Secretary-General's remarks to informal meeting of the General Assembly on the Year Ahead
8 January 2015
It is a great pleasure to see you today. I offer you my best wishes for a Happy New Year. I wish you, your family and your country continued peace and prosperity this year and beyond.
Today, I want to talk to you about the year of opportunity ahead. With vision and solidarity, we can make this year a turning point in serving “we the peoples” and ensuring human dignity for all.
2015 can and must be the time for global action.
Let me start with a brief look back at the difficult year just past.
The year 2014 pushed our response capacities to the limit. More than 100 million people needed assistance. An unprecedented number of United Nations personnel are deployed in highly volatile security environments.
The year 2014 also presented serious challenges to diplomacy and, indeed, our common humanity, as conflicts raged and extremism rose.
Let me now turn to peace and security.
The elimination of Syria’s chemical weapons programme was a major achievement in 2014. I thank the Member States for their support, including key technical capacities.
But of course, the conflict in Syria continues to inflict immense suffering and will soon enter its fifth year. We must continue to provide humanitarian assistance to millions of refugees and affected people in and outside the country.
We also face a long list of other hot-spots.
The South Sudan crisis has entered its second year. Horrendous violence continues in parts of the Central African Republic, northern Mali and the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. Chaos in Libya is spreading, and violence in Yemen is growing. I am concerned about an upsurge of fighting in Darfur and other parts of Sudan. The transition in Afghanistan will require strong support. Conflict in Ukraine has cost well over four thousand lives, endangered security and stability in Europe, and reanimated the ghosts of the Cold War.
In several countries, electoral processes and constitutional amendments seem designed to prolong incumbencies instead of strengthening democracy -- and thus risk provoking violent conflict.
We must not resign ourselves to any further worsening of the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. I urge both sides to ease the situation in Gaza and the West Bank, and move away from confrontation and towards a negotiated settlement.
The presence of thousands of foreign terrorist fighters in Syria and in Iraq has added a volatile dimension to those crises. Groups responsible for atrocities have capitalized on a legacy of atrocious governance towards disenfranchised populations.
Our response to brutality and extremism cannot be limited to military action, important as it is. We must engage in wide-ranging efforts, including by addressing the conditions that give rise to such poison in the first place. There is also a need for greater attention to the nexus of extremism and organized crime; this year’s Crime Congress in April in Qatar can help strengthen criminal justice systems for this work.
My heart aches at the thought of the suffering of the girls and boys kidnapped by the brutal extremist groups Boko Haram and Da-esh. I would like to make a special appeal to the conscience of all those involved in senseless violence. It is in your power to end these acts and to save lives. As Secretary-General and as a father and grandfather, I appeal for the immediate and unconditional release of all abductees so that they can return to their families and resume their lives.
Peace and security are not possible in a world flooded with easily available deadly weapons.
I congratulate the countries whose ratification of the Arms Trade Treaty has enabled that landmark instrument to come into force so quickly. I urge others to follow suit, above all the world’s leading arms traders.
Let me turn now to the third pillar of our work, human rights and the rule of law.
In so many places, both Governments and non-state actors are exhibiting a callous disregard for the Geneva Conventions and international humanitarian and human rights law. In Peshawar, we saw the deliberate and diabolical slaughter of more than a hundred schoolchildren. The frequent targeting of hospitals, schools and other civilian facilities has had a devastating impact. It is essential to strengthen protection and pursue accountability, including through international criminal justice.
This year marks ten years since you, the Member States, endorsed the Responsibility to Protect. Our discussions have covered the full range of issues and concerns. Yet in too many crises the international community does not act on early warning signs, or fails to match rhetoric with responses. My next report on Responsibility to Protect will explore what more we can do to operationalize the Responsibility to Protect and reclaim the people-centred focus that made the endorsement of the principle possible in the first place.
A year and a half ago, I launched the Human Rights Up Front initiative, which aims to ensure the United Nations acts earlier, more effectively and “as one” to prevent atrocities. As the Secretariat and wider UN system embrace this approach, I urge Member States to support this initiative and take similar steps to fulfil this core UN function, including by making better use of UN bodies.
Your support and guidance are indispensable. Global responsibility is indivisible. Let us work together to make this year, 2015, a time for global action.
I count on your leadership.
Thank you very much. Merci.
Read the full remarks here.