Ban Ki-moon's speeches

Remarks at presentation ceremony of Mahbub Ul Haq Award

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, UN Headquarters, 20 June 2007

Thank you Kemal [Dervis], Dear friends, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It gives me great pleasure to join all of you for this very special occasion. The Human Development Awards celebrate what is ultimately our Organization's highest calling: building lives in larger freedom for all humankind. Today, by honouring Sheila Watt-Cloutier with the Mahbub ul Haq Award for Human Development, we celebrate a truly remarkable individual with one of the UN's most exceptional Awards.

Sheila has devoted her entire life to advocacy on behalf of the Inuit people and for Arctic communities. Along the way, she has also emerged as one of the world's leading campaigners against climate change – one of the most serious and pressing challenges of our time.

Recently, she garnered worldwide attention for mounting the first international legal action on greenhouse gas emissions. Her petition to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights highlighted the effect of global warming on Arctic wildlife, human health and livelihoods, and argued that these changes violated the Inuit's cultural and environmental human rights.

Sheila's work captures the essence of the Mahbub ul Haq Award. It has given the Inuit people a say in basic decisions affecting their very way of life. It has helped Arctic communities preserve their past and prepare for a more uncertain future. And it has drawn the world's attention to the high human cost already being borne as a result of rising global temperatures.

This award is clearly well deserved. It is also very timely. The findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change have rendered man-induced climate change undeniable. Dramatic changes are already visible, and the impacts are increasingly severe. As Sheila has long argued, these changes not only have environmental consequences, but also serious social, economic and even security implications, making global warming an all encompassing threat.

The world urgently needs to step up action to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions. Industrialized countries need to make deeper emission reductions. There needs to be further engagement of developing countries, as well as incentives for them to limit their emissions while safeguarding economic growth and poverty eradication. When I attended the G-8 Summit meeting, I was very much encouraged by the commitment of global leaders on these issues, as well as to the goals of the United Nations.

Adaptation – as the Inuit know too well – is also a global necessity. Many countries, especially the most vulnerable developing countries, need assistance in improving their capacity to adapt. There also needs to be a major push to generate new technologies for combating climate change, to make existing renewable technologies economically viable, and to promote a rapid diffusion of technology.

As pioneers like Sheila tell us, we must respond vigorously to the long-term human development implications of climate change. I am glad that this issue will be explored in this year's global Human Development Report.

Excellencies, Distinguished Guests,

For her contributions to improving the lives of Arctic communities across a range of human development concerns,

And for her dedicated work as an advocate for Arctic Climate Change at the local, regional and international levels,

The 2007 Mahbub ul Haq Award goes to Ms. Sheila Watt-Cloutier.