United Nations Continues to Meet Today’s Challenges, Secretary-General Reaffirms in Remarks to Round Table of Swedish Non-Governmental Organizations

2 October 2009

United Nations Continues to Meet Today’s Challenges, Secretary-General Reaffirms in Remarks to Round Table of Swedish Non-Governmental Organizations

2 October 2009
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

United Nations continues to Meet Today’s Challenges, Secretary-General Reaffirms

in Remarks to Round Table of Swedish Non-governmental Organizations

Following are UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks to the round table of Swedish non-governmental organizations, “How can the UN meet the challenges of today?”, in Stockholm, 2 October:

It is a pleasure to join you.  Non-governmental organizations are crucial partners of the United Nations.  They act as society’s conscience and are often in the lead when it comes to getting things done.

The diversity of representation from the Swedish non-governmental organization community today reflects the broad range of United Nations interests.  It is testament to your country’s commitment to multilateral engagement at every level.  Thank you for your engagement.

Last week saw the opening of the sixty-fourth United Nations General Assembly.  Heads of State and Government came from around the world.  They listened to speeches -- some longer than others -- attended side-events and engaged in bilateral discussions.  I liken it to the World Cup of diplomacy.  All the big issues of the day were on the table -- disarmament, the financial crisis, the Millennium Development Goals, peace and security, and climate change

The summit I convened on the day before the General Assembly debate attracted more than 100 Heads of State and Government.  It mobilized political will and reinvigorated the negotiating process in the run-up to the United Nations Conference on Climate Change in Copenhagen in December.

The Security Council also held a summit, only the fifth ever and the first devoted to nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation.  Later in the week, United States Secretary of State [Hillary Rodham] Clinton and I co-chaired a high-level forum on the important subject of food security.  In the same week, I attended the G-20 meeting in Pittsburgh to ensure that the United Nations perspective -- the United Nations of 192 Member States -- was represented.  I also met with many Heads of State and Government from all regions at United Nations Headquarters.  With some I discussed how they can increase their support to the United Nations and further the objectives of the Charter.  With others I had the less pleasant task of engaging them on issues where they are out of step with the shared goals of the international community.

I offer this snapshot of a busy week in the life of the United Nations to answer the question posed for this round table.  How can the United Nations meet the challenges of today?

What we saw last week was the spectacle of the United Nations as a stage, with Member States making their voices heard on the great issues of our age.  The United Nations remains the primary arena for addressing them.  As well as being a stage, the United Nations is an actor.  We provide food to 108 million people in 74 countries.  We vaccinate children and work with Governments to prevent and prepare for pandemics, such as the H1N1 flu that is sweeping the world.  We help refugees and others fleeing war, persecution, famine or persecution, and we help to keep the peace.  And we help to establish international norms and laws so we can safely and effectively work, communicate and trade together.

So, in one sense, the answer to the question of how the United Nations can meet the challenges of today is simple -- the United Nations is meeting them.  Whenever doubting voices suggest otherwise, a new challenge arises for which only the United Nations provides a credible forum for decision-making and an effective mechanism for response.

When the tsunami struck, all eyes looked to the United Nations for help.  When Iraq needed democratic institutions to help it consolidate a peaceful future, the United Nations was called in.  Whenever conflicts need resolution and peace needs to be forged, the United Nations is called in.  We currently have 116,000 peacekeepers in 17 operations around the world.

When the ozone layer was threatened, a United Nations convention provided ground-breaking answers.  Principles elaborated under the ozone treaty -- such as common but differentiated responsibility, funding for technology support, and close collaboration between Governments and the private sector -- will provide a basis for a lasting solution to climate change.

Of course, no organization is perfect.  That is why, from my first day, I have worked to build a stronger United Nations for a better world.  We aim to create a more modern organization -- faster, more flexible and more effective in delivering on the growing demands placed on it.  That means smarter management of resources.  Greater transparency and accountability.  Common-sense reform.

But ultimately, it is the Member States of the United Nations who will decide how, and how well, we can meet today’s challenges.  Lasting answers will require leadership, such as Sweden is showing on a range of issues, and it will require multilateral cooperation.

The past year has seen multiple global crises – food, fuel, flu, financial.  Each has highlighted our interdependence.  Each has emphasized the importance of multilateralism -- a renewed multilateralism that delivers real results for people and nations in need.  Climate change, perhaps our greatest challenge, will require flexibility, ambition and trust among nations.  Like so many of our challenges, it emphasizes one major point:  we sink or swim together.

I am therefore pleased to be here in Sweden, a country that embodies so much that the United Nations holds dear.  I am especially pleased to be able to meet with you, representatives of non-governmental organizations.  In everything we do, civil society is an invaluable partner.  You help to set the political agenda, and you help us to implement solutions in so many countries and in so many ways.

On that note, I would like to invite your questions and your comments.

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