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November-December 2011

Vol. 36, No. 6

 

UN: Ban Ki Moon highlights civil society

Following are UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's remarks on October 26 to non-governmental organizations.

The world needs to forge a common agenda for sustainable peace, prosperity, freedom and justice. I see three areas where [non-governmental organizations'] [NGOs'] efforts will be especially important.

First, sustainable development. The first Earth Summit in 1992 was a landmark. It produced Agenda 21 and binding conventions on climate change and biodiversity. Global awareness soared. So did NGO engagement. Next year's Rio+20 Conference is a chance to build on that spirit. ...

The second area where NGOs can make a big difference is disarmament. We have seen encouraging progress in recent years, advanced in large measure by civil society and organizations such as yourselves. I welcomed your decision to make disarmament the focus of the DPI/NGO conference in Mexico City two years ago — one of the largest assemblies of disarmament NGOs ever to be held. We need you to keep pushing — for greater transparency, for deeper reductions in arsenals, and for more ratifications of disarmament treaties, above all the CTBT (Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty). Too many people dismiss disarmament as a pie-in-the-sky ideal. Let us work together to bring disarmament down to earth.

The third major opportunity: helping countries in transition. This year has been a most remarkable year for all of us. Not only those countries in the Middle East and North Africa — Tunisia, Egypt and Libya face major challenges — organizing elections, drafting new constitutions, promoting democratic practices, building independent judiciaries and free media. There can be no success without a healthy civil society. Please, do your part. Help these women's groups, social media activists, human rights defenders and others to take their rightful place in society — in government, in parliament, in every public institution.

One of the most important lessons I have learned as Secretary-General is the power of partnerships. Governments cannot do it alone. We need support from business communities, civil societies, philanthropists, and faith leaders, and we need coalitions, we need alliances, multi-stakeholder platforms. This is our business model, and we know that it works.

Thanks to the power of partnership, we are closing in on a day when we can eliminate deaths from malaria. Our target is 2015. By that time, we expect that there will be no malaria-related deaths. It is the operational strategy underlying our new initiative for maternal and child health, "Every Woman Every Child."
That is also our approach with the new "Sustainable Energy for All" initiative.

By working together — NGOs, business, philanthropic groups, the United Nations and other international agencies — we can leverage our efforts and resources. Together, in close coordination and cooperation, we can achieve outsized results on virtually every aspect of our shared agenda. And we will continue.

These are difficult economic times. Tight budgets. Cutbacks. Belt tightening. You are living all of this, too. Everywhere, people are living in fear — fear of losing their jobs, fear of being unable to feed their families, fear that governments and public institutions will fail them yet again. It is up to us — organizations like yours and mine — to help restore that faith. To deliver for people in need; to not forget people in need, especially now when times are so hard. These are some of the messages which I am going to deliver next week to the G20 summit meeting in Cannes. During this era of new austerity, I often say that we must learn to "do more with less." In fact, however, we must think and act in a deeper way. The austerity challenge is not merely about quantity; it is about quality. It is not merely about "doing more with less" but about "doing better with less." By that, I mean increasing the impact of our work, making a bigger and measurable difference in the daily lives of real people.

I know that we can do that with you by our side — as partners across the full spectrum of our work. That is the power of partnership.

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