Ban Ki-moon's speeches

Remarks to the Global Creative Forum Dinner (as prepared for delivery)

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Los Angeles (USA), 22 February 2011

Good evening, everyone.

Before we get started, let me say a few words on the events that we have all been following so closely in recent days.

As we meet this evening, people are taking to the streets throughout North Africa and the Middle East.

Many of them are young people, which to us is no surprise.

For years, the United Nations has been calling attention to the so-called “youth bulge” in the Arab world. In some countries over 60-70 percent of the population is under 30.

Our Arab Human Development Report has consistently chronicled the need for economic, social and political reform across the region. In particular, it emphasized what we called a “deficit of democracy” and the need for political leaders to address it.

Now the situation has exploded onto the streets.

Since the early days of protests in Tunisia, I have spoken daily with leaders throughout the region.

With each, I make a basic point: leaders must listen to the voice of their people.

They must heed their legitimate aspirations for freedom and essential human rights. Those include the right to peaceful protest and assembly, as well as media freedom and information.

Above all, I have called for non-violence. These times of change call for dialogue and bold reform, not repression.

Let me say directly: those responsible for violence against civilians must be held accountable. And among the events we have witnessed recently, some appear to be clear violations of international humanitarian and human rights law.

Yesterday, I spent 40 minutes on the phone with the Libyan leader, Col. Qadhafi. It was not an easy conversation. I told him, bluntly, that the violence must stop - immediately.

During recent days I have held a series of telephone discussions with other Arab leaders and key Member States of the United Nations concerning the situation in Libya and other countries in the region.

Earlier this morning, as you may know, Arab leaders suspended Libya from the League of Arab States. This is the first time the League has taken such an action on the domestic situation of one of its members.

This afternoon, in New York, the Security Council met at the request of members of the Libyan mission to the United Nations, many of whose representatives have withdrawn their support from the Qadhafi government.

I am happy to report that, in a unanimous statement, the Security Council issued a strong and united message - echoing my own message - that condemned the use of force against civilians. It demanded an immediate end to the violence and called on the government to address the legitimate demands of the population, through national dialogue in full respect for human rights.

Together, the actions of the Arab League and the Security Council underscore the collective determination of the international community.

The current situation is unpredictable and could go in any number of directions, many of them dangerous. At this crucial juncture, it is imperative that the international community maintain its unity and act together to ensure a prompt and peaceful transition.

For that reason, I have decided to cut short my stay here in Los Angeles and return to New York this evening.

The changes underway in the Middle East are historic. Whether in Libya or elsewhere, our message must be consistent and strong: no violence.

The time for change is now.

The United Nations stands ready to assist the people of the region in meeting the challenges of this great transition.

Ladies and gentlemen,

As you well know, it is Oscars season.

And so I brought this. The United Nations won this Oscar for a film we made in 1947.

Really, we did!

Normally, it sits at our headquarters in a conference room. I wish it was in my office.

We won this for a film called “First Steps” about children with disabilities. At the time, millions of children suffered from polio. Since then, the UN brought together partners around the world to stamp out this dreaded disease.

More recently, we launched a Global Strategy for Women and Children's Health that has gotten $40 billion in commitments from governments, companies, philanthropists and non-profits.

So from this early film to today we know the power of the creative community.

You have a tremendous reach. That is why I am here.

Last year I came to Los Angeles and spoke about the challenges in Haiti after the earthquake and what we were doing about them. This afternoon, I met with the band Linkin Park. Truth be told, when it comes to music, I'm an Elvis kind of guy.

But I am now Linkin Park's biggest fan. Because they took a film that the UN made about Haiti. We had put it on YouTube and got about six thousand hits. Linkin Park set that same film to their music and got six million hits.

I can meet with presidents and prime ministers. But I will never get six million hits on YouTube unless something very, very bad happens.

And even better, Linkin Park created Download to Donate so this song is raising awareness and money to address real needs in Haiti.

Ladies and gentlemen,

There are many other crises, many other places where the UN is saving lives.

Just yesterday, a colonel in the armed forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo was convicted of using rape as a weapon of war. A Congolese military court found him guilty of crimes against humanity. This is a first - a big step in our efforts to fight impunity.

Last month, Charlize Theron was with us in Congo, where the United Nations helped bring an end to what many called “Africa's First World War.”

It involved 20 countries and killed millions of people, many from disease and starvation. Now our challenge is protecting the civilian population in one of the world's most difficult contexts.

The UN is distributing food. We are providing security. We helped the Congolese people vote in the first election there in more than 40 years.

Maybe one of the children in Congo today will be a UN goodwill ambassador of the future, or even a Secretary-General.

That is not a naïve hope.

After the Second World War, the United Nations gave out food to hungry children in Europe. One of them came to Hollywood.

You all know Audrey Hepburn from “Breakfast at Tiffany's”. But before that, she got Breakfast from the UN. And then she went on to become one of the best champions UNICEF ever had.

She is not the only one.

Right after the Korean war, I was living in a bombed-out village. My school had no roof, no walls, just a dirt floor. There was never enough food. We depended on the United Nations to survive.

Now as the first Korean Secretary-General I feel a need to do for other countries what the UN did for mine.

You do not have to be a celebrity to tell the UN's story. You can be a film-maker, a writer, a producer, a director.

I am not asking you to make a documentary about how great we are.

I am telling you that the real drama is out there, where we work, every day.

The UN reaches people in world's corners where no one wants or dares to go. I am here because we have real stories to tell.

Let me tell you just one.

A few years ago, we brought victims of terrorism to the United Nations to tell their stories. Ashraf Al-Khaled spoke about the bomb attack at his wedding that, in a flash, killed 27 members of his family.

Carie Lemack lost her mother on 9/11. They met at the UN symposium and created the Global Survivors Network, linking victims of terrorism from around the world.

They also worked on a film. “Killing in the Name” tells the story of the costs and causes of terrorism. It is up for an Oscar. Whatever the Academy decides, Ashraf and Carie have already won.

The UN is inspiring more than Oscar-nominated documentaries. The movie “Transformers 3” just filmed at our Headquarters.

They even have an actor playing the Secretary-General. I wish I could tell you his name, but we signed a non-disclosure agreement.

We see dramas every day, up close.

Rape victims in the Congo rebuilding their lives. Brave Cambodians testifying against the architects of the Killing Fields in a UN Tribunal.

Families in Haiti and Pakistan who lost everything in disaster and ask for nothing more than a job and a second chance. Female troops in places like Liberia keeping the peace and inspiring young girls.

I do not claim to be an expert on Hollywood. But I know enough about your skills and your talents, your imagination and your reach to know how much you can spread those and a thousand other stories.

It is wonderful to win an Oscar. But whether or not you do, I promise you, if you look at these real-life dramas, if you work with us, you can gain something more solid than gold. You can help make the world a better place.

Thank you.