Secretary-General's remarks on receiving Seoul Peace Prize (as prepared for delivery)
Seoul, 29 October 2012
It is an immense honour to be awarded the Seoul Peace Prize.
I thank the custodians of the prize for this recognition.
I know that through me you are also paying tribute to the United Nations, our work for peace across the world and the diverse and talented staff who bring the UN Charter to life.
I am also keenly aware that I am the first Korean to win this award.
That makes this moment especially moving.
I think back to all those who have helped and inspired me along the way - from my school teachers during a war-time childhood to mentors in the Korean government.
I offer my profound appreciation to those men and women, who are dedicated to public service and helped to instill that same spirit in me. This is their prize, too.
Not many countries establish a prize for peace.
The Seoul Peace Prize has its roots in the 1988 Summer Olympics when this country opened its doors to people and athletes from more than 160 countries.
Korea did so in part because it believes in the power of sports for peace and development.
Just this morning, I spoke at a forum on that very subject.
But hosting the Olympics was also Korea’s way of saying thank you to the world for supporting the country’s struggle and transformation.
Decades earlier, as war raged across the Korean Peninsula the troops of many countries came to the country’s defence, under the flag of the United Nations.
Some of those who gave their lives for Korea’s freedom are buried on Korean soil -- far from their homes, but close to the hearts of the Korean people.
One year ago, I visited the burial ground in Busan -- the world’s only United Nations cemetery -- to pay my respects for their sacrifice.
Koreans benefitted again from international assistance during the monumental post-war recovery effort.
Into the country, through the ports of Busan and Incheon, came vast amounts of school books, grain, vaccines and other vital assistance.
Another import was less tangible but every bit as consequential: solidarity.
Korea drew strength from knowing that the country was not alone.
Three months ago, I visited two other Olympic sites in the span of a single day.
In the morning, I took a symbolic run in the Olympic stadium in Sarajevo -- a one-time war-zone.
That evening, I carried the torch for this year’s Summer Games in London, a city that has also experienced the destruction of war and the horror of aerial bombardment.
Bosnia, the United Kingdom and Korea have all rebuilt and gained the path of peace.
So many other people in war-ravaged lands around the world want to make that same journey.
With the help of the United Nations they can.
That sense of shared hope and renewal is, for me, the meaning of this award.
As a son of Korea and as Secretary-General of the United Nations I am therefore pleased to accept the Seoul Peace Prize and to speak to you, on this important occasion, about the pursuit of peace at a time of global transition.
The human family is at a critical juncture.
The world is moving through a Great Transition.
This transition is economic, as the digital revolution advances and as new powers and groups emerge.
Today’s engines of growth are largely in the developing world. Korea itself hosted the G20 Summit two years ago -- the first to be held outside North America and Europe.
The implications of this momentous shift -- from West to East, and from North to the global South -- are only beginning to unfold.
The Great Transition is also developmental, as we seek a more sustainable path.
The social perils of rising inequality and joblessness are clear. And our ecological footprint is overstepping the earth’s boundaries.
We are using resources as if we had two planets, not one. There can be no Plan B because there is no planet B.
Politics are also on the move, awakened against oppression, corruption and misrule.
People are increasingly – and rightly – demanding a greater role in shaping their own destiny.
Dramatic transitions in the Arab world, Africa and elsewhere have brought new hope to many countries and to others that have suffered severe democratic deficits for too long.
More quickly than anyone foresaw we have established an age of accountability for international crimes and grave violations of human rights.
Leaders must listen to their constituents – must respond to their needs and aspirations -- or make way for those who will.
The United Nations, too, must deliver. The United Nations must help the world turn back the tide of rising insecurity, injustice, inequality and intolerance.
Peace and security, development and human rights are indivisible. We will not enjoy one without the others. We must deliver peace in the fullest sense of the word.
The UN’s work for global peace and security draws on many tools.
UN peacekeeping operations are in great demand – a sign of persistent armed conflict, but also a vote of confidence in the way peackeepers can help countries transform their prospects for the better.
The UN’s peacebuilding efforts are being strengthened to help fragile countries emerging from conflict avoid a relapse – as happens all too commonly.
The United Nations is strengthening mediation, preventive diplomacy and all our means of resolving disputes peacefully.
The Organization is also focusing greater attention on drug trafficking, transnational crime and terrorism -- security threats that have grown in intensity, and which feed off each other in deadly ways.
At this ceremony dedicated to peace, I must make a special plea about the threat of nuclear weapons.
Some say nuclear disarmament is utopian, premature, a dream. I say the illusion is that nuclear weapons provide security.
Defence establishments agree: nuclear weapons are useless against today’s threats, from crime to terror to disease.
Security experts also acknowledge that the very existence of nuclear weapons is de-stabilizing, since others feel they must have them for deterrence and their own protection – and since terrorists may seek to obtain nuclear materials.
There are also real risks to human health and the environment.
How, then, do we explain that in a post-cold-war world, amidst a global financial crisis, the nuclear weapon states seem intent on modernizing their arsenals for decades to come?
And more broadly, how can we justify global military spending that last year was twice as much in a day as the UN spent on all its activities the whole year?
I continue to pursue wide-ranging initiatives to realize our dream of a world without nuclear weapons.
My UN five-point plan focuses on preventing proliferation, strengthening the legal regime and ensuring nuclear safety and security -- an effort that was given good momentum by the Nuclear Security Summit held in Seoul earlier this year.
The world is over-armed, and peace is under-funded. We need to get our priorities right, and stop spending billions on weapons instead of people.
The UN’s work for development is now focused on keeping the promise embodied in the Millennium Development Goals.
Maternal health, so that women do not perish in the course of giving life. Nutrition, so that every infant gets the start in life they deserve. Education, for the skills needed to thrive in the knowledge economy. Sustainable energy, to power long-term prosperity. Environmentally friendly development, to protect our one and only planet.
The empowerment of the world’s women and young people – in many ways, is the key to all our hopes.
The 2015 MDG deadline is fast approaching.
We have made important gains, but the economic crisis has stalled progress and threatens big reversals. In too many countries, on too many targets, we are falling short.
We must keep our promise to the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people.
Even as the United Nations makes this push to achieve the MDGs, there is also a need to articulate a post-2015 development vision. That vision must be bold yet practical.
It must have sustainability at its core.
And it must reflect challenges that have come to the fore since the MDGs were first agreed. We must make this long-term investment in people and the planet on which we depend.
People are also at the heart of our efforts to mainstream human rights and other democratic values.
We have made remarkable advances -- a wide-ranging body of standards and laws, the fall of dictatorships and corrupt regimes, the conviction of a former head of state for war crimes, the emergence of a new norm, the responsibility to protect people from genocide and other grave crimes.
Yet we are still witness to appalling abuses and discrimination.
We see extremists in northern Mali and Pakistan committing cruel acts in a hateful, twisted interpretation of religion.
Women and girls around the world are still subjected to violence, servitude and early marriage.
We see hospitals and places of worship, once considered safe havens in wartime, now coming under attack -- a reversion to barbarism of another day.
And we see bombings of densely populated Syrian cities by the regime.
We must do better. The United Nations must do better.
Most immediately, we must do more to respond to the violence in Syria.
The United Nations is doing its utmost to ease the humanitarian situation and to set in motion a political solution to the crisis.
For this to happen, the guns must fall silent.
I am deeply disappointed that the parties failed to respect the call to suspend fighting.
This crisis cannot be solved with more weapons and bloodshed.
I call once again for the parties to immediately stop the fighting.
And I repeat my call for the Security Council, the regional countries and all parties to support Joint Special Representative Lakhdar Brahimi’s mission to help move forward on a political track.
I remain committed to doing all I can to make this happen.
As long as the international community remains at odds, the needs, attacks and suffering will only grow.
More broadly, we must do better to fight impunity, in Syria and elsewhere.
We must further support the groundbreaking work for justice carried out by the International Criminal Court.
We must show we are truly committed to implementing the responsibility to protect in practice, not just refining what we mean by it in theory.
In response to extremism, we must promote tolerance, including through initiatives such as the UN Alliance of Civilizations -- our effort to promote mutual respect and understanding, culture to culture, country to country, people to people.
My remarks here tonight would be incomplete without a few words on East Asia itself, and the role of the Republic of Korea.
East Asia has risen. It is a dynamic economic force, a contributor to UN peacekeeping, a major development donor, and a source of innovations and ideas that are shaping our future.
The countries of the region are now each other’s most important trading partners. Yet tensions from the past are still all too present.
Every country in the region has a paramount interest in stability. Where there are differences, these should be managed and resolved peacefully. Leaders have a responsibility to show restraint, and pursue solutions through dialogue, cooperation and an accurate understanding of history.
Let us draw lessons from other parts of the world where regional integration and cooperation are well advanced. Let us all, leaders and ordinary citizens alike, be forward-looking in thinking about how best to build a peaceful Asia that enjoys prosperity and human rights.
The situation on the Korean Peninsula is one of the most challenging in the world, with regional and global implications.
I am ready to play my part to work towards a peaceful and denuclearized Korean Peninsula – including through my own personal engagement and visit to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, under the right conditions. I also look forward to the day when the DPRK moves to heed the call for denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, and for improving the lives of its people through respect for universal values and human rights.
Rates of malnutrition and childhood stunting in the DPRK are alarming. Donor assistance, however, is declining, risking cutbacks in food and nutrition assistance. This is an immediate problem as well as a matter affecting the future of the Korean people as a whole.
The United Nations will continue to do its utmost to provide humanitarian assistance to those in need, especially children and other vulnerable people. Even
as we strive for a better future on the Korean Peninsula, there is an urgent need to ease human suffering today.
Our world is shifting. Changes and wake-up calls arrive with the speed of a tweet, on the wings of the world-wide- web.
The Republic of Korea has an important role to play as we try to find our footing in this new era.
With its vibrant democracy and well established rule of law, Korea can play a bridging role for countries undergoing political transitions.
With its robust economy, Korea can contribute greatly to sustainable development, including by increasing aid commitments beyond the generous steps it has taken already.
And with its election earlier this month to the United Nations Security Council, the Republic of Korea can help keep the peace.
Korea’s role will be further strengthened by the country’s recent decision to contribute peacekeepers to the UN mission in South Sudan.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Times of transition are times of profound opportunity.
The decisions we make in this period will have an impact for generations to come.
I believe the Great Transition is propelling us towards a new future in which we will come to know and influence and interact with each other more intensely with every passing day.
That gives me great hope because the great transition is putting power into the hands of people as they seek to make the values enshrined in the UN Charter real and meaningful in their own lives.
Justice, equality, human dignity.
That is our shared destination.
As we navigate our way, let our passion for peace – and our compassion for each other – be our polestar for a brighter future.
I would like to express my sincere gratitude to all of you for celebrating this award with me.
I sincerely wish the Seoul Peace Prize Foundation much success ahead, and to all of you, joy and happiness.
Statements on 29 October 2012