UNITED NATIONS • Outgoing UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon paid an emotional farewell to the United Nations on Friday, wistfully describing his two-term stint as something of a fairy tale.
"I feel a bit like Cinderella. Tomorrow at midnight, everything changes!" he said to staff and colleagues as he wrapped up a decade leading the global body.
From today, former Portuguese prime minister Antonio Guterres, 67, takes over from Mr Ban, 72. Mr Guterres is the first former head of government to lead the UN, succeeding Mr Ban for a five-year term.
Mr Ban, in a more serious vein, said it has been a "privilege" to have helmed an organisation that endeavoured to tamp down global conflict and end suffering - and said it was an honour to have shared that mission with his co-workers.
"You should be very proud - just as I am so very proud to call you my colleagues," the South Korean diplomat said. He added that in his decade at the UN, he has endeavoured "to keep dreaming, to keep believing and to keep working hard until we achieve progress".
Mr Ban said that as UN chief, he has also been guided by a desire "to keep the focus on people - on people's rights and people's dignity... and to stand up for those who are left behind".
As a first act after leaving the pinnacle of global diplomacy, Mr Ban was scheduled to ring in the new year at Times Square by launching the traditional New Year's Eve ball drop, which would be attended by hundreds of thousands of revellers.
"Tomorrow night, on the eve of the New Year, I will be in Times Square for the ball drop - millions of people will be watching as I lose my job!" the outgoing UN leader quipped.