UN Headquarters

08 January 2015

Opening remarks at press encounter following address to the Informal Meeting of the General Assembly on the Year Ahead

Ban Ki-moon

Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for this opportunity.

It is a great pleasure to see you again at the start of this New Year, the first press stakeout.

As you might have already heard, I have just briefed the General Assembly on the year ahead. Let me just reiterate three points:

First, 2015 is a year of historic opportunity. We are the first generation that can end poverty, and the last one that can take steps to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.

With the adoption of a new development agenda, sustainable development goals and climate change agreement, we can set the world on course for a better future.

This must be a time for global action. Future generations will judge us harshly if we fail to meet our obligation.

Second, we continue to face multiple crises, with more people displaced and in need than at any time in decades. Beyond the diplomacy and humanitarian action needed today, there are lessons for the future. Whether it is disease or conflict or human rights abuses, the international community needs to act earlier, focus on prevention and get at the root causes before events get out of control.

That leads me to my third point. I want to make a special appeal for tolerance and understanding. In far too many places, we have seen acts of terrorism, extremism, unspeakable brutality and a deeply worrying escalation of tensions between communities and within societies.

Addressing this discord in a manner that solves -- rather than multiplies -- the problem may be the greatest test our human family faces in the 21st century.

All of us were deeply moved by the many images from yesterday’s despicable attack in Paris. Perhaps none was as horrifying as that of a French policeman ruthlessly executed on a sidewalk.

We now know that policeman’s name. He was Ahmed Merabet. He himself was a Muslim.

This is yet another reminder of what we are facing together. It should never be seen as a war of religion … for religion … or on religion. It is an assault on our common humanity, designed to terrify and incite.

Giving in to hatred and sowing division only guarantees a spiral of violence – precisely what terrorists seek. We must not fall into that trap.

We need to find a way to live together, in peace, in harmony, in full respect of universal human rights and fundamental freedoms.

We face another grave test as Nigeria readies for its election next month. Boko Haram has continued its violence, killing Christians and Muslims, kidnapping even more women and children, and destroying churches and mosques. Mayhem has spread across the region, and is now having a direct impact on Cameroon and other countries.

I urge Boko Haram’s leaders to end the destruction of so many lives and communities, and immediately and unconditionally release the kidnapped school girls and boys and all others. The international community cannot let human rights abuses continue with impunity.

This is my personal appeal, as a father and grandfather. And as Secretary-General of the United Nations, I will continue to actively explore with Member States what more can be done.

Thank you for your attention.