UNITED NATIONS. BAN KI-MOON TAKES OVER: "WE ARE ALL IN THE SAME BOAT."

 

BAN KI-MOON TAKES OVER: "WE ARE ALL IN THE SAME BOAT."

15 January 2007

On 2 January 2007, passing an honour guard and welcomed with applause from staff, former Republic of Korea Foreign Minister Ban Ki-Moon took over formally as United Nations Secretary-General today with a call for collective action to address a host of international crises from Sudan's Darfur conflict to the nuclear programmes of Iran and North Korea.

Mr. Ban, who succeeded Kofi Annan to become the eighth UN Secretary-General as the New Year came in on 1 January, smiled broadly as he entered the towering landmark building housing UN Headquarters on New York's East River, where he paid tribute at the memorial for UN personnel who have fallen in the line of duty.

"I am very much overwhelmed by all this warm welcome," he told a crowd of reporters. "Your presence this morning is a vivid proof that the United Nations is much alive in the front line addressing all the challenges and issues and trying to give hope to all the people around the world," he said.

"I start my day as Secretary-General of the United Nations with much expectations and hope and promise and I need your strong support. I start my duty at a daunting time in international affairs starting from Darfur to Middle East, Lebanon, Iran, Iraq, North Korea, many other crises that trouble our world," he added, stressing that these issues need to be addressed collectively.

In a welcome initiative, one of the first actions of the new Secretary General was to address the staff. Stressing his determination to follow through on the goal of management reform at the United Nations, Ban Ki-Moon called on them to work with him to help make the Organization more mobile, professional and capable of responding to the expectations of the international community.

The UN must change to meet the demands of the 21st century, Mr. Ban told Secretariat staff after arriving at UN Headquarters in New York for his first working day.

"That should mean change with continuity," Mr. Ban said. "But we have to show the international community that we are ready and eager to change."

The Secretary-General said he planned to be flexible and pragmatic in all of his actions, adding that the strength of his "dedication and resolve is greater than ever" and he had a deep sense of expectation about the post.

"For me, the time for celebration has passed, I stand before you humbled, with a heavy weight on my shoulders, but my heart is beating with quiet excitement. We are all in the same boat. Let us work as one and sail together with courage and common purpose."

Noting that "staff morale has plummeted" in recent years in the wake of "harsh and sometimes unfair criticism" of the Secretariat on areas from lack of accountability to ethical lapses, Mr. Ban said: "Not all of the criticisms are justified, but some of them warrant our urgent attention, and we must take bold steps to dispel them."

He vowed to make meritocracy his watchword on human resources, while allowing for geographical representation and gender balance; set career development as a top priority, using training, mobility and evaluation; and encouraging staff mobility, not only between departments at Headquarters, but also between New York and the field.

"Together, we can make our shared home a place of humanity as well as professional excellence," he said.

Mr. Ban said he would look to senior managers to inspire, motivate and bring out the best in staff, and he urged all staff to be forthright in expressing their views, even when they are discussing shortcomings or problems at the UN.

"I am by nature a steadfast believer in the value and virtue of dialogue, no matter how high the perceived barriers to it," he said.

Mr. Ban later added that: "We may have different opinions, but it is through dialogue that we can and will found common ground to change the working culture of the Organization, restore trust in one another, and learn to speak in one voice."

The meetings was transmitted by video-conference to UN offices and duty stations outside Headquarters, including Addis Ababa, Bangkok, Beirut, Brindisi, Geneva, Nairobi, Santiago and Vienna. Staff representations from those duty stations, as well as New York, each made statements after Mr. Ban spoke while Assistant Secretary-General for Human Resources Jan Beagle also pledged the full support of staff.