UN Secretary-General Ban’s Opening Remarks at Year-end Press Conference, December 16, 2013

New York—(ENEWSPF)–16 December 2013

Good morning, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure to see you in this press conference. Welcome to our traditional end-of-year press conference.

I would like first of all to touch on some leading challenges for the coming year.  Ladies and Gentlemen, let me begin with a look back on the crises and vital work of the past 12 months.

2013 was the year in which the Syrian conflict deteriorated beyond all imagination.

The people of Syria cannot afford another year, another month, even another day of brutality and destruction.

I just briefed the Security Council on the final report of the investigation mission led by Professor Åke Sellström.  We should all be deeply concerned by its findings that chemical weapons were used not only in the August attack in Ghouta area of Damascus, but on several other occasions, including against civilians.

I will soon issue invitations to the International Conference [on Syria] that I will convene on Wednesday, 22 January next year.

Everyone involved must do everything in their power to help the conference succeed.

I appeal to the Syrian authorities to end the violence and provide humanitarian access.

I call on States and organizations with influence on the Syrian sides to help them prepare for constructive engagement.

The humanitarian situation continues to worsen.  We have started distributing winter aid to help people cope with the harsh conditions that are taking hold.

We must also overcome the severe and chronic underfunding of the relief effort. The 2014 appeal for Syria launched today in Geneva is the biggest in the history of the United Nations: $6.5 billion to meet needs inside Syria and to help the more than 2 million people who have fled the country.  I call for generous support, including at the pledging conference I will convene on January 15th in Kuwait.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

2013 was also the year in which the Central African Republic descended into chaos.

I am gravely concerned about the imminent danger of mass atrocities.  I call on the country’s transitional authorities to protect people.  I appeal to religious and community leaders to prevent polarization. 

I welcome the deployment of African and French troops, which is already making a difference.

Human rights observers are on their way.  The United Nations will establish a commission of inquiry to investigate reports of atrocities.  Perpetrators must be held to account.

We are also scaling up the humanitarian response.  We are also scaling up the humanitarian response.  The entire population of 4.6 million is affected, half of whom are children.  More than 600,000 people are displaced, and nearly 70,000 have fled the country. Earlier this month at the Paris summit on the crisis, I joined other African leaders in stressing the need for decisive action to avoid further suffering.  We must do more to meet this test of global solidarity.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Alongside these crises, 2013 was a promising year for diplomacy.

The United Nations reached a landmark agreement on the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons programme.

The General Assembly adopted the Arms Trade Treaty, realizing a long-held dream.

Member States agreed on a roadmap for shaping the post-2015 development agenda.

The Warsaw climate conference last month kept negotiations on track for an agreement in 2015.

Across the Sahel and West Africa, peacekeeping and mediation promoted stability.

I commend the people of Mali for the peaceful conduct of yesterday’s legislative elections.  Saturday’s bombing attack in Kidal will not deter us.

My visit to the region last month mobilized both political and financial support, including more than $8 billion in new pledges from the World Bank and European Union.

2013 was a year of heightened UN-World Bank cooperation and partnership.  The World Bank President, Dr. Jim Yong Kim, and I also travelled together to Africa in May to support the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the region that was brokered by the United Nations in February.

The United Nations has also equipped its peacekeeping operation, MONUSCO, with new tools that have produced good results.  We had further welcome news last Thursday with the signing in Kampala of declarations by the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the M23 group ending their hostilities.

Another highlight of 2013 was the agreement reached last month between Iran and the P5+1 countries on Iran’s nuclear programme.  I hope that this initial understanding will be followed by a comprehensive agreement on all outstanding concerns.   I also encourage Iran to provide full cooperation to the International Atomic Energy Agency. I welcome the Government of Iran’s desire for an improved relationship with the international community, which could have important consequences on a number of issues.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I want this diplomatic momentum to carry over into the New Year.

We must make 2014 the year of protecting people – their security, their fundamental rights, their basic well-being.

The coming year will be a key period for difficult transitions in Afghanistan and the Arab world. 

I urge Israeli and Palestinian negotiators to show the leadership and foresight that will at long last produce a comprehensive peace agreement.

I appeal to the parties in Ukraine to act with restraint, and to uphold the [democratic] principles of freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.  I spoke again to President [Viktor] Yanukovich of Ukraine this past weekend to encourage dialogue on the country’s future path.

I call on all sides in Thailand to refrain from violence.  I welcome the Government’s decision to resolve the country’s political tensions through a democratic process.

In the wake of the latest dramatic developments in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, I call again on the DPRK leadership to work towards the verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and to abide by global human rights norms.  The period ahead should be used to build confidence in the international community and to improve living conditions for the country’s long-suffering people.  I stand ready to offer my good offices.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

This year ahead will be crucial for development.

Achieving the Millennium Development Goals by the end of 2015 means accelerating efforts now, especially on lagging goals like sanitation and maternal health.

Agreeing on a new agenda and on a set of sustainable development goals requires intensified discussions.

And reaching a climate agreement in 2015 means doing heavy lifting in 2014.

I will convene a Climate Change Summit meeting on 23 September next year.  I want this to be a solutions summit on the road to the climate action the world so urgently needs.

2013 was another year of extreme weather — as we saw most recently with Typhoon Haiyan.  On Thursday, I will depart for Manila and Tacloban for a firsthand assessment of the aftermath.

Our efforts to strengthen the UN made inroads in 2013.  The United Nations entered a new era with the deployment of Umoja, our Enterprise Resource Planning system, to all peacekeeping operations.

I continue to talk with Member States about two other pillars of management reform: mobility and partnerships.

We are committed to working more efficiently and effectively.  The approval of the 2014-2015 budget proposal is of critical importance at a time of growing demands.

Finally, 2013 will be remembered as the year in which the world bid a sad but celebratory farewell to Nelson Mandela.  On Thursday, the General Assembly will hold a memorial so that the United Nations can offer its own tribute to a man who embodied what we work for every day.

I can think of nothing I would rather see in 2014 than for world leaders to emulate his example in upholding their moral and political responsibilities.

In that very spirit, it is my pleasure to congratulate one of those leaders — our greatly admired former colleague Michelle Bachelet — on her election yesterday as President of Chile.  We look forward to the great things she will accomplish in this new role.

Thank you for your attention.  I wish you a joyful holiday season. Thank you.

Source: un.org