United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has warned that about one hundred and thirty (130) million people around the world need life-saving assistance – about 10 million of them children and young people,, saying “Our next generation is already at risk.”
President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is heading a high-level official delegation to the General Assembly in New York, and is expected to deliver an official address. Speaking at the General Assembly in New York Wednesday, 21 September Mr. Ki-moon said gulfs of mistrust divide citizens from their leaders, while extremists push people into camps of “us” and “them”, and the earth assails with rising seas, record heat and extreme storms with danger defining the days of many.
“Yet after ten years in office, I am 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.”
Mr. Ki-moon said with the Sustainable Development Goals, the world now has a manifesto for a better future, including the Paris Agreement on climate change aimed at tackling the defining challenge of “our time”.
“We have no time to lose. I urge you, leaders, to bring the Paris Agreement into force before the end of this year. We need just 26 countries more, representing just 15 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions. I ask you to help lead us to a world of low-carbon growth, increased resilience and greater opportunity and well-being for our children”, the UN boss pleaded to world leaders.
However, he noted these great gains are threatened by grave security threats, noting that armed conflicts have grown more protracted and complex, and governance failures have pushed societies past the brink, with radicalization threatening social cohesion , which according to him is precisely the response that violent extremists seek and welcome.
He said the tragic consequences are on brutal display from Yemen to Libya and Iraq, from Afghanistan to the Sahel and the Lake Chad Basin, saying “In today’s world, the conflict in Syria is taking the greatest number of lives and sowing the widest instability. There is no military solution. Many groups have killed many innocents – but none more so than the Government of Syria, which continues to barrel bomb neighborhoods and systematically torture thousands of detainees. Powerful patrons that keep feeding the war machine also have blood on their hands. Present in this Hall today are representatives of governments that have ignored, facilitated, funded, participated in or even planned and carried out atrocities inflicted by all sides of the Syria conflict against Syrian civilians”.
Mr. Kin-moon said just when the world thinks it cannot get any worse, the bar of depravity sinks lower, lamenting Monday’s sickening, savage, and apparently deliberate attack on a UN-Syrian Arab Red Crescent aid convoy is the latest example. At least 20 aid workers were reportedly killed in the bombing, according to the BBC.
He said the United Nations has been forced to suspend aid convoys as a result of this outrage, while describing the humanitarians delivering life-saving aid as heroes, and those who bombed them as cowards.
“Accountability for crimes such as these is essential”, he emphasized, and pleaded, “I appeal to all those with influence to end the fighting and get talks started. A political transition is long overdue. After so much violence and misrule, the future of Syria should not rest on the fate of a single man.”
The Secretary-General recalled that a year ago, Palestine proudly raised its flag at UN Headquarters, but yet the prospects for a two-state solution are being lowered by the day, and all the while, the occupation grinds into its 50th year.
“As a friend of both the Israeli and Palestinian peoples, it pains me that this past decade has been ten years lost to peace. Ten years lost to illegal settlement expansion. Ten years lost to intra-Palestinian divide, growing polarization and hopelessness.”
he said replacing a two-state solution with a one-state construct would spell doom: denying Palestinians their freedom and rightful future, and pushing Israel further from its vision of a Jewish democracy towards greater global isolation.
On the Korean Peninsula, he said the fifth nuclear test by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has again threatened regional and international security with people’s suffering and plight worsening. He urged the leaders of the DPRK to change course and fulfil their obligations – to their own people and to the family of nations.
In Ukraine, he said the violence has caused an internal upheaval, renewed tensions across Europe and rekindled geopolitical rivalries, while in South Sudan, leaders have also betrayed their people, saying “Indeed, in too many places, we see leaders rewriting constitutions, manipulating elections and taking other desperate steps to cling to power.” He emphasized that Leaders must understand that holding office is a trust, granted by the people, 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.”