Abuja: honouring victims of 2011 terrorist attack, Ban sees Nigeria as key partner in achieving UN goals

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is presented with a flower bouquet upon arrival in Abuja, Nigeria. UN Photo

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is presented with a flower bouquet upon arrival in Abuja, Nigeria. UN Photo

Nigeria, 24 August 2015 – Commemorating the 4th anniversary of the “vicious terrorist attack” that killed 23 United Nations employees in Abuja, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today also paid tribute to the “extraordinary fortitude” and determination of the survivors, many of whom suffered terrible injury and trauma.

“Our fallen colleagues and partners will be remembered this morning with moments of silence in many places. But nowhere are the memories of these colleagues more immediate, more vivid and more compelling than here in Abuja. We will remember them forever as truly the best of humanity,” Mr. Ban stated in his remarks during a wreath-laying ceremony.

The Secretary-General also met with the President of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari, whose peaceful election sent a “strong global message of respect for democracy and the rule of law” throughout the country and the continent.

Both men, he told the press, discussed a full range of issues covering development, human rights and peace and security, including the troubling levels of violence and terror perpetrated by Boko Haram in north-eastern Nigeria and in the sub-region, as “terrorism knows no bounds or boundaries.”

This week will witness another grim anniversary, noted the UN chief, noting that it has been 500s day since the kidnapping of the Chibok school girls. “I once again call in the strongest possible terms on those responsible to unconditionally release these girls and the many other abducted children.”

Women and girls are not caught simply in the crossfire – they are being “deliberately” targeted through brutal physical and sexual assault, child and forced marriages, sexual slavery and abduction on a massive scale, he emphasized.

“I am appealing as UN Secretary-General and personally as a father and grandfather. Think about your own daughters. How would you feel if your own daughters and sisters were abducted by others?” Asking all those who might have information about those innocent abducted girls to help them, he urged communities to work hard to reintegrate all abductees and their families.

Against that backdrop, “more than ever,” Mr. Ban stressed, collaboration is indispensable in addressing this menace and in addressing these crimes. This is why he said that he was looking forward to the rapid operationalization of the Multinational Joint Task Force.

“No country can tackle this threat on its own. I welcome Nigeria’s increased cooperation with countries of the region. We know this battle will not be won by military force alone. Weapons may kill terrorists. But good governance will kill terrorism.”

Also delivering remarks to a dialogue about today’s interlinked challenges, the Secretary-General underlined how development deficits – economic marginalization, lack of opportunities, and climate stress – have greatly aggravated security challenges. “The Boko Haram insurgency emerged from the seeds of grievances,” he observed.

This is why the development challenge must be addressed by tackling the root causes and implementing the Sustainable Development Goals Member States agreed on and will approve at a summit in New York late September, Mr. Ban went on to say.

“To achieve our global goals, we must be people-centred and planet-friendly. People-centred means poverty eradication, safe schools, good health care, decent jobs. And it must mean empowering women and girls. Planet-sensitive means taking on the threat of climate change and living harmoniously with nature.”

Explaining that climate change was a “moral issue,” as much as an economic and political concern, the UN chief presented sustainable development as “putting the economic, the social and the environmental on an equal level,” in “one integrated agenda.”

“We have a financing framework that was approved last month in Addis Ababa. We have the new transformative Goals that will be adopted by world leaders next month in New York. And in December in Paris, the world’s governments have committed to approve a universal, fair, and meaningful climate change agreement.”

Ban Ki-moon also noted that all actions, including in the field of counter-terrorism, must rest on a “strong foundation” of human rights and honest institutions. “Surely we can all agree: counter-terror should not be counter-productive.”

Commending the President Buhari for his determination that military operations adopt a human rights-centred approach, he offered the United Nations’ assistance, positioned to support Nigeria through training and other measures to ensure that such operations strictly comply with international humanitarian, human rights and refugee law.

“We also stand ready to respond to the increasing humanitarian challenges associated with Boko Haram violence”, the Secretary-General assured, requesting his UN team to “scale up” humanitarian presence.

Considering Nigeria as a UN key partner and leader on the international stage, Mr. Ban said that the country’s leadership was needed on many fronts, “from strong public health policies for women and girls to people-centred development, including peace and security in the region and internationally.”