Thank you, Mr. President, for those very kind words. And thank you also for proposing the resolution that the Council has just passed –by which, needless to say, I am deeply honoured.
Barring unforeseen crises in the next nine days –which in this Council, of all places, one should never rule out –this will be my last meeting with you as Secretary-General. I must thank the Council not only for using it to pass such a generous resolution, but also for making it coincide with another decision that you are about to adopt, namely the one to extend the mandate of the United Nations Integrated Office in Sierra Leone (UNIOSIL).
Sierra Leone is definitely one of the success stories of our work together. But those of us who remember the anxious days of May 2000 know well that that this was far from being a foregone conclusion. But today Sierra Leone is a good example of what can be achieved by the UN and its member states working closely together.
The country is stable but still fragile. It needs our continued help in building effective State institutions, especially those dealing with security, human rights, justice, and the preparation of next year's elections, which will be a critical moment in the consolidation of peace.
So, thank you for agreeing to prolong the UN's role in Sierra Leone. And thank you for all the work you do for peace and security around the world.
In ten years as Secretary-General, I have quite often allowed myself to make critical remarks about this Council –particularly about its composition. I still hope that this will be modified, since I am convinced that with a more democratic and representative character the Council will gain even greater legitimacy, and its authority will be more widely respected.
I have also, occasionally, criticized the Council's actions –or, more often, its failure to act. And I have tried, following the excellent advice of the Brahimi Report, to tell the Council what it needs to know, and not what it wants to hear.
Yet I know that the “primary responsibility for international peace and security”, with which the Charter endows you, is not an easy one to bear. In fact it is much easier to criticize the Council from outside than to take decisions in it.
In spite of that, the Council's members have generally listened to me with surprising good grace. And I must also recognize that the work of the Council has been greatly strengthened during the ten years of my service. The mandates it has given us are more coherent; more robust when required; and more often matched with something like the necessary resources. And its members follows up their decisions with greater vigilance, demanding full reports from me and my colleagues on the missions they have mandated, and sometimes going to see for themselves on the spot.
The Council has also passed some very important thematic resolutions –I think especially of Resolution 1325 on the role of women –and it is generally much more cognizant of the need to prevent conflict, rather than wait to react after it occurs.
We have all learnt, from some bitter experiences, that we cannot afford to take governments' word for it when they assure us that all is well in their country, or that they have the situation under control. We have also learnt that the Council needs to be fully briefed on issues of human rights, since gross violations of these not only occur during conflict but are often harbingers of it.
There is certainly no room for complacency. As I said last week, it is painful for me to leave office with the Middle East in such a fragile and dangerous condition.
I do fervently hope that we are now at last close to rescuing the people of Darfur from their agony. The reports I have received from my envoy in Khartoum, Mr. Ould-Abdallah, encourage me to think we may tomorrow receive a green light from President Bashir for a full ceasefire, a renewed effort to bring all parties into the political process, and deployment of the proposed hybrid African Union-United Nations force to protect the population. But we will need to see the document that Mr. Ould-Abdallah will bring.
But after so many disappointments I take nothing for granted. What I do know is that the Council will continue to work, ably helped by my successor, on these and many other crises.
But there is no cause for despair, either. While change for the worse is often dramatic, change for the better is generally incremental. Many conflicts have been peacefully resolved. Many have been at least brought under control, with hope of better times on the horizon. And I believe –though this is much harder to prove –that many have been prevented.
At all events, it remains the sacred and exalting duty of this Organization to “save succeeding generations from the scourge of war”. It has been my privilege to share this effort with you, both in success and in failure. I now relinquish that task, with relief but not without regret. And I pray that you will have ever greater success in the future.
Thank you very much.