Secretary-General, Addressing Drake University Students on ‘Global Citizenship’, Says No Issue Can Be Seen in Isolation as World Changes

19 October 2012
SG/SM/14595

Secretary-General, Addressing Drake University Students on ‘Global Citizenship’, Says No Issue Can Be Seen in Isolation as World Changes

19 October 2012
Secretary-General
SG/SM/14595
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Secretary-General, Addressing Drake University Students on ‘Global Citizenship’,

Says No Issue Can Be Seen in Isolation as World Changes

 

Following are UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks on “Global Citizenship in a Changing World”, as prepared for delivery at Drake University in Des Moines, 19 October:

Thank you for your warm welcome.  I appreciate your kind introduction.

The other day, I was introduced by a journalist as the most famous Korean on the planet.  But, I had to relinquish that title to Psy, the singer of “Gangnam Style”.

I know Iowa is known as the Hawkeye State.  But, here at Drake, let me say what a pleasure it is to be in the Bulldog State.

I am very proud to be the first sitting United Nations Secretary-General to visit Iowa.  But, I want to clear something up.  My second term may expire after the year 2016, but I assure you, this is not a presidential exploratory visit.

I brought rain with me yesterday, but Senator Harkin told me that I need to come earlier next year.  Perhaps I’ll come for the State Fair.  I want to see the butter cow.

As Secretary-General of the United Nations, I travel the world.  I also try my best to visit cities around the United States and engage directly with the American people.  Your generosity and engagement are central to the success of the United Nations.

Wherever I go, I try to meet young people and speak about global citizenship.  I know I don’t have to sell that here.  Preparing responsible global citizens is at the core of Drake’s mission.  You have promoted that in large ways and small — from establishing a Centre for Global Citizenship, to encouraging hundreds of students to study abroad, to sending your football team to Tanzania to take part in the first American college football game on the African continent.  I am told they played before a crowd of more than 10,000 very excited — and slightly confused — spectators.

Those initiatives at home and adventures abroad show the caring, global face of Drake University.  You understand that education is about more than taking in, it is about giving back.  You know we must view our lives and our communities through a global lens.

I see that same vision in so many of Iowa’s leaders.  Senator Tom Harkin is one of the world’s leading advocates to end the worst forms of child labour.  Jim Kim is now President of the World Bank.  He’s from Iowa, but we Koreans try to claim him, too.  Drake’s own Stephen Rapp served as the United Nations Prosecutor in Sierra Leone and Rwanda — and is now the United States Ambassador-at-large for Global Criminal Justice.  Governor Robert Ray helped open Iowa’s doors to Laotian and Vietnamese refugees many decades ago.

That spirit continues as Iowa has welcomed many others fleeing conflict and unrest from Myanmar to South Sudan to Bosnia.  Iowa is home to the oldest standing mosque in the United States.  Iowa City is a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World City of Literature — one of only six such places in the world.  And, of course, Iowa is an agricultural super-Power.  Your economy has an enormous stake in world markets — Iowa agriculture exports alone support an estimated 60,000 Iowa jobs on and off the farm.  Iowa global citizenship is also exemplified by Iowa’s own Nobel Peace Prize winner, Norman Borlaug, who helped launch the green revolution.  I was deeply honoured to take part in the World Food Prize ceremony last night.

This is my first United States trip outside New York since the opening of the General Assembly last month.  Each September, world leaders from every nation come together to focus on the big issues of our age.  It is a bit like the World Cup or Drake Relays of diplomacy.  In just a few days, I meet more than 100 Presidents and Prime Ministers, one after another.  Some call it the diplomatic equivalent of speed dating.  But, when you put it all together, I walk away with a soundtrack of today’s world.

This year, I heard profound unease.  I heard alarm over the unrelenting bloodshed in Syria, looming fears over nuclear issues and proliferation.  And in every corner of the world, people are worried — worried about jobs, education and a better life for their children.

Our world is shifting, and we are all trying to find our footing in this new era.  In our changing world, no issue can be seen in isolation.  No institution or country can work alone.  It takes a global outlook and a global approach to solve problems.  In a word, it takes global citizenship — citizenship that acknowledges that each and every one of us has a responsibility to be part of the solution.

Today, let me point to three tests of global citizenship.  The first and most fundamental is sustainable development.  In the year 2000, world leaders agreed on a plan to cut poverty in half and advance education, housing, health care, the environment and women’s rights around the world.  We called that blueprint for a better world the Millennium Development Goals and it has guided development ever since.

Several important global targets have been met — on poverty, water, slums and parity between girls and boys in primary education.  But, we are now just over three years away from the agreed deadline of 2015, and we must intensify our work.  At the same time, we need to frame a strategy for the next generation of action.  That plan must have sustainability at its core — development that respects people and the planet.

This is essential.  Today, we use 50 per cent more resources than our planet can provide.  If we stay on the current path, by the time you are in the middle of your careers and raising families, we will need two planet earths.  But, we have only one planet.  We have no choice but to confront this challenge squarely.  There can be no Plan B because there is no planet B.  Sustainable development requires us to make the linkages between climate change, energy, food security, water scarcity, global health, decent work and women’s empowerment.  Solutions to one problem must be solutions for all.

A second test of global citizenship is to meet people’s aspirations for democracy, peace and security — especially in light of the Arab Spring.  The key is rooted in the one-word advice I have offered every world leader — listen.  Listen to your people; hear their hopes; answer their legitimate demands for dignity, freedom and human rights.

I believe we face a once-in-a-generation opportunity in the Arab world.  The revolutions that began in Tunisia and Tahrir Square last year have echoes — echoes to the fall of the Berlin Wall, the break-up of the Soviet Union, the democratic reform process in my own country of South Korea that began in the 1960s.

The Arab Spring is part of a historic but natural evolution towards more freedom and more inclusive governance.  But, this process is fragile.  Building democracy takes time.  Reforms have to bring meaningful change in people’s lives.  As global citizens, all of us have a responsibility to help ensure these reforms respond to people’s needs and aspirations.

The international community has a special obligation right now to the people of Syria.  The conflict is now in its twentieth month.  According to estimates, 30,000 people have been killed.  Syrian cities and villages lie in ruins.  Appalling human rights abuses continue and the conflict rages on.

As winter approaches, humanitarian needs escalate; 2.5 million people inside Syria are affected; more than a million have fled their homes.  At least 340,000 Syrian refugees have already crossed the border, and that number is expected to more than double by the end of the year.  The World Health Organization estimates almost 70 per cent of the public hospitals have been damaged or destroyed.  Half the country’s ambulances have been attacked.

The United Nations is feeding 1.5 million people and providing shelter, health care and education assistance — in Government-held areas and those held by the opposition.  But, as needs grow, the humanitarian relief plan is only 40 per cent funded.  The situation in Syria poses perhaps the greatest immediate threat to our common humanity.  It is also an enormous threat to international peace and security, with the potential for dangerous spill-over into Syria's neighbours.

Earlier this year, I travelled to Srebrenica, which was the scene of the worst act of genocide in Europe since the Second World War.  The United Nations and the international community failed to protect thousands of Bosnian Muslim men and boys from slaughter.  As deadlock and death continue in Syria, how do we answer history tomorrow?  How do we respond to the people of Syria today?

Every day, we see yet another heart-breaking image of a mother cradling her dead child, a father atop the rubble of his home, a child running for her life.  And then we are told, again and again, action is not possible, more study is needed, this resolution does not satisfy that parochial interest.

Enough is enough.  The international community has a moral responsibility, a political duty and a humanitarian obligation to stop the bloodbath and find peace for the people of Syria.  I hope you will join me in calling once again for the Security Council, the regional countries and all parties to live up to their obligations, support the work of Joint Special Representative Lakhdar Brahimi and promote a ceasefire.

The third and final test of global citizenship I want to address is empowering the world’s women and young people.  This is a natural test of global citizenship — after all, half the world’s people are women, and half are under 25 years of age.  Wherever I travel, I urge leaders to put more women in genuine decision-making roles — more women in the Cabinet, more women in legislatures, more women on corporate boards.

And within the United Nations, I will keep leading by example.  In my first five years as Secretary-General, I have nearly doubled the number of women in the most senior United Nations positions.  Our top officials for humanitarian affairs, human rights, development and disarmament are women.  So, too, are our top doctor, top lawyer, even our top cop.

At the same time, we must expand our work with and for young people around the world.  Young people want the dignity that comes from decent work, yet global unemployment rates for young people are at record levels — many times the rate for adults.  The world will need 600 million new jobs over the next 15 years.

Young people also want a greater say in the decisions that affect their lives.  Economic empowerment and political empowerment go hand in hand.  Education is a key to both.  Last month, I launched a new global initiative called Education First.  Fostering global citizenship is a central part of our plan.

That brings me back to your mission here at Drake.  Education made me a global citizen.  I was a poor country boy from Korea.  I grew up just after the war.  My country was destroyed.  My village, my school, were both reduced to rubble.  We had our classes outside, under the trees.  UNICEF and UNESCO provided our books.  The United Nations was a beacon of hope for me and my country — and it changed everything.

When I was in high school — in fact, 50 years ago this year — I came to the United States at the invitation of the American Red Cross as an exchange student.  It transformed my life and the way I saw the world and my place in it.  I know the Chinese Vice-President, Xi Jinping, had a similar experience when he stayed in Muscatine, Iowa, as a young official.  He spoke very eloquently about that experience when he retraced his steps and came to Iowa earlier this year.

On my exchange, we travelled the country.  We even went to the White House and met President Kennedy in the Rose Garden.  He told us something I never forgot.  He said that “there are no national boundaries — there is only a question of whether we can extend a helping hand.”

That definition of global citizenship drives me today.  I want you to remember that, too.  Be a proud citizen of Iowa and the United States.  But look beyond your borders.  Be a global citizen.  Know that you are connected to something larger.  Be practical and ambitious.  Keep your head above the clouds, but keep your feet firmly planted on the ground.

Have an ideal and move step by step.  See the world.  Serve the world.  Be a global citizen and shape the world.

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