|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
‘Be a Global Citizen’, Secretary-General Urges Students at Auckland University,
Asking Them to Use Their Enormous Powers of Connectivity to Take Action
I again thank this University of Auckland for bestowing on me an honorary degree in recognition of the enduring value of the United Nations. Thank you all for coming to this lecture — and special thanks to those watching from other rooms.
I am fortunate to be at University of Auckland for the second time. But unfortunately, when I spoke here in 2011, I used up all my rugby jokes!
Although I will say the UN General Assembly is sometimes like a very messy scrum. Talks on reforming the Security Council are more like a collapsed scrum.
When it comes to the Millennium Development Goals, we are going for a try under the goal posts.
And I don’t care if you root for All Blacks or Wallabies — you have to play for women’s equality if you want to be on my team.
This week has been a privileged one. In Samoa, I was given a title of Prince Tupua. Today in Auckland, I am bestowed an honorary doctorate. I know these honours come with responsibilities for me to do more for peace and security, human rights and development.
With this in mind, today I will review the global landscape. New Zealand is my final stop on a trip that began in Indonesia. I went there to attend a meeting of the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations.
The many natural calamities in our world are heartbreaking — like disasters and disease. We are extremely concerned about the Ebola virus — and we are mobilizing the entire United Nations to provide treatment and contain it.
But there are also so many man-made disasters in this world. We are living among multiple crises. There is a lack of mutual understanding and respect for the traditions, beliefs and faiths of others.
We created the Alliance of Civilizations to promote genuine understanding and help resolve these fundamental problems, which are the root cause of many conflicts. The situation in the Middle East is a case in point.
We are seeing relative calm but only after 50 days of destruction and suffering. We now have an extended ceasefire for Gaza. Our goal is to open the space for a political process. We have to bring the two parties together to the negotiating table. That is the only way to achieve lasting peace.
Turning to the abhorrent situation in Iraq, I have appealed to religious leaders to stand up for tolerance, mutual respect and non-violence. We are all outraged at reports from Iraq about the brutal killing of civilians by ISIL [Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant], including yesterday’s reported brutal beheading of another journalist. I strongly condemn all such despicable crimes. And I refuse to accept that whole communities can be threatened by atrocity crimes because of who they are or what they believe.
In Eastern Europe, I am concerned about the border situation between Ukraine and the Russian Federation. I have been speaking to leaders of both countries, as well as others with influence. Lives are at stake. Peace in Ukraine means peace in the region and beyond.
We face other situations. The conflict in Syria has displaced more than 3 million people and affected more than half of the country’s population.
Time prevents me from going into greater detail about the many other conflicts raging in today’s world, such as those in Sudan, Mali, Libya and the Central African Republic, but I will be happy to discuss these more during the question and answer session.
The United Nations is dealing with the consequences of these destructive forces. We have more than 117,000 people serving in 16 peacekeeping operations in some of the toughest environments on earth.
Just today, I condemned the attack that killed four Chadian peacekeepers serving with our mission in Mali. Last week, scores of Fijian peacekeepers from the Golan Heights were detained. Our courageous blue helmets went there to bring stability to the people. I have condemned these attacks in the strongest possible terms. I have repeatedly demanded the immediate and unconditional release of our peacekeepers. I am in constant contact with leaders and others as we do everything possible for their freedom.
Since the birth of peacekeeping, New Zealand has contributed military and civilian personnel to our operations. One of its first engagements was in my country, Korea, in 1950. I was just six years old when I had to flee the fighting around my village. I was too young to understand the term “collective security” in my mind — but in my heart, I knew the world was by our side. The United Nations was a beacon of hope.
But peacekeeping carries a high price. In total, 3,250 people have lost their lives serving in our peacekeeping missions. Five New Zealanders were among them. They died in different circumstances — but they all served the cause of peace. The best way to honour their memory is to carry on their work — and to prevent conflicts from starting in the first place.
That is why the United Nations has a standby team of mediators ready to rush to tense regions. We also do peacebuilding after conflicts end so there is no relapse into war. It is not only peacekeepers or peace envoys; United Nations civilian personnel are also staffing operations across the planet.
Our new initiative, Human Rights Up Front, puts human rights at the heart of all our field work. The United Nations vaccinates more than half of the world’s children. We feed some 90 million people in 80 countries. We help more than 38 million refugees and others fleeing danger. This life-saving work is only possible with the support of our Member States.
That is why I am so grateful for New Zealand’s engagement. When I was here three years ago, I learned your University’s motto, “Ingenio et labore”. “Ingenuity and hard work”. This applies also to New Zealand’s ingenuity and hard work for the United Nations.
This country has been a long and staunch champion of nuclear and conventional disarmament. I hope that with New Zealand’s ratification of the Arms Trade Treaty it will come into effect by the end of this year.
I also appreciate New Zealand’s contributions over the years to promoting security in Afghanistan, Timor-Leste, the Solomon Islands and Bougainville in Papua New Guinea. And New Zealand is a pioneer on gender equality as the first country in the world where women received the right to vote. I admire this far-sighted vision.
Today, New Zealand is a party to most of the core international human rights treaties. New Zealand also endorsed the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in 2010 — and it has actively promoted indigenous rights.
With strong support and initiative, the first ever World Conference on Indigenous Peoples will be held on 22 and 23 September in New York.
New Zealand’s aid programme and assistance have been pivotal to helping countries in the Pacific region to develop. New Zealand representatives serve on a number of key United Nations development bodies, including the executive boards of UNICEF [United Nations Children’s Fund] and UN-Women. And Helen Clark, another Auckland University graduate, heads the United Nations Development Programme. I count among my advisers other Auckland University alumni, Jan Beagle, who is helping to run our worldwide campaign against AIDS.
When I was in high school, I had the extraordinary luck to be invited to participate in a programme organized by the American Red Cross Society. They sponsored me to travel across the United States with other young people from more than three dozen countries.
During that programme, Jocelyn Jones and Shirley Keen were representing New Zealand. We have met several times over the years, including three years ago when I was in Auckland. And I am happy that they are here with me today.
Our party had the great fortune to meet President John Kennedy in Washington, D.C. He told us that when it comes to the suffering people of the world, “there are no national boundaries; there is only a question of whether we can extend a helping hand.”
This simple message answers many of our world’s complex problems. We do not need to separate across borders — we need to look together at who is hurting and how we can help.
I came here from Apia, where I attended the Third International Conference on Small Island Developing States. I met there with the Prime Minister of Samoa, another distinguished graduate of Auckland University.
The main concerns of small islands are central to our global push to end poverty, promote sustainable development and address climate change.
The United Nations is giving priority to these three major goals for humanity’s future. First, we are aiming to reach the Millennium Development Goals by the target of 2015. Second, we are shaping a new development agenda for the period after 2015 to foster a life of dignity for all. And third, countries have also pledged to finalize a meaningful universal climate change agreement in Paris, also by 2015.
On 23 September, I am convening a Climate Summit at the United Nations in New York. It should mobilize political will for success at the climate negotiations in Paris and catalyze ambitious action on the ground. I am asking leaders to come prepared to make bold announcements.
I saw the kinds of solutions we need yesterday in Taupo at the Tuaropaki Trust. I was impressed by how they are using timeless wisdom to address modern challenges. The Maori there live harmoniously with nature based on their traditions and heritage. At the same time, they are adapting themselves to this changing world. I was encouraged by their approach to geothermal renewable energy, horticulture and waste management. One official there told me: “The most powerful force in the world is not science or technology; it is the imagination of the younger generations.” This is absolutely true. You can be the most powerful force in our world.
As a young man, when I met Shirley and Jocelyn, Korea was not even a member of the United Nations. I could never have imagined the direction my life would take. But I knew I wanted to serve the public. So I chose a life of diplomacy. This was my path. But we need more than diplomats to address the very serious problems in our world.
You may choose to study business, arts, sciences or other subjects. Whatever your passion, you can contribute to the United Nations. You do not have to wait until you graduate. Right now, you can take out your phone and follow us on Twitter and get involved with our campaigns.
I ask you: Be a global citizen. Borders have practically lost their meaning. You need to view problems from the perspective of the whole world. Use your enormous powers of connectivity to speak out and take action. Be fearless in standing up to injustice. Build on generations of New Zealanders who have built a strong bond with the United Nations — and write a new chapter in this partnership for our shared future.
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