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Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

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New York, 20 October 2014 - Secretary-General remarks at the Economic and Social Council Special Event "CERN: Sixty Years of Science for Peace and Development"

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I thank the Ambassador Martin Sajdik, President of the Economic and Social Council, for hosting this special event.

I also want to express my appreciation to Professor Rolf Heuer, Director-General of CERN, for co-organizing this gathering.

This event reaffirms the important role of science and technology in promoting progress and peace.

Science has at times been used for harmful purposes.  Discoveries about the atom were used to create nuclear weapons. The arms race absorbed scientific talent and financial resources that could have been used to address the pressing problems facing humanity. 

Fortunately, science is far more often a powerful force for progress and human well-being, especially in developing countries.

Whether we are trying to address climate change, stop the Ebola virus, deal with cybersecurity threats, or curb nuclear proliferation, we need scientists with a clear vision and a commitment to work together to find solutions.

I call on the scientific community to invest a significant proportion of its talent and resources over the coming year to research that would accelerate achievement of the Millennium Development Goals and the future Sustainable Development Goals.

I would also like to make a plea for greater efforts to attract more women and girls to science and technology-related fields.  Unleashing women's innovation potential must be a priority.

I attach great importance to expanding the role of science in the work of the United Nations.

This is one of the reasons I have created a scientific advisory board to advise me on the science-policy interface. 

The Board will prepare regular scientific assessments in matters of science, technology and innovation, especially for sustainable development.  This will help the United Nations to strengthen the link between science and policy.  It will also improve understanding of our “planetary boundaries”, “tipping points” and “environmental thresholds”.

I have high hopes for the impact the Board will make in strengthening evidence-based policy-making.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As we pursue these hugely important efforts, we can be inspired by the work done by CERN.

CERN’s scientific discovery involving the Hadron Collider, and its research on the World Wide Web, have been truly groundbreaking.

I applaud CERN for its collaboration with UNESCO and other UN agencies and invite the organization to strengthen its engagement with the UN system.  I am pleased one of CERN’s experts is serving on the UN Scientific Advisory Board in her personal capacity.   I also invite CERN, as an institution, to work more closely with the Board. We need your expertise to address global development challenges.

I have had the honour to visit CERN twice in recent years, and to plunge deep underground to see its remarkable facilities.  CERN makes its visitors wear hard hats for their protection.  As it happens, those helmets are blue -- so I felt at home!

The Large Hadron Collider is awesome to behold – a monument to human ingenuity.  But I was just as impressed by the people I met -- especially the young scientists and engineers from many nations who work there.  CERN is giving them the opportunity to explore their own potential even as they explore the boundaries of science.

It is said that those who go up into outer space come back changed forever.  When I emerged again into the countryside near Geneva, I felt that I, too, had been somewhere special -- only in the other direction!  Up again at ground level, one sees cars on the road, birds in the sky, and people rushing about their daily errands.  Meanwhile, down below, deep underfoot, teams of skilled thinkers and technicians and scientists confront the mysteries of existence in order to advance the human condition.

It was a moving experience, and I thank CERN for its hospitality and contributions.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The world faces multiple crises.  But this is also an era of opportunity, where great achievements are possible thanks to science, technology and innovation.  To all the scientists and policy-makers here today, I urge you to engage even more actively with us in building a world peace, prosperity and dignity for all.

Let me call on the young generation in particular to bring their passion and creativity to this effort.

The United Nations stands ready to work with you.

Thank you.

Statements on 20 October 2014