UN and Europe natural allies in tackling poverty and climate change, Ban says

19 October 2010

The United Nations and European Union are natural allies in tackling the multiple crises facing the world, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the European Parliament today, as he called for three-fold joint action to fight poverty, confront climate change and eliminate nuclear weapons.

In what he called “a light bulb moment around the world,” he stressed the growing understanding of the need for solidarity in the face of global challenges. “Country after country, leader after leader, is coming to recognize that the best way to address our challenges is by taking them on together,” he told the 27-nation legislature of the European Union (EU).

“No nation, no group, no region can do it alone. If we share in the burden, we will share in the benefits,” he said, reciting a litany of concerns and fears of real people. “Jobs are scarce. Tensions are high. People are hurting, angry, disillusioned. That has led to an erosion of trust in institutions, in leaders, and among neighbours.”

Outlining the “three great goals” for joint action, he noted that major progress has been made in combating extreme poverty and hunger, but achievements are uneven, with world trade talks stagnating and locking in place harmful subsidies and an unfair regime that deny developing countries new opportunities, and rising prices putting essential medicines out of reach of many of the neediest.

“I ask all of you to support the United Nations where action is urgently and especially needed,” he said. “We must focus on employment-centred growth – decent work. Investment in clean and renewable energy is crucial for jumpstarting jobs and innovation.”

On climate change, he noted that scientists warn that recent extreme weather in many countries, such as raging fires in Russia and epic floods in Pakistan, could be the opening act on our future. “We must always be careful however about linking specific weather events to climate change,” he declared. “But neither should we avert our eyes from what is plain to see. The message is clear: the more we delay, the more we will pay – in competitiveness, in resources, in lives.”

He called on all on all parties to show flexibility and on developed countries to provide their fair share of the $30 billion in fast-track financing pledged at the climate conference in Copenhagen for 2010-2012 to help developing countries adapt to climate change.

“Europe has been a historic engine of growth and change,” he said. “Now, when governments are not moving when the train has hit the buffers in our talks on climate change or other issues – Europe can be the locomotive, driving it forward. You can push, you can pull, you can get the train back on track. You can keep us moving in the right direction.”

On the third goal of achieving a nuclear weapons-free world, he cited a new momentum in fulfilling disarmament commitments.

“This progress will continue if, and only if, the voices of the people are fully reflected in national and regional issues. And if the half billion voices in the European Union speak out in harmony on this issue—joined by voices from other regions,” he added. “Let us move beyond our over-armed and under-developed age to a more secure world for all.”

In a meeting with European Parliament President Jerzy Buzek, Mr. Ban discussed climate change and the upcoming conference of the parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Cancún, Mexico. He also expressed his appreciation for the EU’s invaluable to the UN through financial support and other means.

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