Secretary-General, delivering Address at Uppsala University, Lauds Sweden’s Leading Role in United Nations, Hammarskjöld’s Imprint on World

1 October 2009
SG/SM/12511

Secretary-General, delivering Address at Uppsala University, Lauds Sweden’s Leading Role in United Nations, Hammarskjöld’s Imprint on World

1 October 2009
Secretary-General
SG/SM/12511
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Secretary-General, delivering Address at Uppsala University, Lauds Sweden’s

 

Leading Role in United Nations, HammarskjÖld’s Imprint on World

 

Following is United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s address at Uppsala University in Uppsala, Sweden, today, 1 October:

Thank you for this wonderful welcome.  For a United Nations Secretary-General, a visit to Sweden is like a pilgrimage.  Your country and its people have had a formative influence on the United Nations.  Today you remain an engaged, admired Member State ‑‑ a custodian of United Nations principles, a robust supporter of our global mission, one of the guiding lights in the United Nations firmament.

Uppsala itself occupies an important place in that picture.  This university has nurtured many generations of globally minded scientists, scholars and historians.  It is here where my illustrious predecessor spent his earliest years and received his education.  Your research on peace and conflict is renowned.  And we continue to draw inspiration from the words carved over the entrance to this university’s assembly hall:  “To think freely is great, to think right is greater”.

Dag Hammarskjöld was one of those remarkable individuals who knew how to do both.  Today, his concerns and his ambitions remain ours.  To uphold United Nations values.  To bring the yearnings of the oppressed into the councils of power.  To defend the defenceless ‑‑ in his day, the global South, in ours, the poor and the vulnerable.  And to find creative solutions to global challenges.

Challenges continue to come at us, fast and furious.  Potentially catastrophic climate change.  Pandemic flu.  Appalling levels of hunger.  Armed conflict, deadly weapons, the lack of democracy.  Financial turmoil costing millions of jobs and causing deep disillusion about the basic fairness of the global economy.  The world is looking to the United Nations for answers.  If ever there were a time to act in a spirit of renewed multilateralism, a moment to create a United Nations of genuine collective action, it is now.

I want to talk to you today about several of those challenges.  First, climate change.  “Our world has a fever”, your Prime Minister said last week at the United Nations, speaking on behalf of the European Union about climate change.  I welcome the emphasis Sweden has placed on the environment during its European Union presidency.  The levies you impose on your country’s fossil fuel use, the report of your climate commission presented to me in May, these and other initiatives have supported my own efforts to generate momentum for sealing a deal two months from now in Copenhagen.

I have been deeply concerned about the glacial pace of progress in those talks.  The summit I convened last week in New York has put some wind in our sails.  But the road ahead requires more pushing and hard work.  The world’s leading scientists warn that we have less than 10 years to avoid the worst-case scenarios projected by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.  The most vulnerable nations tell us their very survival will soon be at risk.  Private businesses and insurers are eager for the incentives and signals that will unleash investment and innovation.

At the Summit, Japan pledged to cut its emissions 25 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020 ‑‑ a challenge for all nations to live up to.  China has shown its commitment to reaching an agreement.  So have many other countries.  Now we need a breakthrough.

That is why I am here in Sweden, and why I will be pressing world leaders day in and day out in the run-up to Copenhagen.  I look to Sweden and the European Union to help the world seize this opportunity.  “The fever is rising,” your Prime Minister also said.  Unaddressed or handled with only half measures, accelerating climate change will also undermine development.

That brings me to the second challenge we face.  The economic crisis continues to unfold.  Sweden itself has been far from immune.  You have experienced job layoffs.  A budget surplus has turned to deficit.  Yet I am pleased to note that, even as you are tending to your own struggles, you are keeping your eye on others in need, too.  You understand that this is no time to backtrack in meeting aid commitments.  Such efforts reflect your long-standing tradition of development cooperation, pioneered by Hammarskjöld and by Gunnar Myrdal ‑‑ yet another Swede to have served the United Nations with distinction.

We have heard much talk in recent weeks about “green shoots of recovery”.  Yet we still see red flags of warning.  Our recent report, “Voices of the Vulnerable”, highlights a new crisis.  The near-poor are becoming the new poor.   An estimated 100 million people could fall below the poverty line this year.

Markets may be bouncing back, but incomes and jobs are not.  Increased social tensions, crime and violence could well lie in store.  That is why we have put forward a Global Jobs Pact.  That is why we are creating a Global Impact Vulnerability Alert System.  And that is why we are pressing United Nations Member States and the G-20 nations to ensure more balanced and sustainable growth.  The poor and vulnerable have a special claim on our attention.

There is no area of United Nations activity with which Sweden is more closely associated than the effort to prevent, manage and resolve deadly conflict.  The tireless efforts of Dag Hammarskjöld, Count Folke Bernadotte and others are the legacy on which United Nations mediation efforts continue around the globe.  Progress is often frustratingly slow.  But, as your statesmen have shown us, we will never weaken in our commitment to peace.

In Sri Lanka, we are pressing for reconciliation, resettlement of those displaced by the war, and accountability for how that war was conducted.  In Myanmar, I will continue pressing the Government, which is not doing enough to create conditions for credible elections next year.  That means, among many other steps, releasing all political prisoners, including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

For much of the past 60 years, Swedish soldiers and policemen and women have worn the United Nations blue helmet with honour and commitment.  Swedish troops have made a critical contribution to United Nations peacekeeping efforts in Liberia, the Congo and the Balkans.  You are also part of the international forces in Kosovo and Afghanistan.  You have played an important part over the past decade in making UN peacekeeping stronger and faster, and hence in more demand than ever before.

You are helping to strengthen United Nations capacity for preventive diplomacy and mediation.  And you are also showing leadership in the aftermath of conflict.  People in countries emerging from conflict ‑‑ newly returned to their homes, still counting their losses, still mired in distrust ‑‑ need security.  But they also need a peace dividend.  That means getting the economy up and running as quickly as possible ‑‑ getting seeds planted, markets reopened, and jobs created.  Yet there are signs that the economic crisis may lead donors, as well as foreign investors, to become even more reluctant or further scale down their investment in post-conflict countries.

Here, too, Sweden is holding the line.  You have been one of the strongest supporters of the new United Nations peacebuilding architecture, which was set up during Jan Eliasson’s presidency of the United Nations General Assembly.  You are the largest contributor to the Peacebuilding Fund.  And until just recently, you served as Chair of the Fund’s process on Burundi.  As that country moves toward elections next year, our joint efforts helped it achieve significant progress in reconciliation, the laying down of arms by former rebels, and in reuniting former child soldiers with their families.

You are also active in the Horn of Africa.  We all recall the late 1980s, when famine struck.  Sweden helped lead the humanitarian response.  Today, many factors are combining to produce another potential disaster, including drought, the financial crisis and armed conflict.  The Swedish Navy has played a major role in protecting ships carrying aid from piracy.  I thank Sweden’s brave personnel.  Let us work with similar purpose in other parts of Africa, such as Sudan.

Let us focus together on the world’s forgotten crises, and the issues that receive little fanfare but are vital to our future.  I am thinking, here, above all, of women’s rights.  Sweden has long been a country where women parliamentarians and decision makers are the norm, not the exception.  You have brought that sensibility to the United Nations, and we are better for it.  More than a decade ago, you were among the countries pressing for the role of women in peace and security to be more widely acknowledged.  Now, there are landmark Security Council resolutions on the record.  More women are participating in peacekeeping operations.  And the General Assembly has agreed to establish a strong new United Nations entity for women’s empowerment.

I have been trying to do my part, too.  More women now serve in senior posts than at any time in the Organization’s history.  They include Swedes as the Under-Secretary-General for Internal Oversight Service and my Special Representative in Nepal.  This is not a numbers game.  The empowerment is at the centre of all our hopes for a peaceful, prosperous, sustainable world.

Peace, prosperity, respect for human rights, the advancement of international law.  These global goods do not just happen.  They have to be forged, brick by brick, clause by clause.  And at times, we have to take risks.  We have to engage with those who might seem noxious, all the while proclaiming what is right and what meets the high standards of our founding Charter.  That is the multilateral work for which the United Nations stands.  It is encouraging to know that our two families ‑‑ Sweden and the United Nations ‑‑ are together in this effort.  That abiding support is yet another art of Hammarskjöld’s many-faceted legacy.

Hammarskjöld’s imprint on the world is clear.  He helped give birth to the very idea of an international community ‑‑ not just as an assemblage of States and interests, but a community with a conscience.   Hammarskjöld also left a profound physical imprint on the United Nations campus in New York.  He took great care to ensure that the complex was always seen in its best light by the thousands of visitors who pass through its corridors and conference rooms every year.  The placement of the art, the plantings ‑‑ little escaped his notice.  He was instrumental in establishing a meditation room, a place of contemplation for staff and public alike.  He understood that the work of the United Nations operates on a deeper level, too.

The United Nations campus is now undergoing a complete renovation.  After more than half a century, the building and its systems are woefully out of date.  We who preach to the world about the virtues of the green economy, for example, must lead by example and ensure that our own house is a model of environmental stewardship.  Our ambition is to make this outward renovation the symbol of our inward renewal as a response, results-oriented organization.

You may know that I grew up in war-torn Korea.  We rarely had enough to eat.  Destruction was all around.  The United Nations helped us rebuild, and was an inspiration to us.  At the time, I knew United Nations agencies such as UNICEF [United Nations Children’s Fund] very well.  But I had only a vague sense of the leadership far away.  But when my predecessor’s plane went down in Africa, his face was suddenly everywhere.  We Koreans were deeply saddened.  We knew we had been the beneficiary of Dag Hammarskjöld’s United Nations.  We knew that all over Africa, and elsewhere, too, people were feeling the same way.  There was global solidarity in mourning.

I was 17 at the time, beginning to think about how to help build a better world.  Today, my hope is to create that kind of solidarity at all times, in good times and bad, so that we can fight common threats and seize common opportunities.  That is what the world needs today.  It is what we at the United Nations are determined to provide.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.