Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Secretary-General's address to the United Nations Association in Sudan

United Nations (New York)

5 September 2007
Posted to the web 5 September 2007

By Ban Ki-Moon

Khartoum, Sudan, 3 September 2007

Good evening, ladies and gentlemen.

It is a very great pleasure to be with you today, here on my first trip to Khartoum as Secretary-General.

I am happy to have a chance to address the UN Association in Sudan. And I am pleased to see so many students at this gathering, as well as representatives of civil society. The fact that I am meeting with you this evening, having only just stepped off my flight from Europe, testifies to the importance that I attach to this visit, and to this particular audience -- you in this room.

Ultimately, it is you who will carry forward the work of building a lasting peace in Sudan. It is you who will need to work, hard, to bring unity and prosperity to your beautiful country.

I have a special attachment to this land, Sudan, both personally and officially. Officially, Sudan has recently been at the centre of the UN's agenda for restoring peace and security in the region.

Personally, this is the country where my daughter began her career as a young, junior officer with UNICEF.

For all these reasons, I urge you to think of the United Nations - and me, personally - as your friend, always by your side. I urge you to do everything you can to advance our common cause - building a better Sudan, and a better world, for yourselves and for future generations.

My friends,

Let me explain why I am here. For four long years – too many years – your country and fellow countrymen in Darfur have been torn by conflict. For too long the international community has stood by, as seemingly helpless witnesses to this tragedy.

That now is changing. As you all well know, in July the Security Council adopted a resolution authorizing the deployment of 26,000 multinational peacekeepers in Darfur, jointly run by the United Nations and the African Union. This unprecedented operation marks a new era in UN-AU cooperation. It is one of the largest and most complex peacekeeping missions the UN has ever undertaken. It reflects the international community's commitment to contribute to bringing peace to your country.

I should also say that this agreement comes after many months of very difficult diplomacy. Much of it was invisible, conducted across time zones and in quiet meetings in many capitals of the world. We all must seize this historic opportunity.

That is the first reason why I have come to Sudan. I want to see for myself the plight of those we seek to help, and the conditions under which our peacekeepers in Darfur will operate. But most of all, I want to see the foundations of a lasting peace laid down. My goal is to lock in the progress we have made so far. To build on it so that this terrible trauma may one day end.

Yet there must be a peace to keep. Peacekeeping must be accompanied by a political solution. That is the second reason I am here. It is so very important that we keep moving ahead with the Darfur political process. Everyone agrees there can be no military solution. We need a ceasefire now. The violence must stop. I want to see us begin a new and conclusive round of peace negotiations as soon as possible. My aim is to keep up the momentum, to push the peace among the parties with a view toward issuing invitations to a full-fledged peace conference as soon as possible.

During my visit, I will meet with President Omar al-Bashir and many other senior leaders. I look forward to a frank and constructive and fruitful discussions. The goodwill and cooperation of your Government has been instrumental in the progress we have made so far. I will also meet with First Vice-President Salva Kiir in southern Sudan, as well as opposition representatives.

At the same time, we also need to push ahead on a broader initiative, underscored by my visit to Juba. That's the Comprehensive Peace Agreement between the north and the south. As you know well, this remains an essential -- and rather fragile -- cornerstone of peace across the whole of Sudan, well beyond Darfur.

The third reason for my visit involves humanitarian aid and development. Any real solution to Darfur's troubles involves something more – it requires sustained economic development and solutions that go to the root causes of the conflict. But we cannot effectively address development issues until there is a peaceful environment in Darfur and a political solution to the conflict.

Until then, the world's largest humanitarian operation, currently assisting more than 4.2 million people – must continue. I urge to you do your part to ensure an immediate end to violence and a rapid political solution.

Precisely what these development activities will entail is unclear. But we need to begin thinking about it, now. There must be money for new roads and communications, as well as health, education, sanitation and social reconstruction programmes. The international community needs to help organize these efforts, working with the Government of Sudan as well as the host of international aid agencies and NGOs working so heroically on the ground, in very difficult circumstances.

Ladies and gentlemen,

In your very kind invitation, you asked me to speak a bit about how I see the UN and its role in a changing world, particularly in this part of the world.

Let me say, here, something about who I am. I am not a philosopher. I have never put much stock in grand rhetoric – dreams of the future, “visions” that promise more than can be delivered. I am a realist, a man of action. I believe in results, not rhetoric.

As I look out at the coming year, and beyond, I see a growing number of extraordinary challenges. Darfur and the crisis in Sudan are among my very top priorities.

But there are many others. Iraq, where we are likely to be tasked with ever greater responsibilities. Climate change. Making development work in Africa, so that we can fully realize our Millennium Development Goals.

The list goes on, from Somalia and the Middle East, to new crises and opportunities that the world will bring our way. It think it is fair to say that the demands to be placed upon us have never been greater in our 62-year history, even as the resources available to us grow proportionally more scarce.

Where does Sudan stand in relation to the UN, and more broadly in the international community?

You are the largest country in Africa, rich in natural resources. But there is a need to create conditions enabling more development. Fighting has claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. Many more have become refugees and displaced persons, making Sudan among the world's trouble spots. This is regrettable, given the great potential of your country.

The UN has broad responsibilities, which can be thought of as three pillars. 1) Peace and security. 2) Economic and social development, as set forth in the UN Millennium Development Goals. 3) Human Rights.

The UN has a direct responsibility to advance in all three of these areas. As for the first, that's why I am in Sudan.

With respect to the second, much has been done in advancing our MDGs in Sudan. In southern Sudan, for example, the number of children enrolled in school grew from 343,000 in 2005 to more than 1 million in 2007. We have vaccinated cattle, distributed food and vitamin supplements to children, drilled hundreds of new water wells, and helped rebuild roads. Still, much more needs to be done if Sudan is to be on track to meet the Millennium Development Goals.

As for human rights, we have only to look around us to see how far Sudan has to go in upholding human rights and protecting people from suffering. Justice is an important part of building and sustaining peace. A culture of impunity and a legacy of past crimes that go unaddressed can only erode the peace.


Let us now turn our thoughts to how we can work together, and how the UN can make a difference in your lives and help create a better future.

As I said earlier, I am not a man of dreams and high rhetoric. I believe in solutions that are real solutions. And I know that there can be no solutions to Sudan's political problems without sustainable economic development.

I've mentioned some of the ways we are already helping, and what more we can do -- from helping to provide better health care to promoting better agricultural techniques to encouraging small business development.

But when it comes to providing root solutions to the country's problems, it begins with a core issue facing so many people in Sudan and elsewhere in this region.

You all know that the conflict in Darfur began, long ago, in part because of drought. When the rains failed, farmers and herders fell into competition for an increasingly scarce resource. The decisions of man to wage war over these precious natural resources further compounded other factors and challenges.

But the fact remains. Lack of water, and a scarcity of resources in general, has contributed to a steady worsening of Sudan's troubles. As part of the solution, the Government with international assistance will have to ensure that the people of Darfur have access to vital natural resources – water being chief among them. The UN stands ready to assist in this effort.

I realize this all sounds very practical and down-to-earth. It is. If you were hoping for high-minded declarations of global principles, I may have disappointed you. But that is the point. As Secretary-General, I would like to look only for results. Tangible action, solutions you can see and touch, measurable progress. After all, who can eat or drink only words?

I have discussed this matter with our European partners, as well as the world's aid and financial institutions. I'm going to host an MDG Africa Steering Group meeting next week in New York. I promise you that I will pay as much attention to this as I have to matters of peace and security.

I am very happy to have been able to meet with you here. It has been a pleasure speaking with you. I look forward to seeing more of your beloved country. I count on your continued support.

Thank you very much for your strong commitment to the United Nations, and for your help in our work - present and future.

Shoukran jazeelan.

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