Thank you, Mr. President, Distinguished Members of the Council,
I thank you for your kind words addressed to me, and for this opportunity to meet with all of you today. I assure you of my wholehearted support and dedication to the efficient and successful work of the Council.
Before I begin I would like to pay my tribute to the former Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, for his significant contributions to the work of the Organization over the past ten years.
I have listened carefully to members of the Council in their interventions on this important subject, which is after all the primary responsibility under the Charter. I observe also that members of the Council are united and speak with one voice on the need to view conflict management in a holistic manner –prevention, peacekeeping and peace-building. There is also unity among Council members with regards to the need to address conflict in a comprehensive manner with development and human rights issues being accorded their proper priority.
As your important statements just now have made clear, the United Nations has an exceptionally challenging agenda ahead of it in 2007. We face an unprecedented demand for peacekeeping, as well as a range of growing demands for preventive diplomacy, good offices, peace-building, and efforts in conflict management. This Council, and the Organization as a whole, are going through one of the busiest periods in our history, with a record number of peace operations, resolutions and reports over the past few years.
The Department of Peacekeeping Operations has expanded to cover 18 missions, with a historic high of 100,000 personnel in the field, and climbing. The total number of peace operations in which the United Nations is engaged, in some form, has risen to around 30. This globalized presence requires ever closer cooperation between the Security Council and the Secretariat -- including of course, the Secretary-General.
Some of our most acute and persistent challenges are in Africa. One of my top priorities will be to step up efforts to address the crisis in Darfur, where the humanitarian situation is growing worse, despite all the declarations and proclamations of the international community over the past three years. In the coming days weeks and months, I will coordinate closely with leaders in Africa and beyond, and I will work through my Special Envoy for Darfur to secure the constructive engagement of Sudan, African Governments, and the international community as a whole.
At the same time, we must stay the course in other parts of the Continent. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, we must ensure that recent positive developments enabled by our largest peacekeeping operation are consolidated, so that lasting peace and stability take hold in the heart of Africa. I look forward to discussing these and other issues with leaders at the African Union summit in Addis Ababa at the end of this month.
Equally, I will strive to inject new momentum into our search for peace and stability in the Middle East. This means rededicating ourselves to the work of the Quartet in resolving differences between Israel and Palestine -- differences which carry such a unique symbolic and emotional charge for people far beyond the physical boundaries of the conflict. It means supporting Lebanon in everything from its physical reconstruction to its quest -- as yet incomplete -- for a peaceful, democratic and fully independent future. And in the wider reaches of the region, it means continuing our efforts to address the political and security challenges of Afghanistan and Iraq.
By the same token, we must keep working for a conclusion to the uncertainty that still hangs over the status of Kosovo, and which, if unresolved, threatens to cast a shadow over regional stability in southeastern Europe.
So I am glad to join you today for this discussion on a range of issues which no country can resolve on its own -- issues which present threats to the security of people around the world, and to the entire international community. Responding to such threats is, after all, one of the primary purposes of the United Nations, and a particular responsibility of the Security Council.
As the President of the Security Council points out, recalling the 2005 World Summit outcome, the threats we face in this century are multi-faceted and inter-connected.
This is true whether we are considering the threat of terrorism -- a faceless enemy which knows no boundaries -- or weapons of mass destruction, which present a unique existential threat to all humanity. Both demand urgent, sustained and comprehensive attention from the international community.
The same is true of HIV/AIDS and the other pandemics that not only take a huge human, social and economic toll on countries that can least afford it; they also pose threats to peace and stability, in the devastation they wreak on capacity and governance.
The same is true of extreme poverty, which breeds a hopelessness that allows for neither mercy nor dignity, and which is preyed on by zealots and extremists to fulfil their agendas and ambitions. Reaching our goals for development around the world is essential to building lasting peace and security.
The same is true of egregious human rights violations, weakened governance and failure to uphold the rule of law in various parts of the world.
Over the past years, the United Nations has sought to strengthen the three pillars of this institution -- those of security, development and human rights, all underpinned by the rule of law -- in order to build a more peaceful, more prosperous and more just world for succeeding generations. We have important achievements to build on, from the Peacebuilding Commission to the Human Rights Council and the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, as well as the Responsibility to Protect.
But we must also do more to invigorate disarmament and non-proliferation efforts. This will require strengthening the disarmament and non-proliferation regimes themselves, as well as addressing the special challenges posed by the cases of Iran and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. The Security Council has acted by adopting important resolutions on these issues. But a great deal remains to be done. It is essential that the international community works as one to address these challenges.
I am committed to strengthening and consolidating the work of the United Nations in this direction. In such an endeavour, I shall try to play the role of harmonizer and bridge-builder, and work to restore trust between Member States and the Secretariat.
This Council has acted on the reform agenda, in areas ranging from the establishment of the Peacebuilding Commission to strengthening working methods, while also acting on counter-terrorism and sanctions.
I will make it my priority to strengthen the UN's ability to play its role to the fullest extent in conflict prevention, peace-making, peacekeeping and peacebuilding. I see all of those as a continuum, and the role of the United Nations as one that must be coordinated, comprehensive and consistent.
To that end, we need to look at the organizational structures of all Departments and Offices related to peace and security, and find ways to strengthen our capacities. To meet the growing demands of globalized operations, we must identify ways and means to build a staff which is truly mobile, multi-functional and accountable -- and which lives up to the highest ethical and professional standards.
Mr. President, Excellencies,
The draft Presidential Statement before you calls for a strategic approach to the assessment of conflict situations, and the planning and management of peacekeeping operations. It will provide an important guideline for me in building such improved capacities, and enhancing delivery of our common objectives. This will be a top priority for me over the coming weeks.
Again, let me say how very much I look forward to working with the Council in the years ahead.
Thank you very much.