21 November 2007


21 November 2007
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York



Following is the text of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s briefing to an informal meeting of the General Assembly in New York, 21 November:

I am grateful for this opportunity to bring you up to date on some of the wide-ranging issues of interest to Member States -- from climate change, the budget and the Capital Master Plan to the Middle East, Myanmar and Darfur.

Allow me to begin with a few observations from my recent travels.

Last week could be called a moment of epiphany on climate change -- for me personally, as I visited South America and Antarctica, and for the international community, with the launch of the latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

I went on this journey not as a tourist, but as a messenger of early warning on global warming.  In the ice shelves of Antarctica, the glaciers of Torres del Paine and the rainforests of the Amazon, I saw up-close how some of the most delicate and precious treasures of our planet are being threatened by the actions of our own species.

Antarctica’s message was chillingly simple:  the continent's glaciers are melting, far faster than we used to think.  If large quantities of Antarctica's ice were to vanish, sea levels could rise catastrophically.

In the Amazon, the rainforest -- the lungs of the earth -- is being suffocated.   Brazil is making serious strides in fighting deforestation and promoting sustainable forest management.  But global warming is already undercutting these efforts.  And one day, if action is not taken, the Amazon rainforest could turn into a savannah.

The other bookend of my journey was in Valencia, Spain, where I helped launch the IPCC Synthesis Report of all the Panel’s unequivocal findings so far.  This indispensable guide, which distils the work of the Panel’s 2,500 scientists, paints a frightening picture -- including the risk of irreversible impacts and species extinction.

As if these conclusions were not grim enough, the reality may be even worse:  even as the Summary was being launched, scientists at Valencia noted that even more alarming evidence is reaching them every day.

In this way, Valencia provided the latest in a series of brutal wake-up calls.  But as important, the report also made clear that there are real and affordable ways to deal with climate change, through mitigation and adaptation, through development cooperation and transfer of clean technologies.  If we take concerted and sustained action now, we can still avoid some of the most catastrophic scenarios.

Science has spoken, clearly and with one voice.  As we head for the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Bali, I hope your Governments will now do the same.

We look to Governments to agree on a road map for negotiations that will ensure a new climate change agreement by 2009.  This date is important not only to ensure continuity after 2012, when the existing regime expires -- but equally, to address the desperate urgency of the situation itself, as underscored by the IPCC.

Let us also look to our own house.  I am determined to ensure that the United Nations system is ready to act in a unified manner to support Member States, during both the negotiation and implementation phases.  The United Nations Chief Executives Board is working on honing United Nations system coordination, and on an inventory of United Nations system capacities and activities.  We will strive to go to Bali with a common message of what the United Nations system can offer to Member States.  And we will come to the General Assembly in February ready to discuss what may be possible and what would be optimal for the future.

We will also strive to make the United Nations family lead by example, by moving towards carbon neutrality in our operations worldwide.  This process has already started in parts of the UN system.  Our upcoming renovation of the UN Headquarters in New York, under the Capital Master Plan, should dramatically advance this important agenda.

As you know, the Capital Master Plan is a monumental and historic undertaking to renovate and make safe our Headquarters.  I am deeply grateful that Member States have reacted positively to my proposal for a revised strategy.  If approved, this plan will mean that the disruption to the Secretariat will last for only three years instead of six, and the conference buildings will be done in two stages rather than three.

We have been providing Member States with details and information at a series of informal sessions of the Fifth Committee, which is now in the final stages of negotiating a draft resolution.  Broad agreement is emerging on most aspects of the revised strategy, although there remain some concerns related to particular details.

Allow me to reassure you on one point in particular:  the CMP process will ensure maximum transparency, visibility and adherence to the existing United Nations Procurement Rules.  I very much hope there will be an agreement when the Fifth Committee meets this afternoon.

As Chief Administrative Officer, I am committed to translating financial resources into real achievements.  This requires balancing varied and often conflicting priorities.  It also requires careful fiscal management. I have submitted the regular budget for the biennium, along with several proposals that I believe will contribute to make our United Nations faster, more flexible, more transparent and more efficient in delivering better results with the finite assets at our disposal.

In this session, the management highlights are information and communications technology, revamping our internal justice system, and, as I mentioned earlier, the Capital Master Plan.  Let me express my deep appreciation to Member States for the rigorous efforts and time they have devoted to the administration of justice.  I am hopeful that we will have an agreement that will be a great improvement for the Organization as a whole.

Some Member States are concerned that my approach to strengthening the Secretariat has been too focused on peace and security.  Allow me to dispel this impression.  No organization can be held up by one pillar.  The UN’s mission is defined by three, equally load-bearing pillars:  peace and security, development and human rights.  My aim is to proceed gradually, realistically, from the ground up, to address all these pillars in order to provide for a stronger United Nations for a better world.

Naturally, such a process is likely to take time and be spread over more than one session of the General Assembly.  I urge Member States to be patient.  I intend to study carefully our present structures and mechanisms across the board, and will engage with the General Assembly in a dialogue in all these areas.  I also intend to continue working with Member States on composite proposals and initiatives that, taken together, will serve to enhance the coherence of the United Nations system, at Headquarters and at the country level.

I am making it a priority to scale up efforts to reach the Millennium Development Goals around the world, in Africa in particular.  Through my own personal advocacy with Member States, and regular engagement with the leadership of the United Nations system and the wider multilateral system, I have ensured that advocacy and operational action in support of MDGs remain a top priority.  That is why, last September, I launched the MDG Africa Steering Group, together with leaders of the United Nations system and of the other major multilateral and intergovernmental organizations working for development in Africa.

Let me now turn to some of the most pressing geopolitical items on our agenda.

Next week, I shall attend the Middle East conference in Annapolis.  I hope the meeting will provide the impetus for final status negotiations.  In the meantime, I remain especially concerned by the prevailing humanitarian situation in Gaza.

I just visited Lebanon to promote the election of a President within the established time frame and constitutional procedures, without foreign interference and respecting the relevant Security Council resolutions.  Should the parties fail to reach agreement by 24 November, there is a real possibility of a confrontation.

Meanwhile, the UN Secretariat is making good progress in the establishment of the Special Tribunal to try suspects in the assassination of the former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri.  I thank those Member States that have pledged or provided assistance for the establishment of the Tribunal.

On Myanmar, I have been actively engaged in implementing the good offices mandate entrusted to me by the General Assembly.  My Special Adviser, Mr. Ibrahim Gambari, has just returned from his second visit since the crisis erupted in September.  He has consulted extensively with all key interested countries, including Myanmar’s neighbours and ASEAN members.  As we speak, he is conducting further consultations on the margins of the East Asia summit in Singapore.

I have devoted more energy to Darfur this year than to any other crisis.  In our efforts to deploy UNAMID, there is an imperative need for those Member States who can contribute transportation and aviation capabilities to do so.  Only then can the mission implement its mandate, protect civilians, and protect itself when challenged.  Only in this way can we start the operation in earnest, and end the nightmare which the people of Darfur have endured for too long.

At the same time, the political process must be urgently rekindled, with the participation of all concerned.

In Sudan as a whole, I am deeply concerned that the parties to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement have not succeeded in resolving their differences, following the SPLM’s suspension of its participation in the Government of National Unity on 11 October.  So much is at stake, for the people of Sudan, and the entire region.

They are also eagerly awaiting the deployment of the UN-EU operation in Chad, which equally requires critical assets.

Finally, in Bangladesh, United Nations agencies and their non-governmental organization partners are working hard to support the Government’s efforts to provide life-saving assistance to those hit by the brutality of Cyclone Sidr.  The United Nations Emergency Relief Coordinator has released $9 million from the Central Emergency Response Fund to help kick-start UN relief operations.  This would not have been possible two years ago, before the General Assembly established the Fund.  I thank you for supporting it.

Excellencies, I am grateful to you for giving me this opportunity to brief you on a wide range of issues.  Of course, this does not mean I have covered them all.  There are many other issues.  I will, therefore, be happy to try to answer any questions you may have.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.