Category Archives: Statements from the UN Secretary-General

Secretary-General’s Message on the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, 9 August 2016


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The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by world leaders last year, is predicated on the principle of leaving no one behind in the journey to a world of peace and dignity, opportunity and prosperity.  Among those most vulnerable to being left behind are indigenous peoples.

Indigenous peoples face a wide range of challenges including systematic discrimination, denial of their land and territorial rights and inadequate access to essential services.  Indigenous peoples regularly face stigmatization of their cultural identity and lack of respect and recognition for their heritage and values, including in textbooks and other educational materials.  Their marginalization is often compounded by language barriers.  Instruction is mainly in the national language, with little or no instruction in, or recognition of, indigenous languages.

This has grave consequences.  Around the globe, indigenous youth are graduating from high school at rates well below the national average.  In some countries, less than 40 per cent of indigenous children attend school full-time.  In many others, few indigenous children complete a full high school education.  This is unacceptable.  We will not achieve the Sustainable Development Goals if we fail to address the educational needs of indigenous peoples.

In recent decades, the world has progressed considerably in advocating for the rights of indigenous peoples.  The United Nations now has three specific mechanisms to advance their cause: the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues; the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples; and the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.  We also have the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.  Adopted by the General Assembly on 13 September 2007, the Declaration is the definitive benchmark for the recognition, promotion and protection of the rights of indigenous peoples.

In September 2014, the first World Conference on Indigenous Peoples adopted an action oriented outcome document to achieve the ends of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.  As a direct result we now have a UN System Wide Action Plan to promote awareness and action to support the implementation of the UN Declaration, particularly at the country level.

On this International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, I call on Governments everywhere to draw on the guidance of this international framework to improve access to education for indigenous peoples and to reflect their experiences and culture in places of learning.  Let us commit to ensuring indigenous peoples are not left behind as we pursue the vision of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Download the UN’s System-Wide Action Plan on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples:

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Secretary-General’s Message on Nelson Mandela International Day – 18 July 2016

07-17-mandela-day-2013Nelson Mandela International Day is an opportunity to reflect on the life and work of a legend who embodied the highest values of the United Nations.

Madiba was a model global citizen whose example continues to guide us in our work to build a better world for all.

Today, we remember a man of quiet dignity and towering achievement who worked tirelessly for peace and human dignity.

Nelson Mandela gave 67 years of his life to bring change to the people of South Africa. His accomplishments came at great personal cost to himself and his family. His sacrifice not only served the people of his nation, but made the world a better place for everyone, everywhere.

Nelson Mandela showed the way.

As the United Nations sets out to implement the newly adopted 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, let us seek to continue building on Nelson Mandela’s legacy of selflessness and deep sense of shared purpose.

The United Nations joins the Mandela Foundation in inviting people around the world to devote at least 67 minutes on 18 July to a community service activity.

At the heart of Nelson Mandela International Day is volunteer work for people and the planet. Its theme – “Take action, Inspire change” – is meant to mobilize the human family to do more to build a peaceful, sustainable and equitable world.

Tutor a child.  Feed the hungry. Clean up a site or care for your environment. Volunteer to serve at a hospital or community centre. Be part of the Mandela movement to make the world a better place.

This is the best tribute to an extraordinary man who, with his steadfast belief in justice and human equality, showed how one person can make a difference.

Let us all continue being inspired by Nelson Mandela’s lifelong example and his call to never cease working to build a better world for all. [Ends]

Secretary-General’s Message on World Down Syndrome Day (21 March 2016)


By adopting the ambitious and universal 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the international community has promised to leave no one behind. This requires empowering children and adults with disabilities, including those with Down syndrome, to contribute to our common future.

Persons with disabilities, including those with Down syndrome, are more than persons in need of assistance; they are agents of change who can drive progress across society – and their voices must be heard as we strive to reach the Sustainable Development Goals.

Toward that end, I recall the words of Pablo Pineda, the actor and writer with Down syndrome. He has called on others with Down syndrome to perceive their own vast capabilities, saying, “They should see themselves as people who can achieve their goals.”

I would add that others in society should similarly appreciate the potential and power of the members of our human family with Down syndrome.

This affirmation should be backed by concrete steps to respect, protect and promote the rights of all persons with disabilities, including those with Down syndrome. I especially call for priority actions to improve opportunities for girls and women with disabilities who often face greater exclusion than boys and men.

On this World Down Syndrome Day, let us resolve to support the autonomy and independence of persons with Down syndrome, including their freedom to make choices, as part of our broader efforts to usher in a life of dignity for all.

Secretary-General’s Message on the International Day of Happiness (20 March 2016)


This year’s International Day of Happiness is focused on Climate Action for a Happy Planet.

Everyone can be part of our campaign: governments, civic groups, the media and individuals. This year, even cartoon characters have joined in as the United Nations teams up with a group famous for lacking good cheer: the Angry Birds.

These animated ambassadors are helping to raise awareness about the importance of climate action for our common future. You can join them by sharing your own climate actions using the hashtag #AngryBirdsHappyPlanet.

At this time of grave injustices, devastating wars, mass displacement, grinding poverty and other manmade causes of suffering, the International Day of Happiness is a global chance to assert that peace, well-being and joy deserve primacy. It is about more than individual contentment; it is an affirmation that we have a collective responsibility to humanity.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is our plan to realize a life of dignity for all people. By advancing progress towards the interlinked Sustainable Development Goals, we can help spread happiness and secure peace.

The best way to celebrate this International Day of Happiness is by taking action to alleviate suffering. In this spirit, let us use this occasion to renew a global spirit of solidarity to create a safer, more prosperous and more sustainable future for all.

From the Glass Ceiling to a Carpet of Shards

Op-ed by Mr. Ban Ki-Moon in time for International Women’s Day, 8 March 2016

As a boy growing up in post-war Korea, I remember asking about a tradition I observed: women going into labour would leave their shoes at the threshold and then look back in fear. “They are wondering if they will ever step into those shoes again,” my mother explained.

More than a half-century later, the memory continues to haunt me. In poor parts of the world today, women still risk death in the process of giving life. Maternal mortality is one of many preventable perils. All too often, female babies are subjected to genital mutilation. Girls are attacked on their way to school. Women’s bodies are used as battlefields in wars. Widows are shunned and impoverished.

We can only address these problems by empowering women as agents of change.

For more than nine years, I have put this philosophy into practice at the United Nations. We have shattered so many glass ceilings we created a carpet of shards. Now we are sweeping away the assumptions and bias of the past so women can advance across new frontiers.

I appointed the first-ever female Force Commander of United Nations troops, and pushed women’s representation at the upper levels of our Organization to historic highs.  Women are now leaders at the heart of peace and security – a realm that was once the exclusive province of men. When I arrived at the United Nations, there were no women leading our peace missions in the field. Now, nearly a quarter of all UN missions are headed by women – far from enough but still a vast improvement.

I have signed nearly 150 letters of appointment to women in positions as Assistant Secretary-General or Under-Secretary-General. Some came from top government offices with international renown, others have moved on to leadership positions in their home countries. All helped me prove how often a woman is the best person for a job.

To ensure that this very real progress is lasting, we have built a new framework that holds the entire UN system accountable. Where once gender equality was seen as a laudable idea, now it is a firm policy. Before, gender sensitivity training was optional; now it is mandatory for ever-greater numbers of UN staff. In the past, only a handful of UN budgets tracked resources for gender equality and women’s empowerment; now this is standard for nearly one in three, and counting.

Confucius taught that to put the world in order, we must begin in our own circles. Armed with proof of the value of women leaders at the United Nations, I have spoken out for women’s empowerment everywhere. In speeches at parliaments, universities and street rallies, in private talks with world leaders, in meetings with corporate executives and in tough conversations with powerful men ruling rigidly patriarchal societies, I have insisted on women’s equality and urged measures to achieve it.

When I took office, there were nine parliaments in the world with no women. We helped to drive that number down to four. I launched the UNiTE to End Violence against Women campaign in 2008; today, scores of leaders and ministers, hundreds parliamentarians and millions of individuals have added their names to the action call.

I was the first man to sign our HeForShe campaign, and more than a million others have joined since. I stood with activists calling for the abandonment of female genital mutilation and celebrated when the General Assembly adopted its first-ever resolution supporting that goal. I am echoing the calls of many who know women can drive success in achieving our bold 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and advancing the Paris Agreement on climate change.

On this International Women’s Day, I remain outraged by the denial of rights to women and girls – but I take heart from the people everywhere who act on the secure knowledge that women’s empowerment leads to society’s advancement. Let us devote solid funding, courageous advocacy and unbending political will to achieving gender equality around the world. There is no greater investment in our common future.

Mr. Ban Ki-Moon is Secretary-General of the United Nations

A Nationwide Cessation of Hostilities in Syria: Statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on cessation of hostilities agreement in Syria 

22 February 2016, New York–The Secretary-General welcomes the agreement announced today by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, as co-chairs of the International Syria Support Group (ISSG) Ceasefire Taskforce formed in Munich, on the terms of a nationwide cessation of hostilities in Syria scheduled to come into effect on 27 February 2016.

Aware of the lengthy and detailed discussions that preceded this announcement, the Secretary-General believes the agreement, if respected, would constitute a significant step forward in the implementation of Security Council resolution 2254 (2015). It demonstrates the commitment of the ISSG to exert influence on the warring parties to bring about an immediate reduction in violence as a first step towards a more durable ceasefire. It further contributes to creating an environment conducive for the resumption of political negotiations. Above all, it is a long-awaited signal of hope to the Syrian people that after five years of conflict there may be an end to their suffering in sight.

The Secretary-General strongly urges the parties to abide by the terms of the agreement. Much work now lies ahead to ensure its implementation, and the international community, the ISSG and the Syrian parties must remain steadfast in their resolve.

The Office of the Special Envoy for Syria stands ready to support implementation of the agreement, both on the ground in Damascus and in Geneva. The United Nations further counts on the cooperation of ISSG members as all stakeholders jointly set the implementation mechanism in motion.

Opening Remarks of the UN Secretary-General at the Launch of Report for World Humanitarian Summit – “One Humanity: Shared Responsibility” – 9 February 2016


I thank the President of the General Assembly for hosting this important meeting.

On May 23rd and 24th, I am convening the first ever in the history of the United Nations World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul.

I thank the Government of Turkey for its generous offer to host the Summit.

In preparation, I have prepared a report: “One Humanity: Shared Responsibility”, which is before you.

I welcome this opportunity to brief you today.

We face profound, urgent and growing global challenges as was just presented by the President of the General Assembly.

Brutal and seemingly intractable conflicts are devastating the lives of millions and destabilizing entire regions.

Violent extremism, terrorism and transnational crime are creating persistent instability.

The widening gap between rich and poor is marginalizing and alienating the most vulnerable in society.

Climate change is having a profound impact with increasingly frequent and intense storms, floods and droughts.

Levels of need are at record levels, but the political solutions to relieve them are elusive.

Today’s complex challenges cross borders and surpass the capacity of any single country or institution to cope.

We need to restore trust in our global world order and in the capacities of our national and regional institutions to confront these challenges effectively.

We need to show the millions of people living in conflict — with chronic needs and constant fear — the solidarity that they deserve and expect.

The urgency of these challenges and the scale of the suffering mean we must accept our shared responsibilities and act decisively, with compassion and resolve.

The World Humanitarian Summit is the moment for us to come together to renew our commitment to humanity and the unity and cooperation required to prevent and end crisis and reduce people suffering and vulnerability.

Last year, your governments endorsed the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction Framework, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and the Paris Agreement on climate change.

Now we must implement these commitments.

We must ensure no-one in conflict, no-one in chronic poverty, and no-one living with the risk of natural hazards and rising sea levels is left behind.

The Agenda for Humanity I present to you today will help us achieve this. This is why I ask you and your leaders to commit to take it forward.

This is a moral responsibility and a strategic necessity.

If we do not prevent and end conflicts, increase resilience and reduce vulnerability we will not meet our sustainable development goals.

People in crisis want what we all want — safety, dignity and the opportunity to thrive.

These rights are universally endorsed in our core international instruments: the United Nations Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the 2030 Agenda.

They are central to our international order.

And, therefore, people’s interests, needs and vulnerabilities must be at the centre of all we do.

A sense of shared humanity must shape our politics, steer our behaviour, and drive our financial decisions.

The report I launch today provides my Agenda for Humanity – with five core responsibilities for action.

First, leaders must assume their responsibility to prevent and end conflict.

They must commit to work with greater intensity to find political solutions to end bloodshed and suffering.

The enormous human and economic cost makes conflicts the biggest obstacle to human development.

This should compel us to make conflict resolution our highest priority.

We must move from managing crises to preventing them.

Second, States must affirm their responsibility to uphold the norms that safeguard humanity.

States need to respect the rules they have endorsed in international humanitarian and human rights law.

This means complying with the rules of distinction, proportionality and precaution and stopping bombing and shelling populated areas, where civilians account for the vast majority of deaths.

We must reaffirm our commitment to national and international justice.

And we must end impunity for those who flaunt these laws.

I am calling for a global campaign to boost respect and compliance for international humanitarian and human rights law.

Enough is enough.  Even wars have rules.  It is time to enforce them.

Third, let us leave no one behind – and reach those who are furthest behind, first.

The World Humanitarian Summit provides a test of our commitment to transform the lives of those living in situations of conflict, disaster, and acute vulnerability.

Among those furthest behind are people who have been forcibly displaced – often for decades.

We must commit to reducing displacement by 2030.

We must also recognize the significant global public good that host countries and communities provide.

We need to find better ways to share this responsibility equitably and predictably.

These issues will also be the focus of the High-Level meeting of the General Assembly on large movements of refugees and migrants, on 19 September.

We must also empower and protect women and girls.

Meeting their needs and placing women in positions of decision-making at all levels is imperative.

Education in protracted crises must also be given  priority.

No child or adolescent should be denied an education because they are in a crisis situation or because of a lack of funds.

Youth are our present and our future.

We must provide them with opportunities and engage them in all we do.

The fourth core responsibility is to change people’s lives by moving from delivering aid to ending need.

To achieve this, we must reinforce national and local systems – not replace them.

We must respect and strengthen local leadership and capacity, not undermine them.

We must support the resilience of people and communities who will always be the first and last responders in crises.

We must also anticipate crises.

That means investing in data and risk analysis, acting early on this information, and managing risk before and after crises.

We must transcend the humanitarian-development divide by working to reduce people’s vulnerability and risk.

The protracted and recurrent nature of crises and the ambition of the 2030 Agenda demand it.

This will require UN agencies and international actors to commit to work across mandates, sectors and institutional boundaries.  Donors will need to commit to finance differently.

Istanbul must mark the moment at which we overcome this divide for good.

Fifth, and finally, we must invest in humanity — in enhancing local capacities, reducing risk and building effective and inclusive institutions, especially in fragile contexts.

We must also invest in smarter ways of financing and mobilizing resources.

This will require diversifying and expanding our resource base and using a wide variety of financing tools.

I have proposed that we establish a new international financing platform with the World Bank so we can explore new mechanisms to more predictably and adequately finance collective outcomes in protracted crises and fragile contexts.

We must enter into a “grand bargain”, as envisioned by the High-Level Panel on Humanitarian Financing, to be more transparent in how money is spent.

Taken as a whole, the Agenda for Humanity provides the key actions and strategic shifts the world needs.

I urge your leaders to come to the World Humanitarian Summit at the Head of State or Government level, ready to commit to action, change and mutual accountability.

You can begin now by making specific commitments at the Summit on each of the five core areas of responsibility.

Our aspirations are ambitious, but the urgency of the crises and the needs and expectations of hundreds of millions of people mean we must put this Agenda for Humanity into action.

We can only do so by working together and by committing to these shared core responsibilities at the highest political level in Istanbul.

I count on your highest support.

Let us make the World Humanitarian Summit a turning point in which we commit to placing humanity as a driver of our decision making and make concrete steps towards ending the suffering experienced by billions of people  today .

Secretary-General’s Message on the International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust (27 January 2016)


During the Second World War, six million Jews were systematically rounded up and exterminated.  The Nazis also murdered Sinti and Roma, political prisoners, homosexuals, persons with disabilities, Jehovah’s Witnesses and Soviet prisoners of war.

The Holocaust was a colossal crime.  No-one can deny the evidence that it happened.  By remembering the victims and honouring the courage of the survivors and those who assisted and liberated them, we annually renew our resolve to prevent such atrocities and reject the hateful mentality that allows them.

From the shadow of the Holocaust and the cruelties of the Second World War, the United Nations was established to reaffirm faith in the dignity and worth of every person and to uphold the rights of all to live in equality and free from discrimination.

These principles remain essential today.  People worldwide – including millions fleeing war, persecution and deprivation – continue to suffer discrimination and attacks.  We have a duty to remember the past – and to help those who need us now.

For more than a decade, the Holocaust and the United Nations Outreach Programme has worked to educate young people about the Holocaust.  Many partners – including Holocaust survivors – continue to contribute to this essential work.

The memory of the Holocaust is a powerful reminder of what can happen when we stop seeing our common humanity.  On this day of Holocaust remembrance, I urge everyone to denounce political and religious ideologies that set people against people.  Let us all speak out against anti-Semitism and attacks against religious, ethnic or other groups.  Let us create a world where dignity is respected, diversity is celebrated, and peace is permanent.

Secretary-General’s Message on International Migrants Day (18 December 2015)

2015 will be remembered as a year of human suffering and migrant tragedies.  Over the past 12 months, more than 5,000 women, men and children lost their lives in search of protection and a better life.  Tens of thousands more have been exploited and abused by human traffickers.  And millions have been made into scapegoats and become the targets of xenophobic policies and alarmist rhetoric.

But 2015 was also a year in which the global community underscored the important contribution of migrants to sustainable development.  With the adoption of the 2030 Agenda
for Sustainable Development, world leaders vowed to protect the labour rights of migrant workers, combat transnational criminal human trafficking networks, and promote well-regulated migration and mobility.  By addressing root causes, the 2030 Agenda also seeks to tackle the development, governance and human rights challenges that are driving people to flee their homes in the first place.

The world urgently needs to build upon these efforts with a new global compact on human mobility based on better cooperation among countries of origin, transit and destination, with enhanced responsibility sharing, and full respect of the human rights of migrants, regardless of their status.

We must expand safe channels for regular migration, including for family reunification, labour mobility at all skill levels, greater resettlement opportunities, and education opportunities for children and adults.  I also urge all countries to sign and ratify the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families; only one-fourth of UN Member States have done so.

These principles and ideas will be part of the implementation of the roadmap to address the large movements of migrants and refugees that I have presented to the General Assembly.

On International Migrants Day, let us commit to coherent, comprehensive and human-rights based responses guided by international law and standards and a shared resolve to leave no one behind.

Secretary-General’s Press Statement at COP21 (7 December 2015)

Paris, France, 7 December 2015

Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen,

I am pleased to be with you.

We have just begun the High Level segment of COP21.

Here in Paris, we have a unique opportunity to redefine our future.

We are on the verge of one of the most important peace agreements of our times making peace with our planet.

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