United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today looked back on his busy first year in office, which took him to nearly 40 countries or territories on six continents to push for progress in four main areas – UN reform, climate change, human rights and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and international security
"I have not sat still this year," said Mr. Ban, who has flown over 125,000 miles since taking office at the start of this year. He reiterated his call for the need to "change the UN culture and re-engineer the United Nations for life in our fast-modern world." While the UN must reform to better respond to global challenges, it must simultaneously attain the highest standards in ethics, transparency and accountability, he added. To this end, the Secretary-General is working to reorganize key departments, including the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and the Department of Political Affairs. Mr. Ban also highlighted his efforts in the fight against global warming, which he has called "the defining issue of our era" and which he has made his top priority. Those efforts – including his trips to places such as Antarctica and the Amazon and his convening of the largest-ever gathering of heads of State to discuss the issue – culminated in the landmark UN Climate Change Conference in Bali, Indonesia, which ended last week. In Bali delegates "took a vital first step" towards reaching a comprehensive accord to replace the current Kyoto Protocol which expires in 2012, the Secretary-General said. "This is the year's key achievement," he declared. This year marks the halfway point for the MDGs, eight targets to slash poverty and other ills by 2015, and the Secretary-General pointed out that despite progress made, challenges remain. "For the poorest of the world's poor, economic and social advancement should be considered an innate human right," he said, adding that he will expend great effort in 2008 to bolstering the UN's role in development. In the 132 days he has spent on the road this year, Mr. Ban said he has visited a half dozen UN peacekeeping missions, including the UN mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) known as MONUC to the Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH). He highlighted the crucial role of the UN in Lebanon, Iraq, Bangladesh and the occupied Palestinian territories. At the same time, he noted that "no geopolitical issue has absorbed more of my time than Darfur." While no advances towards peace were being made last year, there are peace talks underway now and a joint African Union-UN peacekeeping force is on the verge of deployment, he pointed out. "The challenge for the coming year is to work continuously with the [Sudanese] government, rebel movements, representatives of civil society and regional leaders, as well as the UN Security Council and the international community, to ensure the ultimate success of both the talks and the military mission," he said.