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125 Million Crying for Help Symbolize World’s 11th Largest Nation

UNITED NATIONS, Feb 18 2016 (IPS) - Ban Ki-moon maybe fighting a losing battle to resolve one of the biggest humanitarian problems facing the world body – even as he completes his last 10 months as UN Secretary-General.

Currently, there are over 125 million people – a staggering figure by UN standards — in need of immediate humanitarian assistance worldwide.

To put it in perspective, Ban points out, if all of the 125 million people comprise a new country, it will be the world’s eleventh largest, next to Japan.

“The numbers are unsustainable and the human costs are intolerable,” he complained last week.

Finding a solution to the crisis will be an integral part of the legacy he will leave behind when he finishes his 10-year stint office end December.

If he fails, chances are his successor will inherit the insurmountable problem when he or she takes over the Organisation as the new Secretary-General, come January.

Providing a breakdown of figures, the President of the General Assembly Mogens Lykketoft of Denmark says there are 20 million refugees across borders; 40 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) inside war zones; and an additional 65 million temporarily in need of support to survive because of climate-related famine.

“We in the UN are now trying to raise awareness and awaken conscience. The UN needs extra 15-20 billion dollars annually to support these people. Is it much money? Yes – but it is less than one out of every 4,000 dollars in national income worldwide,” he said.

In his appeal for funds, the Secretary-General says the world’s total gross domestic product (GDP) is over $78 trillion while the world’s financial institutions are worth more than $200 trillion.

“So $20 billion should not be a big issue, “says Ban, “provided there is a will – a political will.”

Ban also cites the more than $10 billion raised at a London pledging conference February 4 – primarily as humanitarian assistance to help refugees from war-ravaged Syria embroiled in devastating a five-year-old civil war.

During his last nine years as Secretary-General, he said, he has not seen the mobilization of over $10 billion in one day for a single cause, namely for Syria.

“This is something we should be very proud of,” he declared, pointing out that “the world is being tested.” He described the pledges as a sign of “great solidarity, leadership and vision.”

Addressing a meeting in London early February, Ban recounted his early days growing up in Korea as a one-time refugee depending on UN agencies for handouts – and for survival.

“I myself was once a displaced person. Some of you might have read my life story. I was born in Korea just before the end of the Second World War. When I became 6 years old, the Korean War broke out in 1950.”

“I had to flee my home with my parents without knowing where to go. Life was miserable, terrible, but for a young, young boy, I couldn’t feel as seriously and terrible as my parents might have felt. Most of you may not feel as I felt at the time.”

He said both he and his family survived on food and medicine provided by the United Nations and UNICEF [United Nations Children’s Fund].– humanitarian assistance, powdered milk and small toys, and UNESCO [United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization] provided us textbooks, notes.

More importantly, “the United Nations provided us security,” with the United Nations, exercising for the first time, its authority to maintain international peace and security.

He said the Security Council showed unity at that time and it adopted a resolution creating a United Nations Command (UNC).

“Without the United Nations, I would not be able to stand before you today. If I think about all what had happened to me and to my country, to my people, I only was able to survive because of the United Nations, with the aid of the United Nations. And now I’m standing as the Secretary-General and feeling humbled.”

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  • Stuart

    He has never felt humbled, he has been an arrogant Secretary General.

  • Graham Douglas

    Thanks for this timely article.

    “125 million people in need of humanitarian assistance pose a threat to the security of everyone. They are discontented and dictators flourish among discontented people.

    Perhaps our World leaders who together spend some $US 1,700 billion a year in military budgets could see this as an urgent security problem and spend just $US 17 billion a year from those budgets to address the problem. Just delaying some capital expenditure in military budgets would easily cover it.

    The military budgets could be renamed security budgets.

    In announcing this change the leaders could get great publicity and indicate they really mean it when they say they seek a peaceful World.”

    What was the reason for not publishing it? Are there some rules about comments of which I am unaware?

    Graham Douglas