Sharing his thoughts on the direction of the United Nations’ work in 2016, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today said the global community begins the year needing to get its “priorities right,” while underlining that more and better work needs to be done.
“If 2015 was a year of global sustainable development action, 2016 must be a year of national SDG traction.” Underlining that gender equality is at its heart, the UN chief said progress has been “too slow and uneven.”
“I encourage leaders to continue providing direct political oversight and guidance on climate,” he said. Mr. Ban also listed a number of other events taking place in the upcoming year, such as the Special Session of the General Assembly on the World Drug Problem, and the General Assembly High-level Meeting on Addressing Large Movements of Refugees and Migrants, and the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Youth Forum in February. On the issue of youth, he also noted that 2016 will set in motion the first-ever UN system-wide Global Initiative on Decent Jobs for Youth.
Turning to peace and security matters, the Secretary-General said the global community must end the conflicts that global divisions have helped prolong, and do far more to protect vulnerable populations.
“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,” he stressed, noting that across the world more than 125 million people need humanitarian assistance.
A day later, he presented a Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism.
Drawing attention to recent events in the Middle East, Mr. Ban recalled the “shocking scenes” and stories that 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 – the use of food as a weapon of war – a clear war crime,” he stressed, calling for immediate, unconditional and unimpeded humanitarian access. “All sides in the Syria conflict are guilty of heightening the suffering of civilians – of committing unconscionable abuses.”
He noted that with his Special Envoy, they will continue to press for the convening of a further round of political talks on 25 January, and not let regional tensions derail the “quest to end this war.”
On the issue of people fleeing conflict and disaster, the Secretary-General recalled that arrivals in Europe were less than two per cent of the world’s 60 million refugees and displaced, as he called for support to reach all people yearning for a stable home.
Nuclear disarmament was also featured as a top priority in 2016, with Mr. Ban underlining that nuclear weapons are an “existential threat to humanity.” He warned that countries that regard their security “as a matter of retaining or attaining nuclear weapons are only increasing risk – their own and the world’s.” Ending his remarks, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the international community has much work still to do, including strengthening the UN itself and addressing its own shortcomings.