16 March 2015

As United Nations Approaches Seventieth Anniversary, Organization Aims to Mobilize Partners in Building Inclusive Future, Secretary-General Tells Symposium

Following are UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks at a symposium on the seventieth anniversary of the United Nations, held at the United Nations University in Tokyo today:

Konbanwa.  Good evening.  Thank you, Prime Minister [Shinzo] Abe, for honouring us with your presence here today.  It means a lot to the United Nations when the Prime Minister is visiting the United Nations University.  And it is again another expression of such strong support of the Japanese Government for the United Nations.

Kokuren wa nihon to no paatonaashippu wo totemo taisetsu ni shiteimasu.  The United Nations deeply appreciates and values our partnership with Japan.  We are “tomodachi”.  We are friends.  Nihon no kokusai kouken ni itsumo kansha shiteimasu.  Thank you for your strong support in international contributions.

Japan is a proactive contributor to humanitarian operations, development activities, peacekeeping, human rights and human security.  Japan has served 10 times as a non-permanent member of the Security Council in the past and it is a major advocate of disarmament.  Japan is currently working as a valued member of the United Nations Human Rights Council.

I once again commend Prime Minister Abe for his commitment and strong support for the United Nations.  He has been a great supporter of the United Nations whenever and wherever needed.  This was vividly demonstrated when he announced plans to offer $4 billion towards disaster risk reduction and train 40,000 people in disaster prevention and recovery.  Again, I thank you very much for your generous support for humanity.  I highly commend this initiative, which will advance human security.

I deeply value Japan’s engagement on the international stage, and I look forward to strengthening our cooperation even more.  Japan’s dedication is symbolized by its hosting of the valuable United Nations University here.  I applaud the efforts of Rector David Malone to focus the United Nations University’s work on practical research for human progress.

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, on this seventieth anniversary of the United Nations, Member States can take pride in its successes on development, decolonization, human rights, international law, peacekeeping and many more.  The United Nations has evolved to deal with emerging threats.  Just last year, I established the first-ever UN health emergency mission to respond to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

We will no doubt face new challenges that we cannot even imagine now.  And I thank again deeply for very generous support and contributions from the Japanese Government and people for the three Ebola-stricken African countries.

Today, I will focus on how we are preparing the United Nations for what lies ahead, and rallying the world to secure our common future.  Ladies and gentlemen, Japan is now hosting the Third United Nations World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in Sendai.  Its importance was tragically underscored by the terrible cyclone that hit Vanuatu and other parts of Oceania.

I immediately met with Vanuatu’s President.  And I have instructed to dispatch immediately an assistance team to Vanuatu and we will take necessary action to mobilize humanitarian assistance to these Vanuatu people.

The Sendai Conference was the international community’s first important step in 2015.  In July, world leaders will gather in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to talk about and arrange a robust financial supporting mechanism for all the goals of the United Nations.

In September, we will hold a Special Summit meeting, where leaders will adopt the sustainable development agenda with a set of sustainable development goals with a 2030 deadline.  The bold vision of the Member States is coming together around a specific set of goals.  Taken together, they will guide the fight against poverty and inequality.  The aim is to leave no one behind.  By fostering human progress, this agenda will help prevent unrest and conflicts. 

Then in December, in Paris, we must have an agreement on climate change which will be universally applied to all the countries in the world, which must be a very meaningful and ambitious one.  Success will put our world on a safer, greener and more prosperous path.

Ladies and gentlemen, the United Nations was created after the Second World War to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war.  We have to acknowledge that that vision by our founding fathers of the United Nations has not been fully realized.  Genocide recurred.  Armed conflicts still continue in many parts of the world.  The security landscape is becoming much more complex.  Multiple actors are on the battlefield, and many others operate behind the scenes.

There is no more painful example of the failure of collective action of the United Nations than the conflict in Syria, now in its fifth year.  More than 220,000 people have been killed.  Nearly half of the Syrian population have fled their homes and [many] have become refugees in neighbouring countries.  The Syrian people are suffering unimaginable devastation and trauma.  I am calling on all international community members to give generously at the upcoming pledging conference to raise funds for our response plan.

Syria is at risk of total collapse.  That would have grave consequences for the region.  The terrifying rise of Da’esh, or ISIL [the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant/Sham], and its affiliates is also claiming victims in Iraq, Libya, Nigeria and beyond.

The Security Council has been unable to unite on Syria, as well as on Ukraine.  To restore peace and stability in Ukraine, maintaining the ceasefire is critical.  Even though the Minsk II ceasefire agreement seems to be largely holding, it is a very fragile agreement.  All the actors must adhere sincerely to the implementation of the Minsk II ceasefire agreement.

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, the world said “never again” – we have been repeating “never again, never again” – after the Rwanda genocide and Srebrenica genocide.  I acknowledge these failings.  But if there were no United Nations, the past seven decades would have been much bloodier.

While I am very much conscious of the criticism about the effectiveness and efficiency or even relevance of the United Nations during the last seven decades, I can tell you that without the United Nations, this world would have been, could have been, much, much more difficult and more tragic.  That we take some comfort [in].  But that does not give us any reason to be complacent.  We have to continue to work to meet the expectations of the people for whom we work.

Imagine a world without a common meeting ground for all countries.  There would be no [UN] “blue helmets” separating forces and disarming fighters.  There would be no trusted UN mediators helping parties to make peace.  There would be more entrenched conflicts and more needless deaths.

We need to reinforce the United Nations.  We need your support and continuing engagement by all the Member States of the United Nations.  That is why I am working hard to improve the United Nations’ ability to prevent wars from breaking out and to respond effectively when they do.  This is especially difficult now as conflicts evolve and spread with devastating speed.

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, the global security environment is changing, and so are the world’s expectations for United Nations peacekeeping.  The last major review on peacekeeping was led by Lakhdar Brahimi in the year 2000.  It was 15 years ago.  Today, we have more than 120,000 peacekeepers and personnel working in 16 different missions.  Our missions are more multidimensional, with “protection of civilians” mandates and other complex responsibilities.

Before 2000, there had only been four times in history when more than 100 peacekeepers were killed in a year.  Since then, it has happened 10 times, unfortunately.  Many [UN] “blue helmets” operate in extremely dangerous theatres such as Mali, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan.  I thank Japan for its contributions, including more than 270 peacekeepers of Japan serving in South Sudan under very dangerous circumstances.

In too many countries, the peacekeepers are stationed where there is no peace to keep, and they often face asymmetrical threats.  I pay tribute to their outstanding courage.

The needs are rising, and resources are chronically short.  For too long, Special Political Missions have been forced to rely on ad hoc and often insufficient support arrangements.  Troop-contributing countries too often place caveats on their engagement.

That is why I have appointed a high-level independent panel to address these very serious concerns.  I am also mobilizing the United Nations through my Human Rights up Front initiative.  Staff and managers will have the training and backing to act with more moral courage.  The aim of this Human Rights up Front initiative is to protect the people, protect the lives of the people and sound an “early warning” before abuses turn into atrocities.  We must also shield human rights defenders who put their lives on the line for our values.

The United Nations Charter sets out rules on how to prevent and resolve conflicts between States.  But today’s challenges to peace and security often come within States, when civil wars erupt, from non-State actors, such as terrorist groups.  Our practices must evolve to keep the United Nations relevant and effective.

Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to turn to Asia and the Pacific, where we are living together, the continent that is widely considered a global engine of growth.  It is often said that the twenty-first century will be the era of Asia and the Pacific.

To promote cooperation in Asia-Pacific, countries in North-East Asia are the key.  The United Nations has been engaging with a number of regional cooperative mechanisms, but North-East Asia still remains a missing link.  I sincerely hope that dialogue between countries in the region — in particular Japan, China and the Republic of Korea — will proceed in a forward-looking manner.  We must lay the ground for genuine reconciliation, harmony, peace and prosperity.

In this context, I would urge leaders in the region to be future-oriented, remembering the past.  This will generate a spirit of peace and reconciliation for generations to come.  We should move forward in a spirit of cooperation for our mutual benefit to achieve common prosperity and shared goals.  This will help realize Asia’s great promise.

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, the world just finished commemorating International Women’s Day.  But I will never finish fighting violence against women, championing equality and standing for gender empowerment.  This is my task each and every day, until my last day.

I am proud of the unprecedented number of senior women appointed during my term as Secretary-General.  I would be happy if my successor has to appoint more men for gender balance!  I need your strong encouragement and support — this is very tough!

History teaches that young people drive change.  But they have never been in the driver’s seat.  I call for giving young people the “license” to advance progress.  They have the energy, intelligence and values for technological innovation and social change.  To unleash this power of young people, we need to invest in their transition to adulthood.  That means quality education, good health services and decent jobs.

At the United Nations, I want to support young people, not just as leaders of the future, but leaders of today.  A lot of young people are now taking their leadership role today.  They are not merely the leaders of tomorrow.  I am working very hard with world leaders to leave this world to our succeeding generations so that they can live in a world of harmony and equality and peace and mutual respect.

That is why for the first time in the United Nations’ history, I have appointed an envoy for youth.  His name is Mr. Ahmad Alhendawi.  He is the link between the United Nations and millions of young people around the world.  The Japanese youth I have met are great global citizens.  I was inspired by their spirit and their global citizenship.  I count on them to join forces with my envoy in advancing our common goals.

Mr. Prime Minister, excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, when we think of a child born today, we cannot just ask what kind of a world she will grow up in.  We have to resolve to create a world where she can contribute to our common progress.

In 2015, the United Nations is mobilizing partners to empower people for a new future.  We look to you to help make this year a true turning point in human history.  Let us work to make this world better for all, where nobody is left behind and where everybody will live with dignity.  And I thank you for your leadership and commitment.

Thank you very much.  Arigato gozaimasu.

For information media. Not an official record.