The year 2013 was the year in which the Syrian conflict “deteriorated beyond all imagination,” and it is clear – the people of Syria “cannot afford another year, another month, even another day of brutality and destruction,” the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said Monday at his end of the year press conference. Minutes after he briefed the UN Security Council (UNSC) on the final report of the investigation mission led by Swedish scientist Dr. Ake Sellstrom, the UN said – the international community should “be deeply concerned” by the final report’s findings -- that chemical weapons were multiply used in Syria and that civilians paid the highest price. Ban reaffirmed that there is not military solution, but only the political one for the ongoing conflict in Syria. He hinted, although without specific details - the UN is in the final stage of preparation for Geneva Two conference on Syria, scheduled still for January 22nd next year. Mr. Ban said he will “soon issue invitations” to the participants to that international conference.
- Condition for Geneva Two conference
“Everyone involved must do everything in their power to help the conference succeed,” Ban Ki-moon said, adding: “I appeal to the Syrian authorities to end the violence and provide humanitarian access.”
He also called on all UN member states and organizations, which as he said do have “influence on the Syrian sides to help them prepare for constructive engagement.”
“I believe that the international community and particularly world leaders have a moral responsibility, political responsibility, to help those people. There are 9.5 million people who have been affected. That is almost half of the total population,” Ban warned answering to the one of many reporters' question related to Syria.
Ban also expressed his concern over the humanitarian situation that “continues to worsen,” beside the fact that the UN started distributing winter aid to help Syrian people cope with the harsh conditions, the cold and the expected winter storm.
On the other hand, the UN Secretary General also warned the world organization must also overcome the shortage of money, as he put it the -- “severe and chronic underfunding of the relief effort,” in Syria.
Talking to the reporters in New York, Mr. Ban mentioned that earlier today, in Geneva, the 2014 appeal for Syria was launched. He said this is the biggest fund in the history of the United Nations – to be 6.5 billion US dollars to meet needs inside Syria and to help others who have fled the war.
“Now 2.3 million people are refugees in the neighboring countries, most seriously in Lebanon; it may reach soon 1 million refugees in Lebanon only. Then Jordan, Turkey, Iraq and even in Egypt, more than 100,000 people, and in North African countries. That is why I have decided to convene this pledging conference, which was quite successful this year in January, in Kuwait, and I am reaching out to member states to come to Kuwait to really show their solidarity, humanitarian solidarity,” the UN chief said.
Ban called for “generous support,” announcing also that he will convene the Pledging conference on January 15th in Kuwait.
- Africa is facing chaos again
Talking also about past 12 months for the UN, Ban said it was the year in which the Central African Republic (CAR) “descended into chaos.”
“I am gravely concerned about the imminent danger of mass atrocities,” Ban warned talking about fast worsening situation in CAR. Therefore, Ban called on the CAR country’s transitional authorities to protect people. He also appealed to religious and community leaders “to prevent polarization,” in Central African Republic.
Ban also welcomed the deployment of African and French troops in CAR – saying that those military force “is already making a difference.”
“As you know, the Security Council has agreed to deploy MISCA [International Support Mission for the Central African Republic], an African-led peacekeeping operation. During our discussions, there were a lot of African leaders who were hoping that the strength of MISCA should be enhanced to a minimum of 6,000 (troops), and also they hoped that MISCA should transform into a United Nations peacekeeping operation.”
According to Ban Ki-moon, UN is also scaling up the humanitarian response for CAR. “We must do more to meet this test of global solidarity,” Mr. Ban said, explaining that the total population of Central African Republic’s population of 4.6 million, half of whom are children is affected. More than 600,000 people are displaced, and nearly 70,000 have fled the country, UN chief said.
- Nobody can do it alone
Ban also praised the UN for its success in the field of global diplomacy that resulted in some positive changes alongside these crises. He said, “2013 was a promising year for diplomacy,” pointing the UN landmark agreement on the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons.
Yet, the UN chief said he was "just amazed that there are still so many challenges unresolved. The number of crises now seems to be increasing than during my first term."
"Then, another important lesson is that nobody – no organization, no country, however powerful, however resourceful one may be – can do this alone," Ban told reporters in UN.
Beside, among the successes counted Ban mentioned that the General Assembly adopted the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), UN member states agreed on a roadmap for shaping the post-2015 development agenda. And, he also included the Warsaw climate conference last month.
According to Ban Ki-moon, the Sahel and West Africa, that include UN peacekeeping and “mediation promoted stability,” with political and financial support, including more than $8 billion in new pledges from the World Bank and European Union – is becoming success story.
Regarding Africa – Ban said UN had welcome news on signing in Kampala of declarations by the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the M23 group ending their hostilities.
- Iran is back on track
Talking in particularly about the importance of the agreement reached last month between Iran and the P 5+1 countries on Iran’s nuclear program, Mr. Ban clearly raised his hope that “this initial understanding will be followed by a comprehensive agreement on all outstanding concerns.”
He encouraged Iran to provide full cooperation to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), welcoming Tehran’s “desire for an improved relationship with the international community, which could have important consequences on a number of issues.”
- Agenda for 2014
“We must make 2014 the year of protecting people – their security, their fundamental rights, their basic well-being,” Ban Ki-moon said talking about UN’s plans for next year, beyond the ambitious agenda on Syria, that starts next month.
“The coming year will be a key period for difficult transitions in Afghanistan and the Arab world,” Ban said.
UN chief also strongly urged Israeli and Palestinian negotiators “to show the leadership and foresight that will at long last produce a comprehensive peace agreement.”
But he also turned his attention to the ongoing crisis in European yard, appealing to the parties in Ukraine “to act with restraint, and to uphold the principles of freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.” Ban said he spoke again to President Viktor Yanukovich “to encourage dialogue on the country’s future path.”
In the wake of the latest dramatic developments in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), Ban Ki-moon expressed his concern and called on the DPRK leadership to work towards the verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and “to abide by global human rights norms.”
Ban Ki-moon also said he continues to talk with member states about United Nations reform process, but he did not mention the UN Security Council reforms. Ban stressed two other pillars of management reform: mobility and partnerships.
The UN is committed to working more efficiently and effectively, Ban said, expressing firm position that “the approval of the 2014-2015 budget proposal is of critical importance at a time of growing demands” that UN are facing on the daily basis.