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Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Moscow (Russian Federation)

10 April 2008


Address at Moscow State University

Thank you so much for your award and high appreciation!

Dobry deen! Yab rad beet oo vas. I am profoundly grateful for the honour your celebrated institution has conferred upon me. Above all, I thank you for this moving expression of support for the United Nations on my first visit to Moscow as Secretary-General.

This seems to be a special week for Koreans coming together with Russians in a global cause. As I meet with you down here on Earth, my compatriot Yi So-yeon is with your fellow Russians on board the International Space Station in outer space. Since Ms. Yi is half my age, a woman, a biosystems engineer and an advanced practitioner of tae kwon do, she represents the future in a way I never can. She has taken with her into space not only a supply of kimchi -- the Korean pickled cabbage -- but, far more important, a United Nations flag.

In this room, too, I see the future come to life. As I look out on the sea of young faces before me, I see the face of the new Russia. It is a face to behold -- full of life and ready to take the challenges of tomorrow’s world. The face of a Russian renaissance.

Appropriately, your university is named after a man who was the very epitome of Russia’s renaissance in his time -- a man who made outstanding contributions to literature, poetry, science, history, art and economics. The range of his work is reflected in the rich and varied scope of your university today.

Mikhail Lomonosov lived through a defining period of Russian history, in the reigns of Peter the Great, Elizabeth the First and Catherine the Great. These were times of giants, and of giant changes. You should be proud to study at a university that was born in that era.

Today, you too live in a time of extraordinary change, in your country and in the world. We look to your generation to usher through these changes with the best possible outcome for succeeding generations. The challenges ahead are daunting.

First, we face challenges in building a more secure world. Despite the peaceful nature of this Moscow setting, conflicts continue to rage in many parts of the globe, including near the borders of Russia. We must nurture a fragile peace process in the Middle East, and do more to help the people of Iraq emerge from conflict and rebuild shattered lives. We must stay the course in Afghanistan, so that it does not again fall into the hands of extremists. We must do our utmost to push for peace in the Darfur region of Sudan, and find a long-term and viable solution to the situation in Kosovo and conflicts elsewhere.

Second, we face challenges in building a more just world. In all too many societies, flagrant human rights abuses continue, fuelled by armed conflict and by oppressive practices in peacetime. Addressing these is still a work in progress.

Third, we face challenges in building a more prosperous and healthy world. Millions of people are still trapped in poverty and go hungry every day. You have seen social and economic privation lead to great suffering in Russia. The situation is far worse in some countries. Many nations in Africa and in Asia are not even on track to achieve the Millennium Development Goals -- the basic vision adopted by all the world’s leaders, including President [Vladimir] Putin, to build a better world in the twenty-first century.

Finally, we face unprecedented global challenges which spare no one, and which no nation, however powerful, can take on alone. Climate change is already beginning to have a major impact on Russia and its economy. Globally, the issue requires us all to work together with a shared sense of urgency -- both because of the escalating gravity of the problem itself, and the tight calendar for negotiations laid out by Governments.

Meanwhile, the prices of basic food staples are at record highs, and global food stocks at historic lows. Human health is a pressing concern, from maternal and child mortality to AIDS and tuberculosis. Terrorism is a threat to every nation and all people -- as Russia knows all too well, from the many innocent lives that have been cruelly extinguished in unspeakable attacks in Moscow and elsewhere. Equally alarming are the long-standing deadlocks in nuclear disarmament, the proliferation of small arms and light weapons, and weaponry facilitated by biotechnology.

Yes, the challenges ahead are daunting, and they stand to affect all of us in the international community -- including Russia. No country today can navigate single-handedly through the complex threats of our globalizing age.

That is why Governments are taking collective action to address them, including through the United Nations. Ours is the world’s only universal organization, born out of the ashes of World War II, with the key participation of Russia as a founding Member.

The United Nations is no less relevant today than it was on the day it was created more than 60 years ago. The principles of the UN Charter are as applicable today as when they were adopted -- to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights and in the equal rights of men and women, to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom. At the same time, the Organization is a living organism. It has evolved and renewed itself time and again to address the ever-changing and ever-growing demands upon it. Let me mention some examples.

To address some of the many conflicts in our world, the United Nations now has troops, police and civilians from over 100 countries deployed in almost 20 peacekeeping operations. The current number of mandated personnel is more than 120,000. Our missions have reached an unprecedented scale, complexity and risk level in Africa, Asia, Latin America and Europe. In this endeavour, we work hand in hand with our partners in regional organizations. I am resolved to enhance cooperation with them, so as to create, in the future, a predictable, interlinked and reliable system for global peacekeeping under the Charter -- including with those organizations that include Russia.

The United Nations family works in more than 150 countries, including Russia, to promote democratic governance, reduce poverty and fight HIV/AIDS. When disasters strike, from tsunamis to earthquakes, the UN works with national and international partners to mobilize funds, provide emergency relief, shelter refugees and displaced persons. I am determined to keep strengthening our response, and trust Russia will be a significant contributor.

In human rights, I have launched a global awareness campaign to mark the sixtieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is our duty to ensure that these rights are a living reality -- that they are known, understood and enjoyed by everyone, everywhere. It is often those who most need their human rights protected, who also need to be informed that the Declaration exists -- and that it exists for them. This is an important goal for your country, and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights is working closely with your Government and civil society to develop activities in the rule of law, as well as education on human rights.

On climate change, the United Nations will need to facilitate a successful negotiation among parties, help achieve progress on implementation of existing mandates, and spearhead a revolution in global consciousness and behaviour. I have made it my personal priority to work with Member States in ensuring the UN is up to this challenge. I am grateful for Russia’s support.

Related to climate is the issue of food security. We must strengthen programmes to fight hunger, boost agricultural production and deal with the effects of weather-related shocks, and work to improve market efficiency. I know how much this is of concern to Russia.

Finally, the fight against terrorism requires us to build on the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy -- the first comprehensive framework on this issue adopted by all the world’s countries. We can complement those efforts with the Alliance of Civilizations, the UN initiative to counter extremism, heal divisions, and advance partnerships with civil society, the media and religious leaders. Both these initiatives are actively supported by Russia.

The founding father of this university, Mikhail Lomonosov, had much to say about the spirit of Russia and its role in the world. “Love for the Fatherland empowers the souls and hands of Russia’s children,” he wrote in Ode in Blessed Memory. Certainly, love of one’s country is a potent motivator. But as Lomonosov knew, and as we know today, a global outlook is a must -- one that takes us beyond national frontiers.

Over the past century, no country has undergone greater upheavals and trials than Russia. No land has transformed itself more fundamentally. No people has had its resilience and courage tested more severely. You have endured these tests -- material, spiritual, physical and political -- in a way that has fascinated and impressed the world.

Today, you are engaged globally in almost every sphere, from business to art and culture and beyond. This seemingly endless nation, part Europe, part Asia, covering 11 time zones from Kaliningrad to Kamchatka, is establishing itself as an equal and independent player on the world political stage. But the size and resources of your great country also bring with them great responsibilities -- inside and outside your borders.

In Russia itself, I wholeheartedly welcome President-elect [Dmitry] Medvedev’s stated emphasis on the role of civil society and rule of law, and intention to invest in human health and human capital. In this way, Russia can keep building sustained growth and sustained improvement in the quality of life of all its citizens.

In the international arena, we look to you for a similar approach. Russia has understandable concerns about stability along its borders. Needless to say, the world fervently hopes that your relationships with your neighbours will be based on mutual respect and international law. I have taken a particular interest in Russia’s desire to strengthen its regional partnerships, such as the Commonwealth of Independent States, the Eurasian Economic Commonwealth, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, and your expanding cooperation with the European Union.

I am equally heartened by President Putin’s offer to grant NATO [North Atlantic Treaty Organization] access to Afghanistan’s northern borders through Russia. Your country remains an important partner in the work for a stable Afghanistan -- vital not only to Russia and its neighbours, but the entire greater region. In the Middle East, you play an important role through the Quartet, as you remain committed to a just, lasting and comprehensive peace, the end of occupation, and the establishment of a Palestinian State living side by side in peace and security with Israel.

In the United Nations, we look to you to do even more. Throughout the history of the UN, we have come to expect a great deal of Russia. As a founding Member of the United Nations and a permanent member of the UN Security Council, the Russian Federation has an enormous stake in a predictable, comprehensive system of global relationships, able to address major issues in a strategic and pragmatic way. The Russian principle of a multipolar world is close to the notion of multilateralism -- the bedrock of the United Nations.

So today, we expect Russia’s engagement in the United Nations to keep pace with the challenges and opportunities we face. I am convinced you can play a role even greater than you once did -- a role commensurate with your tremendous size, wealth and global reach.

We look to you to do even more in peacekeeping -- this vital UN instrument which has become so severely stretched because of growing needs and demands around the globe. In the coming months, the United Nations will work to deepen its partnership with Russia in this area.

We look to you to do even more as a permanent member of the UN Security Council -- to help ensure that Member States are accountable for the mandates they set, through political support and actual contributions.

We look to you to do even more as a donor to development efforts and humanitarian relief, in support of countries and people in need.

And we look to you to do even more as a visionary leader in shaping global solutions to global challenges, from health to climate change.

This is your global and generational mission, and I’m sure your years at this University will prepare you well for it. I wish you the best of luck, dear pioneers of the Russian Renaissance, as you set out to take on the challenges of tomorrow.

Spasiba bolshoye.