New York

15 September 2011

Secretary-General's remarks to the Women's International Forum "Priorities for a Changing World : A Vision for the UN in the Second Decade of the Twenty-First Century [as prepared for delivery]

Distinguished guests,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Thank you for this opportunity to meet together.

We meet at a momentous time. You can see how central the UN is to solving the world's main problems just by looking at the high-level meetings we are convening in the coming weeks. On nuclear safety and security. On global health threats. On counter-terrorism. On sustainable development. And on regional hotspots that have global ramifications.

As I prepare for my second term as Secretary-General, I am thinking hard about how we can meet the expectations of the millions of people who see the UN's blue flag as a banner of hope.

We have to continue our life-saving work in peacekeeping, human rights, development and humanitarian relief.

We also have to make sustainable development our top priority. Saving our planet and investing in people –these are two sides of the same coin. And that is one very valuable coin. If we protect the environment and improve conditions for individuals, we will see enormous economic returns.

We remain focused on achieving the Millennium Development Goals. At the same time, we are looking past 2015. The Rio+20 Conference next year will be our chance to come together for the future. Our future development goals must address sustainability.

We also need action on climate change. I have always been a champion of this cause, but I grew even more convinced earlier this month when I visited Kiribati –a country that could be completely underwater in a few decades if we do not act now.

We have to provide enough water, energy and food for all people. And we have to take care of their health, especially the health of women and children.

To promote security, we have to focus on prevention. That is why I am strengthening the UN's capacity for mediation and peacebuilding.

Countries in transition need our special attention. I am working to make the UN better able to respond to the needs of people crying out for democracy, dignity and opportunity.

We know what we need to do. The question is how do we do it?

An important part of the answer is resources. The United Nations is working to make the most of every dollar, every Yuan, every rouble and every Euro. We understand that governments everywhere are cutting costs. We are too. But we need predictable financing to do our jobs. That will save everyone money in the long run.

We also have to reach out to partners. Governments and regional organizations. Non-governmental groups and religious leaders. Young people, who will inherit the future ? and who are shaping the present.

The empowerment of women will also cut across the work of the United Nations in the years to come.

At the United Nations, I am appointing more and more women to senior positions. In the social arena, yes, but also in police and military affairs, in political decision-making and in some of our toughest negotiations.

We are doing this because these women are the best people for the job. And we intend to continue advancing the cause of women in our “House” at the UN and around the world.


Since this is the International Women's Forum, let me say I am glad that you started as an organization mainly composed of wives and you have since invited husbands and other men. I hope that the ranks of the ambassadors who serve the United Nations will improve their gender balance, so that countries send more women representatives at the highest levels to our meetings and our missions.

This Forum is an important part of the United Nations. My wife is proud to be your Patron. I want to have some time for questions, so please allow me to close now with my best wishes for your great success.

Thank you.