Greentree, New York

01 May 2015

Secretary-General's opening remarks at high-level retreat with heads of regional and other organizations

I warmly welcome you all to this retreat. Thank you for having accepted my invitation to participate. I have just landed from Paris and Rome. I know many of you have also just arrived. I appreciate everyone’s participation.

Throughout my tenure as Secretary-General, I have made it a priority to strengthen our bonds with regional organizations. I personally attach great importance to this gathering. It is a valuable opportunity to openly and frankly discuss issues that concern us all. And of course we are deepening our partnership in very practical ways throughout your regions and around the world. 

I strongly believe that Chapter VIII of the UN Charter has never been more relevant than it is today.  No organization can solve today's global challenges.  It takes all of us working together. 

Our cooperation is a defining feature of today’s peace and security landscape. It lies at the heart of solutions. And this collaboration is growing even more important in this fast-changing world of rising threats.

I have set two goals for this retreat. First: to exchange views on pressing concerns affecting our work. And second: to strengthen our collaborative relationships.

Let me offer some initial thoughts to give some context.

The international scene is chaotic and complex.

Civil wars, violent extremism and attacks against civilians are on the rise.

In too many places, values such as the rule of law and human rights are on the run.

The mind-sets of the Cold War – which we thought was dead and buried – are returning.

This represents a major reversal.

During most of the 1990s, major civil wars were on the decline. Now they are increasing. And today’s conflicts are more intractable with conditions that are less conducive to a traditional political settlement.

That is because civil wars are increasingly internationalized. Outside interference is prolonging these conflicts, intensifying the dangers and raising the death tolls.

This problem is exacerbated by the spread of violent extremism. Violent extremists show virtually no interest in talking to achieve their demands.

On top of this, transnational organized crime is growing. Organized crime networks are stressing fragile institutions to the breaking point. In some cases, organized crime and violent extremists are teaming up at the nexus of lawlessness and greed. Their interaction only adds fuel to the fire of civil wars.

The last time the world had this many refugees, displaced people and asylum seekers was at the end of the Second World War.

The Security Council, which has primary responsibility for international peace and security, has been paralyzed in the face of terrible bloodshed in Syria. The crisis in Ukraine is casting a long shadow far beyond Eastern Europe.

In the face of these threats, we have to hold fast to our founding values in this 70th anniversary of the United Nations.

All of the organizations represented in this room have a special responsibility to uphold the spirit and letter of Chapter VIII of the Charter.

We have to strengthen our cooperation for peace. We have to build on our complementary strengths. And we have to learn from each other’s experiences.

You are all too aware of the suffering around the world – in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, the Central African Republic, South Sudan, Ukraine and other crisis areas.

The people there deserve a resolute response to stop the bloodshed.

This is not an optional choice – it is our collective responsibility.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Tomorrow we will discuss three major themes on the global agenda: mediation, peacebuilding and peace operations.

The first panel is on opportunities for us to strengthen mediation.

When we discussed this issue five years ago, we pushed for our institutions to work together on a common understanding of mediation norms, principles and practice.

Then in 2012, the General Assembly adopted the United Nations Guidance for Effective Mediation. I thank all of you who contributed to that success.

Many of your organizations are strengthening capacity for mediation. We are determined to deepen our collaboration with you in this important area.

Mediation saves lives. We have seen this through efforts in Burkina Faso; shuttle diplomacy in Guinea; joint engagements in the Maldives and many other contexts. In each of these areas we collaborated strategically, building on our strengths and speaking with one voice.

Today, many more conflicts end with peace settlements than military victories. This puts a premium on our work to help parties in reach agreements – and carry them out.

The second panel is on building and sustaining peace by promoting inclusive political processes and preventing a relapse into conflict.

  Peace is a fragile commodity that can easily break. We see this in the resurgence of violence in South Sudan, the Central African Republic and, more recently, Yemen.

We need to nourish peace by establishing institutions that are responsive, accountable and above all inclusive.

Ten years ago at the UN World Summit, leaders recognized a gaping hole in supporting the transition from war to peace. They set up peacebuilding institutions to fill that hole and support that critical transition. There has been major progress – but not enough to reach our goals.

This year, our Member States have committed to a major review of peacebuilding. I look forward to solid, actionable recommendations in December.

Meanwhile, I look to you to help refine our understanding of peacebuilding. Let us discuss our priorities and how we can be more effective.

The final panel will be on the changing role of United Nations peace operations.

From Syria, Libya and Iraq to Mali and the Central African Republic, our missions face increasing challenges.
The numbers are growing – and so are the complexities of the mandates. Our peace operations are increasingly called on to deal with challenging conflicts in volatile security environments. They are being directly targeted.

Yet they remain indispensable instruments for maintaining international peace and security.

Last October, I appointed a high-level independent panel to conduct a comprehensive assessment of the state of UN peace operations – both peacekeeping operations and special political missions. The panel will also gauge emerging future needs.

Our peace operations often work side-by-side with regional and sub-regional Organizations across the conflict spectrum: from prevention and mediation to post-conflict political transitions, peacekeeping and peacebuilding.

I am deeply grateful for your many contributions – and I look forward to hearing your thoughts on specific recommendations that the Panel can make to strengthen our cooperation in these difficult and dangerous times.

Ladies and gentlemen,
Dear friends,

The United Nations used to have to cope with a handful of crises at any given time. Right now, I could easily name ten urgent emergencies that demand global attention.

Then there are the silent crises – grinding poverty, hunger, inequality, discrimination and other threats to people’s lives and dignity.

We know these conditions drive insecurity.

No one country can handle these global threats alone.

All of us represent powerful organizations that must deliver results for the suffering people of our world.

I count on you to bring your best ideas to our discussions so we can make a difference for them, their families and our common future.


Let me close with a special word for His Excellency Mr. José Miguel Insulza, the outgoing Secretary-General of the Organization of American States. I applaud his vision and leadership – and for being such a good friend to the United Nations.

I am proud to have worked closely with you in defending and promoting our shared values.

Muchas gracias por su valiosa colaboración con las Naciones Unidas, y le deseo todo lo mejor

Thank you.