New York

17 September 2013

Secretary-General's remarks at opening session of the 68th session of the General Assembly

It is a great pleasure to join you for the opening of a new session of the General Assembly.

Mr. President, I wish to take this opportunity to congratulate you most sincerely, once again, on your assumption of the high office of the presidency of the General Assembly.  As we work together in the future in addressing global challenges, I will count on your leadership with global vision in meeting the expectation of many people, billions of people around the world.  That is to realise a life of dignity .for all. You can also count on me.

Excellencies, the sense of expectation is clear.  We are on the eve of very important work.

We will focus on how to accelerate achievement of the Millennium Development Goals as the 2015 deadline approaches. Business, civil society and the philanthropic community will come together to showcase MDG successes.

We will intensify our efforts to define a post-2015 development agenda, including with a single set of goals for sustainable development that we hope will address the complex challenges of this new era and capture the imagination of the people of the world, as the MDGs did.

I therefore welcome President Ashe’s choice of theme for the general debate: “setting the stage” for the post-2015 agenda.

He has also outlined a set of six thematic issues upon which he intends to convene his High-level Events and thematic debates during the 68th session, and I support his decision to do so.

During the 68th session, we will also advance preparations for the 2014 Conference on Small Island Developing States, and carry out a range of other important work, aimed at meeting the expectations of a global public looking to us to make the decisions and investments that will build a future of prosperity and opportunity.

There will be important high-level meetings of the General Assembly on people with disabilities and migration.

We will focus on a number of urgent peace and security challenges.

Excellencies, I am also intending to convene a high-level summit meeting on climate change, and I hope you will all fully support it and ask your leaders to participate.  The exact date will be decided in close consultation with the President of the General Assembly and the General Committee.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Syria is without doubt the biggest crisis facing the international community, and is likely to figure prominently in the speeches and meetings during the General Debate segment, and rightly so. The Assembly has a role and a voice in our efforts to resolve it and respond to the suffering and I will soon have an opportunity of reporting to, directly after this session is over.

Syria is without doubt the biggest crisis facing the international community, but at the same time we need to look at a broader picture – global development as well as regional conflict.  As for regional conflict or peace issues, we will hold a meeting of the oversight mechanism for the peace agreement that the United Nations brokered earlier this year for the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Great Lakes Region.

The Middle East Quartet -- consisting of the United Nations, the European Union, Russia and the United States -- will meet for the first time in more than a year to support the direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations that have recently reconvened.

We will discuss how to support the transitions in Yemen and Myanmar, and how to consolidate stability following recent elections in Mali. 

Finally, we will also mark the 20th anniversary of the Vienna Conference on Human Rights, a landmark event that led to the establishment of the UN high commissioner for human rights.

Mr. President, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

While the Assembly’s temporary home may not be as beautiful and evocative as the historic Hall that is now closed for renovation, what matters most is what we do here – the hard work we carry out that will translate what we say on this rostrum into tangible progress for the world’s people.

In that spirit, I look forward to the capable leadership and stewardship of President John Ashe during the very important 68th session.  Most of all, I look forward to “dogged determination” he has pledged to this work.  That is precisely what we need at this crucial time.

As I briefly mentioned about the Capital Master Plan, the process where this General Assembly hall has to be closed for renovation, I hope that each and every delegations, particularly the leaders who are coming, will not be disappointed by this temporary General Assembly Hall. This will be just for one week.  I will make sure that by next year this time leaders will be able to take the floor in the newly renovated General Assembly Hall.  I hope you will convey this message.

Excellencies, Let us all work together for the success we need across our agenda.

Thank you.