Secretary-General to General Assembly: United Nations Should Not Have to Plead for Troops, Police, Assets ‘While Victims of War and Poverty Suffer and Die’

17 January 2014

Secretary-General to General Assembly: United Nations Should Not Have to Plead for Troops, Police, Assets ‘While Victims of War and Poverty Suffer and Die’

17 January 2014
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Secretary-General to General Assembly:  United Nations Should Not Have to Plead


For Troops, Police, Assets ‘While Victims of War and Poverty Suffer and Die’

Following are UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks at an informal meeting of the General Assembly to hear a briefing on UN challenges, in New York on 17 January:

Happy New Year to you all.  I wish you and your countries prosperity and peace in the year ahead.  I thank you for this opportunity to address the General Assembly about our common future.

Today, I will brief you on our response to the continuing crises in Syria, South Sudan, the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  I will call for action to address underlying threats, promote development and protect the planet.  And I will urge leaders to rise above national interests for our collective future.

We are capable of this spirit of global citizenship.  I have seen it over the past year.  You, the Member States, adopted the Arms Trade Treaty.  We would like to see this historic pact come into effect this year.  You held the first-ever high-level meeting on disabilities and development.

One hundred and thirty five Member States endorsed a declaration of commitment on eliminating sexual violence in conflict.  The High-level Dialogue on Migration and Development adopted a path-breaking Declaration.  States also adopted the first environmental instrument in more than a decade:  the Minamata Convention on Mercury.

I mention these major accomplishments so we may be inspired to overcome the challenges ahead.

I have just returned from a Syrian refugee camp in the Kurdistan Governorate of Iraq.  I had previously already visited the refugee camps in Jordan and Turkey.

The Deputy Secretary-General also visited one in Lebanon.  The people there depend on our solidarity to survive.  But, more than supplies and services, they need peace.

From Iraq, I went to the second International Humanitarian Pledging Conference on Syria in Kuwait.  His Highness the Emir of Kuwait proved his country to be a global humanitarian centre.  His contribution of a half billion dollars set an inspiring tone.  Your Governments and other partners pledged more than $2.4 billion.  These funds will help us give hope to families.  And they will contribute to regional stability by helping Syria’s neighbours to cope with the economic, social, political and security difficulties of hosting more than 3 million refugees.  Humanitarian aid can feed a hungry child, which is important enough.  But, it can also indirectly stop a car bomb by reducing social tensions.

The conference in Kuwait responded to the humanitarian dimension of the Syria crisis.  We are also addressing disarmament and peace.  The Joint OPCW (Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons)-UN team is meeting a tight timeline to rid Syria of chemical weapons.  We are intensifying efforts to bring the parties together for the International Conference on Syria in Switzerland next week.  In Montreux, we will press them to launch a political process, move to a transitional governing body with full executive powers, and stop the violence.

There are two situations that require the heightened and focused attention of the international community — two situations where grave violations of human rights are taking place and where there is a great danger of mass atrocities, something we have seen too much of in the past.

The crisis in South Sudan has reached tragic proportions.  The United Nations has opened our peacekeeping bases to people in imminent danger, providing protection and shelter to tens of thousands of civilians.  Many of them are alive today only because they made it in time to the UNMISS (United Nations Mission in the Sudan) camps.  We are doing our best with inadequate facilities.  Conditions are extremely difficult.  The situation is volatile.

As we help civilians, we are promoting a peaceful resolution of the conflict.  I commend the leaders of IGAD (Intergovernmental Authority for Development) and the African Union for their mediation efforts and urge the parties to end the violence through political dialogue.  The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights is monitoring human rights violations.

I also remain deeply concerned about the violence and pervasive fear in the Central African Republic, especially reports of atrocities against civilians.  I appreciate the initiative and contribution of the ECCAS (Economic Community of Central African States) and France.  The international community must redouble efforts to help the people of Central African Republic to restore peace and stability as soon as possible.  I call for generous contributions at the pledging conference hosted by the European Union in Brussels on Monday.  In the Central African Republic and wherever such atrocities occur, the perpetrators must be held to account.

Last year, the United Nations and its partners negotiated a new Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Great Lakes region.  Now, we are building on recent gains in stabilizing the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo.  We are using peacekeeping innovations within a broader political context and strategy.  The Force Intervention Brigade has helped break repeated cycles of violence.

I travelled to the Great Lakes countries with the President of the World Bank to support the Framework’s goal of tackling underlying threats by improving living conditions across the region.  We also travelled together to Mali and the Sahel with the same message:  that peace and development go hand in hand.

On Egypt, I am closely following the referendum process.  The United Nations will support an Egyptian-led transition that adheres to democratic principles and upholds the rights of all people.  Countries in transition can take inspiration from the imminent adoption of a new constitution in Tunisia — a landmark for its people and an example for other States.

The coming year will be critical for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  I strongly support the current negotiations and urge the parties to make the courageous commitments needed to end the occupation and achieve a two-State solution.  The situation in Gaza remains a serious concern, with great potential for devastating escalation.  I call on the authorities in Gaza, Israel and Egypt to do everything possible to prevent this, and to alleviate the dire humanitarian situation.

In Northeast and Southeast Asia, I hope that through dialogue, leaders can overcome their tensions, find common understandings about historical and other issues, and move towards more harmonious relations.  All involved must refrain from any provocative acts or statements.

This year, our last mission in Sierra Leone will complete its work and withdraw, demonstrating how far the country has come — and the value of sustained efforts to keep, consolidate and build peace.

We must focus greater attention on the inter-related threats of organized crime, terrorism, piracy, extremism, and trafficking in drugs, people and arms.  And we must continue striving to achieve a nuclear-weapon-free world.  This year’s Nuclear Security Summit at The Hague is an important opportunity.

Last year, we maintained our focus on human rights and the rule of law.  At the 100th anniversary of the Peace Palace at The Hague, we stressed the importance of international law and the accomplishments of the International Court of Justice and criminal tribunals.  Also last year, we marked the twentieth anniversary of the Vienna Declaration on Human Rights, which paved the way for the creation of the Office of the High Commissioner.  I am pleased that the new budget strengthens its work.

Our growing emphasis on human rights includes the “Rights up front” initiative, designed to promote early action to prevent atrocities and other grave violations.  I am encouraged by your positive initial reaction and look forward to collaborating with Member States as this effort takes hold.  This year also presents other opportunities to strengthen global human rights protections.  The World Conference on Indigenous Peoples will promote their inclusion and recognition of their valuable knowledge.

We must also confront the alarming increase in the number of States that are incapable of delivering development and stability to their people.  I am deeply concerned about countries where transitions have faltered.  We must strengthen our State-building tools.

I am also troubled by manifestations of enmity between different religious and ethnic groups.  In Europe and elsewhere, the scapegoating of migrants or minorities is leading to dangerous social tensions.  Intolerance and hate speech continue to fester in Myanmar.

This year, as we commemorate the twentieth anniversary of the Rwandan genocide, we must recommit to tolerance and equality.  We must create conditions that support women and children.  We must say yes to education and no to violence for women and girls.  We must empower adolescents and youth with opportunity and employment.

This year presents many chances for engagement, including the Economic and Social Council Youth Forum and my Youth Envoy’s crowd-sourcing campaign on the post-2015 development agenda.  Women and youth will be central to seizing the chances this year holds for shaping a more sustainable and equitable future.

Your hard work in 2013 set the stage for major progress now towards the pivotal year of 2015.  We now have 714 days left until our deadline for the Millennium Development Goals.  We must speed up progress and reach our targets.  Member States agreed on a road map to define our post-2015 development agenda.

Political leaders are deeply engaged in the global discussion on development, key constituencies are mobilized and we increasingly know what works.  We must seize this momentum.

We need progress on the economic, social and environmental pillars of sustainable development, as emphasized at Rio+20.  This year, the General Assembly will hold timely thematic debates on key post-2015 issues, from water and sanitation to South-South cooperation.  We will gather for international conferences on small island developing States and landlocked developing countries.

We will review progress on the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development — crucial for sexual and reproductive health and rights.

We will respond to the challenges of hunger and malnutrition.  We will continue to support Member States in their work for the Millennium Development Goals and their discussions on the post-2015 agenda and goals.

At least one fifth of the world’s population — and about half the poor and half of all schoolchildren — live in countries experiencing violence, political conflict, insecurity and fragility.  These are the very countries where the post-2015 agenda must have the most impact.  That agenda must fully reflect the importance of institutions, governance and the rule of law as essential ingredients for success.

The UN system will maintain its strong commitment to African development as many African countries continue to achieve impressive economic growth and the continent as a whole carries out an agenda of transformation.  I urge traditional and new donors to provide the necessary financing, capacity-building and technology transfer, in keeping with their long-standing commitments.

Our development efforts are often hampered by natural disasters, such as the devastating Typhoon Haiyan last year in the Philippines.  These extreme weather events demonstrate the urgent need for action on climate change.  As we advance on development, we must not succumb to the myth that this is incompatible with robust climate action.

Evidence shows that the goals of eradicating poverty, promoting inclusive growth, and holding global temperature rise below 2°C are mutually reinforcing.  Low-carbon growth can generate decent jobs, increase food security, improve public health, safeguard essential ecosystems and make cities more resilient.

I will host a World Climate Summit on 23 September that will bring together political leaders, as well as leaders from business, the finance community and civil society.  As we look to the Lima climate conference this year and Paris in 2015, we look to world leaders to deliver the bold agreement the world so urgently needs.  I will continue to do everything in my power to promote climate action and solutions.

I hope you will empower the United Nations itself.  This global organization should not have to plead with Governments for troops, police, assets or resources while the victims of war and poverty suffer and die.  The United Nations must be able to forge more productive partnerships with civil society, the private sector and other key development actors.

I strongly believe in the value of managed mobility so that our dedicated staff can bring their great talents to bear with even greater impact.  I urge you to approve these two critical proposals at your resumed session in March. As Chief Administrative Officer of the United Nations, I am determined to make the Secretariat truly global, modern and effective.  I look forward to continuing our efforts for a more efficient, global and dynamic United Nations.  Umoja will be deployed more widely this year — the next major step in the transformation of our organization.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War.  Global revulsion at this senseless cataclysm led to the establishment of the League of Nations and, eventually, the United Nations.

Over the years, we have proven the value of this great institution.  The United Nations is a unique platform that helps us all rise above human failings, that encourages wise and visionary leadership, and that enables us to take advantage of the opportunities provided by a new global landscape.

But, I remain gravely concerned at the immoral and irresponsible actions of too many individuals with influence and responsibility.  The conflicts I spoke of today are devastating countries endowed with natural wealth, productive citizens, proud histories and every chance at peace and prosperity.

Leaders there must now act on their historical duty to reach this potential for the sake of their people and our world.  All of us must find the common purpose to forge global solutions to our common problems.

Last year, the United Nations hosted one of the world’s youngest heroes — Malala Yousafzai.  She celebrated her birthday here with an unforgettable plea for the rights of girls.  We also bade farewell to a hero for all times, Nelson Mandela, the incomparable global icon of moral strength.

I am sure new heroes will emerge in 2014.  But, we all have within us the courage to care and capacity to act.  Let us pool that power and deliver results for all.  Let us make this year one of extraordinary progress.  This is what the world’s people expect of us and it is what they deserve.  We must get it right.  Thank you for your leadership.

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