Secretary-General Urges Member States to Support Purpose of United Nations in Briefing to General Assembly on Organization’s Worldwide Activities

11 November 2013

Secretary-General Urges Member States to Support Purpose of United Nations in Briefing to General Assembly on Organization’s Worldwide Activities

11 November 2013
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Secretary-General Urges Member States to Support Purpose of United Nations

In Briefing to General Assembly on Organization’s Worldwide Activities

Following is UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s briefing to the General Assembly, in New York on 11 November:

Let me start by reiterating my appreciation to the President of the General Assembly, His Excellency, Ambassador John Ashe, for his skilful stewardship during this challenging period.  Let me also stress the importance I attach to an ongoing dialogue with the Member States.

Before I start this informal briefing, I would like to express my condolences to the Government and people of the Philippines for the death and destruction caused by Typhoon Haiyan, locally known as “Yolanda”.  I have spoken with His Excellency Foreign Minister [Albert F. del Rosario] of the Philippines to offer the full support of the United Nations.  The United Nations Emergency Relief Coordinator, Valerie Amos, will be in Manila tomorrow to launch the UN humanitarian action plan.

The United Nations today announced an emergency allocation of $25 million to fund critical relief efforts.  On Saturday, a United Nations Disaster and Assessment Coordination team arrived in Tacloban, one of the worst-affected areas.  United Nations agencies in the Philippines are working with their humanitarian partners to support the Government in its response.  Agencies have begun airlifting food, shelter, medical and other life-saving supplies.

We have all seen the heart-breaking images of the impact of this huge storm, one of the largest to ever make landfall.  Many thousands of people are reported to have died, and almost 10 million people have been affected.  I thank Member States for their contributions to the relief effort, which must expand urgently in the days ahead.  Let us all show our solidarity with the people of the Philippines at this time of need.

Let me turn now to the situation in the Sahel region.  On Friday, I returned from a historic and deeply meaningful three-day journey to Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso and Chad.

I was honoured to be joined on this unprecedented visit by Dr. [Nkosazana] Dlamini-Zuma, Chairperson of the African Union Commission; Dr. Jim Yong Kim, President of the World Bank; Mr. Andris Piebalgs, Commissioner for Development of the European Union; Mr. Donald Kaberuka, President of the African Development Bank — along with my Special Envoy for the Sahel, Romano Prodi.

This marked the first time in the long history of our institutions that the heads of the United Nations, the World Bank and the African Union took part in a joint multi-country visit.  We carried a clear message:  security and development must go hand in hand; one depends on the other.  All the leaders we met during our visit recognized this and embraced our United Nations Integrated Strategy for the Sahel as a platform for action.

In Mali, we joined ministers from over 30 countries to discuss how to enhance coordination between the region and the international community.  We also made an unforgettable visit to Timbuktu and saw some of the cultural treasures that had been deliberately targeted.  Community leaders told me they need peace.  They also stressed the importance of the United Nations.  MINUSMA (the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali) is critical and we must continue to strengthen its role.

In Niger, we joined the President in a call for action on gender equality and demographic issues.  The empowerment of women and girls is central to advancing development in the region.

In Burkina Faso, we highlighted the country’s leadership in mediating conflicts throughout the Sahel and discussed ongoing efforts to improve governance and promote development at home.

In Chad, we discussed the country’s efforts to tackle the serious security and development challenges within its borders and throughout its volatile neighbourhood.

Two extremely significant and immediate outcomes emerged during our visit.  First, at the Bamako ministerial meeting, leaders agreed to establish a new mechanism to strengthen coordination between the international community and the countries of the Sahel, and among Sahel countries themselves.  This will help ensure that we are all working from the same page in delivering for the region’s people.

Second, our trip generated substantial pledges, including $1.5 billion from the World Bank in new investments and $6.75 billion from the European Union.  These commitments show clearly that our visit was far more than a symbolic show of support.  We are backing up our resolve with resources.

I want to once again thank the African Union for its leadership, the World Bank and the European Union for their generous contributions, and the African Development Bank for its engagement.

The UN strategy is the blueprint, but implementation is the key.  We must spare no effort to help the people of the Sahel fulfil their legitimate demands for peace, education, jobs, health care, empowerment, sustainable energy and a secure future.  This is crucial to the region and to our shared future.

The situation in Syria remains the world’s biggest threat to international peace and security.  The United Nations continues its efforts on three fronts:  first, verifying the destruction of the country’s chemical weapons; second, providing life-saving humanitarian assistance; and third, achieving a political solution.

The Joint Mission of the United Nations and Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) now faces the most challenging phase of the operation:  the destruction of weapons and chemicals by June 2014.  I am grateful for Member State pledges of logistical and other support, and welcome further contributions to the relevant trust funds.

The humanitarian situation continues to deteriorate rapidly and dramatically.  More than 9 million people in Syria — nearly half the country’s population — need humanitarian assistance.  I am gravely concerned that we have been unable to reach 2.5 million people trapped in besieged and hard-to-reach areas.

I call on the Government in particular to ease the severe constraints it has imposed on humanitarian access.  I urge all parties, and all those with influence over them, to ensure the protection of civilians, safe passage for medical personnel and supplies, and the unhindered delivery of aid.

The humanitarian response is also being hampered by a severe lack of funding.  I will be organizing a High-level Pledging Conference for Syria in January in Kuwait.  But, let me be clear:  you need not wait until then to provide support.  The Syrian people are desperate for help today.  I thank those Member States that delivered on the promises they made at this year’s pledging conference, and call on all others to follow through, as well.

Ultimately, the only way to end the unconscionable violence and suffering is through an inclusive and Syrian-led political process.  We continue working hard to convene the Geneva II conference before the end of this year.

There is some good news from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  Last week, the Congolese army regained full control over areas in North Kivu, formerly occupied by the M23 (23 March Movement) armed group.  The M23 declared the end of its military rebellion.  The Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo then announced the end of combat operations against the M23.  These are important steps, for there is no purely military solution to the rebellion by the M23 or by any other armed group.

It is essential that the Government quickly restore its authority and provide concrete peace dividends to the populations in the liberated areas.  Military gains will need to be sustained through addressing the root causes of the conflict.  Let us remember that there are dozens of other armed groups still plaguing the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The signing of the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework earlier this year provided a unique opportunity for the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the region.  My Special Envoy for the Great Lakes region, and my Special Representative for the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Head of MONUSCO (United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo), remain engaged in diplomatic initiatives in coordination with other envoys to support the implementation of the national and regional commitments by all signatories.

The deployment of the Force Intervention Brigade has changed the dynamics on the ground and enabled MONUSCO to better protect civilians.  It will remain a critical tool in support of the comprehensive political process and the protection of civilians.

All too often in the past, the dire situation in the Central African Republic has been described as a forgotten crisis.  Today, we are sounding the alarm for immediate, decisive action to ensure that the crisis is addressed in all its dimensions — security, political, human rights and humanitarian.

Security remains the most immediate priority.  I am deeply concerned about the further deterioration of the security situation.  Law and order have broken down almost completely, and violence has been flaring up in the countryside.  Elements of the ex-Séléka coalition continue to terrorize the population, with rampant looting, arbitrary arrests and detention, sexual violence against women and children, torture, targeted killings and the recruitment of child soldiers.  These human rights violations are being committed with total impunity, and exacerbate an already serious humanitarian situation.  The resurgence of self-defence groups in response threatens to further complicate the situation.

We have also seen attacks and reprisals with religious underpinnings that are planting the seeds for conflict between communities that have long cohabited peacefully.  We must do everything in our power to de-escalate the religious tensions between Muslim and Christian communities.

Last month, the Security Council welcomed the decision of the African Union to authorize the deployment of an African-led International Support Mission in the Central African Republic, to be known as MISCA.  I dispatched an assessment mission to the Central African Republic, led by Assistant Secretary-General Edmond Mulet, and I will report shortly to the Security Council on how, in cooperation with the African Union and the Economic Community of Central African States, we plan to help the people of the Central African Republic reverse the downward spiral.

The situations in Syria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Central African Republic — but, of course far from only these situations — highlight a basic truth:  human rights violations are often our best early warning signals of emerging conflict.  They are a symptom of weak rule of law institutions which we must strengthen to prevent escalation.  They are also an indicator of the severity of an ongoing crisis.

When people face grave violations of human rights, they expect the United Nations to act.  And we do.  United Nations staff are on the ground every day, across the world, providing assistance, supporting local efforts to protect human rights and end conflict, and regularly showing great courage in the process.

Despite such efforts, the Member States and the United Nations Secretariat, agencies, funds and programmes have not always succeeded in achieving our goals and upholding our responsibilities in complex situations.  The 1994 Rwandan genocide represents the most emblematic failure of UN and Member State action; followed by our collective failure to prevent atrocities in Srebrenica in 1995.

We pledged to do better, and we have done so in many cases.  Yet, in 2012, my Internal Review Panel assessed United Nations action in the final stages of armed conflict in Sri Lanka as a “systemic failure”.

That is why, in January, I launched a process to follow-up on the Panel’s recommendations. This has led to the “Rights Up Front” Action Plan to improve United Nations efforts, in accordance with our obligations under the Charter and as set by Member States.

The Plan recommits every UN staff member to our core responsibilities for protecting human rights and strengthening accountability, particularly of our most senior managers.  It will simplify communications to and from Headquarters, improve the flow of information and better leverage the UN’s work and presence in a country.

I also intend to do more to help Member States reach early consensus to prevent large-scale violations.  I urge all Member States to support these efforts, which go to the very purpose of our Organization.  It is within the scope of those of us in this room to enable such change and prevent horrendous human suffering.

Our common work of building a more secure world also involves working for a world free of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction.  The questions surrounding Iran’s nuclear programme have been discussed for many years now.  I commend the new leadership of the Islamic Republic of Iran, as well as the senior officials of the European Union and P5+1 countries, for their strenuous efforts in Geneva in recent days to forge an agreement. I urge all involved to find the will and the solutions that will overcome the remaining differences when the talks resume later this month.

The Director-General of the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency), Mr. Yukiya Amano, is in Tehran today, where he and the Vice-President of Iran signed a cooperation framework that aims to resolve present and past verification issues.

There have also been diplomatic moves to address the nuclear weapon programmes of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.  I hope those efforts will bear fruit so that a verifiable de-nuclearization of the Korean Peninsula can be achieved in a near future.

Let me turn now to the ongoing discussions on the Post-2015 Development Agenda.  At the Assembly’s recent Special Event, Member States agreed to launch the intergovernmental process in September 2014.  The President of the General Assembly will also convene thematic meetings in the coming months.  Meanwhile, the Assembly’s Open Working Group continues its work to define a set of sustainable development goals.

I look forward to the emergence of a concise, single set of sustainable development goals.  I also look forward to the proposals from the Committee of Experts on how to raise much-needed financing for sustainable development.  And, I hope we will have rich discussions with stakeholders on the full spectrum of issues, from poverty eradication to the rule of law.

I was requested to prepare a synthesis of all inputs before the end of 2014.  My team and I will continue to support Member States in breaking down silos, maintaining our focus on the Millennium Development Goals, and forging an agenda that can capture the imagination just as the Goals have done.

In parallel with the post-2015 development process, a crucially important effort on climate change is unfolding.  Since the Doha conference last year, countries have made progress on the implementation of commitments related to the institutions and infrastructure needed for climate action.  There have also been welcome policy signals inviting action by all stakeholders, not only national Governments.  This has created important momentum towards a new legal agreement in 2015.

At the United Nations Framework Convention conference (UNFCCC) in Warsaw this month, we expect greater clarity concerning the content of a new agreement.  The Climate Summit that I will be convening next September in New York will be a crucial stepping stone towards 2015.  The Summit aims to generate political will to put us on track for an agreement.  It will serve as a public platform for leaders at the highest level to showcase what they are doing and what they will do to reduce emissions, strengthen resilience and limit global temperature rise to less than 2°C.

The business and financial sectors will be there, along with civil society, to produce deliverables in key areas that can advance climate action on the ground.  The Summit is intended to be a solutions-focused event that is separate from, but complementary to, the UNFCCC negotiating process.  I look forward to your full engagement at the Summit, and through the UNFCCC process from Warsaw to Lima in 2014 and Paris in 2015.

Recent scientific reports have only heightened the urgency.  But, let us see this as an opportunity to put us on a path that will create jobs, improve public health, protect the planet and usher in a sustainable future.

Let me now turn inward for a moment and update you on a number of issues.  You, of course, have before you my proposals for the 2014-2015 biennium budget.  The proposals reflect the fiscal realities of our time, as well as an Organization-wide effort to manage resources prudently and efficiently while ensuring the implementation of mandates.  I look forward to working with you for a successful budget review.

It is increasingly clear that in order to achieve the Millennium Development Goals and our ambitious and growing mandates in the future, we must bring all our tools to bear.  That means enhancing our capacity to scale up, coordinate and ensure accountability for multi-stakeholder partnerships with Governments, business, finance, civil society, the philanthropic community and other international organizations.  This is why, in collaboration with the entire UN system, I have proposed a partnership facility to fill this pressing need.

Turning to management, I am pleased to report that on the first day of this month, Umoja reached a new milestone when it was deployed throughout our peacekeeping operations.  Umoja now reaches more than 200 sites around the world from which peacekeeping staff operate.  Its deployment will significantly enhance our ability to manage operations globally.

I am also striving to transform the way the United Nations functions through my proposals on mobility, which aims to establish a truly global, adaptable and dynamic workforce that can be deployed to meet the Organization’s evolving needs and mandates.  The proposal now before you provides for a more structured approach to career development and mobility, and will lead to a fair sharing of the burden of service in the most difficult duty stations.

I welcome your comments on these matters.  I look forward to our continued close cooperation, and I count on your strong support and commitment and leadership.  Thank you very much.

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