Secretary-General Opening Remarks at Press Conference [Q & A to follow]
New York , 16 September 2014
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a great pleasure to see you on the eve of the General Debate and I thank you for your time.
I am pleased to brief you as we open a new session of the General Assembly this afternoon.
More than 140 heads of state or government will attend. Civil society leaders, CEOs and other influential global figures will also be here.
Together, we will address the horrendous violence in Syria and Iraq, where conflict and governance failures have provided a breeding ground for extremist groups.
I welcome the growing international consensus to act against this serious threat to global and regional peace and security.
Violence continues in Mali, South Sudan and the Central African Republic. We will not let these crises be forgotten – and we will meet next week at the highest level to determine what more we can do.
The situation in and around Ukraine remains volatile.
In Libya, order is breaking down.
In the aftermath of yet another devastating war in Gaza, Israelis and Palestinians seem more polarized than ever.
In Nigeria, the advances of Boko Haram grow more alarming every day. As in Syria and Iraq, we are seeing terrorist organizations not only carrying out attacks but seizing large areas of land beyond the government’s control.
The world is facing multiple crises. Each has its own dynamics, and requires its own approach. But all have featured atrocious attacks on civilians, including children. All have dangerous sectarian, ethnic or tribal dimensions. And many have seen sharp divisions within the international community itself over the response.
In my main speech to the Member States next Wednesday, I will call on world leaders to unite and uphold human dignity, the rule of law and the principles of the United Nations Charter.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We will also place a special focus on Ebola Virus Disease, which is a cause of huge concern in West Africa and beyond.
Two days from now, the Security Council will convene an emergency meeting on the outbreak. WHO Director General Margaret Chan and I will outline the international action plan to contain this threat.
Next week, the General Assembly will follow-up with a High-Level Meeting on the needs of the people and countries affected by Ebola.
Generous contributions are being announced each day – but we have a lot of catching up to do to provide the health services, food, water, sanitation and supplies that are needed.
Every day we delay, the cost and the suffering will grow exponentially.
We cannot allow bans on travel or transport to slow us down.
We need isolation of people affected by Ebola – not of nations struggling to cope with it.
This is not just a health crisis; it has grave humanitarian, economic and social consequences that could spread far beyond the affected countries. The United Nations is determined to meet this test of international cooperation and solidarity. But we will need to be as bold and courageous as those who are already fighting on the frontline of the disease.
That is why we are mobilizing – and why the United Nations will be the centre for action in responding to the outbreak.
Ebola is an exponential crisis that demands an exceptional global response.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The new session of the General Assembly will be a pivotal period for our efforts to defeat poverty and adopt a new generation of sustainable development goals.
Action on climate change is urgent. The more we delay, the more we will pay in lives and in money.
The Climate Summit that I am convening one week from today has two goals: to mobilize political will for a universal and meaningful climate agreement next year in Paris; and second to generate ambitious steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and strengthen resilience.
We are anticipating an impressive turnout of leaders from government, business, finance and civil society.
Most important, we are expecting significant commitments and progress.
Today, I am delighted to announce that a new voice will be joining our climate advocacy efforts. Leonardo DiCaprio is not just one of the world’s leading actors; he has also a long-standing commitment to environmental causes, including through his foundation.
Today, I am appointing him as our newest United Nations Messenger of Peace, with a special focus on climate change issues. His global stardom is the perfect match for this global challenge. His first act as a Messenger of Peace will be to address the opening of the Climate Summit on 23 September.
Finally, the week will open and close with two remarkable public gatherings on the streets of our host city, New York – the People’s Climate March on Sunday the 21st, and the Global Citizen Festival on Saturday the 27th of September.
I will link arms with those marching for climate action. We stand with them on the right side of this key issue for our common future.
I will also take part in the Global Citizen Festival in Central Park to thank thousands of young people for helping us to fight hunger, protect the planet and promote the rights of women and girls.
At this time of turmoil, the next two weeks will highlight again the indispensable role of the United Nations in tackling global threats and seizing opportunities for common progress.
Your coverage of these issues and events will, as ever, make an important contribution.
Thank you very much for your attention.
Off-the-Cuff on 16 September 2014