UNITED NATIONS – South Korea's Ban Ki-moon was sworn in Thursday as the eighth secretary-general of the United Nations, promising to make his top priority the restoration of trust in the world body that has been tarnished by corruption scandals.
Ban will oversee an organization with some 92,000 peacekeepers around the world and a $5 billion annual budget. Its reputation has been battered by scandals in the oil-for-food program in Iraq and in peacekeeping procurement, and its outdated practices need reform to meet the challenges of the 21st century.
General Assembly President Sheikha Haya Rashed Al Khalifa administered the oath of office to the career diplomat who served as South Korea's foreign minister. Ban swore to conduct himself solely in the interests of the United Nations and to refuse to accept instructions from any government or other authority.
In a brief address, Ban told delegates from the 192 U.N. member states that he was "deeply mindful" of key words in the oath — "loyalty, discretion and conscience" — which he said "will be my watchwords as I carry out my duties as secretary-general."
He pledged "to set the highest ethical standard" and "work to enhance morale, professionalism and accountability among staff members, which in turn will help us serve member states better, and restore trust in the organization."
"The good name of the United Nations is one of its most valuable assets — but also one of its most vulnerable," Ban said.
He promised to strengthen the three pillars of the United Nations — security development and human rights — in order to build "a more peaceful, more prosperous and more just world for succeeding generations."
"As we pursue our collective endeavor to reach that goal, my first priority will be to restore trust," Ban said. "I will seek to act as a harmonizer and bridge-builder."
He said one of his "core tasks will be to breathe new life and inject renewed confidence into the sometimes weary Secretariat."
"The member states need a Secretariat that is dynamic and courageous, and not a Secretariat that is passive and timid," he said.
Ban also paid warm tribute to Annan, saying "it is an honor to follow in your revered footsteps."
"Your tenure has been marked by high ideals, noble aspirations, and bold initiatives," he said. "Your courage and vision have inspired the world. ... You have given the United Nations new relevance to the people's lives."
Before the ceremony, diplomats also paid tribute to Annan and approved a resolution lauding his "many bold initiatives" to reduce poverty, promote peace and security, protect the environment and launch the reform process. They rose and gave him a sustained standing ovation.
In his farewell speech, Annan said that "despite many difficulties and some setbacks, in the past decade we have achieved much that I am proud of."
At a time of sweeping change, he said, the U.N. reoriented and remolded itself, "became more transparent, accountable and responsive ... (and) began to better address the needs of individuals worldwide."
The United Nations and its member also accepted that development, security and human rights "must go hand in hand," he said.
"I depart convinced that today's U.N. does more than ever before, and does it better than ever before. Yet our work is far from complete — indeed, it never will be," Annan said.
He told the General Assembly, which appointed Ban in October, that "you have chosen well."
"Our organization will be in safe hands," Annan said.
Then, looking at Ban, he said the new secretary-general already had a distinguished career in international diplomacy.
"But I can safely tell you that your most rewarding years lie just ahead," Annan said. "I wish you both the strength and the courage to make the most of them."