11 September 2008


11 September 2008
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York




Following are the near-verbatim remarks of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon at Fairleigh Dickinson University entitled “Thinking Globally in a Global Age” in Madison, New Jersey, 10 September:

It is a great pleasure and honour to join you today.  Thank you for this warm welcome.

Most of all, thank you for this honour bestowed on me today.

As you know, I am not the first Secretary-General to receive an honorary degree from this esteemed University.  The very first Secretary-General, Trygve Lie, received an honorary doctorate degree. 

Today, I found out that the first delegate from the Republic of Korea to the United Nations was also a recipient.  Ralphe Bunche, who [served as] the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, also received one, and there are a number of others.  I am most honoured to be included among such honoured recipients.

Beginning in the 1940s, Fairleigh Dickinson’s founder, Peter Sammartino, brought students to the United Nations.  United Nations ambassadors visited your campus.

Many of you have toured the United Nations or even served as interns.  The path between Fairleigh Dickinson and the United Nations is well-worn indeed, to the benefit of both of us.

I take my honorary degree today as a sign of the very close relationship between the United Nations and Fairleigh Dickinson University.

I am honoured in another respect.  This is the first honorary doctoral degree I have received not only in the United States, but anywhere in the world.  I should mention that I received one [in the Republic of Korea] in July.

So in a sense, I feel as if I have come full circle.  I have always had special ties with the United States.  I still believe, as Secretary-General of the United Nations, that a strong United Nations-United States partnership is key in conducting my business as Secretary-General.

My relationship with the United States began back in 1962.  As a high school senior, I had a unique opportunity to visit the United States for one month, visiting various cities as a student representative of my country.

Travelling to Washington during that wonderful summer, I was one of a group of lucky students invited to the White House, where I met President Kennedy.

That was undoubtedly the most inspiring moment for a young schoolboy at that time. 

I was so moved that I began to think about a life in public service of my own, for my country.  That was the origin of my global perspective, which I am going to discuss with you today.

So thank you for summoning up very happy memories.

And thank you for your strong commitment to internationalism.  Like us at the United Nations, you believe in thinking globally in a global age.

I had the good fortune to receive a global education.

During my childhood in war-torn Korea, the United Nations was my inspiration.  It fed my people.  It helped us to rebuild.  It was a beacon of hope to many people in Korea, and still is.

So I saw the impact a global institution could have.  I saw that my country’s fate was closely linked to events beyond our borders.

I never forgot that.

In that spirit, I would like to talk to you today about our world.  What are the challenges?  I would like to talk about global citizenship.

We are on the cusp of a great transition.  The world is growing more interdependent.  We see this through trade.  Migration.  Through the spread of information and ideas over the Internet.

We see it through fear as well.  Fear of rising prices for food and energy.  Fear of a global financial crisis.

Interdependence is now a fact and has become part of our life, wherever you may be living.  The key question is whether we will keep pace -- whether we will develop a global mindset.  I believe we will and we can.  Slowly but surely, people are beginning to think globally.

I see this in the way the world looks to the United Nations to do more and more.

We have seen many swings of the pendulum.

There have been periods when the United Nations has been in great demand by the international community.

But there have also been times when the United Nations has been criticized as ineffective, inefficient, not transparent and even unaccountable.

I am fully aware of these criticisms.  I am determined to reform the UN -- to restore our trust and confidence.

Today, I think, the pendulum is swinging back.  Today there is a new recognition that the United Nations is uniquely placed to help solve many global challenges.

One of the most urgent is climate change.  Climate change is not science fiction.  Nor is it a future threat.  It is here and now.

We see it in extreme weather –- from drought to flooding to hurricanes in the southern part of your country.

We see it in the Arctic, where the ice is melting rapidly.  Experts say that summers could be ice-free in five years -- not 50, as experts thought only a year or two ago.

Last November, with experts, I visited Antarctica.  I saw glaciers vanishing and melting.  Populations of penguins have shrunk by half.  Scientists I spoke to were alarmed, and so am I.

The science is quite clear.  The more than 2,000 scientists of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, known as IPCC, have made it quite clear that global warming is now happening, and it is affecting all aspects of our life.  For that scientific assessment, they received the Nobel Peace Prize last year, as you may know.

Last year at the Bali negotiations, world leaders agreed to a road map towards a climate change agreement for 2012, when the Kyoto Protocol will expire.

That new agreement should involve substantial cuts in emissions.

There should also be significant help for the poorest countries.  They will be hit the hardest, even though they did the least to cause the problem and they have least capacity to address these issues.

It is an irony of this system that those countries who have done almost nothing to cause the global warming phenomenon, they are the hardest hit places.  They do not have any capacity.  They do not have the means -- money and technology.

That is why I’ve been urging that this global warming initiative be led by developed countries.  They have the resources, financial and technological, but largely they are lacking political will.  That is why I have been urging world leaders to take the initiative, to raise awareness, and galvanize political leaders.

Here, all of us need to have a much, much wider global perspective as far as global warming is concerned.

The leaders of the world at this time must think beyond their geographical borders, national interests, national policies and national popularity, conscious of the whole picture.

They have to look towards the future, and the students, who are the leaders of our future generation, they should be prepared to take a leadership role, when our generation, I believe, may not be able to complete this task.

We face hard policy choices and real trade-offs.  But climate change can also be a big opportunity.  This is not only an investment.  People believe that this is a waste of money at this time, when they have to spend money and technology.

In Silicon Valley, venture capitalists see “green energy” as the next boom.  They are investing billions of dollars in this next great wave.  By thinking globally, they stand to make fortunes –- and help save the world.

Three months from now, in December, negotiators will gather in Poznan, Poland.  They will be there to discuss what kind of work to do and their shared visions as they take this crucial step against global warming.

We need concrete steps and measures from that meeting if we are to meet the goal of a new agreement by the end of 2009 to replace the Kyoto Protocol by a universally participatory, inclusive, effective, ratifiable and balanced treaty.  Any loss of momentum would be dangerous.

When we think globally, we must think of those less well-off than we may be. 

I hope you are familiar with the idea of the Millennium Development Goals, or MDGs.  This is the blueprint adopted and committed to by world leaders in 2000 when the international community was celebrating the new millennium.  They were thinking of how to address abject poverty, how to [achieve] gender balance, and how to strengthen the partnership between Governments, businesses and civil society.

We are more than halfway to the deadline, the year 2015.  How are we doing?

Good, but not good enough.  That is exactly why, in about two weeks time, I’m going to convene a summit-level meeting of world leaders at the United Nations to discuss this matter, to let them recommit themselves and galvanize political will.

Unless we take these measures, we will face a development emergency.

We have seen this in the global food crisis.  You have watched prices rise in your supermarkets.  Millions of farmers in Africa, who simply cannot afford the seeds and fertilizers to plant for this year, they will have to go hungry another year.

This is a global challenge, shared by us all.  Being a global challenge, this needs a global response through global partnership.

Yet there is a shortfall in many areas.  Developed countries committed $10 billion every year, up until 2010.  Last year, we had a shortage of $10 billion.  I discussed this matter during the G-8 [Group of Eight] summit meeting last July.

I really want, at the forthcoming summit meeting at the United Nations, for leaders of Governments, CEOs, NGO representatives and philanthropists to look us in the face and tell us how much money and technology they will put behind these MDGs.

The bottom billion -– the poorest of the world’s poor -- deserve our attention.

Not because they are future markets, though they undoubtedly are.

Not because they will be less likely to migrate if their standards of living improve, though this too is true.

The bottom billion deserve our particular attention because we are a single human family.  We share common values and a common human dignity.

We need to think globally about security issues, too.

I am thinking, here, of terrorism and organized crime, as well as weapons of mass destruction and the spread of small arms.

Tomorrow we will observe the anniversary of the tragic 11 September terrorist attacks.

I am thinking of recent eruptions of violence, and new tensions in the Caucasus region.

I am thinking about the fight against impunity.  Far too often in the past, the gravest of crimes have gone unpunished.  The first decade of the International Criminal Court signals a break from this unfortunate past.  Today, we understand more fully that peace and justice go hand in hand, and we are seeking to strike the correct balance between peace and justice. 

And finally, I am thinking about those places where our deeds do not yet match our words.  More than a year ago, the Security Council authorized a peacekeeping operation in Darfur.  Yet Member States have not provided enough resources needed to adequately carry out this particular operation.  Thinking globally means thinking practically, and closing that gap. 

Let me speak to the young people in the audience.

Your generation can help tip the balance in cultivating a global mindset.

You are fortunate to be at Fairleigh Dickinson, because it is a leader in global education.

Global education should not be thought of as an elective course -- or something to be added to a schedule once core requirements are satisfied.

The student who opens up to other cultures will be more at home in a globalized economy.

The professor who encourages his students to think beyond traditional borders gives those young men and women a professional head start.

And the academic institution that stresses global education will produce class after class of global citizens.

The United Nations must do more to do its part.  It is often said that, if the United Nations did not exist, we would have to invent it.  I fully agree.

And that is why we have to strengthen its capacities on each of the three pillars of the United Nations work:  peace, development and protection of human rights.

Part of that effort means continuing to open our doors to new partners.  The academic community is surely at the top of that list.

My colleagues and I have been discussing an initiative called “Academic Impact”.  We hope to build stronger ties with institutions of higher learning.  I have discussed this matter with President Adams, and we hope to benefit from your ideas and scholarship.

Fairleigh Dickinson University supports this initiative.  My Under-Secretary-General for Public Information, Kiyotaka Akasaka, has had extensive consultations with Fairleigh Dickinson professors and others.  I look forward to working together as we move towards the official launch of this academic initiative.

Our future well-being will depend on thinking globally.

Our thinking must reflect new global realities.

And this new reality can easily be summed up:  more and more these days, it is in our national interest -– and in our personal self-interest -– to think globally.

Again, ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much for this honour.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.