Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon opened his first annual debate of the General Assembly with a call to global leaders to back his efforts to bolster the United Nations in the interests of the world.
"Our changing world needs a stronger UN," Mr. Ban declared in a wide-ranging speech. "My vision is an administration focused on results, efficient, directed, pragmatic and accountable, an administration representing excellence, integrity and pride in serving the global good." He acknowledged the need for a fresh approach, and, borrowing from the theme of a high-level event he convened earlier to address the problems caused by greenhouse gas emissions, said: "We need an internal climate change at the UN." The Secretary-General, who since taking office in January has emphasized results over rhetoric, called for more attention "to getting things done." He pointed to early successes in re-organizing peacekeeping operations and pledged to "continue the effort by strengthening the Department of Political Affairs." The stakes, he pointed out, are high. "Well-planned and executed preventive diplomacy can save many lives and forestall many tragedies." Addressing global hotspots, the Secretary-General pledged to "leave no stone unturned to end the tragedy in Darfur," calling on the Government of Sudan to honor its pledge to join comprehensive peace talks and implement a ceasefire. "The crisis in Darfur grew from many causes. Any enduring solution must address all of them ? security, politics, resources, water, humanitarian and development issues. There, as elsewhere, we must deal with root causes of conflict, however complex and entangled". On the Middle East, he called for an end to violence, an end to occupation, the creation of a Palestinian State at peace with itself and Israel, and a comprehensive regional peace between Israel and the Arab world. "With renewed leadership from the Arab world and the United States, coupled with the efforts of Quartet Representative Tony Blair, the elements for a renewed push for peace are being brought together," he said. The Quartet comprises the UN, European Union, Russian Federation and US. "We also sincerely hope that the Lebanese people through national reconciliation will be able to restore political and social stability by electing their new president in accordance with their constitutional process," said Mr. Ban. He said the UN has an important role in promoting political negotiation and national reconciliation in Iraq, as well as in providing humanitarian assistance to the country's people. The Secretary-General also called for stepped-up efforts to deal with drug trafficking and the financing of terrorism in Afghanistan. He repeated his call on the authorities in Myanmar "to exercise utmost restraint, to engage without delay in dialogue with all the relevant parties to the national reconciliation process on the issues of concern to the people of Myanmar." Pointing to recent progress on the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), Mr. Ban, a former foreign minister of the Republic of Korea, voiced hope that the forthcoming inter-Korean Summit "will create a historic momentum, to bring peace, security, and eventually a peaceful reunification of the Korean Peninsula." He voiced confidence in reaching a negotiated solution with Iran over its nuclear capabilities. "Our ultimate goal remains the complete elimination of weapons of mass destruction." The Secretary-General also called for global action to address climate change, noting that yesterday's high-level event generated agreement on the need to move forward. "Now is the time for action," he declared. Evaluating progress in achieving the Millennium Development Goals, a series of anti-poverty targets set at the UN in 2000, he painted a mixed picture and called for efforts to help those most in need. "Our Millennium Goals remain achievable?so long as we help the poorest nations break free of the traps that ensnare them." The Secretary-General also said the UN Human Rights Council must "live up to its responsibilities as the torchbearer for human rights consistently and equitably around the world." Mr. Ban, who since last week has been conducting intensive diplomatic activities on key global issues and crises, offered a ringing endorsement of multilateralism. "An increasingly interdependent world recognizes that the challenges of tomorrow are best dealt with through the UN. Indeed, they can only be dealt with through the UN," he said. Some 193 speakers are expected to participate in this year's general debate, including more than 70 heads of State and nearly 30 heads of government. The debate is scheduled to continue until 3 October. The opening of the Assembly's general debate follows high-level meetings in recent days on climate change, the Darfur conflict, Iraq, Afghanistan and the situation in the Middle East, and further meetings on critical issues, such as the permanent future status of Kosovo, are scheduled to be held this week. The Secretary-General is also expected to conduct bilateral meetings with over 100 heads of State or government or ministers during the next two weeks.