UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon Says He’s Spent Most ‘Time and Energy’ on Climate Change

By Patrick Goodenough | December 28, 2015 | 10:59pm EST
U.N. secretary-general Ban Ki-moon and President Obama in 2010. (AP Photo, File)

(CNSNews.com) – One year before the end of his second and final term in office, United Nations secretary-general Ban Ki-moon says he has spent “most of my time and energy” at the helm of the global body focused on one issue – climate change.

“I have spent real passion ... and most of my time and energy on this issue,” Ban told the Associated Press in an interview focusing on his work in that area, culminating in the recent Paris climate conference.

And he told the wire service that climate change, including follow-through on the global deal reached in Paris, will remain his priority for the remainder of his term. Ban leaves his office on the 38th floor of the U.N. headquarters in New York on December 31 next year.

U.S. taxpayers account for 22 percent of the U.N.’s regular operating budget, which covers its core activities, including costs of staffing and running its headquarters in New York and other cities. For next year that will amount to some $594 million, plus an additional $2.363 billion contribution to the separate peacekeeping budget.

The U.N. secretary-general’s salary is set at approximately $227,000.

Since Ban, a former foreign minister of South Korea, became secretary-general on January 1, 2007 the world has faced numerous major crises, including:

--The Darfur genocide

In a 2007 op-ed Ban argued that the conflict – which the U.S. and rights groups said cost more than 200,000 lives – arose “at least in part from climate change.”

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide relating to Darfur, but after Bashir’s 2010 re-election, Ban sent two senior U.N. officials to his inauguration ceremony in Khartoum. (Ban said the two – the head of the U.N. Mission in Sudan and the joint head of the U.N.-Africa Union Mission in Darfur – attended “within the framework of their mandate.”)

--The disputed 2009 re-election of Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and subsequent violent crackdown on opposition supporters

As scores were killed and thousands arrested, human rights advocates urged Ban to “refuse to recognize Ahmadinejad's illegitimate government that has staged an electoral coup.” But Ban sent what his spokesperson called a “customary” message of congratulation on the occasion of Ahmadinejad’s inauguration.

--The Libyan civil war

As the Gaddafi regime unleashed the military on civilian protestors in February 2011, Ban’s spokesperson said in a statement that “attacks against civilians, if confirmed, would constitute a serious violation of international humanitarian law and would be condemned by the secretary-general in the strongest terms.”

--Russia’s 2014 offensive against Ukraine

President Vladimir Putin’s military intervention in Ukraine and annexation of Crimea was described by NATO secretary-general Anders Fogh Rasmussen as “the most serious security crisis since the end of the Cold War.” But although Ban said he was “gravely concerned” about the situation, when the dispute prompted Western leaders to boycott an event in Moscow last May marking the 70th anniversary of Victory Day, Ban was one of the few leaders who did attend Putin’s military parade, joining Chinese President Xi Jinping and Cuba’s Raul Castro.

Ban Ki-moon in his office on the 38th floor of the secretariat building at U.N. headquarters in New York City. (UN Photo/Paulo Filgueiras)

--The Syrian civil war

The U.N. estimates that more than 250,000 Syrians have died since the conflict erupted in March 2011, and millions have sought refuge abroad. Ban has called repeatedly for international action to end the conflict, and appointed three special envoys –  Kofi Annan and Lakhdar Brahimi in 2012 and Staffan de Mistura in 2014 – to that end. The conflict continues, amid hopes that talks between the regime and rebel representatives may begin next month, leading to a ceasefire.

--The rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria and ongoing threat of radical Islamic terrorism

U.N. member states have failed to agree upon a formal definition of terrorism – a situation that pre-dated Ban’s term but remains unresolved to this day, despite his efforts to use his prominent position to urge action against ISIS.

--The U.N.’s troubled record on human rights

Ban tenure has coincided with most of the life of the new U.N. Human Rights Council, a body which despite high hopes has been riven by political disputes, seen some of the world’s most repressive regimes become members, and has frequently ignored some of the most serious violation of human rights while focusing disproportionately on one target – Israel. Ban has praised the Geneva-based body for its “dynamism,” and says it “is helping the world become more vigilant in tracking the earliest signs of crisis.”

And when the king of Saudi Arabia in 2012 launched a new center for religious tolerance in Vienna, Ban attended the official opening despite criticism that a regime notorious for violating religious freedom and other human rights would fund such an initiative.

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