 Preparatory Process, led by Co-Chairs Ambassador John Ashe of Antigua and Barbuda and Ambassador Kim Sook of the Republic of Korea. I am pleased that the Bureau has agreed on additional negotiating days. I am encouraged that there is consensus on a process forward. I trust this new process will unleash ambition, creativity, and the flexibility necessary to get the job done. After all, we cannot continue the same approach and expect different results. This negotiating period will be the last opportunity to finalize the document and there is much work ahead.
The time has come to shift gears to reach our destination in time. We must be determined to confront the hard issues now — 100 percent of the issues — instead of kicking the can to Rio. Quite simply, we need a negotiated outcome document before Rio to ensure the high-level participation that we have worked so hard to generate. Once again, I appeal to all Member States: show the flexibility that it will take to reach agreement on all substantive issues; finalize the outcome document ahead of the Conference in Rio.
We look to the outcome of your deliberations for concrete results in the building blocks to shape the future we want: through support for sustainable energy for all, action to improve management and protection of our oceans, a framework for more sustainable consumption and production, agreement to meet the zero hunger challenge, new initiatives to ensure universal access to water, and a focused effort to improve life in the world’s cities.
We should agree on launching a process to establish sustainable development Goals that build on the Millennium Development Goals, find better ways to measure progress that goes beyond gross domestic product (GDP), and advance action to improve people’s lives through decent work, social protection and the empowerment of women and young people. Finally, we need a clear direction for enhancing the global institutional architecture to address sustainable development challenges.
For all of these goals, we must harness the power of partnership to shift the world onto a more sustainable trajectory of growth and development. Rio should be a concrete step forward in this regard. I know you have been working hard on these issues and more. I know you have made progress. I am convinced that it is both possible and necessary to get outcomes in these areas. Our work on this agenda will accelerate after Rio, bringing together the outcomes from Rio and the process outlined by Member States at the 2010 Millennium Development Goals Summit.
We have already begun to organize for the post-2015 challenge and opportunity. I have asked the heads of the United Nations Development Group and Executive Committee on Economic and Social Affairs to mobilize the entire United Nations system behind this effort. In the near future, I will be appointing a new Assistant Secretary-General for post-2015 development planning, specifically to coordinate the many constituencies and work streams inside and outside the United Nations.
And after the Rio Conference, I will appoint a high-level panel of eminent persons to advise on the post-2015 way forward. Today, I am pleased to announce that the following leaders have accepted my invitation to serve as Co-Chairs of this high-level panel: President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono of Indonesia; President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia; and Prime Minister David Cameron of the United Kingdom. I am grateful to these three leaders for their commitment. I intend to conduct further consultations regarding the composition of the high-level panel, mindful of the appropriate balance across geography, gender, generations, and constituencies. I plan to announce the full panel following the Rio+20 Summit Meeting. I count on your support for this important exercise.
Two days ago in Washington, D.C. — last Monday — I delivered policy speeches to three important audiences. At the Center for International and Strategic Studies (CSIS), I spoke about the importance of peacebuilding — our efforts to keep fragile post-conflict societies from lapsing back into violence. At the American Society for International Law, I focused on the wide-ranging efforts of the United Nations to promote the rule of law at the national and international levels. At the Atlantic Council, I spoke about the need for collective global leadership to guide the world through the current era of change, which I call the Great Transition. I also used the occasion to pay tribute to United Nations staff and United Nations peacekeepers around the world for their contributions to the global fight against insecurity, injustice and inequality.
We are closely monitoring other troubling developments, particularly in Africa. Regarding ongoing tensions between Sudan and South Sudan, including recent reports of fighting along their common border: despite the withdrawal of South Sudan’s forces from Heglig, accusations of aggression continue from both sides. I call on both parties to disengage, resume post-independence negotiations and immediately establish the Joint Border Verification Monitoring Mechanism — as required under the 2 May Security Council resolution. I note that the deadline for compliance is today.
Addressing internal dynamics within both nations is also critical to consolidating peace between them. The Government of Sudan must address legitimate political and economic aspirations of its people in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile, where humanitarian access should be immediately granted and a cessation of hostilities negotiated. The Government of South Sudan must address grievances behind inter-communal violence and gain the full trust of its population. It is imperative that both sides stop any and all warfare by proxy, before it becomes too late. The United Nations stands ready to assist the people and Governments of both countries to improve relations and consolidate a durable peace.
Regarding last month’s coup d’état in Guinea-Bissau: as international partners, we seek an immediate return to constitutional order. I am particularly concerned about reports of human rights violations by the military junta. Let me speak clearly: those responsible for the coup and subsequent violations of human rights will be held accountable by the international community. I have asked my Special Representative in Guinea-Bissau to work closely with the African Union, ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States) and the Community of Portuguese-speaking Countries. Our consultations and shared principles remain the basis for our efforts to resolve this crisis.
On Mali: more than half of the country’s territory is now under rebel control. An estimated 320,000 people have been displaced, including 200,000 in neighbouring countries. Our immediate goal is the restoration of constitutional order and the preservation of Mali’s territorial integrity. The United Nations is working closely with ECOWAS, the African Union and other international stakeholders.
Let me close with brief comments on my visit to India and Myanmar. In India, I met with Prime Minister Singh, External Affairs Minister Krishna and many others, including health ministers and chief ministers. My discussions underscored India’s growing role and responsibilities in the twenty-first century, and how the world could benefit from an India that takes its place on the global stage as a force for peace and an example of forging unity in enormous diversity.
I also took the opportunity to visit Mumbai, focusing on our Every Woman Every Child initiative. India is investing in health, and it is making a big difference. The United Nations is working very closely with India on this. I was accompanied by the Director-General of the World Health Organization, Dr. Margaret Chan; the Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund, Babatunde Osotimehin; the Executive Director of UNAIDS, Michel Sidibe; the Deputy Executive Director of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Geeta Rao Gupta; and my Special Envoy for Malaria, Ray Chambers. Together, they represented perhaps the most senior delegation of United Nations health officials on a visit by a Secretary-General. They joined me for meetings with leaders of government, business, civil society and the creative community. Only through this type of multi-stakeholder partnership can we hope to achieve our development goals.
I then travelled to Myanmar. It was my third visit to the country, but my first to the new Myanmar — after the elections and the formation of a civilian government. I met with President Thein Sein, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, and many other leaders from government, business, parliament, and civil society. I was also honoured to be the first foreign visitor to address the joint session of Myanmar’s Parliament. I was pleased that during my visit, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the National League of Democracy decided to end the stalemate over the wording of the parliamentary oath.
Notwithstanding the important strides the country has made, the process remains fragile. The international community is responding positively to the reforms. Many countries have announced the lifting or suspension of economic sanctions — but much more needs to be done to enable Myanmar’s transition to succeed. The United Nations is committed to doing its part. During my visit, we agreed to strengthen our partnership in a number of concrete, practical ways — including through my continued good offices. It has been almost 20 years since the General Assembly entrusted the Secretary-General with a good offices mandate on Myanmar. The recent reforms have addressed many longstanding concerns of the General Assembly and the international community.
While recognizing the fragility of the situation, the General Assembly may wish at some stage to acknowledge the progress made in Myanmar and consider how best the good offices can continue to support this process.
This concludes my briefing. Thank you for your attention and I am ready to exchange views and comments and questions from the floor.
* *** *