In the seventy years since the United Nations was conceived, the world has changed profoundly and increasingly rapidly. New challenges have emerged. So have new opportunities. Unprecedented levels of interconnectedness mean that our problems are increasingly shared. But so are solutions. Information, ideas, technology, money and people flow across borders as never before. So too do crime, pollution, weapons, narcotics and disease. Easier access to technology carries enormous potential for positive change, but also for disruption. Capabilities that once belonged only to States are increasingly in the hands of private groups and individuals. These trends have fundamentally altered reality for billions of people, transforming patterns of development and the very nature of security. The challenges we face have changed dramatically, as have the means to address them.
Most of these changes have led to improvements in the human condition, but too many people have yet to feel that sense of progress and hope in their daily lives. People in rich and poor countries alike are nervous about poverty, unemployment, inequality, environmental degradation and unresponsive institutions. The largest generation of young people the world has ever known is hungry for opportunity, for jobs, for a voice in the decisions that affect them, for institutions and leaders that respond to their needs. They want to know that national and international institutions are on their side and can seize the opportunities of a world in flux.
Member States have recognized the need to adapt the Organization to these new realities, so that it can continue to make a positive difference in people’s lives. At the same time, the fundamental principles enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations remain as valid as the day they were signed. More than ever, people need a universal organization that brings together all Member States in pursuit of the four overarching goals identified in our founding document — peace, human rights, justice, and economic and social progress.
The work of the United Nations over the past year clearly illustrates these long-term trends. Consultations on the post-2015 development framework brought in voices from all over the world, capturing the interconnectedness of social, economic and environmental challenges and the imperative of serving people while protecting the planet. The declaration of the high-level meeting of the General Assembly on the rule of law at the national and international levels, adopted on
24 September 2012, affirmed the importance of the rule of law in all three pillars of our work. The third successive year of natural disasters causing in excess of US$ 100 billion in damage — including damage to United Nations Headquarters from storm Sandy — gave us a sobering glimpse of what the future may hold in store should we fail to take the challenge of climate change seriously. In the Sahel, millions of people continued to suffer from the corrosive impact of transnational organized crime, resource scarcity and political instability. Member States turned to the United Nations to develop a strategy that can bridge these many sources of instability and bring together the wide array of national, regional and international actors needed for an effective response. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, a new framework agreement and a joint effort by the United Nations, the World Bank and all the countries in the region aim to address the root causes of repeated cycles of violence and to deliver peace, justice and development to the long-suffering people of that country.
Tragically, the deaths of nearly 100,000 Syrians and the displacement of millions were — and are — a stain on our collective conscience and a grim reminder that the costs of war are measured not only in lives lost but in economies and infrastructures shattered, precious historical sites ruined, fragile social bonds sundered and an entire region destabilized with potentially lasting consequences. I hope that soon we will find a lasting solution that will allow the people of the Syrian Arab Republic to begin the long process of recovery and rebuilding. More broadly, Member States and others with leverage must act more swiftly and decisively to avert and respond to repression and violence; we cannot allow ourselves to become inured to these events. For our part, the United Nations family has developed an action plan to respond more effectively to serious violations of human rights, drawing on the lessons of our failures in previous cases.
Having just marked the tenth anniversary of the bombing of the United Nations headquarters building in Baghdad, we increasingly recognize that this changing world is in some respects a more dangerous one for our own personnel. More than 75 colleagues gave their lives in the line of duty in the past year. The United Nations is committed to remaining present wherever we are needed, in keeping with the values and principles of the Charter, with the mandates given to us by Member States and with the hopes and expectations that millions of people around the world place in us. But we must do so responsibly and with due recognition of the risks involved.
This report details the Organization’s efforts to respond to these many challenges, priority being given to the eight areas of work identified by the General Assembly in the strategic framework for the biennium. Through my Five-Year Action Agenda and regular engagement with the General Assembly, the Security Council and other legislative bodies, I worked to ensure effective mandate delivery and to focus on areas where collective action can make the greatest difference.