UN chief lays out challenging agenda for 2008

By Xinhua

New York : UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Friday put peacekeeping, pre-emptive diplomacy, climate change, improving the lot of poor countries and internal reform on top of the body’s priorities in 2008.

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Addressing staff in a meeting held at the UN Headquarters, Ban called all UN colleagues to remember the great expectations the world placed on the organization.

“The world recognizes the indispensable nature of the United Nations. Let us take heart from the fact that multilateralism is alive and well and in greater demand than ever,” Ban said.

He said he would strengthen the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in 2008 in order to “deliver more results on the ground.”

To be specific, the UN chief said he would create a task force on the global scourge of violence against women.

In peace and security, he cited the establishment of the hybrid UN-African Union Mission in Darfur which will be the Organization’s largest peacekeeping operation when it reaches its mandated level of some 26,000 troops and police in an effort to bring peace to that war-torn region of western Sudan.

“Our task now is to strengthen our capacity for preventive diplomacy, and instill a more integrated and effective UN approach in responding to conflict and supporting sustainable peace processes,” he added, noting the need to continue reforming the Department of Political Affairs and enhancing the peace building system to prevent countries emerging from conflict from slipping back into bloodshed.

Ban named Africa as UN’s priority in its efforts to slash a host of social ills such as extreme hunger and poverty, infant and maternal mortality, and lack of access to health and education.

He also called the poorest countries as those most vulnerable to the impact of climate change.

“So we must act on the mutually reinforcing relationship between climate goals and development goals,” he added.

All these needs will require revamping the UN’s internal workings, and Ban cited the streamlining of the world body’s contracts system and a continued focus on better governance, performance, accountability and transparency.