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Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Statement

Secretary-General's address to the General Assembly

New York, 22 January 2013

Let me start today’s discussion by thanking you for your support and encouragement throughout 2012. At the beginning, I offer you my best wishes for your continued good health and success throughout 2013 and beyond.

For several years now, we have come together in January for dialogue on our shared efforts to meet our shared goals.

This year, we meet amid tremendous turmoil and uncertainty. From armed conflict in Africa and the Middle East, to economic and environmental distress across the globe, we are being tested every minute of every day.

One year ago, with waves of monumental change surging around us, I called for equally dramatic steps to transform the human condition.

I identified five areas where needs are greatest and where collective action can make the greatest difference.  They are: sustainable development; prevention; supporting nations in transition; building a more secure world; and empowering women and young people.

These imperatives -- these generational opportunities -- flow naturally from the eight priorities the General Assembly has set for the United Nations.  They are: sustainable development, peace and security, human rights, humanitarian assistance, disarmament, justice, the development of Africa, drug control, crime prevention and combating terrorism.

My fervent hope -- and our common urgent need -- is that we can stop moving from crisis to crisis, from symptom to symptom, and instead address the underlying causes and inter-relationships, and recognize the flaws in many of our approaches. 

I am pleased to report today on what we have achieved together in some of the areas – and where concerted action today can yield great gains tomorrow.

2012 fut une année de turbulences, mais aussi de gains tangibles.

À la Conférence sur le développement durable, Rio +20, nous avons fait un grand pas dans la bonne direction. Le mois dernier, à Doha, nous avons maintenu sur les rails les négociations sur le climat. C’est une priorité pour moi et, l’année prochaine, j’entends inviter les dirigeants du monde individuellement et collectivement, à mobiliser la volonté politique nécessaire à l’adoption, d’ici à 2015, d’un instrument fort, complet et contraignant sur les changements climatiques.

Les débats relatifs au programme de développement pour l’après-2015 ont démarré en force l’an dernier. Quarante-quatre pays ont adopté des plans d’accélération des activités axées sur les objectifs du Millénaire pour le développement. La croissance économique est restée robuste en Asie, en Afrique et en Amérique latine, ce qui a permis à des millions de personnes d’échapper à la pauvreté et à la marginalisation.

L’Assemblée générale a adopté une résolution phare sur les mutilations génitales féminines, et nous avons célébré la première Journée internationale de la fille, ouvrant ainsi la voie à des progrès dans la protection des enfants contre la discrimination, la violence, le mariage précoce et la circonscription forcée.

Mon initiative « L’éducation avant tout » a mis plus encore l’accent sur l’égalité des chances pour tous les enfants et, la semaine dernière, j’ai annoncé la nomination du premier Envoyé des Nations Unies pour la jeunesse, le Jordanien Ahmad Alhindawi.

L’opération de maintien de la paix qui était déployée au Timor-Leste a mené à bien sa mission. Des élections ont eu lieu en Sierra Leone, marquant une autre étape importante. Soucieux de faire une place plus grande à la prévention et aux interventions rapides, nous avons déployé des spécialistes de la médiation dans 22 pays.

Avec l’assistance de l’ONU, la Libye, la Somalie et le Yémen ont consolidé leurs acquis démocratiques. En appuyant les pays en transition, dont ceux qui sont inscrits à l’ordre du jour de la Commission de consolidation de la paix, nous avons contribué à améliorer les perspectives de paix à long terme.

Nous avons noué des liens plus étroits avec des organisations régionales, de l’Union africaine à l’ASEAN en passant par la Ligue des États arabes et l’Union européenne.  L’Assemblée générale a adopté une résolution majeure sur la sécurité humaine. Nous avons rendu plus rigoureuse la procédure de sélection du personnel des missions des Nations Unies. Au titre du Fonds central pour les interventions d’urgence, qui aide les pays touchés par des catastrophes naturelles et d’autres sinistres, des montants plus importants que jamais ont été versés à plus de pays que jamais, ce qui montre qu’il s’agit réellement d’un mécanisme pour tous, financé par tous.

L’an dernier, l’ancien Président libérien Charles Taylor a été condamné pour crimes de guerre et crimes contre l’humanité; ce fut une nouvelle étape dans la consolidation de la justice pénale internationale, qui montre que nous sommes à l’ère de la responsabilité. Par ailleurs, la déclaration ambitieuse adoptée à la première réunion de haut niveau que l’Assemblée générale ait jamais consacrée à l’état de droit devrait aider les pays et la communauté internationale à renforcer l’action qu’ils mènent en faveur de la paix et de la sécurité, du développement et des droits de l’homme.

These achievements, and many more like them, spanned the full range of UN priorities.  We responded to crisis, tried new approaches and built new foundations for a better future.

I am encouraged -- but I am far from satisfied.  The stresses of our times, the pressures on our planet, the pain of the people we serve – all this demands that we do better in 2013.

We can start next Wednesday at the Syria Humanitarian Conference that I am convening in Kuwait.  I appeal to Member States to send high-level delegations and come forward with generous pledges.  I call on Syria’s neighbours to continue to allow those seeking refuge to cross borders to safety.  And I thank His Highness Emir of Kuwait for his very generous position to convene this meeting together with me.

We must do everything we can to reach Syrians in need.  We must intensify our efforts to end the violence through diplomacy, overcoming the divisions within Syria, the region and the Security Council.  I call again for all states to cease sending arms to either side in Syria. 

We remain a long way from getting the Government and opposition together to make the key decisions about the country’s future that only Syrians can make.  In the meantime, we must make it clear that all perpetrators of atrocity crimes in Syria will be held to account.

Syria is one among several crises that have led to the largest refugee flows since the Kosovo crisis 13 years ago.  Other large-scale displacements are taking place in Mali and the Sahel.

Mali is under threat from terrorists, with regional and global repercussions. Addressing these challenges requires political, security and humanitarian efforts. At the same time, in calibrating the extent of its own involvement, the United Nations has to carefully take into account the human rights, safety and security issues at stake. 

Working with African and international partners, we must do our part to help fully restore Mali’s constitutional order and territorial integrity. Meanwhile, we continue to work towards an integrated strategy for the Sahel region that would address the mix of extremism, poverty, drought and governance challenges that is causing such profound misery and dangerous insecurity.

This year we must also re-consider our approach to the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  I have been in close contact with President Kabila of the DRC and other leaders of the Great Lakes Region to establish a new peace and security framework to break the appalling cycle of violence.  I hope the Framework will be signed at the upcoming AU Summit.

2013 will be a critical year for the Middle East Peace process.  As illegal settlement activity continues and Israelis and Palestinians remain polarized, five key priorities stand out: first, we must renew collective international engagement; second, we must resume meaningful negotiations; third, we must preserve stability in Gaza; fourth, we must make progress on Palestinian reconciliation, and fifth, we must prevent the financial collapse of the Palestinian Authority. Concerted action is essential if we are to salvage the two-state solution.

We need to do more to advance the Responsibility to Protect in the face of grave crimes and incitement – and avoid un-doing the great progress we have made. In both Syria and Mali, we must do everything we can to keep those conflicts from generating reprisal killings that escalate into widespread ethnic and sectarian warfare and even genocidal activities.

And we need to advance the rule of law on disarmament and non-proliferation.  I urge you to bring the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty into force.  Conclude negotiations on an Arms Trade Treaty in March.  Fulfill the Action Plan adopted at the 2010 NPT Review Conference. Begin negotiations in the Conference on Disarmament without further delay. And convene a conference this year on establishing a Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction.

We will press ahead in 2013 on the paramount challenge of sustainable development.

In September, there will be a special event on the Millennium Development Goals to assess progress and discuss the contours of an ambitious, practical and coherent post-2015 development framework. Toward this end we will draw on the work of my High-level Panel of Eminent Persons, which will report to me at the end of May.  Global consultations and other processes will also be key parts of this process.

I am pleased to note the imminent adoption by the General Assembly of a resolution establishing an Open Working Group on the Sustainable Development Goals.  Let us do our utmost to inspire and mobilize the world behind this effort.

In September the General Assembly will hold high-level meetings on migration and on the rights of people with disabilities.  We will prepare for conferences on the land-locked and small-island developing states to be held in 2014.  And we will advance preparations for a World Humanitarian Summit to be held in 2015.

We continue our campaigns against violence based on sexual orientation.  I urge Member States to come to the March session of the Commission on the Status of Women with specific plans to end violence against women, including through UN Women’s new COMMIT initiative.  And we have high hopes for ESCWA’s recently launched work with regional bodies to establish an Arab Women’s Observatory to monitor and promote progress, protection and participation.

Our work at the national and international levels requires solidarity and mutual understanding.  Next month at its forum in Vienna, the Alliance of Civilizations will continue its work to counter extremism and hatred.  Whether on the world stage or in their communities, leaders have a responsibility to speak the language of tolerance and respect, not division and defamation.

Lasting solutions to global problems no longer lie in the hands of governments alone.  The United Nations of the 21st century must think in terms of networks and coalitions.

I am pleased to report that the Every Woman Every Child alliance has generated more than $10 billion in new resources on life-saving health interventions. The Scaling Up Nutrition movement is making inroads against malnutrition and childhood stunting. The Sustainable Energy for All initiative will bring in more partners and pledges in 2013. 

We will continue to explore where else to apply this model.  I am putting forward a proposal to the General Assembly, through the Regular Budget process, for a UN Partnership Facility to accelerate our efforts.  I ask for your strong support.

I reiterate my gratitude to the Member States for the generous investments in the Capital Master Plan.  We have returned to a modernized Secretariat building.  The renovation of the General Assembly will begin in June this year, and is expected to be finished late next year, along with the renovation of the conference building already under way.

We are moving ahead, with your blessing, on the deployment of our Enterprise Resource Planning system, Umoja, and the implementation of International Public Sector Accounting Standards, called IPSAS.  Other major change management efforts include the integration of research, training and library services, and the moves towards a digital Secretariat through technological solutions such as the paper-smart concept, which I saw in action at the Doha climate change conference. 

I look forward to your approval of the proposed mobility framework in March.  The sooner the Organization can enjoy the benefits of a truly global workforce and Secretariat, the better.

I also look forward to continued dialogue on reforming the backstopping and funding of our political missions.

We in the Secretariat are well aware of the severe financial constraints that define our work.  As I told the staff at a town hall meeting earlier this month, no one can afford so-called a greenhouse mentality in which there is always sun and water to nourish what we do.

It will be very difficult to cut a further $100 million from the budget for the next biennium, over and above the efficiencies I had already identified, as you have asked. But we are, of course, committed to budget discipline.

At the same time, as demands continue to grow, it is unrealistic to think that substantial budget reductions will have no impact. It is unsustainable for Member States to add and add while the Secretariat is asked to cut and cut.

I urge you to consider reviewing mandated activities that may have been fulfilled or overtaken by new developments. I appeal to you to review your practices, and find efficiencies there, too.  Let us work together to weather the current financial storm.

This is no time for business as usual.  To shape the future we want, we will have to think and act innovatively and differently.  We will have to throw off another brake on our common progress: the tyranny of the status quo.

Too often, Governments and our international machinery operate on auto-pilot.  Issues remain in their silos; worrying trends are allowed to persist and unfold, all because “that is the way things have been done”, or because true change is seen as costly or unrealistic, or entrenched interests have a hold on the legislative machinery.

This Organization has a solid record of achievement.  UN staff across the world continue to perform heroically, often under daunting circumstances.

But we must do more than save lives, central as that is to our mission.  We must save our very future.

Let us make the year ahead one in which we rise above disunity and the lowest common denominator, and show the world that good international solutions are in the national interest.  I repear that: international solutions are in the national interest.

The decisions we take -- or fail to take -- in the crucial next few years will shape the world for decades to come. Let us be wise, responsible and forward-looking.  Let us work as one to deliver for all.

Thank you very much for your leadership.


Statements on 22 January 2013