Secretary-General Tells General Assembly ‘It Has Been a Great Privilege to Serve; That You Should Ask Me to Serve Once Again Makes It All the Greater’

21 June 2011

Secretary-General Tells General Assembly ‘It Has Been a Great Privilege to Serve; That You Should Ask Me to Serve Once Again Makes It All the Greater’

21 June 2011
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Secretary-General Tells General Assembly ‘It Has Been a Great Privilege to Serve;


That You Should Ask Me to Serve Once Again Makes It All the Greater’


Following are UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks to the General Assembly, in New York, today, 21 June:

With your decision this afternoon — with your warm words — you do me a very great honour, beyond expression.  Standing in this place, mindful of the immense legacy of my predecessors, I am humbled by your trust and enlarged by our sense of common purpose.

This solemn occasion is special in another respect.  On being sworn in, a few moments ago, I placed my hand on the United Nations Charter — not a copy, but the original signed in San Francisco.  Our Founding Fathers deemed this document so precious that it was flown back to Washington, strapped to its own parachute.  No such consideration was given to the poor diplomat accompanying it; he had to take his chances.  We thank the United States National Archives for their generosity in lending it today, and for their care in preserving it.

The Charter of the United Nations is the animating spirit and soul of our great institution.  For 65 years, this great Organization has carried the flame of human aspiration — “We the peoples”.  From the last of the great world wars, through the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of apartheid, we have fed the hungry, delivered comfort to the sick and suffering, brought peace to those afflicted by war.  This great Organization, dedicated to human progress — the United Nations.

We began our work together, four and a half years ago, with a call for a “new multilateralism” — a new spirit of collective action.  We saw, in our daily work, how all the world’s people look more and more to the United Nations.  We knew then — and more so now — that we live in an era of integration and interconnection, a new era where no country can solve all challenges on its own and where every country should be part of the solution.  That is the reality of the modern world.  We can struggle with it, or we can lead.

The role of the United Nations is to lead.  Each of us here today shares that heavy responsibility.  It is why the United Nations matters in a different and deeper way than ever before.  To lead, we must deliver results.  Mere statistics will not do.  We need results that people can see and touch, results that change lives — make a difference.

Working together, with goodwill and mutual trust, we have laid a firm foundation for the future.  When we began, climate change was an invisible issue.  Today, we have placed it squarely on the global agenda.  When we began to work together, nuclear disarmament was frozen in time.  Today, we see progress.  We have advanced on global health, sustainable development and education.  We are on track to eliminate deaths from malaria.  With a final push, we can eradicate polio, just as we did smallpox long ago.  We have shielded the poor and vulnerable against the greatest economic upheaval in generations.  Amid devastating natural disasters, we were there, saving lives — in Haiti, Pakistan, Myanmar.

As never before, the United Nations is on the front lines protecting people and also helping build the peace — in Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Somalia; in Afghanistan, Iraq and the Middle East.  We have stood firm for democracy, justice and human rights — in Côte d’Ivoire, North Africa and beyond.  We have carved out a new dimension for the “responsibility to protect”.  We created UN Women to empower women everywhere.  That includes the United Nations system itself.  And yet, we never forget how far we have to go.

We must continue the important work that we have begun together.  As we look to the future, we recognize the imperative for decisive and concerted action.  In economic hard times, we must stretch resources — do better with less.  We must improve our ability to “Deliver as One”.  We must do more to connect the dots among the world’s challenges, so that solutions to one global problem become solutions for all — on women’s and children’s health, green growth, more equitable social and economic development.  A clear time frame lies ahead: the target date for the Millennium Development Goals in 2015; next year’s “Rio+20” Conference; the high-level meeting on nuclear safety in September; and the Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul next year.

In all this, our ultimate power is partnership.  Our legacy, such as it may be, will be written in alliance — the leaders of the world, leading in common cause.  As in the past, I count on your support and even deeper partnership.  By acting decisively to renew my mandate, you have given the gift of time — time to carry on the important work that, together, we have begun.  In the months to come, we will be reaching out to you for your views and ideas.  Drawing on those discussions, I shall present our broader long-term vision at the next General Assembly in September.

My predecessor Dag Hammarskjöld once said: “Never for the sake of ‘peace and quiet’ deny your own experience or conviction.”  Like my distinguished forebear, I take this lesson to heart.

It has been a great privilege to serve as your Secretary-General.  That you should ask me to serve once again makes it all the greater.  With gratitude for your support and encouragement, and honouring your trust, I pledge my full commitment to accept your support.  I am proud and humbled to accept.  As Secretary-General, I will work as a harmonizer and bridge-builder — among Member States, within the United Nations system and between the United Nations and a rich diversity of international partners. 

To quote the great philosopher Lao-tzu:  “The way of heaven is to benefit others and not to injure.  The way of the sage is to act but not compete.”  Let us apply this enduring wisdom to our work today.  Out of the competition of ideas, let us find unity in action.

Honouring your trust, I pledge my full commitment, my full energy and resolve to uphold the fundamental principles of our sacred Charter.  Together, let us do all we can to help this noble Organization better serve “we the peoples” of the world.   Together, no challenge is too large.  Together, nothing is “impossible”.  Thank you.

* *** *

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