Category Archives: Secretary General’s Message

UN Secretary-General’s Message on International Women’s Day


We are at a pivotal moment for women’s rights. The historical and structural inequalities that have allowed oppression and discrimination to flourish are being exposed like never before. From Latin America to Europe to Asia, on social media, on film sets, on the factory floor and in the streets, women are calling for lasting change and zero tolerance for sexual assault, harassment, and discrimination of all kinds.

Achieving gender equality and empowering women and girls is the unfinished business of our time, and the greatest human rights challenge in our world.

The activism and advocacy of generations of women has borne fruit. There are more girls in school than ever before; more women are doing paid work and in senior roles in the private sector, academia, politics and in international organizations, including the United Nations. Gender equality is enshrined in countless laws, and harmful practices like female genital mutilation and child marriage have been outlawed in many countries.

But serious obstacles remain if we are to address the historic power imbalances that underpin discrimination and exploitation.

More than a billion women around the world lack legal protection against domestic sexual violence. The global gender pay gap is 23 per cent, rising to 40 per cent in rural areas, and the unpaid work done by many women goes unrecognized. Women’s representation in national parliaments stands, on average, at less than one quarter, and in boardrooms it is even lower. Without concerted action, millions more girls will be subjected to genital mutilation over the next decade.

Where laws exist, they are often ignored, and women who pursue legal redress are doubted, denigrated and dismissed. We now know that sexual harassment and abuse have been thriving in workplaces, public spaces and private homes, in countries that pride themselves on their record of gender equality.

The United Nations should set an example for the world.

I recognize that this has not always been the case. Since the start of my tenure last year, I have set change in motion at UN headquarters, in our peacekeeping missions and in all our offices worldwide.

We have now reached gender parity for the first time in my senior management team, and I am determined to achieve this throughout the organization. I am totally committed to zero tolerance of sexual harassment and have set out plans to improve reporting and accountability. We are working closely with countries around the world to prevent and address sexual exploitation and abuse by staff in peacekeeping missions, and to support victims.

We at the United Nations stand with women around the world as they fight to overcome the injustices they face – whether they are rural women dealing with wage discrimination, urban women organizing for change, women refugees at risk of exploitation and abuse, or women who experience intersecting forms of discrimination: widows, indigenous women, women with disabilities and women who do not conform to gender norms.

Women’s empowerment is at the heart of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Progress on the Sustainable Development Goals means progress for all women, everywhere. The Spotlight initiative launched jointly with the European Union will focus resources on eliminating violence against women and girls, a prerequisite for equality and empowerment.

Let me be clear: this is not a favour to women. Gender equality is a human rights issue, but it is also in all our interests: men and boys, women and girls. Gender inequality and discrimination against women harms us all.

There is ample evidence that investing in women is the most effective way to lift communities, companies, and even countries. Women’s participation makes peace agreements stronger, societies more resilient and economies more vigorous. Where women face discrimination, we often find practices and beliefs that are detrimental to all. Paternity leave, laws against domestic violence and equal pay legislation benefit everyone.

At this crucial moment for women’s rights, it is time for men to stand with women, listen to them and learn from them. Transparency and accountability are essential if women are to reach their full potential and lift all of us, in our communities, societies and economies.

I am proud to be part of this movement, and I hope it continues to resonate within the United Nations and around the world.


Five things to make your city liveable


By Robert Glasser*

Do you want to make your city the most liveable place in the world, or as good as?

It can be done but it requires hard work and an understanding of how to prevent disasters and avoid planning mistakes which will only bring misery in the future.

If we are to leave no one behind in the race for sustainable development, we need to get ready for an uncertain future as the numbers of people living in urban centres surge towards 6.4 billion by 2050 when climate change is likely to have an even more significant impact on urban life.

Over the last twenty years, extreme weather events have doubled and now account for 90% of all major recorded disasters. Earthquakes and tsunamis kill more people but extreme weather events displace over 20 million people each year. Disasters cost the global economy over $500 billion and push 26 million people into poverty every year.

No country, city or town will be spared the impacts of climate change and there are some fundamentals to be aware of when you consider how well your town or city is doing when it comes to managing disaster risk. As the World Urban Forum opens in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, this week here are five things to think about:

No. 1. Access to a good early warning system. We need to reduce the likelihood of people dying in urban disasters by ensuring that basic early warning systems are in place and that these warnings reach people, and are understood and acted on. People need to have a safe place to go until the storm passes or the flood eases.

No. 2. No one should be living in harm’s way. We need to reduce the numbers of people affected by disasters by ensuring that land use regulations and building codes are implemented. This helps to ensure that people live, work and study in safe areas and in buildings constructed to the standards required by the risk profile of the location. If the risk is too high, don’t build.

No. 3. Don’t throw good money after bad. The most expensive school, hospital, road, public utility …is the one that has to be re-built after it has collapsed in a storm or an earthquake. Building back better is an opportunity but building better in the first place avoids unnecessary reconstruction costs that take resources away from areas such as education and health which would benefit society as a whole. Make sure the private sector and government agencies do not embark on critical infrastructure projects without factoring in present and future disaster risk.

No. 4. Don’t leave anyone behind. Everyone needs to be involved in preparing for a disaster, whether it’s having an emergency kit ready, knowing an evacuation route or looking out for a vulnerable neighbour. Preparedness and response planning must include women and girls, youth, people living with disabilities and older persons. People who may be vulnerable often have an acute understanding of disaster risk and how to manage it. When
developing strategies for disaster risk management, involve the whole community. This is essential to building resilience. Continue reading

U N I T E D   N A T I O N S                                    N A T I O N S   U N I E S



10 December 2017

This year’s commemoration of Human Rights Day marks the beginning of a year-long celebration of seven decades since the adoption of one of the world’s most profound and far-reaching international agreements.  The Universal Declaration of Human Rights establishes the equality and dignity of every human being and stipulates that every government has a core duty to enable all people to enjoy all their inalienable rights and freedoms.

All of us have a right to speak freely and participate in decisions that affect our lives.  We all have a right to live free from all forms of discrimination.  We have a right to education, health care, economic opportunities and a decent standard of living.  We have rights to privacy and justice.  These rights are relevant to all of us, every day.  They are the foundation of peaceful societies and sustainable development.

Since the proclamation of the Universal Declaration in 1948, human rights have been one of the three pillars of the United Nations, along with peace and development.  While human rights abuses did not end when the Universal Declaration was adopted, the Declaration has helped countless people to gain greater freedom and security.  It has helped to prevent violations, obtain justice for wrongs, and strengthen national and international human rights laws and safeguards.

Despite these advances, the fundamental principles of the Universal Declaration are being tested in all regions.  We see rising hostility towards human rights and those who defend them by people who want to profit from exploitation and division.  We see hatred, intolerance, atrocities and other crimes.  These actions imperil us all.

On this Human Rights Day, I want to acknowledge the brave human rights defenders and advocates, including UN staff, who work every day, sometimes in grave peril, to uphold human rights around the world.  I urge people and leaders everywhere to stand up for all human rights – civil, political, economic, social and cultural — and for the values that underpin our hopes for a fairer, safer and better world for all.

SG’s message on International Anti-Corruption Day

The Secretary-General

Message on International Anti-Corruption Day

9 December 2016

 The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is the world’s inspiring new manifesto for transforming our world and building a better future for all. But as we undertake this crucial journey of implementation, a broad barrier stands in our path: corruption.

No country is immune, and every country bears a responsibility to end it. Corruption strangles people, communities and nations. It weakens education and health, undermines electoral processes and reinforces injustices by perverting criminal justice systems and the rule of law. By diverting domestic and foreign funds, corruption wrecks economic and social development and increases poverty. It harms everyone, but the poor and vulnerable suffer most.

The theme of this year’s observance is “Corruption: An impediment to the Sustainable Development Goals”. Goal 16 urges substantial reductions in corruption and bribery and the development of effective, accountable and transparent institutions at all levels. The UN Convention against Corruption, buttressed by its peer review mechanism, is mobilizing action for honest, transparent, accountable governance, but far more is needed.

On International Anti-corruption Day, let us reaffirm our commitment to ending the deceit and dishonesty that threaten the and our efforts to achieve peace and prosperity for all on a healthy planet.




5 December 2016

 In a modern world where the population is growing, cities are expanding, the climate is changing and more food is needed, we urgently need healthy soils to ensure the essential services they provide.

Sustainable management systems and practices will unlock the full potential of soils to support food production, store and supply clean water, preserve biodiversity, sequester more carbon and increase resilience to a changing climate.

Sustainable soil management will also advance progress on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement on climate change. It should become the worldwide norm in order to optimize our use of soil now and preserve and protect it over the long term.

Pulses, also known as grain legumes, can boost soil health while supporting healthier and nutritious diets. Dry beans, peas, lentils and other pulses combine with soil in a unique symbiosis that protects the environment, enhances productivity, contributes to adapting to climate change and provides fundamental nutrients to the soil and subsequent crops. Pulses can fix atmospheric nitrogen in their roots. By freeing soil-bound phosphorous to make it accessible and usable by plants, pulses also reduce the need to apply external fertilizer. These are all drivers of sustainable development.

The international community has identified collaborative and coordinated ways to protect and sustainably manage soils. There are valuable recommendations in the recently endorsed Voluntary Guidelines for Sustainable Soil Management developed by the Global Soil Partnership. Following these guidelines will help pave the way to boosting the health of soil and fully unlocking its potential to support mitigation and adaption actions in a changing climate.

On World Soil Day, I call for greater attention to the pressing issues affecting soils, including climate change, antimicrobial resistance, soil-borne diseases, contamination, nutrition and human health.

Let us build on the International Year of Soils 2015, the International Year of Pulses 2016, and all the activities supporting sustainable soil management to generate more hectares of healthy soils everywhere.


Secretary-General’s Message for 2016

Attacks on journalists violate the human rights of individuals and undermine freedom of information and expression across societies. Impunity, which makes this terrible situation worse, is rampant. Of the 827 documented killings of journalists over the past decade, the information at hand shows that only 8 percent of perpetrators were held to account.

I pay tribute to the courage of all media personnel who put their lives on the line for the sake of truth. And I call for immediate action to secure justice in cases where journalists were attacked, harassed or killed.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is mobilizing all partners to implement the United Nations Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity. Success hinges on cooperation to create a culture of freedom of expression, where those who restrict the work of journalists are sanctioned and all who attack them are punished.

Toward this end, I call on all countries to mark the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists with concrete actions to ensure that all media personnel are guaranteed the space they need to operate free from any form of harassment or intimidation. In this way, we will strengthen public access to information, which is key to Sustainable Development Goal 16 on peace, justice and strong institutions.

Commemorative activities will be held in a variety of places around the world, including Myanmar, which will officially mark the Day for the first time as part of its transition toward democracy with discussions at the Annual Media Development Conference. In the Russian Federation, UNESCO is teaming up with the Russian Union of Journalists to examine prevailing conditions, honour those who have lost their lives and raise awareness about ending impunity. In Pakistan, UNESCO is joining with officials in a discussion focused on strengthening the safety of journalists. In Tanzania, UNESCO is working with officials to hold a workshop commemorating the Day.

I urge all countries to observe this Day, especially where journalists are under threat. Let us resolve to do all we can to contribute to a safer environment for journalists and a freer society for all.








Secretary General’s message on International Day of Yoga 2016



21 June 2016

yoga-logoYoga is an ancient physical, mental and spiritual practice that originated in India and is now practiced in various forms around the world.  The word ‘yoga’ derives from Sanskrit and means to join or to unite, symbolizing the union of body and consciousness.

Yoga balances body and soul, physical health and mental well-being.  It promotes harmony among people, and between ourselves and the natural world.  Recognizing its universal appeal, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed 21 June as the International Day of Yoga.

This year’s observance of the International Day of Yoga highlights the important role healthy living plays in the realization of the Sustainable Development Goals, adopted last year by all 193 United Nations Member States. Continue reading

Secretary General’s Message on the International Day of Reflection: Genocide in Rwanda


7 April 2016

In 1994, more than 800,000 people were systematically murdered throughout Rwanda.  The vast majority were Tutsi, but moderate Hutu, Twa and others were also targeted.  On this Day, we remember all who perished in the genocide and renew our resolve to prevent such atrocities from ever being repeated, anywhere in the world.

We should all be inspired by the survivors’ courage in showing that reconciliation is possible even after such a tragedy.  With the Great Lakes region still facing serious threats to peace and security, healing and reconstruction remain essential.

Honouring the victims of the genocide in Rwanda also means working for justice and accountability.  I commend United Nations Member States in the region and beyond for their continued efforts to arrest and hand over remaining fugitives and end impunity.  The best way to ensure that genocide and other egregious violations of human rights and international law can never occur again is to acknowledge shared responsibility and commit to shared action to protect those at risk. Continue reading

Secretary General’s Message on International Women’s Day 2016




8 March 2016

pg8As a boy growing up in post-war Korea, I remember asking about a tradition I observed: women going into labour would leave their shoes at the threshold and then look back in fear. “They are wondering if they will ever step into those shoes again,” my mother explained.

More than a half-century later, the memory continues to haunt me. In poor parts of the world today, women still risk death in the process of giving life. Maternal mortality is one of many preventable perils. All too often, female babies are subjected to genital mutilation. Girls are attacked on their way to school. Women’s bodies are used as battlefields in wars. Widows are shunned and impoverished.

We can only address these problems by empowering women as agents of change. Continue reading

Statement by the Secretary General on the Death of Boutros Boutros – Ghali



New York, 16 February 2016

I am deeply saddened to learn of the death of my predecessor, Boutros Boutros-Ghali.

The late Secretary-General, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, was a respected statesman in the service of his country, Egypt. He was a well-known scholar of international law and brought formidable experience and intellectual power to the task of piloting the United Nations through one of the most tumultuous and challenging periods in its history, and guiding the Organization of the Francophonie in subsequent years.

As Secretary-General, he presided over a dramatic rise in UN peacekeeping. He also presided over a time when the world increasingly turned to the United Nations for solutions to its problems, in the immediate aftermath of the cold war.

Boutros Boutros-Ghali did much to shape the Organization’s response to this new era, in particular through his landmark report “An Agenda for Peace” and the subsequent agendas for development and democratization.  Continue reading

Secretary General’s Message on International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation

  EndFGM_Logo_English_1 (1)



6 February 2016

Never before has it been more urgent – or more possible – to end the practice of female genital mutilation, preventing immeasurable human suffering and boosting the power of women and girls to have a positive impact on our world.

The urgency can be seen in the numbers. New estimates reveal that in 2016 at least 200 million girls and women alive now have undergone some form of FGM. The numbers keep growing both because more countries are paying attention to FGM and collecting data – which represents good progress– and because progress in ending the practice is not keeping pace with population growth – which is not at all good. If current trends continue, more girls will be cut every year by 2030 than today owing to high fertility rates and youthful populations found in most communities where FGM is prevalent. And since the practice increases risks in childbirth, it causes harm to today’s girls as well as the next generation. Continue reading