Following are UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, to the Emirates Diplomatic Academy, in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, today:
I am honoured to be visiting the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for the ninth time as Secretary-General. I thank His Highness Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan and the Government for the warm welcome. I would also like to express my appreciation for the support and contributions of the UAE throughout my decade in office.
Let me say a special word about the achievements of the UAE as a leading regional actor in combatting climate change. Over the past 20 years, you have dramatically reduced per person carbon emissions. Most recently, the UAE is among the countries that have ratified the Paris Agreement, which entered into force earlier this month – record speed at a time when the world is experiencing record heat. Thank you for this display of global citizenship.
I would also like to recognize the UAE as a forerunner in the region regarding the promotion of gender equality and women’s empowerment. With the support of Her Highness Sheikha Fatima Bint Mubarak, UN-Women [United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women] recently opened a Liaison Office in Abu Dhabi -- the only one of its kind in the region. Our goal is to strengthen our engagement and ensure a real partnership with the Gulf countries based on areas of common concern and mutual understanding.
The world is more interconnected than ever before. Our well-being is tied to one another. In the face of these changes, some have turned inward. Our challenge is to turn toward each other, and to work together to address shared threats and seize common opportunities.
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development adopted last year is the world’s plan to build a future of peace, prosperity, dignity and opportunity for all. The Agenda is inspiring unto itself. But it is also an example of how the international community can overcome divisions and act in the shared global interest.
I would like to call your attention to Sustainable Development Goal 16 in particular. Goal 16 emphasizes that peace, justice and effective institutions are at the core of sustainable development. Far too many people across the world struggle as a result of weak institutions, corruption, repressive governance, a lack of access to justice, shrinking space for civil society and infringements of basic freedoms. Women across the world have been held by chronic discrimination and violence, to the detriment of global peace and progress.
People struggle at home or they end up displaced in search of safety and opportunity. More people have been forced from their homes by conflict, persecution and disaster than at any time since the Second World War.
Here in the Middle East, the security dynamics continue to be affected by violent conflicts, radicalization, sectarian violence and an increasingly polarized geopolitical environment.
In Israel and Palestine, a lack of forward momentum, continued occupation and violence, and construction of settlements in the West Bank are undermining the prospects for the two-State solution.
In Syria, Iraq and Yemen, civilians continue to pay the highest price of protracted wars. Repeated calls from the United Nations for an immediate end to violence are routinely ignored by all parties, and international humanitarian and human rights laws have been flouted with impunity.
Against this backdrop, the United Nations continues to work with local and international partners to assist and protect civilians in besieged and hard-to-reach areas.
The offensive being carried out by the Syrian government in eastern Aleppo since September has been the most sustained and intensive aerial bombardment since the conflict began. The results have been horrific, with many people killed and injured. More than a quarter of all deaths are children. No UN convoy has entered Eastern Aleppo since early July.
We must also address the urgent threat from terrorist and violent extremist groups, such as Da’esh. This can only be tackled holistically, in an approach that goes beyond an exclusive focus on security. Experience has shown that short‑sighted policies, heavy-handed approaches, a single-minded focus only on security measures and an utter disregard for human rights have often made things worse. Preventing violent extremism means avoiding policies that turn people against each other, alienate already marginalized groups, and play into the hands of the enemy. That approach forms a core of my Plan to Prevent Violent Extremism that I launched earlier this year.
In the twenty-first century, we know that security is less about missiles and fighter jets, and far more a matter of knowledge, freedom and enabling people to enjoy opportunities, jobs and the prospect of a better life. As current and future members of the UAE’s diplomatic establishment, you will be responsible for acting on this vision, which is also at the core of the 2030 Agenda.
Let me say a few words to the young Emiratis here in the room today. As young people in the Arab world, you have seen much in recent years. You have watched many of your peers fill the streets of capital cities in search of an end to corruption and the beginning of a say in the decisions affecting their lives.
You have seen conflicts displace many young people from their homes, and into the uncertain and often dangerous life of a refugee. You have seen youth become primary targets for recruitment by violent extremists. And you have seen your peers, and perhaps you yourself at times, stereotyped as a threat, when all you want is the same opportunities to realize your hopes and dreams.
At this time of turmoil, I will count on the UAE’s young people to be part of our efforts to build a safer, more sustainable future for all. Together, we can address today’s threats and seize the great opportunities of our era. Thank you.