Roundup: Syria, South Sudan, climate change major concerns, says retiring UN chief

In his final news conference during his 10-year tenure, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Friday said the civil war in Syria, the deteriorating situation in South Sudan, and climate change were his major concerns while serving the world body.

Ban, who will be replaced by former prime minister of Portugal Antonio Guterres on the New Year, said the carnage in Syria "remains a gaping hole in the global conscience".

"Aleppo is now a synonym for hell," referring to that country's besieged and largest city, said the UN chief in an opening statement at the UN Headquarters in New York.

"As I told the Security Council three days ago, we have collectively failed the people of Syria," he said. "Peace will only prevail when it is accompanied by compassion, justice and accountability for the abominable crimes we have seen."

The Syrian civil war broke out in March 2001 after anti-government protests spread into an armed conflict.

Meanwhile, the secretary-general said he was "closely following the deteriorating situation in South Sudan".

The third major concern for Ban, after serving the maximum allowed two five-year terms, was legacy for future generations, hoping the world organization would "continue to support the global momentum behind the Paris Agreement on climate change", which was reached in the French capital in December 2016.

"Climate action means jobs, growth, cleaner air and better health," he said. "Leaders from across the globe and on every front understand this -- from Fortune 500 CEOs (chief executive officers) to governors and mayors."

"The Paris Agreement on climate change is a precious achievement that we must support and nurture," the secretary-general said. "There is no turning back."

"Nobody can stop this one," he said. All those already on board know that without changing course, "our future will be tragic".

Ban told reporters he was "very proud of awakening people" about the deadly effects to future generations of climate change.

But when asked to list some of his achievements, the UN chief said he was sorry to have left so many unfulfilled issues to his successor and member states, mentioning the Central African Republic and Mali, as among some 40 continuing conflicts in the world.

"It is not good timing to list achievements" when he had so many regrets, Ban said. "We are living in a time of turmoil and challenges."

However, the UN Chief said if the Sustainable Development Goals for the 2030 Agenda which he pushed for are achieved, the world would be more prosperous, peaceful and healthy.

It has long been speculated the 72-year-old Ban, on retirement, would seek the presidency of his home country after he steps down.

On Friday, he admitted it was on his mind, saying he would think about it and sounded like a possible candidate.

"I will take some more days to rest," he began in answering a question about seeking the post. "I have been repeatedly saying I am still secretary-general. I still have 15 days to go."

"I also understand the aspirations of the people for a new type of inclusive leadership that can help them overcome the challenges ahead," the secretary-general said. "There are many issues on how to reconcile differences of their thinking... which we have to think about and that means some social integration, reconciliation and much more matured democratic institutions."

"I am confident that the Korean people with their resilience and... democratic institutions, I'm sure that they will be able to overcome this difficulty soon," he said.

Ban was South Korean foreign minister from 2004 to 2006, he became the eighth UN secretary-general on Jan. 1, 2007, and was re-elected for another five-year term at the end of his first tenure.

Source: Philippines News Agency

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