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Ban at IPI: “My Heart Will Never Leave the United Nations”

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The International Peace Institute (IPI) held a thronged farewell reception on December 15, 2016 for outgoing Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who responded by saying, “Even though I am leaving, my heart will never leave the United Nations. I will always be with you.”

Mr. Ban took the occasion to praise his successor, Secretary-General–designate António Guterres, also an honored guest at the IPI event, as someone particularly well equipped for the job. He said he had been reviewing the careers of some past secretaries-general and reasoned that Mr. Guterres, a former prime minister of Portugal and UN High Commissioner for Refugees, would be beginning with a distinct earned advantage.

“I was a complete outsider when I came here, a complete outsider,” Mr. Ban said. “Kofi Annan has been the complete insider. Guterres is a complete outsider, but he has longer than 10 years’ experience inside the UN. It would be very difficult to find someone who is combining both the qualities of insider and outsider.”

Consequently, he predicted, “he will be able to deliver.”

He also lauded the manner in which Mr. Guterres had been selected. “For the first time in UN history, we had an open SG process,” he noted. His reference was to the requirements for formal nominations, mission statements and open hearings in the General Assembly that were instituted this year. As a result, Mr. Ban said, the Security Council was able to make “the best choice” for the new secretary-general.

With Mr. Guterres standing by his side, Mr. Ban said he had profited from advice and critiques from IPI and other close observers of the UN and urged the crowd to “please make him accountable. He said that by the end of his term, there will be 50% gender parity. Please make sure that he is able to deliver what you really want.”

Saying he was particularly aggrieved at not having been able to secure peace in the Middle East, he told Mr. Guterres, “I’m certain I’m leaving this Middle East peace process, I hope I’m not giving you too much homework.”

In opening remarks, IPI President Terje Rød-Larsen introduced Mr. Ban as “a man who is humble, gracious, patient, and thoughtful, and who has committed his life to public service and who truly believes that no one should be left behind.”

He singled out his achievements like the adoption of the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development—“a historic agenda that integrates the three founding pillars of the UN: peace and security, human rights and development”—his “tireless” effort to put climate change at the forefront of the global agenda, resulting in the historic Paris Agreement, and his “receptiveness to new ideas for change and his openness to thoughtful analysis.”

“Thank you,” Mr. Rød- Larsen concluded, for “having taken on ‘the most difficult job in the world’ and for being a symbol of hope to people across the globe.”

The IPI President also thanked Mr. Ban for having served for the past 10 years as the honorary chair of IPI and announced that Mr. Guterres would succeed him in that role.