01 February 2014

Remarks at the Munich Security Conference

Ban Ki-moon

Secretary General Ban Ki-moon addresses the 50th Munich Security Conference, Germany. UN Photo/Mark Garten

The United Nations deals daily with the crises of our times, from the flashpoints that grab the headlines, to the orphaned conflicts and silent emergencies that deserve more attention.

I am pleased to be here to celebrate 50 years of the Munich Security Conference.

The Munich Security Conference has a proud history. In your first quarter century, you helped break down walls between people and ideologies. In your second, you continued to promote new thinking about global security.

Today, we look out at a landscape that is filled with volatility and opportunity.

We see profound demographic, social and environmental change -- and enormous shifts in political and commercial power. Distinctions between the national and the international are falling away.

Many countries have achieved stability and progress -- but too many others lack the capacity or the will to meet the expectations of their citizens for freedoms and basic services.

New technologies are advancing human health and well-being -- but are also creating vulnerabilities. Small groups are better able to inflict large-scale damage.

These new global dynamics demand new approaches -- while remaining true to fundamental universal values.

The United Nations is rising to these challenges – through diplomacy and dialogue... peacekeeping and peace-building... and earlier action on violations of human rights. We grasp more keenly than ever before that peace and development go hand in hand.

There have been vast improvements in knowledge and readiness since the tragedies of Rwanda and Srebrenica a generation ago. The protection of civilians has come to the forefront as a matter of international responsibility.

Slowly but steadily, a culture of responsiveness is taking shape.

At the same time, I see places where we are falling dangerously short, at a tremendous cost in lives and credibility.

Let us use our time together in Munich to explore how we can build the world of security that people deserve and that is within our power to deliver.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The United Nations deals daily with the crises of our times, from the flashpoints that grab the headlines, to the orphaned conflicts and silent emergencies that deserve more attention.

I am closely following the democratic transitions that have stalled or reversed course, and the tensions in Northeast Asia.

I am concerned about rising extremism, growing cybersecurity threats and the dangers still posed by nuclear weapons.

And I am deeply immersed in addressing the conflict in Syria, the most urgent security challenge in the world today.

The fighting is destroying a nation and engulfing the entire region.

The situation highlights the conundrum we face when there is a compelling need to protect people from grave violations of human rights but there are severe divisions among the main actors: within Syria, among its neighbours, and in the Security Council.

Last year the world united in horror at the use of chemical weapons. Today, the Syrian Government’s chemical weapons capacity is being dismantled. I welcome this show of support for upholding the long-established global norm against chemical weapons.

At the same time, the vast majority of the killing is being carried out with conventional weapons. That is why we have put so much energy into getting the Government and the opposition to the negotiating table in Geneva.

The first round of talks ended yesterday, and Joint Special Envoy Mr Lakhdar Brahimi has invited the parties to return to Geneva on February 10th.

Mr. Lakhdar Brahimi and I discussed the talks last night with Secretary of State Kerry and Foreign Minister Lavrov, and I urged them to use their influence to ensure the talks proceed as planned.

Experience with other conflicts over the years suggests that progress will be difficult. It is hard going, but we have made a start. The parties may still be fighting, but now they are also talking. This is the only hope for a political solution.

The negotiations must not be used as a tactic to delay the end of fighting. There is no military solution to this crisis.

And every day, the humanitarian situation grows more catastrophic. I am particularly concerned about people trapped in besieged areas beyond the reach of aid. I call on both sides -- and the Government in particular -- to allow the unfettered access required under international humanitarian law.

I commend Germany for opening its doors to many thousands of Syrian refugees. I deeply appreciate Germany's generosity, and I call on other States to show the same solidarity.

I also strongly urge everyone with influence on the parties to push for progress in Geneva.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The international community can be effective when it innovates, builds partnerships and acts decisively.

In Mali, timely intervention by troops from the African Union and France has helped to improve stability. This has created important space for the indispensable political work of promoting reconciliation and addressing the roots of the Sahel region’s challenges.

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for the DRC and the Great Lakes region agreed last year offers a chance to break repeated cycles of violence.

As we work on the political track to build trust, robust security actions have changed the equation on the ground. The Force Intervention Brigade established as part of MONUSCO, the UN peacekeeping operation, has supported the Congolese Army in stemming the threat posed by the M23.

We are helping the State to re-establish its authority in areas from which it had long been absent.

And the use of unmanned unarmed aerial vehicles -- essentially, flying cameras -- is helping to identify risks earlier and protect civilians.

These UAVs are of course distinct from armed drones, which like any other weapon should be subject to the long-standing rules of international law.

In the Central African Republic, an already alarming situation shows signs of growing worse.

African and French contingents in the country will soon be reinforced by troops from the European Union. I urge a strong show of support for the African forces at today’s conference in Addis Ababa.

We must do everything we can to support the transitional authorities, restore law and order and focus on reconciliation before sectarian bloodshed escalates further.

Reconciliation and dialogue are also critical for the future of South Sudan.

UN forces have provided a safe haven to thousands of people. But this is only a temporary fix for a problem that requires a deeper, long-term solution.

In Afghanistan, this is a year of transition with far-reaching implications for the country and the region.

As international forces depart, the United Nations will remain in place. The international community must help the country avoid a relapse into conflict.

It will be critically important to pursue security and development in ways that neutralize the appeal of extremists.

The military drawdown in Afghanistan is likely to free up resources that can be deployed elsewhere. Just three attack helicopters helped to turn the tide in the eastern DRC. I encourage Member States to consider which military assets can now be made available to UN operations, to overcome our chronic shortage of game-changing assets. When threats emerge, when fighting erupts, we must show that our operations mean business.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Our work for security also means keeping our sights on the horizon and building the long-term foundations of peace.

Climate change is every much a security threat as an armed group bent on plunder.

High levels of youth unemployment are as dangerous as a ticking time bomb.

Discrimination against minorities can ignite cycles of violence and retaliation.

Every day around the world, resources are squandered on weapons that should never be used, and on conflicts that should never be fought.

We must ensure that budget priorities reflect people’s priorities: health and education, jobs and social justice, equality and opportunity.

We must press leaders to listen attentively to the voices of their people.

We have come a long way in building a tool-box of effective interventions. We know the perils of looking the other way. And we know what people -- our citizens, our children -- expect of us.

I look forward to working with you in our ongoing efforts to promote a world of security and dignity for all.

Thank you.