Secretary-General, in Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia Parliament, Pledges Partnership on Combating Human Trafficking, Ending Violence against Women

25 July 2012

Secretary-General, in Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia Parliament, Pledges Partnership on Combating Human Trafficking, Ending Violence against Women

25 July 2012
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Secretary-General, in Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia Parliament, Pledges

Partnership on Combating Human Trafficking, Ending Violence against Women


Following is UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s address, as prepared for delivery to the Parliament of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia in Skopje today, 25 July:

I am very pleased to be here.  Thank you for welcoming me to your beautiful country.

I am struck by how young this parliament is.  One third of the members are under 40.  One in three are women.  This is a testament to your progressive policies and laws on equal opportunity.

This morning I met with President {Gjorge} Ivanov.  We talked of the country’s progress, its ambitions, its place in the community of nations.  We talked, too, about my current visit to all the countries of the former Yugoslavia.

I recalled the words of a famous daughter of Skopje, Mother Teresa.  She said:  “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”  When neighbours become enemies it is because they have forgotten that simple but profound truth.

This region has endured great trials and trauma.  Many echoes remain, especially for those made homeless and stateless.  I have seen those echoes throughout my visit.  Tomorrow I shall visit Srebrenica.

But I am also seeing much progress, resilience, dynamism, a commitment to overcome and move forward.  We must consolidate those gains by nurturing the forces of harmony and inclusion — solidarity and mutual support.

This city, this crossroads of cultures, is a physical symbol of global solidarity.  Nearly 50 years ago, when Skopje was levelled by a massive earthquake, the world stepped in.  The city was rapidly rebuilt.  Church bells and the Muslim call to prayer could once again mingle in the valley.

In 1991, when Yugoslavia was on the brink of conflict, this country chose peace.  You achieved independence at the ballot box, not on the battleground.  And you set an example by establishing international borders with your neighbours, without any disputes and in accordance with international law.

As a new country you helped mediate among your northern neighbours.  But when their conflicts generated ethnic tensions that many feared would threaten your own stability, you once again reached out to the international community.  Solidarity came with the deployment of United Nations “blue helmets”.  Conflict was averted.  And a significant precedent was set for the preventive use of peacekeeping.

You are a young democracy, but your achievements have already been well recognized.  In 2007, you were elected to the Presidency of the sixty-second session of the General Assembly.  In that role, Dr. Srgjan Kerim helped build momentum for global action on climate change ahead of that year’s crucial talks in Bali.  You also fully supported my efforts to reform the United Nations, to make it more modern and more effective.  Those efforts continue.

This January I set out my agenda for my second term, five imperatives for action:  first, achieving truly sustainable development; second, preventing conflicts, damage from disasters and human rights abuses; third, building a more secure world; fourth, supporting countries in transition; and fifth, working with and for women and youth.

This parliament has an important role to play across this agenda.  Today I would like to focus on the first priority — sustainable development and achieving the Millennium Development Goals.

Last month, at the Rio+20 Conference, the international community renewed and strengthened political commitment to sustainable development and agreed to launch a process to establish Sustainable Development Goals.  Partnerships were built and commitments made that will leave a lasting legacy.

Rio was an important step forward on an essential journey.  We saw the further evolution of an undeniable global movement for change.  I am pleased that you are part of this movement, through your own National Strategy for Sustainable Development.  I welcome in particular the initiatives of this Government in advancing clean energy, renewable energy and energy efficiency.

All over the world, national and local governments, businesses, international organizations and foundations are seeking out sustainable solutions.  We will need to mobilize all the tools at our disposal in the coming years.  The Millennium Development Goal deadline is approaching fast, and the report card is mixed.

The target of reducing extreme poverty by half has been reached, as has the target of reducing by half the proportion of people who lack dependable access to improved sources of drinking water.  More than 200 million people living in slums have better living conditions.  Primary school enrolment of girls equals that of boys, and we are reducing child and maternal mortality.

These results represent a tremendous reduction in human suffering.  They are a clear validation of the approach embodied in the Millennium Development Goals.  But they are not a reason to relax.  In 2015, too many women and girls, men and boys will still live in poverty, go to bed hungry, die needlessly from lack of sanitation or medical care.

Meanwhile, biodiversity loss continues to accelerate, and greenhouse gas emissions are a growing threat to people and ecosystems.  The goal of gender equality also remains unfulfilled.  Achieving the Millennium Development Goals will be impossible without women’s empowerment and equal access to education, work, health care and decision-making.  We must also provide work and opportunities for our young people.

Here in your country, you have achieved significant progress in achieving the Millennium Development Goals.  Deaths of infants and children under 5 have fallen by more than two thirds since 1990.  Most children now complete secondary school, and better social services are available.  But national averages mask disparities between communities, between rich and poor, and between urban and rural.

The current economic climate makes it more important than ever to meet the rights of all citizens.  The United Nations will continue to partner with you in this and other areas, such as access to reproductive health services and family planning, combating human trafficking and ending violence against women, especially Roma women, who often face multiple forms of discrimination.

I commend your leadership over the past year as President of the Roma Decade.  I encourage you to commit even more to breaking down cultural barriers and ensuring that Roma children can develop to their full potential.  I have no doubt of your commitment to a peaceful multiethnic society.

You have amended your Constitution to enable important developments such as decentralization, the double majority vote and the use of multiple languages.  You opened your doors and your hearts to hundreds of thousands of refugees during the Kosovo crisis.  And you have brought your embrace of diversity to the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations.  As Prime Minister [Nikola] Gruevski emphasized at last year’s general debate in New York, you have shouldered your responsibility as a Member of the United Nations.

I know you have a goal — to join the European Union and NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization).  And I know you have an obstacle.  It is imperative to resolve the issue of your name.  Both sides need to demonstrate commitment by promoting a positive atmosphere through their actions and public statements.  My Personal Envoy, Mr. [Matthew] Nimetz, and I are determined to facilitate a mutually agreeable solution soon.

I am Secretary-General to 193 nations.  Each has a claim on my time and my heart.  But every day I am reminded of you.  Opposite my office door is a painting by your country’s noted surrealist painter, Vasko Taskovski.  It is a moving and inspirational interpretation of the dove, the world’s most widely recognized symbol of peace.

As the dove in this painting encircles the earth, it captures the essence of the aspiration expressed in the United Nations Charter:  “to practise tolerance and live together in peace with one another as good neighbours”.

The painting — and the spirit of solidarity it embodies — are your enduring gift to the United Nations.

Thank you.

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