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Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

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Remarks at 39th Plenary Assembly of the World Federation of United Nations Associations

by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Seoul (Republic of Korea), 10 August 2009

Dr. Hans Blix, President of the World Federation of UN Associations,
Prime Minister Han Seung-Soo, of the Republic of Korea,
Foreign Minister Yu Myung Hwan, of the Republic of Korea,
Distinguished Presidents and members of United Nations Associations,
My fellow “global citizens for the United Nations,”

I would like to express my heartfelt thanks to Dr. Hans Blix for his outstanding leadership as President of WFUNA.

I convey my appreciation to the Government and people of the Republic of Korea for hosting this event.

Distinguished members of the United Nations Association,

I share my deepest thanks for your leadership, your example, and your voice.

Thank you for educating, enlightening and promoting a stronger United Nations for a better world.

I have always believed that change does not come from the top-down. It comes from the bottom-up.

It does not begin in world capitals. It comes from people and communities.

That's where you are. On the frontlines, in the vanguard.

In many ways, you are the UN's finest face to the world?intelligent, engaged, committed and strong.

You believe in our vital mission.

You carry forth our word and our principles: justice, human rights, equal opportunity in a world of peace and prosperity for all.

You influence decision-makers. You engage the young. You lead a people's movement for the United Nations.

Again, I thank you.

Ladies and gentlemen,

If ever there was a moment when we should come together and act as one, it is now.

Let me share a small story about what I mean.

As UN Secretary-General, I travel often.

Wherever I go, I like to meet our UN staff?dedicated people, many like you, who have given their lives to public service and making a difference in the world.

Earlier this year, I visited WHO, the World Health Organization in Geneva.

A staff member raised his hand and said: Mr. Secretary-General, when the H1N1 virus hit the world, we went into high gear. Doctors, scientists, secretaries. Every one of us.

There was an unmistakable feeling in the air, he said. This is why we joined the UN ? to make a difference where it counts, when it counts. This is our time.

And today I repeat to you: this is our time.

I sense that feeling wherever I go.

This is our time.

We are living through an age of multiple crisis: Food. Fuel. Flu. Financial.

Each is something not seen for years, even generations. But now they are hitting all at once.

These crises are compounded by other, greater challenges: Climate change. The proliferation of deadly weapons. The plight of two billion of our fellow global citizens living in poverty.

None of these problems can be solved by any single nation acting alone.

Never has the imperative of acting together been so self-evident.

And today, more and more people have come to understand this fundamental fact.

Not long ago, assisting another nation to build a better health system was considered an act of charity. Today, it is accepted as common sense.

Not long ago, people questioned the reality of climate change. Today, the science is clear.

Not long ago, national leaders believed they could fight recession on their own. Today, all recognize our economic interdependence.

Like never before, our modern world is a world of interconnections.

Like never before, we must therefore act together.

That is why I have been speaking, lately, about the need for a renewed multilateralism.

A concrete multilateralism that delivers for people.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I see four cornerstones for this new multilateralism?this concrete multilateralism.

First, climate change.

It is, simply, the greatest collective challenge we face as a human family.

The world's top scientists tell us now is the time.

We have less than ten years to halt the global rise in greenhouse gas emissions if we are to avoid catastrophic consequences for people and the planet.

Yet there is ample reason to hope.

Two years ago, only a handful of leaders could speak to these issues. Today, world leaders are walking together toward a greener, cleaner future.

This December, in Copenhagen, we have a chance to put in place a climate change agreement that all nations can embrace.

So let this word go forth.

Tell your fellow members, your friends, your political leaders ? we must seize this once-in-a-generation chance.

Concrete multilateralism means governments must act in Copenhagen to make it real?to seal a deal in the name of humankind.

This is our time.

The second cornerstone?peace and security.

I commend Hans Blix and the efforts of UNA's around the world for a future free of nuclear weapons.

What an opportunity lies before us!

The Presidents of the Russian Federation and the United States have joined in seeking to cut their arsenals.

The Conference on Disarmament?the world's single multilateral forum for disarmament negotiations?has made a breakthrough.

For the first time in a decade, negotiators have agreed to a package of measures that can move the world away from nuclear weapons.

Now is our time ? the time to build on this momentum.

And we have a campaign. We call it WMD, – not Weapons of Mass Destruction – but instead We Must Disarm.

You are a full partner.

The International Day of Peace, on 21 September, is dedicated to this cause.

Between now and then, please spread the word.

Let us convince leaders, once and for all, of the danger posed by weapons of mass destruction.

Concrete multilateralism means that, together, we must push for an achievable objective: a world free of nuclear arms.

The third cornerstone?development.

The financial crisis has pushed millions more into poverty. It has cost 50 million jobs this year.

We know that, in any recession, those hurt first?and worst?are the poor.

We told this to the G-20 leaders in London in April. We asked for $1 trillion to make sure that the most vulnerable were not left behind. And we delivered.

That is a victory – but it is only the beginning.

We are past the midpoint of the Millennium Development Goals.

And we have learned where we get the most bang for our development dollars:

By helping farmers increase productivity.

By making sure every girl and boy has access to primary education.

By investing in global health and, especially, maternal health.

This is not charity. It is solidarity.

In our interconnected world, it is also an expression of enlightened self-interest: we are all in this together.

Concrete multilateralism means delivering results.

Now is our time.

The fourth and final cornerstone?human rights.

How many times have we heard the phrase, “never again”?

And yet ? Rwanda, Srebrenica, Darfur.

Let us speak frankly. Complacency and cynicism have prevented the United Nations from acting as early or as effectively as it should.

The past decade has seen a philosophical and pragmatic evolution toward the responsibility to protect.

We accept, today, that the international community has a moral and pragmatic duty to step in to help when governments cannot, or will not, protect their people.

Darfur is a case study in both the success and shortfalls of the new multilateralism.

The good news is that multinational peacekeepers are on the ground, after too many years of rhetorical posturing. By year's end, 90 percent of our 26,000 complement will be deployed.

The bad news is that we still lack critical assets ? the helicopters and heavy transport required to project force, when necessary, and save lives.

A concrete multilateralism means delivering on our commitments.

When the UN has a mandate, we will fulfill it.

But when the Members States give us a mandate, they must fulfill their obligations as well.

That means ensuring that the UN has the resources we need to do the job, and to see that job through to the end.

Now is our time.

Distinguished Presidents of the United Nations Association

Ladies and gentlemen,

A renewed multilateralism requires a renewed United Nations.

From my first day, I have worked to build a stronger UN for a better world.

We aim to create a more modern, more trustful UN?a UN that is faster, more flexible and more effective in delivering on the growing demands placed upon it.

That means smarter management of resources. Greater transparency and accountability. Common sense reform.

We work for a UN that stands tall for the values that inspired you to become an advocate and activist for a better world.

And for that, I count on your continued support.

Keep pushing governments to provide the resources that we need to do our job.

Keep mobilizing the private sector.

Keep raising awareness.

Now is our time.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I hold our United Nations in high esteem not merely because I am Secretary-General.

I grew up in the wake of the Korean War.

The United Nations helped my family. It helped rebuild my country.

Look around this city today, and you will understand why, for me, the United Nations flag is a banner of hope.

Likewise, the UN is still the beacon of hope for so many people around the world.

I know, right now, that there is another young girl or boy who is inspired by our work and will grow up believing in the UN power of public service.

I know that today, and every day, we and our work stand for something supremely noble.

I know, in my deepest heart, as do you, that there is such a thing as the global common good, and that the truest measure of our humanity is our willingness to sacrifice and to help one another.

That is what we stand for.

That is the United Nations.

That is the banner that you so ably help carry to every corner of the globe.

Let us hold it high.

Let us defend those who cannot defend themselves.

Let us speak for voiceless.

Let us, together in sacred partnership, work to build a better world.

A truly United Nations.

Now is our time.

Thank you.