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'Together, we can move from aspiration to action,' Ban tells global, regional leaders in Qatar

21 May 2016 – With the Doha Forum meeting "at a time of fragility and vulnerability," United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today that while progress on the UN's 2030 Agenda is crucial to usher in sustainability and equity, more must be done now to end conflict and suffering.

"Our world faces multiple armed conflicts, rising extremism and the widening impacts of climate change. One hundred and thirty million people need life-saving humanitarian assistance. War and persecution have forced 60 million people from their homes," Mr. Ban told world and regional leaders gathered in Qatar for the opening of the annual Forum.

Indeed, he continued, in the Middle East and Gulf region, millions of people are suffering the consequences of conflict, terrorism, inequality, regional rivalries and severe deficits in basic freedoms. "The scale of these challenges demands a more concerted global response," he said.

Stressing that encouragement could be drawn from recent landmark agreements, including the Paris Agreement on climate change, and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which he called an "integrated and inspiring blueprint for peace and prosperity on a healthy planet," that takes aim at many of the drivers of instability and anger around the world.

"It calls on us to fight corruption and joblessness, and to ensure that natural resources are managed for the many, not the few. It highlights the importance of building accountable institutions capable of providing services and justice for all," said the UN chief, adding that at its core, the Agenda's commitment is to leave no one behind.

"[Yet] as we set our sights on the year 2030, we must do far more to end conflict and suffering in 2016. We are striving to build a culture of prevention by stressing the peaceful resolution of disputes, and by focusing early on violations of human rights before they escalate," the Secretary-General underscored.

On one of the major prevention challenges of our times – violent extremism – he said the international community must avoid "short-sighted policies and heavy-handed approaches" that only exacerbate the problem and give terrorists their best recruitment tools.

Mr. Ban said that the UN is also strengthening peace operations to deploy quickly, with the right mandate at the right time, and with the necessary capabilities to make a difference. The Organization is also placing new emphasis on sustaining peace by addressing root causes, promoting reconciliation, and moving towards recovery, reconstruction and development.

"It is crucial to bring more voices to the table. Women have a vital role to play, not just as recipients of protection but as agents of peace. Young people are seen too often today as potential threats; we must empower them to realize their potential as peacebuilders," he stressed, adding that civil society must also play its crucial role and he expressed his profound concern about new laws and attacks that infringe on the rights of non-governmental organizations.

"Finally, we must do all we can to end the conflicts and violence that have set this region aflame, from Syria and Yemen to Libya, Iraq and Palestine," said the Secretary-General, noting, specifically on Yemen that the talks in Kuwait are critical for peace and he strongly urged the leaders of all parties to show the flexibility and wisdom needed to reach an agreement that will allow Yemenis to "heal the wounds of this war" and look ahead to a better future.

Turning to Syria, Mr. Ban said the country's Government "continues to drop barrel bombs on civilians," and place unconscionable and unlawful obstacles in the way of humanitarian aid. A few days ago, even a consignment of baby food to a desperately deprived besieged area was deliberately blocked by the Government, he recalled.

"My Special Envoy continues to work intently with the parties towards meaningful talks. We need a full and immediate cessation of hostilities. Just as important, we need to begin discussions on the transition. I fear that without such a political horizon, a further escalation is all too likely," warned the Secretary-General, calling again on all regional and international actors to use their influence on the parties, and to persuade them to negotiate in good faith on transitional arrangements.

Finally, Mr. Ban told the Forum that tomorrow will head to Istanbul for the first-ever World Humanitarian Summit. And with humanitarian needs rising, outpacing the global response, and disaster striking with greater frequency and force, "the Summit is a chance for all of us – Governments, humanitarians and business leaders – to agree on ways to better protect people, ensure access to those in need and build resilience."

"Vulnerable people across the world are rightly asking, 'where is the humanity? The World Humanitarian Summit is our opportunity to show we are listening – and acting to uphold it," the UN chief emphasized, adding: "Together, we can move from aspiration to action, and set the world on a path towards the theme of this forum: stability and prosperity for all."

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