Secretary-General's keynote address to Indian Council of World Affairs [including Q&A] [as delivered]
New Delhi, India, 12 January 2015
Thank you for your time to participate in this meeting. I would like to also thank all senior distinguished ambassadors from the Indian Foreign Service, and my colleagues travelling with me, and the UN Country Team and the Resident Coordinator. It is a great honour to participate and share some thoughts on my own views on how the international community and United Nations
Ambassador Gharekhan has just given me quite challenging questions even before we enter into Q&A. I will keep in mind how I can answer, but I think you should know much better than I know. As Secretary-General I’ve been addressing lots of different groups of audiences – starting from politicians, professors, senior diplomats, scientists and business communities. One of the [more] difficult audiences is like yourselves – a group of senior diplomatic personalities – because to my mind there should be nothing which they do not know what I know. That’s my problem. If I address some group of business people or some other politicians then I should say very proudly something which they may not know but I know. But since we have been working in the same profession – but maybe I may be [doing] a little more than what you are doing. [inaudible] because I am dealing at this time with some current issues, including some future issues too.
And really, I am happy to be back in New Delhi. Main Bharat vapas aake bahut khush hua. [“Meih Bharat vapas aakay Bo-hot kush hoo-ah.” “I am very happy to be back in India.”]
My relationship with India, as Mr. Bhatia said, “What I am here”, I started from here 43 years ago in 1972. Since then I have been visiting India many times. I told them when I leaving here in 1975, I’m leaving half of my heart here. You know the very famous Frank Sinatra story – I left my heart here in New Delhi. I am returning regularly to check whether half of my heart is properly functioning. My surname ‘Ban’, literally speaking in Korean, means ‘half’. Of course, there are some other better meanings, but ‘half’. Somebody calls me ‘half-Ban’, or something like this. Whenever I come back to New Delhi, I become a full man. This is what I can tell you. I feel a really happy, special connection, now in addition to my professional career, I have some family here, which most of you know, so I do not repeat. I just met my Indian in-laws today, just before coming here.
Ladies and gentlemen, it is a great privilege for me to address Sapru House.
Nearly sixty years ago, my esteemed predecessor, Dag Hammarskjöld, I understand, he visited this Council, and he spoke passionately about collective security. He said, “The weakness of one is the weakness of all, and the strength of one … is the strength of all.”
That’s what still rings true. That is why I am asking world leaders “Let’s work together closely as one team.” The UN really tries to work as one team. It looks like the UN is a very loose, big organization. Sometimes I do not even understand what exactly their mandates are. There are so many specialized agencies, funds and programs; they are scattered all around the world. It seems very loose. But in my days as Secretary-General, my motto is One UN. Think and act and deliver as one – that’s what we say DAO - Deliver as One. This is our catch phrase.
Ladies and gentlemen, we are living in an era of test and challenge.
Billions of people struggle in poverty – including some 500 million in India.
Globally, there are more displaced people than at any time since the end of the Second World War.
Terrorist networks spread fear and instability across continents. We have seen such terrible things happen in Paris. In terms of number of people killed I think we have seen so many places. Most recently in Peshawar in Pakistan, 132 school children were killed. 12 journalists and policemen were killed in Paris. But they were striking at the heart of our freedom – our freedom of expression. That is why millions of people marched together with so many world leaders on Sunday. If not for Vibrant Gujarat I would have been there myself. But unfortunately I couldn’t, I thought this was more important. But anyway There is a lot of religious, racial and ethnic intolerance, which fuels conflicts and distorts development.
At the same time climate change is impacting all our lives. Climate change is approaching much, much faster than we think.
Humanity can overcome these challenges by working in our shared interest, working as one, to have the strength of one become the strength of all.
This is not a burdensome task – it is a rich opportunity.
When I lived here more than 40 years ago, since then I have seen India’s impressive advances over the decades.
I see this country’s great global potential.
Today I will focus on three major roles India can play in addressing all these issues:
First: India as a driver for peace in the region and the world.
Second: India as a champion of human rights.
Third: India as a leader on clean development – clean sustainable development.
Those are three issues that cover all your lives and all the spectrums of human beings.
In this key year for our common future, India has a great deal to contribute – and stands to benefit enormously.
Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,
Let me begin with regional security.
The world is looking to India to help advance peace, stability and prosperity in South Asia.
A secure regional environment will also help India reach its ambitious development goals.
Regional stability requires engagement and collaboration.
I welcome India’s leadership in deepening cooperation in South Asia. As the world’s largest democracy, India has important lessons for others.
Across the region, political leaders must put aside long-standing grievances and seek new ways to peacefully end old disputes. This is especially the case for India and Pakistan.
The continued instability in Pakistan and Afghanistan is not only the responsibility of those nations. They need regional engagement to build stronger institutions, support economic growth and foster better relations.
Those challenges should be addressed through such initiatives as the Istanbul Process and growing bilateral and multilateral partnership agreements.
I encourage India’s leaders to remain invested in helping Afghanistan to develop, including through education exchanges.
Afghanistan’s security challenges cannot be solved only through military efforts. An Afghan-led political process focused on peace and reconciliation is essential – and it needs regional support like from India.
More broadly, South Asia faces the grave danger of nuclear weapons.
Each addition to the arsenals raises the risks of a nuclear nightmare.
India and Pakistan were among the more than 150 countries that reached this conclusion at three conferences on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons.
I am troubled by the lack of disarmament globally.
Other nuclear States have announced limitations and reductions – but in some regions, including this one, arsenals are growing more diverse and more sophisticated.
Other nuclear States have declared an end to their production of nuclear materials for weapons – but again in some regions, including this one, the stockpiles are growing.
Other nuclear States have proclaimed moratoria on nuclear tests – but other nuclear States, including in South Asia, have not signed the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty.
Governments are investing in weapons while cutting their health budgets.
I call on India to renew its leadership on nuclear disarmament.
This country made the first call for a comprehensive test ban in 1954. In 1988, India promoted an ambitious plan for a nuclear-weapon-free world. And today, India has a solemn responsibility to help South Asia stop developing nuclear arsenals.
This is all the more urgent in our era of rising violent extremism and radicalization.
Terrorists are using the Internet, especially social media, to recruit young people, raise funds and spread their narrative of hate.
I have repeatedly condemned the terrorism that takes innocent lives.
The world stood in solidarity with India in the aftermath of the devastating and appalling terrorist attacks in Mumbai in 2008. The world was again horrified last month by the savage and cowardly attack on innocent schoolchildren and educators in Peshawar. And yesterday, the world rallied in Paris.
The United Nations has a comprehensive Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy which India fully supports. I welcome India’s cooperation with the United Nations on counter-terrorism. And I urge India to work with its neighbours on the Strategy’s four pillars: addressing conditions that allow terrorism to spread; preventing and combating it; building States’ capacity; and ensuring respect for human rights and the rule of law.
Now let me now turn to global security.
India has shown its faith in a collective approach through its generous contributions to UN peacekeeping operations.
Today, more than 8,000 Indian peacekeepers serve in UN operations.
I have seen their courage – and I have honoured their sacrifice. One hundred and fifty-eight Indian peacekeepers have lost their lives while serving the UN.
We are doing everything possible to protect our blue helmets.
Two out of three - two out of every three peacekeepers serves in conditions of ongoing conflict, where there is either a fragile peace agreement – or none at all.
In places like Mali, armed groups are joining forces with transnational criminal networks and terrorist organizations.
To address these threats, protect civilians and safeguard human rights, we need a consistent strategy that is fully supported by the international community and the Security Council.
Our troops need the right equipment, personnel, training and expertise. More than that, they need the backing of countries that can influence warring parties.
We are improving peacekeeping – with solid results.
We have focused our missions, introduced effective new technologies and broadened our base of contributors.
But there are still major challenges. We need better funding, training and equipment. We need to improve command and control. Our troops and police must carry out challenging mandates with full resolve. We need to handle ever-more-complex mandates. And we need stronger political support overall.
That is why I have established a High-Level Independent Panel to conduct a comprehensive review of peace operations.
One of its members is retired Indian Lieutenant General, Abhijit Guha, who brings years of experience in UN peacekeeping.
The Panel will provide recommendations to help the United Nations – with India – better serve people in need.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Let me now turn to the second area where India has a key role to play: human rights.
Diversity is one of India’s most outstanding features. It is home to a mosaic of peoples from different cultures, ethnic groups, religions and languages.
In India and all countries, individuals are born free and equal.
People deserve respect, dignity and security regardless of their ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation or gender identity. The United Nations defends those rights everywhere – north, south, east and west.
Development models must reach all groups. Inclusive growth brings shared prosperity.
India has already lifted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty and it can bring the benefits of inclusive growth to millions more.
Yesterday, I visited Mahatma Gandhi’s Sabarmati Ashram in Gujarat. I was deeply moved by how they are conserving and teaching Gandhi’s letters and other precious artefacts. And I reflected on our collective responsibility to conserve the spirit of Gandhi’s teachings.
He confronted many forms of injustice – including against people who were then called “Untouchables”.
His struggle led to the historic resolution banning discrimination based on caste.
Today India has laws that not only enshrine equality but also take positive steps to address past discrimination.
But millions of Dalits, Tribals and others still face discrimination, especially the women and girls.
In too many communities, religious minorities also suffer.
We must continue Gandhi’s battle for equality.
Since as a young diplomat I visited Rajghat many times, whenever VIPs came, I escorted. As Secretary-General and as Foreign Minister I paid my own tribute. I really try to practice, like most, the seven social sins that Gandhi said. If politicians, businessmen or scientists or whatever professions they do, they practice what he said, I think this world will be most harmonious, and there will be no conflict, no corruption.
I just admire, at that time already, he taught us to keep all this. When I went to Sabarmati Gandhi Ashram yesterday again, I was humbled and inspired. Yesterday in my speech I told world leaders, “Let his teachings inspire all of us.”
In addressing many difficult challenges, I think education is one of the keys.
Schools should be gardens of global citizenship – not battlegrounds of divisive ideologies.
The world faces a global pandemic of violence against women, including the heinous crimes of rape and sexual abuse.
India has a special challenge. The United Nations will do everything possible to support Government efforts to prevent this violence, protect women, provide for victims and punish the perpetrators.
I started a global campaign called “HeforShe” campaign to change mindsets and mobilize men for gender equality. I thank Prime Minister Modi for his support.
No country can advance as long as its women are held back. I have been saying that while in our world we use lot of different resources, technologies, the least-utilized resource in our human lives is women. More than half the world’s population are women. Then it is only natural that if we cannot give more, then at least they should be given equal treatment, equal status. That is why as Secretary-General, I have been promoting gender equality and empowerment. I try to lead by example, so other world leaders and business leaders can emulate the United Nations’ example. I am proud to tell you the UN has changed a lot since I became Secretary-General. Lakshmi Puri is now deputy head of UN Women. It was I who established UN Women. There were some fractured departments, offices small or big – I just combined all of them together to establish one big huge department: UN Women. I need the Indian Government’s strong support for UN Women.
I applaud the many civil society groups across India that work – often without resources or recognition – to empower women and minority groups.
Two years ago, Justice Verma delivered valuable recommendations to end violence against women in India. I count on the Government to act on them.
India has long displayed a commitment to gender equality.
The world can thank a daughter of India, Dr. Hansa Mehta, for replacing the phrase in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It said, “All men are born free and equal”. Now it is changed, “All human beings are born free and equal”, in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. How appropriate, how fitting it is.
I call for India to promote gender tolerance and non-discrimination, where the full participation of women and all minority groups leads to sustainable peace.
Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,
The third area where I see enormous potential in India is sustainable development. When it comes to sustainable development and climate change, I become much more energized than when talking about security issues. Because I see much more possibility and hope in the United Nations contribution to sustainable development.
The world is now shaping a new agenda to succeed the Millennium Development Goals. I count on India to engage fully in this process.
I welcome “Make in India” – I thought it was “Made in India”, now it is “Make in India”! It is a very good policy of Prime Minister Modi – this national programme to turn this country into a manufacturing hub of the world. I saw the possibilities of this yesterday in Gujara,t at the Vibrant Gujarat summit meeting. It was really vibrating! I think whole world is now vibrating with this dynamism and vibration.
But I would add two words to “Make in India” - “Make it Green in India.” What about it? “Make it Green in India!”
By respecting the environment, India can grow economically while enjoying greater human progress overall.
Prime Minister Modi rightly gives priority to creating smart cities – 100 smart cities – and boosting energy security. These are also central to international action on climate change.
Climate action can power growth, reduce poverty, improve health and increase energy security.
Renewable energy offers huge business opportunities. I saw this yesterday at the Canal Top Solar Power Plant in Gujarat.
Energy efficiency reduces emissions and pollution while increasing productivity.
This year, the world must seize the chance to achieve a meaningful global agreement at the Paris climate conference. That agreement can trigger large investment flows, spark innovation and push low-carbon technologies into global markets. India can be a major part of this new flow of goods and resources.
Ladies and gentlemen,
India has shown remarkable global leadership from Gandhi’s time until today.
I applaud India for its commitment to the United Nations. India is ranked at the top of our troop-contributing countries, our corporate Global Compact members, our contributors to the UN Democracy Fund – and many other UN initiatives.
At the same time, the challenges here mirror our global challenges: poverty, gender inequality, discrimination, environmental degradation, extremism and other security threats.
The United Nations is mobilizing countries to rise to these challenges in this, our 70th anniversary year.
2015 is a time for global action.
If we rise to the moment, we can address suffering that has engulfed our planet for too long.
We can reach out to youth, and raise a new generation of global citizens – especially in India, which has the most young people of any country in the world.
We can grasp a new future of dignity and security for all.
The great poet Rabindranath Tagore called on people to transcend their differences. He said, “Let us announce to the world that the light of the morning has come – not for entrenching ourselves behind barriers, but for meeting in mutual understanding and trust on the common field of cooperation.”
Ladies and gentlemen, I really count on India to be part of our transformative push to realize this vision – for the people of this remarkable country, India, and our human family of the world.
Thank you for your attention. Thank you. Dhanyavaad.
Q: The first question that we will take is as follows. The UN has set the deadline of 2015 to meet MDGs. What do you feel are the biggest challenges to meet this deadline and how optimistic are you that at least some of these goals will be met by the deadline?
SG: This is very practical question. The deadline, of course, falls on December 31, and we’ve been working for last 14 years. But I have to admit that we may not be able to meet all the eight goals, which have been promised by world leaders in 2000.
But it is also true that through these Millennium Development Goals we have been able to, first of all, reduce abject poverty by half. That has already been achieved by 2010. According to the World Bank, we reduced half of the poor people from this earth but unfortunately with the continuing international global financial crisis, which happened in late 2009, hundreds of millions of people have been pushed back to the category of poverty. Then we have to address these issues.
We have addressed diseases. India should be really congratulated on finally eradicating polio four years ago. I was here in 2009. I administered the polio vaccine myself together with my wife. At that time, still you had polio, but you have eradicated it from this continent. That is very much important.
We have three countries still to [go]– it’s almost on the verge of eradicating polio. We reduced a lot of potential deaths by HIV AIDS and India has made great contribution in reducing maternal death and child death. In 2009, I came here just for health purposes, and I travelled here in and in Mumbai. For that you have to be very proud.
The world has really tried to provide primary education to all the school-age children but unfortunately we still have 58 million children who are out of school.
But with all this, overall I think we made good progress, quite significant progress in addressing MDGS. Then we have to admit the reality that we cannot do it, that is why member states have been working very hard over the last several years to shape the post-2015 development agenda with a set of SDGs. They have identified 17 goals. The MDGs have eight goals, now the SDGs is going to address both developing and developed world, covering all the spectrums of our lives. There are three dimensions – social, economic and environment – to make this planet earth a really sustainable one. That will be a true test this year. I am expecting world leaders to come to the UN on this occasion of the 70th anniversary, and to adopt and declare another vision targeting 2030, including addressing climate change.
By 2030, we will have eradicated poverty and we will have provided secondary education to all the school children around the world. I think we can do [it].
And we have to provide energy access – universal access to electricity. Prime Minister Modi yesterday announced that we will have 24-hour electricity. Our target by 2030, we will have 7 billion people, maybe by that time 8 billion people will have access and they will have safe drinking and sanitation. All this will have to be addressed
Our vision is to create a world where nobody is left behind, and a sustainable world. Thank you.
Q: There are several questions relating to [inaudible] subject [inaudible] sustainable development. They boil down to the following:
How would you ensure balance between the right of development for the poor vis-à-vis emissions – is there a conflict between the two?
SG: This is part of sustainable development. Addressing, making this world environmentally sustainable is a hugely important part of global sustainability. Of course, countries’ capacities are all different. Even in today’s meeting with the Foreign Minister, I asked India to take leadership. I know that India has a lot of problems in greenhouse gas emissions. You still have to depend on fossil fuels. But at the same time you have innovative technologies, and you have hugely well-educated human resources while you have to address the 300-400 million poor people. Therefore how to balance development and addressing these environment issues is a huge, huge problem.
There is a principle that we have agreed on – common but differentiated responsibilities. Greenhouse gas emissions and climate change have been caused mostly by the developed world since the industrial revolution. At the same time, we have to admit that countries like China or even India, even though the ratio is much different, they have contributed significantly to greenhouse gas emissions. China is now number one in emitting countries. Therefore how to balance this is very delicate, politically sensitive and economically again, very sensitive.
I hope that when Member States commit themselves, their plan of action which is submitted by the end of March this year, and I expect that India will do it by the end of June - they should address the level of difference of capacities, resources, and the level of their contribution to this common state. I hope negotiators will address all these issues in a comprehensive way, in a balancing and equitable way.
Q: Here is a question that might interest you and I’m sure it will interest the people in the audience. What do you think the UN can do to help strengthen efforts to save wildlife and promote respect for non-human species?
SG: Preserving all species, all different species and particularly wildlife whose lives are endangered by reckless poaching and killing and hunting, this is one of the serious problems we have to address. There is a lot of organized crime and corruption, smuggling involved in this. Those when combined with [inaudible], then it even sometimes creates a lot of social and political instability in a country. First of all, it is important, that [inaudible]
Planet earth - where all the species, wildlife or biodiversity should be able to coexist in a sustainable way - that is very important.
Then we have to combine, first of all, effective control, you have to abide by all rules and laws. There are many international conventions to protect these endangered species – one is known as CITES [Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species]. In practice it is very difficult in enforcing by the government to prevent all poaching and smuggling. The UN is closely working with wildlife [departments of governments] and NGOs like WWF [World Wildlife Fund], and I think we need to really work together on this one.
Q: Can we take one more question?
Q: The UN was born in the backdrop of inter-state conflict, but the nature of conflict has changed to intra-state conflict. What is the significance of the UN in such a scenario?
SG: Let me combine this question together with your first question.
This is quite broad; the much more difficult question is how to handle all these conflicts. This is my ninth year, and I have completed my eighth year as Secretary-General. One day, I asked one of the very senior long-serving UN staff who served at the rank of USG [Under-Secretary-General], at least longer than four decades. I asked, “Have you ever seen, during your time, including now, any time when so many conflicts were happening all at once?” I can name a list of ten hot, burning areas. And not at any time in the past have we seen the environmental degradation such as we are experiencing now. Therefore in all spectrums of our lives, we are living in a very challenging era. We are now being tested, as I said in the beginning.
Let me talk about these conflicts. Because of the lack of good governance, lack of rule of law, and lack of support for promotion of human dignity and human rights, people have become very much unsatisfied with their existing system. When I say the existing systems, I mean their leaders – government leaders and business leaders. I am not just saying only government and political leaders.
The whole society has become full of mistrust and lack of respect for others. That’s why we’re experiencing radicalization in the form of terrorism. They are now expressing their anger and grievances through very violent means. And in many cases, there are many governments who are not capable [of handling] these issues because in most cases they are lacking legitimacy. They are not being respected by the people, because what they are preaching, they have not been practicing. That is why I will say always, you should lead by example. What you preach you should do yourself. You should come to the forefront in leading your people, leading your organization, or leading your society.
When you just talk, and you are not doing, and you ask other people to do, then there is always a serious issue, a mutual respect issue. That’s why we are seeing lots of problems, in Africa in Asia and now even in Europe.
As you said at the beginning, historians and scholars are now expressing some concern about where we seem to be haunted by the ghost of the Cold War. As the Secretary-General, these will be extremely sensitive remarks.
We lived in the Cold War era. With the downfall of Berlin Wall and dissolution of Soviet Union, then we have been enjoying this very free world.
There has been serious lack of rule of law, lack of good governance. When there is no good governance, it creates a lot of problems, accountability and justice problems. When perpetrators walk freely in broad daylight without being punished, then how can you make sure you are living in safe world?
We have to address all these issues.
That is part of global sustainability. We are not talking about socio-economic development when it comes to sustainability. We have to talk political sustainability.
When everybody’s human rights and human dignity are truly protected then there will be true respect for others. When you are treated as a human being, you will voluntarily contribute to the development of society. Therefore we have to be very serious on this issue.
What’s happening you see in Europe now, and when the Security Council members are united, we can deliver a lot in an easier way. When the Member States of the Security Council are not united, it is very much difficult to deliver.
We have been very successful in delivering the promise to eliminate Syrian chemical weapons. But when it comes to political issues we have not been able to resolve this Syrian crisis. We have not been able to resolve the Ukrainian situation at this time.
The people are watching. When leaders are not practicing themselves, leading by example, then people are watching and they will not follow. That is what we are seeing in many conflicts in Africa. That is really troubling me as Secretary-General.
Of course, there is high expectation on UN. Why UN is not being able to handle or address all these issues? I am humbled always by this expectation and sometimes criticism. But there is not a single country, no single organization, which can address this alone. That is why from the beginning, strength of one can be strength of all and weakness of one can be weakness of all.
We should overcome this – the weakness of all, we have changed to strength of all.
I count on all the Member States, on all the people, not only political leaders, even just private citizens, they have to […] for this better world.
We have to make this world better for everybody, where nobody is being left behind and nobody’s human rights are abused. This is the primary goal of the UN.
I am just asking and urging world leaders to unite and to understand the seriousness and urgency of this crisis at this time.
Thank you very much.
Statements on 12 January 2015
- Dubai, United Arab Emirates, 12 January 2015 - Secretary-General's video message for launch of the International Humanitarian City's Strategy 2015-2020 [aired 12 January]
- New Delhi, 12 January 2015 - Secretary-General's remarks at Launch of UN@70 with Nobel Laureate Kailash Satyarthi and United Nations Goodwill Ambassadors
- New York, 12 January 2015 - Secretary-General’s statement on the 5th anniversary of the Haiti earthquake on 12 January 2015 [scroll down for French version]