Secretary-General Says United Nations Needs to ‘Think Big’ About How Best to Address Challenges, Deliver Tangible Results That Make a Difference

12 August 2011

Secretary-General Says United Nations Needs to ‘Think Big’ About How Best to Address Challenges, Deliver Tangible Results That Make a Difference

12 August 2011
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Secretary-General Says United Nations Needs to ‘Think Big’ About How Best


to Address Challenges, Deliver Tangible Results That Make a Difference


Following are UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, to a breakfast meeting with the diplomatic corps, in Seoul, today, 12 August:

It is a pleasure to join you.  I welcome this opportunity to give you a sense of my priorities and preoccupations.  Let me start by thanking you and your Governments for supporting my re-election as Secretary-General.  It is a tremendous honour to serve the United Nations and the world’s people.  I see familiar faces in the audience.  Some I recognize from my years as Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade.  I am glad we have this chance to renew our contacts.

In my remarks to the General Assembly just after my re-election, I said that never has the United Nations been so needed, and never has the United Nations been so relevant.  The world’s people are looking to the United Nations across a broad agenda.

This is the age of integration and interconnection.  No country can solve today’s problems on its own.  Just as countries and peoples are linked, so are the issues.  It is the rare global challenge that can be addressed without looking at other issues as well.

That means we need to connect the dots — not only among water, food and energy, for example, but between development issues and international peace and security.  If we can do this, solutions to one problem can become solutions to others, many others.

Since my re-election, I have been consulting widely with Member States and the full range of United Nations partners on what they see as the great challenges going forward.  We need to explore how the United Nations can better address them.  And we need to think big about how best to deliver results — tangible, concrete results that make a difference.

I welcome your thoughts today.  Next month, in my annual speech to the membership, I intend to lay out a vision that draws on what I have heard about where we are and, most important, where we must go.

Now let me tell you what’s on my mind.  The most immediate crisis is in the Horn of Africa.  As you know, a catastrophic combination of conflict, high food prices and drought has left more than 11 million people in desperate need.  As we respond to this emergency, we also need to deal with the underlying causes.  Today’s drought may be the worst in decades.  But with the effects of climate change being increasingly felt throughout the world, it surely will not be the last.  This means practical measures: drought-resistant seeds, irrigation, rural infrastructure, livestock programmes.  And of course, in Somalia it also means peace and good governance.

Looking to the longer horizon, sustainable development is at the top of my list of priorities.  That includes but is not limited to our work for the Millennium Development Goals.  It means doing more for disaster risk reduction and averting crises brought on by climate change and by water, food and energy insecurity.  In particular, it means making a great success of next year’s United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development — Rio+20, as we call it.

Global and regional security and democratization challenges will also feature prominently on the agenda going forward.  We are supporting the transitions that are under way in Egypt and Tunisia, and are deeply engaged in the diplomatic efforts aimed at a solution to the conflict in Libya.

We are getting our newest peacekeeping operation up and running: the United Nations Mission in South Sudan.  This newest Member State faces immense challenges in building its institutions and providing services to its people, all in a volatile environment.

And we continue to press for gains on human rights and the responsibility to protect.  A more modern and effective United Nations is a crucial part of the overall picture.  In an era of budgetary constraint, we must fulfil our mandates with the resources we have, not the resources we might wish to have.  That means continuing our efforts to “deliver as one”.  I have also established a Change Management Team, whose primary goal is not just to look for one-time efficiencies, but to ensure that the search for excellence and better ways of doing business is a constant, core part of our modus operandi.

Looking ahead, we have a clear timeline and a series of major opportunities.  These include September’s high-level meetings on nuclear safety and security, non-communicable diseases and desertification; the December climate change negotiations in Durban; Rio+20 next June; the nuclear summit here in Seoul, also in 2012; and beyond that, the 2015 Millennium Development Goals deadline.

Let me also say a word about the Korean peninsula.  As you know, a harsh winter, followed by severe flooding, has put millions of lives at risk in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.  The World Food Programme has launched emergency operations.  Our challenge is to get food to those who need it, when they need it.  And of course, the broader challenge is to create a nuclear-weapon-free, democratic and prosperous Korean peninsula.  Improving inter-Korean relations is the responsibility of the parties themselves, but of course I will do my part to help.

As for the Republic of Korea itself, you are all aware of Korea’s growing presence in the international arena, including its hosting of the last G-20 Summit meeting, its support for African development, its engagement in United Nations peacekeeping and many other initiatives.  I strongly support President Lee Myungbak’s Global Korea efforts.

Often when I travel, Korea is held up as a model — especially in Africa.  This country made an inspiring transformation from poverty to prosperity, and from repressive governance to robust democracy.  My strong feeling is that this gives Korea a special obligation to help poorer nations have the same opportunities and a better future.

If there is one lesson I have drawn over the past five years, it is the power of partnership.  Governments, non-governmental organization, the private sector, philanthropies, the academic community — all pulling together in common cause.  We saw a powerful example of this in the “Every Woman, Every Child” initiative on maternal and child health.  We must extend this model to other challenges.  The power of partnership makes me hopeful for what we can achieve over the next five years in our work for human security and human dignity.  We must use this approach, this great potential, to take international cooperation to deeper levels — to reach what I have spoken of as a new multilateralism.

As I told the General Assembly in accepting their trust for another five years: 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.