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Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

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Address on Taking the Oath of Office in the General Assembly

by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, General Assembly, 14 December 2006

I thank you warmly for your congratulations.  Madam President, Secretary-General Annan, let me say how much I appreciate your words of encouragement as I contemplate the responsibilities that lie before me.

I stand before all of you today deeply mindful of the words of the oath I have just taken.  Loyalty, discretion, conscience -- these, together with the Charter, will be my watchwords as I carry out my duties as Secretary-General.

To illustrate my faith in the Charter, today I asked the Secretariat to create a new practice by placing my left hand on the Charter while taking the Oath.

Secretary-General Annan, I am all the more humbled because it is you I am succeeding in what you have described as “the world's most exalting job”.  It is an honour to follow in your revered footsteps.  I add my voice to the many tributes that have been paid to you today.  Every one of them is richly deserved.  Your tenure has been marked by high ideals, noble aspirations, and bold initiatives.  Your courage and vision have inspired the world.

You have led the Organization through challenging times, and ushered it firmly into the twenty-first century.  You have given the United Nations new relevance to the people's lives.  And you have been exceptionally generous to me with your wisdom and guidance, as I prepare to build on your legacy.

Thanks to the early conclusion of the appointment process, I have had the unprecedented privilege of more than two months of preparation before taking office.  I have spent much of this time listening to, and learning from, my future colleagues -- among delegations, in the Secretariat, and in the wider UN family.

I have witnessed at first hand the high level of professionalism, dedication, and know-how that exists throughout the United Nations.  Armed with that knowledge, I look forward even more to working with the able and courageous men and women who serve this Organization every day, often in difficult circumstances, sometimes in dangerous ones.

Today, as we pay tribute to Secretary-General Annan's lifelong devotion to the international civil service, we also pay tribute to the calling itself.  This path is narrow and steep, and transcends national borders and partisan interests.  Many stumble along the way, or take easier detours.  Yet, drawn to the enduring purposes and principles of the Charter, young women and men from all parts of the world, from every creed and every circumstance, still yearn to follow this path less travelled.  Their enthusiasm and their idealism will animate this Organization for decades to come.

One of my core tasks will be to breathe new life and inject renewed confidence into the sometimes weary Secretariat.  As Secretary-General, I will aim to reward the talent and skill of staff, while making optimal use of their experience and expertise.  I will seek to improve our systems for human resource management and career development, offering opportunities for training and mobility.  With the United Nations taking on a more and more global role, UN staff members, too, should be able to be more mobile and multifunctional.

At the same time, I will seek to set the highest ethical standard.  The good name of the United Nations is one of its most valuable assets -- but also one of its most vulnerable.  The Charter calls on staff to uphold the highest levels of efficiency, competence and integrity, and I will seek to ensure to build a solid reputation for living up to that standard.  I assure you that I will lead you by example.  In this way, I will work to enhance morale, professionalism and accountability among staff members, which in turn will help us serve Member States better, and restore trust in the Organization.

Equally, we should remind ourselves of what the Charter and the Report of the Preparatory Commission at the San Francisco Conference in 1945 had to say about the relationship between the Member States and the Secretariat.  Neither of these founding documents suggests, at any point, that the Secretariat should be independent of the Member States.  Indeed, without States, neither the Secretariat nor the Organization itself would have meaning or purpose.

Member States need a dynamic and courageous Secretariat, not one that is passive and risk-averse.  The time has come for a new day in relations between the Secretariat and Member States.  The dark night of distrust and disrespect has lasted far too long.  We can begin by saying what we mean, and meaning what we say.

We cannot change everything at once.  But we can build progress in a few areas, and so make way for progress in many more.  That will require intensive and continuous dialogue.  It will require us to work together transparently, flexibly and honestly.  And it will require us to start with an open mind.  Today, I ask both colleagues and Member States to work with me in that spirit.  You have the right to expect the same of me.

As I have pledged today, my sole duty is to the Organization, its Charter and its 192 Member States.  Each brings something special to our common endeavour.  Each must be heard.  Ultimately, we are all -- Secretariat and Member States alike -- accountable to “we the peoples”.  Our publics will not long respect an Organization, or tolerate a Secretary-General, who caters to some, while ignoring the desperate plight of others.  Together, we can -- and must -- do better.  Our peoples and our future depend on it.

By strengthening the three pillars of the United Nations -- security, development and human rights -- we can build a more peaceful, more prosperous and more just world for our succeeding generations.  As we pursue our collective endeavour to reach that goal, my first priority will be to restore trust.  I will seek to act as a harmonizer and bridge-builder.  And I hope to become known to all of you -- Member States or Secretariat -- as a Secretary-General who is accessible, hard-working, and prepared to listen attentively.

I will do everything in my power to ensure that our United Nations can live up to its name, and be truly united; so that we can live up to the hopes that so many people around the world place in this institution, which is unique in the annals of human history.