THE SECRETARY-GENERAL — ADDRESS TO THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY New York, 19 September 2017

I am here in a spirit of gratitude and humility for the trust you have placed in me to serve the world’s peoples.

“We the peoples”, and the United Nations, face grave challenges.

Our world is in trouble. People are hurting and angry. They see insecurity rising, inequality growing, conflict spreading and climate changing.

The global economy is increasingly integrated, but our sense of global community may be disintegrating.

Societies are fragmented. Political discourse is polarized. Trust within and among countries is being driven down by those who demonize and divide.

We are a world in pieces. We need to be a world at peace.

And I strongly believe that, together, we can build peace. We can restore trust and create a better world for all.

I will focus today on seven threats and tests that stand in our way.

For each, the dangers are all too clear. Yet for each, if we act as truly united nations, we can find answers.

First, the nuclear peril.

The use of nuclear weapons should be unthinkable. Even the threat of their use can never be condoned.

But today global anxieties about nuclear weapons are at the highest level since the end of the Cold War.

The fear is not abstract. Millions of people live under a shadow of dread cast by the provocative nuclear and missile tests of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Within the DPRK itself, such tests do nothing to ease the plight of those who are suffering hunger and severe violations of their human rights.

I condemn those tests unequivocally.

I call on the DPRK and all Member States to comply fully with Security Council resolutions.

Last week’s unanimous adoption of resolution 2375 tightens sanctions and sends a clear message regarding the country’s international obligations.

I appeal to the Council to maintain its unity.

Only that unity can lead to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and — as the resolution recognizes — create an opportunity for diplomatic engagement to resolve the crisis.

When tensions rise, so does the chance of miscalculation. Fiery talk can lead to fatal misunderstandings.

The solution must be political. This is a time for statesmanship.

We must not sleepwalk our way into war.

More broadly, all countries must show greater commitment to the universal goal of a world without nuclear weapons. The nuclear-weapon states have a special responsibility to lead.

Today, proliferation is creating unimaginable danger, and disarmament is paralyzed.

There is an urgent need to prevent proliferation, to promote disarmament and to preserve gains made in these directions.

These goals are linked. Progress on one will generate progress on the other.

Let me turn to the global threat of terrorism.

Nothing justifies terrorism — no cause, no grievance.

Terrorism continues to take a rising toll of death and devastation.

It is destroying societies, destabilizing regions and diverting energy from more productive pursuits.

National and multilateral counter-terrorism efforts have indeed disrupted networks, reclaimed territory, prevented attacks and saved lives.

But we need to intensify this work. Stronger international cooperation remains crucial against terrorism.

I am grateful to the General Assembly for approving one of my first reform initiatives: the establishment of the UN Office on Counter-Terrorism.

Next year, I intend to convene the first-ever gathering of heads of counter-terrorism agencies of Member States to forge a new International Counter-Terrorism Partnership.

But it is not enough to fight terrorists on the battlefield or to deny them funds.

We must do more to address the roots of radicalization, including real and perceived injustices and high levels of unemployment and grievance among young people.

Political, religious and community leaders have a duty to stand up against hatred and serve as models of tolerance and moderation.

Together, we need to make full use of UN instruments, and expand our efforts to support survivors.

Experience has also shown that harsh crackdowns and heavy-handed approaches are counterproductive.

As soon as we believe that violations of human rights and democratic freedoms are necessary to win the fight, we might have lost the war.

Third, unresolved conflicts and systematic violations of international humanitarian law.
We are all shocked by the dramatic escalation of sectarian tensions in Myanmar’s Rakhine State. A vicious cycle of persecution, discrimination, radicalization and violent repression has led more than 400,000 desperate people to flee, putting regional stability at risk.
I take note of State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi’s address today – and her intention to implement the recommendations of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State that was chaired by Kofi Annan within the shortest time possible.
Let me emphasize again: The authorities in Myanmar must end the military operations, allow unhindered humanitarian access and recognize the right of refugees to return in safety and dignity. They must also address the grievances of the Rohingya, whose status has been left unresolved for far too long.

No one is winning today’s wars.

From Syria to Yemen, from South Sudan to the Sahel, Afghanistan and elsewhere, only political solutions can bring peace.

We should have no illusions. We will not be able to eradicate terrorism if we do not resolve the conflicts that are creating the disorder within which violent extremists flourish.

Last week I announced the creation of a High-Level Advisory Board on Mediation. Those eminent individuals will allow us to be more effective in brokering peace around the world.

The United Nations is forging closer partnerships with key regional organizations such as the African Union, the European Union, the League of Arab States and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.

We continue to strengthen and modernize peacekeeping – protecting civilians and saving lives around the world.

And since taking office, I have sought to bring together the parties to conflict, as well as those that have influence on them.

As a meaningful example, I am particularly hopeful about tomorrow’s meeting on Libya.

Last month, I visited Israel and Palestine. We must not let today’s stagnation in the peace process lead to tomorrow’s escalation. We must restore the hopes of the people. The two-state solution remains the only way forward. It must be pursued urgently.

But I must be frank: in too many cases, the warring parties believe war is the answer.

They may speak of a willingness to compromise.

But their actions too often betray a thirst for outright military victory, at any cost.

Violations of international humanitarian law are rampant, and impunity prevails.

Civilians are paying the highest price, with women and girls facing systematic violence and oppression.

I have seen in my country, and in my years at the United Nations, that it is possible to move from war to peace, and from dictatorship to democracy. Let us push ahead with a surge in diplomacy today and a leap in conflict prevention for tomorrow.

Fourth, climate change puts our hopes in jeopardy.

Last year was the hottest ever. The past decade has been the hottest on record.

Average global temperature keeps climbing, glaciers are receding and permafrost is declining.

Millions of people and trillions of assets are at risk from rising seas and other climate disruptions.

The number of natural disasters has quadrupled since 1970.

The United States, followed by China, India, the Philippines and Indonesia, have experienced the most disasters since 1995 – more than 1,600, or once every five days.

I stand in solidarity with the people of the Caribbean and the United States who have just suffered through Hurricane Irma, the longest-lasting Category 5 storm ever recorded. And Maria is already on its way.

We should not link any single weather event with climate change. But scientists are clear that such extreme weather is precisely what their models predict will be the new normal of a warming world.

We have had to update our language to describe what is happening: we now talk of mega-hurricanes, superstorms and rain bombs.

It is time to get off the path of suicidal emissions. We know enough today to act. The science is unassailable.

I urge Governments to implement the historic Paris Agreement with ever greater ambition.

I commend those cities that are setting bold targets.

I welcome the initiatives of the thousands of private enterprises – including major oil and gas companies – that are betting on a clean, green future.

Energy markets tell us that green business is good business.

The falling cost of renewables is one of the most encouraging stories on the planet today.

So is the growing evidence that economies can grow as emissions go down.

New markets, more jobs, opportunities to generate trillions in economic output.

The facts are clear. Solutions are staring us in the face. Leadership needs to catch up.

Top