Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

General Assembly

18 March 2008

Welcoming remarks to the Model United Nations Conference

Let me start by welcoming tomorrow’s leaders to today’s United Nations! Seeing all of you here is a timely reminder that our Organization exists to serve succeeding generations.

I am heartened to see such a large and enthusiastic group of young adults engaged in global issues. Together, you represent the United Nations as it should be -- people from all countries coming together to find solutions to problems through constructive debate and an exchange of ideas.

Your Model United Nations is built on open minds and fresh ideas. Many of you have been asked to represent national agendas or stands that you may personally disagree with. You will do so fairly and forcefully. This open-mindedness is the essence of successful diplomacy -- the ability to understand and analyse all positions, including those that you oppose.

Your acceptance of differing viewpoints clearly distinguishes your conference. I believe it will prove crucial as you assume leadership roles in the twenty-first century. Let me add that it gives me great pleasure to utter the words “Madam Secretary-General”. By selecting a woman at the helm, you are already guiding our Organization by example!

I sincerely hope that, in the future, we will have a woman Secretary-General of the United Nations.

Young delegates, it is when your conference is over that the real work begins. With this experience, you become representatives of the United Nations; student ambassadors charged with building a better understanding of the Organization -- what it is, what it does and what it can do. And you assume this responsibility at a crucial period in the life of the United Nations. Every day and on a wide range of issues, our Organization is expected to deliver in new and better ways.

People expect us to work for a more prosperous and healthy world. The clock on the Millennium Development Goals is ticking, with many regions in danger of losing the race. Indeed, not a single country in sub-Saharan Africa is currently on track to achieve the Millennium Development Goals by 2015. Urgent action is needed to bring these people -- the world’s bottom billion -- into the folds of global prosperity.

People expect us to deliver results for a more secure world. Currently, 120,000 brave men and women serve as peacekeepers in 17 missions worldwide. Another 13 field missions are engaged in conflict prevention and mediation support. This year promises even more challenges. An unprecedented African Union-United Nations peacekeeping force will deploy in Darfur, Sudan. The situation in the Middle East remains on a knife’s edge. Rising food and commodity prices have the potential to trigger additional instability.

People expect us to speak up for a more just world. 2008 marks the sixtieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. A year-long awareness campaign is already under way. We must help spread its message and rededicate ourselves to the cause of truly universal human rights.

And people expect us to advance the global common good by securing global public goods -- in the areas of climate change, global health, counter-terrorism, disarmament and non-proliferation. The United Nations is uniquely placed to lead these efforts.

These issues are daunting. But the United Nations has proven, at various stages of its history, that it is capable of rising to new challenges. Your support is crucial. Your voice and your organization, activity and energy can help highlight the United Nations successes and explain the Organization’s constraints. You can be catalysts for change by creating social networks in support of our work. And, as leaders of the future, you can come up with innovative approaches to help confront the challenges facing the global community.

Let me commend you on the most rapid ascent possible in the diplomatic services: you entered this Hall as junior delegates and you will leave as ambassadors!

Dear young leaders, I thank all of you for your commitment and wish you all a most stimulating conference.