I have not sat still this year. From the very first day that I took office, I have been on the go – engaging leaders in their capitals and across the UN community to push progress on four main fronts:
UN Reform. We need to change the UN culture and re-engineer the United Nations for life in our fast-paced modern world. We need to move faster and more effectively in responding to global challenges, within all three pillars of the UN’s work: peace and security, economic and social development, human rights. As one UN team, we need to be more mobile and more flexible. And we must meet the highest standards of ethics, transparency and accountability.
To better deliver on the world’s expectations and growing demands upon us, I have set out to re-organize key departments. We began with the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, improving performance and efficiency by splitting it into separate operational and logistical departments. Now we will turn our attention to the Department of Political Affairs to become more proactive in tackling global crises, especially in the realm of preventive diplomacy.
I have placed special emphasis on ethics and set the highest standards of disclosure and transparency. We have new standardized ethics policies governing the Secretariat as well as the Funds and Programs. The Procurement Task Force continues its critical work. We will seek over the coming year to put it on permanent footing, with full investigative independence.
Climate Change: I have made the fight against global warming my top priority, focusing world attention on this defining issue of our era. More than 80 heads of state came to the UN’s High Level Meeting on Climate Change in New York. I have traveled to Antarctica, the Amazon, the Andes, Lake Chad and the Great Man-made River in Libya in an effort to dramatize the scale of the problem. I launched the latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which garnered another Nobel Peace Prize for the UN. I worked to galvanize global public opinion and political will in advance of the all-important climate change conference in Bali, where world leaders took a vital first step toward reaching a comprehensive climate change accord by 2009. This is the year’s key achievement.
The Millennium Development Goals (MDG)/Human Rights. We are at the mid-point of a great campaign to end global poverty. I have focused attention on the progress we have made – and highlighted the areas where we must do better. I established the MDG Africa Steering Group to address the special problems of Africa, home to the “bottom billion” of the world’s poor who have largely been left behind by rising global economic growth. During the coming year, I shall devote great effort to strengthening the UN’s role in development. For the poorest of the world’s poor, economic and social advancement should be considered an innate human right. I have appointed a full-time Special Adviser for the Prevention of Genocide and Mass Atrocities and launched a global awareness campaign for the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Geopolitics and Security: I have visited half a dozen of our peacekeeping missions, from Monuk in Congo-DRC to Minustah in Haiti. The Special Tribunal in Lebanon is on track and we are helping the country’s leaders resolve their constitutional crisis. The UN has expanded its role in Iraq and responded effectively to humanitarian disasters in Bangladesh, Congo, Sudan and the Occupied Palestinian territories.
In the Middle East, I worked behind-the-scenes to help launch the recent Annapolis peace talks, particularly in convincing regional leaders to attend. I will continue these efforts within the Quartet.
No geopolitical issue has absorbed more of my time than Darfur. A year ago, there was no movement toward peace in Darfur. Today, peace talks are underway in Sirte and a joint AU-UN peacekeeping force is about to deploy. The challenge for the coming year is to work continuously with the Sudan government, rebel movements, representatives of civil society and regional leaders, as well as the UN Security Council and the international community, to ensure the ultimate success of both the talks and the military mission.
By the Numbers: I Flew 125,000 miles during 57 official visits (to more than 120 separate cities and sites) in 39 countries or territories on 6 continents. I had more than 300 bilateral meetings with government days on the road.
Ban Ki-moon is the Secretary-General of the United Nations.