UN poised to tackle international challenges, Ban Ki-moon tells US audience

UN poised to tackle international challenges, Ban Ki-moon tells US audience

Ban Ki-moon at Center for Strategic & International Studies
The United Nations has the potential to enter another golden era equal to that of its early years, despite the array of daunting challenges – from finding peace in Darfur and the Middle East to long-term goals such as climate change and improving the lives of the world’s poorest – faced by the Organization, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today.

In a speech to the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C., Mr. Ban said the UN is capable of not just coping but thriving as it tackles global problems, but only if it can strike a close partnership with the United States that is free of fear and mistrust.

“If I am to succeed as Secretary-General, I will need our partnership to be strong, deep and broad – politically, morally, operationally and, not least, financially,” Mr. Ban said, noting the explosion of expensive demands on the world body, especially in the areas of peacekeeping and humanitarian assistance.

“We can build a new golden era for the United Nations, if we work collectively to make it so – and if the United States is with us, wholeheartedly and consistently,” he said. “With the US actively and constructively engaged, the potential of the UN is unlimited. And with the UN’s potential fulfilled, the US can better advance its aspirations for a peaceful, healthy, prosperous world.”

Mr. Ban stressed that a constructive partnership between the UN and the US, the world body’s largest donor, “cannot, and should not, advance at the expense of others. Every one of our Member States has the right to be heard, whatever the size of its population or its pocketbook.”

He urged the US to become a member of the Human Rights Council this year, saying “the stakes are too high” for Washington to sit on the sidelines.

In return he vowed to strengthen the UN’s capacity for dealing with major problems and to reform its working culture, so that it has “a staff that is truly mobile, multi-functional and accountable, with more emphasis on career development and training.”

The Secretary-General also outlined his key priorities in office, citing the Darfur crisis in Sudan as a “story of broken hope” and the focus of his first overseas trip, which will be to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, later this month for an African Union summit.

He called for serious and renewed efforts to tackle the conflicts in the Middle East, describing the situation in Iraq as “the whole world’s problem” and emphasizing that he wants to turn the diplomatic Quartet – the UN, the US, the European Union (EU) and Russia – into a more effective mechanism for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

He also pledged support for Lebanon as it undertakes a physical reconstruction and attempts to bridge gaps between its communities in the wake of last year’s war.

Mr. Ban said working towards a definitive permanent status for Kosovo and invigorating stalled negotiations on disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation remain priorities as well, especially the situation on the Korean peninsula.

But he underlined that efforts to deal with peace and security issues should not overshadow “equally important challenges” in other areas, especially in lifting people out of poverty, illiteracy and despair.

“This year will have to see real progress on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs),” he said, referring to the internationally agreed set of eight targets for reducing socio-economic ills, all by 2015.

Mr. Ban also pressed for improvements on tackling climate change, global health problems such as HIV/AIDS and avian flu, and protecting human rights, emphasizing that human rights must be a pillar of the UN work equal to security and development.

During his visit to Washington, Mr. Ban met with US President George W. Bush, as well as both Democratic and Republican members of the US Congress, including key members of the Senate and House committees dealing with foreign relations.