Informal Briefing to the General Assembly

14 Jan 2016

Informal Briefing to the General Assembly

New York, 14 January 2106 

[As Delivered]

Let me start by thanking you for your support and wishing you every success as we begin our important work in 2016.  Happy New Year to you all! 

Ladies and Gentlemen, 

There was great turbulence in 2015.  As we address those troubles, let us take heart from the triumphs. 

I congratulate you once again on the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.  These towering achievements point the world in promising new directions.  At a time of massive humanitarian need, they give hope that we can overcome global divisions in the name of the common good. 

Other milestones of 2015 include the Sendai Framework on Disaster Risk Reduction and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda on financing for development.  Polio moved closer to extinction.  The transmission of Ebola ended in Guinea and Sierra Leone.  Today, the outbreak has been declared over  in Liberia, too.   
These are all victories for collective action.  And where international cooperation was strong, peaceful solutions and transitions also followed. 

Iran and the P5 + 1 countries reached a landmark deal to resolve questions regarding Iran’s nuclear programme.  There were smooth transfers of power in Sri Lanka and Nigeria, and democratic gains in Myanmar and Tunisia.  Negotiations on Cyprus moved closer to fruition.  The Government of Colombia and the FARC entered the last stretch in their search for peace, and expect to sign a final agreement in the coming months.  And at long last, the Security Council, in adopting resolution 2254 on December 18th, found unity on a political path for resolving the nightmare in Syria. 

The trial of former President Hissène Habré of Chad, along with several cases before the International Criminal Court, continued the surge in accountability mechanisms.  With former political and military leaders in jail, and victims seeing justice done, the world is witnessing a sea change in ending impunity for atrocious crimes. 

Yet we know armed conflict, poverty, disaster and discrimination continue to stalk millions.  2015 saw rising threats to the global commons and our shared values. 

The year just past was one of extremes -- the hottest in recorded history, with hate-filled ideologies on the rise and the highest levels of forced displacement since the Second World War.  Major emergencies deepened in Iraq, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen.  Burundi teetered on the edge of cataclysm.  And as the occupation of the West Bank nears half a century in duration, Israelis and Palestinians grew even more polarized.   

We begin 2016 needing to get our priorities right. The United Nations continues to deliver results.  But we need to do more, and we need to do better. 

This is a moment heavy with responsibility: Year 1 of the new 15-year agenda, and year 10 of my 10-year mandate.  One year may seem to be very short in UN time.  But I believe we can make it dynamic and productive.  In that spirit, I would like to share my thoughts on the direction of our work in 2016. 

First, this must be a year in which landmark decisions on sustainable development that were made in meeting rooms and conference halls gain solid footing on the ground.   

If 2015 was a year of global sustainable development action, 2016 must be a year of national SDG traction. 
Each and every Government needs to show strong ownership by aligning policies, legislation and resources in support of the Sustainable Development Goals. 

Gender equality is at the heart of the new agenda.  Yet progress has been too slow and uneven.  I have seen too many parliaments, ministries, cabinets, board rooms and peace processes with few or no women at the table.  Sadly, that has sometimes been the case within this Organization.  I have worked determinedly to change this -- with some inroads but much distance still to travel.   
We must also grasp the full meaning of universality.  The 2030 Agenda applies to all countries.  Even the wealthiest have yet to conquer poverty, fully empower women, build inclusive societies and achieve environmental sustainability. 

In March of this year, the UN Statistical Commission will review the proposed indicators for the SDGs. We have 169 targets in the SDG’s but we are now working very hard to have indicators how we can measure the progress of implementation. I welcome this early step toward ensuring that we can track progress rigorously.   

Mesdames et Messieurs, 

L’action climatique sera un élément central de la mise en œuvre du Programme 2030. L’action climatique est bénéfique aux êtres humains et à la planète, bonne pour l’économie et essentielle à la réalisation des objectifs de développement durable. 

L’Accord de Paris représente un tournant. 
Pour entretenir la dynamique, j’inviterai les chefs d’État et de gouvernement à participer à une cérémonie de haut niveau qui se tiendra à New York le 22 avril. 

J’engage les dirigeants à continuer de jouer un rôle de supervision et d’encadrement politiques dans le domaine du climat. Il n’y a pas de temps à perdre et nous avons beaucoup à gagner à agir immédiatement. Je ferai tout ce qui est en mon pouvoir pour que l’Accord de Paris prenne effet au plus vite. 

Nous devons également, au cours des mois qui viennent, saisir les autres occasions qui se présentent, notamment la session extraordinaire de l’Assemblée générale sur la drogue, qui se tiendra en avril, la réunion de haut niveau de l’Assemblée générale sur la gestion des déplacements massifs de réfugiés et de migrants, qui se tiendra le 19 septembre, et la conférence Habitat III, qui aura lieu à Quito du 17 au 20 octobre. 

En février, le Forum de la jeunesse du Conseil économique et social sera l’occasion d’examiner le problème du manque de perspectives pour les jeunes. La résolution 2250, que le Conseil de sécurité a adoptée l’an dernier, ouvre la voie à la mobilisation des jeunes en faveur de la paix. 

Cette année, nous lancerons à l’échelle du système des Nations Unies la première Initiative mondiale en faveur de la création d’emplois décents pour les jeunes. Mon Envoyé pour la jeunesse continuera de coordonner l’action menée pour favoriser l’épanouissement et la participation des jeunes. 

La persistance de la pauvreté et le creusement des inégalités nous mettent tous en danger. 
Or, nous continuons d’essuyer des échecs évitables et de le payer cher. Les objectifs de développement durable peuvent nous aider à sortir de ce cercle. Mettre le monde sur la voie de la viabilité, c’est œuvrer pour la paix. Les organismes des Nations Unies sont désireux d’aider les États Membres à prendre le meilleur départ possible en vue de la concrétisation des objectifs. Ils continueront aussi de mobiliser la société civile pour qu’elle joue le rôle déterminant qui lui revient. 

Second, just as the SDGs will promote peace, so is peace essential for the SDGs.  In 2016, we must end the conflicts that global divisions have helped prolong, do far more to protect vulnerable populations, and show that we are serious about preventing the upheavals of tomorrow. 

My peace operations initiative sets out a comprehensive action agenda to strengthen United Nations peace and security tools, including through closer peacekeeping partnerships with regional organizations and local communities. 

The peace operations agenda – like the reviews of peacebuilding and the women, peace and security agenda – underscores the importance of conflict prevention.  The Human Rights up Front initiative, in seeking to address serious violations before they escalate, is also a prevention tool.  The responsibility to protect also challenges Member States to develop national capacities to counteract the earliest signs of risk of atrocity crimes. 

Today, the price of neglecting prevention is plain to see: widening sectarian tensions, shrinking democratic space in many places, and an arc of crisis stretching from the Sahel to the wider Middle East.  Across the world, more than 125 million people need humanitarian assistance. 

Tomorrow I will present to you a Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism. 

Our challenge is to defeat Da-esh, Boko Haram, al-Shabaab, Al Qaeda and other such groups  -- without defeating ourselves through counter-productive approaches that fuel the extremism we are trying to extinguish.  Well-calibrated, security-based counter-terrorism measures remain essential.  But human rights must be at the forefront of our response. 

Overcoming violent extremism also means addressing the underlying governance failures, exclusion, hopelessness and other drivers.   

Young people are the main targets for recruitment by violent extremist groups.  The Plan calls for more focused efforts to fill the lives of youth with opportunity and meaning. 

Violent extremists also seek to enslave and subordinate women and girls.  The Plan highlights the need not only to protect women, but to empower them. 

The Plan was given to you last week and issued publicly at the same time.  I will present it formally tomorrow, and I look forward to your comments and support. 

Our global landscape is blighted with the brazen and brutal erosion of respect for human rights and international humanitarian law.   

We see this in the sale of women and girls as sexual slaves, in so-called “surgical strikes” that end up striking surgical wards, in the use of barrel bombs by the Government of Syria and the reported use of cluster munitions in Yemen.  Such acts are not just the inevitable fallout of armed conflict; they are assaults on our common humanity. 

In recent days, shocking scenes and stories have emerged from Madaya, Syria, as humanitarian  workers finally gained access after being blocked since October.  The town has been the victim of deliberate starvation.  Let me be clear: the use of food as a weapon of war is a war crime.  All sides -- including the Syrian Government, which has the primary responsibility to protect Syrians – are committing atrocious acts prohibited under international humanitarian law. 

Combatants have shown complete and utter disregard for Madaya’s people.  Some 400 of these men, women and children were in such dire state from malnutrition or other conditions that they are in danger of dying. They need immediate medical attention, including through possible evacuation. 

But what about those who would be left behind?  They can eat today, but they fear another stretch of months in destitution if the combatants renew the siege. 

And what about the 400,000 others elsewhere in Syria in similar conditions of isolation?  They, too, have a right to assistance, a right to dignity, and a right to food. 

All sides in the Syria conflict are guilty of heightening the suffering of civilians -- of committing unconscionable abuses.  Today, I call for immediate, unconditional and unimpeded humanitarian access.  Tomorrow, there must be accountability for all those who play with people’s lives and dignity in this way.  Their regional and international patrons also have much to answer for. 

My Special Envoy and I continue to press for the convening of a further round of political talks on January 25th.  I urge all involved to build on the momentum generated by Security Council resolution 2254.  Moreover, we must not let regional tensions derail our quest to end this war.   

People caught up in conflict or disaster must not be left to suffer because of political paralysis or a lack of resources. The first-ever World Humanitarian Summit that I will convene on May 23rd and 24th in Istanbul is an opportunity to reaffirm and restore our common humanity.  I urge Member States to be represented at the highest level.  The report of the High-level Panel on Humanitarian Financing, to be launched three days from now in Dubai, will be an important contribution. 

I also call for strong shows of solidarity at the Syria pledging conference in London on February 4th, and at the Resettlement Plus conference in Geneva on March 30th.   

At the same time, arrivals in Europe were less than 2 per cent of the world’s 60 million refugees and displaced people.   Four out of five refugees are being hosted in developing countries. 

Our support must reach all people yearning for a stable home: Afghans,  Somalis, Congolese and South Sudanese fleeing a resurgence of fighting; the Rohingya of Myanmar, escaping threats by extremist Buddhists; Eritreans escaping repressive governance; and all those who have languished for generations in camps from Dadaab in Kenya to Dheisheh in the West Bank. 

This is a global issue.  On September 19th of this year, one day before the beginning of the General Debate, I will convene a High-level meeting on addressing large-scale movements of refugees and migrants.  I look forward to working with you towards a new global compact on human mobility. 

The threat posed by nuclear weapons is omnipresent yet attracts serious global attention only intermittently.  Eight days ago, the test of a nuclear weapon by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea provided the latest such jolt.  This was a destabilizing act that violates Security Council resolutions and imperils collective security.  It underscores yet again the general risk of nuclear weapons -- and the specific dangers of the DPRK, which faces severe developmental and human rights challenges. 

The nuclear-weapon states have made some progress in reducing the dangers, including through reductions in deployed arsenals and improved transparency. 

But the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty has still not entered into force.  Negotiations on a ban on the production of fissile material have not begun.  And some nuclear-armed states are spending massively to modernize their arsenals. 

Nuclear weapons are an existential threat to humanity.  Countries that regard their security as a matter of retaining or attaining nuclear weapons are only increasing risk – their own and the world’s.  This risk multiplies with the emergence of violent and unaccountable non-state actors.  Let us stop this dangerous spiral, and instead put disarmament and non-proliferation back at the forefront of the international agenda. 

When I took the oath of office almost a decade ago, I emphasized that the vulnerable, the poor and the oppressed have a special claim on the United Nations.   

Our place must be with the boy fleeing conflict, the girl denied a seat in the classroom, and the children still at risk of dying of preventable causes before their fifth birthday.  We must stand with women and men facing daily discrimination, and with millions still living in extreme poverty.   

As the 2030 Agenda demands, we must leave no one behind – and we must put the last first.  Fear and want stalk too many lives.  We have much work still to do -- including strengthening the United Nations itself and addressing our own shortcomings. 

Throughout these nine years, I have been continually inspired by how much we can achieve when we work together -- Member States, UN staff, the private sector and civil society.  The world is not as safe or as just as it should be.  But our direction is clear.  We know what works.  Human initiative matters.  The United Nations matters. 

I look forward to working with all of you in what will be a very demanding year -- and what must a very productive year, in 2016.  Let us unite to make life better for “we the peoples”.   

Thank you.