Following are UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks at the opening of the Government Summit, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, today:
I am delighted to attend this Government Summit 2015. The United Arab Emirates has shown dynamism in modernizing government while preserving rich traditions. I also applaud the Emirati Government for helping to advance progress on climate change and renewable energy.
Today, I will speak about the pressing security and development challenges in our world. I will discuss how the United Nations is forging a global response. And I will highlight how capable Governments — and a strong United Nations — can foster a more peaceful and sustainable future.
We meet at a time of international turmoil. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict continues to take a terrible toll on individuals while undermining prospects for long-term peace and stability. The Arab world faces many other security threats, from instability in Libya and Yemen to the threat of Da’esh in Syria and Iraq.
We have all been appalled by the recent upsurge in terrorism and violent extremism.
I have repeatedly condemned the repugnant and cowardly behaviour of those committing atrocious acts against innocent civilians.
At the same time, I have insisted on the need to strictly respect human rights. Any rights abuses committed in the name of counter-terror are morally wrong and strategically counterproductive.
We need to address the marginalization and exclusion that drive radicalization. Leaders must listen to their peoples — particularly women who, for too long, have not had an equal voice despite being half the global population.
The challenges facing Governments are not only on the emergency front. People around the world are calling as never before for greater transparency, accountability and democracy. Governments that answer these calls will be strong. Leaders who place themselves above the law and their people put their own Governments at risk of collapse; corrupt, abusive and exclusive public institutions breed hopelessness that leads to unrest and instability.
True stability demands trusted institutions that deliver for people equally. Efficiency in government is more than a matter of smooth functioning well — it demands public institutions that truly serve the common good. I commend His Royal Highness Al Maktoum and the Cabinet for declaring 2015 as the Year of Innovation.
For the United Nations and the world, this is a year to take transformative steps towards a more sustainable, equitable and peaceful world. We are the first generation that can end poverty and maybe the last that can avert the worst impacts of climate change. People need effective Governments to achieve our ambitious plans for a more sustainable future.
There are three important events this year: the third International Conference on Financing for Development in Addis Ababa in July; the Special Summit on Sustainable Development in New York in September, and the Climate Change Conference in Paris in December. These are three priorities for the work of the United Nations.
The Addis Ababa conference will be an opportunity to spell out a comprehensive financing framework, the global partnership for sustainable development and other ways to realize our goals.
The Special Summit is a chance for world leaders to adopt an inspiring and very ambitious agenda for sustainable development. Then, at the Climate Conference, countries must adopt a new universal and meaningful climate agreement. This can be a turning point in our efforts to safeguard our future and seize the opportunities of the low-carbon economy. The success of these plans will depend on accountable and transparent Governments that engage people in decisions affecting them.
Civil society groups often stand for issues that communities care about most — human rights, basic services and justice. I am proud to have intensified the UN’s cooperation with these groups — and I count on Governments to give them a meaningful say in national policymaking.
States should also involve more citizens in co-designing solutions to development challenges. Information technology can allow people to help set priorities. The United Nations harnessed this power through our MY World global survey on peoples’ concerns. More than 7 million individuals have responded by stating their aspirations and hopes for a better future.
When Governments open their books to the public, they earn trust. And that is critical to building stronger communities and states.
Businesses also have great influence. The private sector can serve the public interest with creativity and innovation. States should reward corporations that are socially responsible. I welcome incentives to encourage sustainable business practices. The United Nations Global Compact is helping Governments understand that sustainable investments generate public benefits.
I have seen successful Government activities around the world — from e-governance in Northern Europe to youth mobilizations in Southern Africa. There is no one-size-fits-all solution, but there are universal principles that should guide every country.
To establish accountability, we need the rule of law and equal access to justice for all people. All societies must actively fight corruption and bribery. People respect Governments that punish dishonest officials for their crimes.
Information technology can drive progress, but only when there is an open and free environment that encourages civic engagement and constructive criticism.
Improving government is not just a matter of efficiency — it is essential to equity, justice and stability.
I welcome initiatives to cut red tape, lower costs and fight fraud.
We are doing this at the United Nations. Since my first day in office as Secretary-General of the United Nations, I have insisted on transparency and accountability. We are creating a more modern, dynamic and responsive United Nations that earns even greater public trust.
I am the first Secretary-General to publically disclose my financial assets — and I have asked all senior officials across the United Nations to be just as open. They are doing it. They are committed to disclosing their assets every year. I have also taken concrete measures to set — and meet — the highest ethical standards.
We are working in many ways to make the United Nations fit for purpose to play its rightful role, especially in implementing the sustainable development goals. We are conducting reviews of peace operations and peacebuilding. And we are achieving progress on internal reforms for better approaches to human resources, technology and management. A strong, dynamic and modern United Nations can better serve Governments and peoples.
This year, the United Nations marks our seventieth anniversary and the dawn of a new era for development. This new epoch calls for a new governance model — one that is ready for the future, accountable, transparent, inclusive and participatory. Our discussions at this Government Summit can help realize that vision and usher in a life of dignity for all.