The Capacity to Care

Vol. XLIV No. 1 2007

Addressing a conference of the United Nations International School in March 2007, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon remarked that, unfortunately, his"generation has been somewhat careless in looking after our one and only planet". He could well have been speaking of more than the disregard a substantial portion of the twentieth century visited upon the earth and its environment, and been referring to the lack of care invested in the very lives and survival of the children, women and men who are heir to its bounties.

Latin America is the region in the developing world where democracy is now almost universal. Its roots, however, are weak. Latin America has a population of approximately 550 million people, of which about 44 per cent live under the poverty line and 18 per cent are affected by extreme poverty.

The significance of the selection of Africa for the first official overseas visit of Ban Ki-moon as Secretary-General of the United Nations cannot be overstated. Promoting stability and development in the region must continue to be at the heart of the Organization's work.

The Fourth Committee handles special political matters not dealt with by the First Committee, as well as decolonization issues.

For the first time in its history, the United Nations is embracing business and civil society as vital partners in advancing its goals of international peace and development.

At the sixty-first session of the General Assembly, the Fifth Committee ensured that the United Nations would continue to function in the 2007-2009 biennium and finance its activities, by determining the contribution of each Member State to the Organization's regular and peacekeeping budgets.

General Assembly President Sheikha Haya Rashed Al Khalifa, in her closing statement to the sixty-first session, told Member States that "when we are united in partnership and overcome mistrust, we can achieve much more for each other", noting that the adoption of the long-awaited resolution on strengthening the UN Economic and Social Council was a good example.

The Sixth Committee, which deals with international legal matters confronting the 192 Member States of the United Nations, has helped give birth to judicial bodies like the International Criminal Court. Following the recommendations of the 2005 World Summit Outcome Document, the objective of strengthening the rule of law was at the top of the Committee's agenda in 2006.

The First Committee, one of the main bodies of the General Assembly, enforces disarmament and the non-proliferation of weapons. In 2006, it made huge strides in international security when it adopted resolutions condemning surplus weapons stockpiles and agreeing on deeper international cooperation in the tracing of black market arms.

Global sustainable development and security are deeply interconnected, a fact that is increasingly recognized by world leaders. Sustainable development signifies the challenge of combining economic development with environmental sustainability.

Ethics in Action is an intelligent, provocative and important contribution to the fields of human rights and ethics. The book emerged from a series of meetings-apparently rather dynamic meetings-over the course of several years, which brought together academics and those working for various international non-governmental organizations (INGOs).

The Second Committee continued to tackle the enormous dilemmas of economic inequality, poverty and environmental degradation. Many developing countries expressed their frustrations at the lack of progress on the World Trade Organization (WTO) Doha Round of multilateral negotiations, aimed at increasing economic growth by lowering trade barriers worldwide.

As the first Secretary-General of the United Nations elected in the twenty-first century, Ban Ki-moon has inherited responsibilities that span the globe and run the gamut of issues, which included peace, prosperity and everything in between.

The Third Committee during the sixty-first session of the General Assembly had at the top of its agenda the rights of women, children and migrants, as well as an evaluation of the work of the recently established Human Rights Council, and approved a draft resolution naming the right to development as a major goal of this new UN body.

Even before formally assuming office, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had already made it very clear, in a series of public statements, that Africa would be among his highest priorities.

Ban Ki-moon has taken the "most impossible job in the world", as Trygve Lie famously said about the role of the Secretary-General. The Charter of the United Nations included the Secretariat among its principal organs, most certainly to grant some political prerogatives to the Secretary-General.

Today's peacekeeping is reaching unprecedented levels. There are, as we speak, roughly 100,000 personnel -- military, police, civilian -- in 18 missions around the world.

Presiding over the sixty-first session of the General Assembly, I quickly learned that an effective president needs to be able to juggle many issues and remain in close contact with key negotiating groups and regional constituencies.

It is an honour to suggest agenda items and top priorities in international security for Ban Ki-moon's first term in office as Secretary-General of the United Nations. However, it is also a daunting prospect, given his special expertise in foreign affairs and international security policy.

When Ban Ki-moon was appointed eighth Secretary-General of the United Nations on 13 October 2006, he declared: "The world's people will not be fully served unless peace, development and human rights -- the three pillars of the UN -- are advanced together with equal vigour".

The mission of the United Nations to carve out a safe, prosperous and just world from the ashes of the Second World War remains today an urgent global undertaking. For the past 61 years of its existence, the Organization's major organs contributed significantly, and greatly, to this end.