WASHINGTON, May 7 – United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon tonight escalated the pressure on the international community to stop the violence in Syria, lamenting a “deficit of leadership,” while announcing a new deployment of observers to the country. 

“If I were to speak like an economist, I may say we have an over-supply of problems—and a deficit of solutions. A deficit of leadership,” he said, with references to the Arab transitions and the greater test of Syria.  

His address to an international audience of nearly 900 former and current US administration officials, members of Congress, heads of state, ambassadors, and leaders of global companies came at the Atlantic Council’s Annual Awards Dinner in Washington, DC, where he was presented with the Council’s Distinguished International Leadership Award.  

“The [Syrian] government continues to assault its people. Every day, we see the most appalling images—troops firing in city centers, innocent civilians dying, even children,” said Secretary-General Ban. “We cannot predict how this will end. But we do know there can be no compromise on fundamental principles of justice and human rights, in Syria or elsewhere…” he said. 

He announced in his address for the first time that by June the United Nations will deploy its full complement of 300 military observers and approximately 100 civilians. As of today, there are fifty-nine military monitors on the ground, along with roughly the same number of civilian staff. Secretary-General Ban gave a call to action for international leaders to mobilize behind these efforts lead by UN Joint Special Envoy, Kofi Annan as “strenuous partnership is indispensible,” he said. 

“Tonight, Secretary-General Ban’s message is clear: the Atlantic community and its global allies must take decisive action against the human rights abuses in Syria,” said Atlantic Council President & CEO Frederick Kempe. “The Arab countries in transition need constructive engagement from the transatlantic community at this historic juncture; we should not stand by as these countries grapple with humanitarian, security, and economic challenges.”

Secretary-General Ban evoked the name of former Liberian leader Charles Taylor, who was recently found guilty by the UN special court for Sierra Leone of aiding and abetting war crimes, to imply that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad will not be immune to facing justice. “Today I say: no leader, anywhere, should imagine that he—or she—enjoys impunity for crimes of atrocity. Those responsible for such acts—in Syria or elsewhere—must be held accountable by the international community,” he said.

The Atlantic Council’s Annual Awards Dinner brings together leaders from the United States, Europe and around the world to salute the achievements of those who are making a positive difference in the world. This year’s honorees were UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (Distinguished International Leadership), Prince Harry (Distinguished Humanitarian Leadership), Unilever CEO Paul Polman (Distinguished Business Leadership), world renowned violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter (Distinguished Artistic Leadership), and the enlisted men and women of the United States Armed Forces (Distinguished Military Leadership).  

For the past half century, the Atlantic Council has been a preeminent, nonpartisan institution devoted to promoting transatlantic cooperation on matters of global concern, including a broad spectrum of modern global challenges ranging from violent extremism to financial instability and from NATO’s future to energy security. 


The Atlantic Council promotes constructive US leadership and engagement in international affairs based on the central role of the Atlantic community in meeting the international challenges of the 21st century.