Ban Ki-Moon of South Korea has been sworn in as the eighth U.N. secretary-general of the United Nations. VOA's Peter Heinlein at the U.N. reports, Mr. Ban will take over the job when Kofi Annan steps down at the end of this month.
The grand U.N. General Assembly Hall witnessed one of those momentous occasions that takes place only about once a decade. It was a passing of the torch from the seventh secretary-general, the Ghanaian, Kofi Annan, to the eighth, the South Korean Ban Ki-moon.
After a series of speeches, most of them paying tribute to Mr. Annan's leadership, the president of the General Assembly, Sheikha Haya Rashed al-Khalifa of Bahrain, administered the oath of office.
"I, Ban Ki-moon, solemnly swear, to exercise in all loyalty, discretion and conscience, the functions entrusted to me as secretary-general of the United Nations," he said.
Mr. Ban placed his left hand on a copy of the U.N. Charter, as he swore to remain independent of all the world body's 192 member states.
"…and not to seek or accept instructions in regard to the performance of my duties from any government or other authority external to the organization," he said.
Moments later, speaking to the packed Assembly Hall, the 62-year-old former South Korean foreign minister hailed the leadership of outgoing Secretary-General Kofi Annan, and pledged to set high ethical standards for an organization that has been battered by scandals in recent years. He said he would demand the same from all of the world body's employees.
"The good name of the United Nations is one of its most valuable assets, but also one of the most vulnerable," said Ban Ki-moon. "The Charter calls on staff to uphold the highest levels of efficiency, competence and integrity, and I will seek to ensure we build a solid reputation for living up to that standard. I assure you I will lead by example."
Mr. Ban was careful to avoid criticizing Secretary-General Annan's leadership. But in a reference to the world body's flagging reputation, he called for member states to do better to restore public faith in the organization.
"As we pursue our collective endeavor to reach that goal, my first priority will be to restore trust," he noted.
Speaking to reporters afterward, he expressed hope that restoring trust would not eventually turn out to be what he called "Mission Impossible."
Mr. Ban was nominated by the Security Council in October, after a selection process that spanned several months. The choice was then unanimously ratified by the General Assembly, making Mr. Ban the first Asian secretary-general since U Thant of Burma, who completed his 10 years in office in 1971.