United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon opened Tuesday the 71st annual debate of the UN General Assembly with a call on world leaders to recognize that the important positions they hold are a reflection of the trust the people have in them and “not personal property.”
“My message to all is clear: serve your people. Do not subvert democracy; do not pilfer your country’s resources; do not imprison and torture your critics,” Mr. Ban said in his opening address to leaders from the UN’s member countries of the UN.
He added, however, that after 10 years as the top UN official, he is “more convinced than ever that we have the power to end war, poverty and persecution.”
“We have the means to prevent conflict. We have the potential to close the gap between rich and poor, and to make rights real in people’s lives,” he underscored.
The Secretary-General’s opening address, which draws from his yearly report on the work of the Organization, stressed that the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) offer a path to a better future, and that with the Paris Agreement on climate change, the “defining challenge” of our time can be tackled.
Mr. Ban underlined that the world continues to confront complex security threats from armed conflict to radicalization which compounded by governance failures, have pushed societies past the brink and threatened social cohesion.
Outlining, in particular, the conflict in Syria, where so many innocent people have been killed by a number of groups, including the Government, the Secretary-General said: “Just when we think it cannot get any worse, the bar of depravity sinks lower.”
He called on political leaders and candidates to “not engage in the cynical and dangerous political math that says you add votes by dividing people and multiplying fear,” and urged the world to “stand up against lies and distortions of truth, and reject all forms of discrimination.”
He further noted that he was encouraged that the General Assembly recently endorsed his Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism, which he said “can help us tackle the drivers of conflict.”
Looking back at his own term, which ends later this year, the Secretary-General expressed pride that the UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women) had been established, and that he had appointed more women to senior UN positions than ever before.
In conclusion, the Secretary-General expressed that even though a perfect world may be on the far horizon, the route to attaining it “is in each and every one of us.”