Sworn in today as the eighth and next United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon pledged that his first goal would be to restore trust in the world body, saying he would lead by example to uphold the highest levels of efficiency, competence and integrity.
Mr. Ban, the former foreign minister of the Republic of Korea, will take office as Secretary-General on 1 January, replacing Kofi Annan, who is stepping down after 10 years at the helm of the world body.
The 62-year-old, who took the oath of office in the General Assembly Hall, said he would "do everything in my power to ensure that our United Nations can live up to its name, and be truly united, so that we can live up to the hopes that so many people around the world place in this institution, which is unique in the annals of human history."
Speaking to the press later, he said: "You could say that I am a man on a mission. And my mission could be dubbed 'Operation Restore Trust': trust in the Organization, and trust between Member States and the Secretariat. "I hope this mission is not 'Mission Impossible,'" Mr. Ban added.
The Secretary-General designate said he was looking at several individuals for the post of Deputy Secretary-General, "with a preference for women candidates," but would not make a final choice until consulting further with Member States.
He is also still reviewing all Under-Secretaries-General and Assistant Secretaries-General, and expects to announce new senior appointments early in 2007.
During his speech to the 192-member Assembly, Mr. Ban paid tribute to his predecessor's leadership in guiding the UN through challenging times and ushering it into the 21st century.
"Secretary-General Annan, I am more than humbled because it is you I am succeeding in what you have described as 'the world's most exalting job.' It is an honour to follow in your revered footsteps," he said.
But he stressed that "one of my core tasks will be to breathe new life and inject renewed confidence into the sometimes weary Secretariat," making better use of staff experience and expertise and promoting greater staff mobility.
Promising to act as a "harmonizer and bridge-builder," Mr. Ban said it was essential to improve dialogue with the countries of the world.
"Member States need a dynamic and courageous Secretariat, not one that is passive and risk-averse. The time has come for a new day in relations between the Secretariat and Member States. The dark night of distrust and disrespect has lasted far too long."
And he returned to the Organization's foundations. "By strengthening the three pillars of our United Nations - security, development and human rights - we can build a more peaceful, more prosperous and more just world for succeeding generations," he declared.
Swearing in Mr. Ban to loud applause, Assembly President Sheikha Haya Rashed al-Khalifa underscored his commitment to ensure that the UN lives up to its universal values and principles and, in his own words, "to cut through the fog of mistrust."
She pledged the Assembly's readiness to work in close cooperation with Mr. Ban on the three challenges he has made priorities when he takes office: to continue to reform the Secretariat by bolstering the integrity, professionalism and morale of staff; to heal divisions and rebuild trust among Member States, the Secretariat, and the global public; and to strengthen UN effectiveness to implement its mandates.
"I am confident that leading by example Ban Ki-Moon has what it takes to make a great contribution to the Organization and the global public that it lives to serve," she concluded.
Asked at his press conference about major crises in the world, such as those in the Middle East, Iraq and the Sudanese region of Darfur, Mr. Ban said he would strive personally to try to encourage the parties in each case to pursue peaceful negotiations.
He called on the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) to re-commit itself to the statement - made in September last year - to abandon all nuclear weapons programmes and he urged the other participants in the Six-Party talks to provide the necessary economic assistance, security guarantees and prospects for normalizing relations.
Asked about this week's conference in Tehran on the Holocaust, the next Secretary-General said: "Denying historical facts, especially on such an important subject as the Holocaust, is just not acceptable. Nor is it acceptable to call for the elimination of any State or people. I would like to see this fundamental principle respected both in rhetoric and in practice by all the members of the international community."
Mr. Ban also backed the case for Security Council expansion, saying he would try to facilitate discussions among Member States to prod them into finding the broadest possible consensus formula.