Secretary-General Says Ethic Runs Deep in Asia of a Vision Beyond One’s Immediate Environment; Urges Tokyo Town Hall Meeting Participants to Life of Public Service

1 July 2009

Secretary-General Says Ethic Runs Deep in Asia of a Vision Beyond One’s Immediate Environment; Urges Tokyo Town Hall Meeting Participants to Life of Public Service

1 July 2009
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York



Following are UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks at a town hall meeting at the University of Tokyo on 1 July:

It’s a great pleasure for me to stand before you in this historic and distinguished university.  The University of Tokyo is recognized as a global centre of learning, research and exchange.  And it is personally a great honour for me to have this town hall meeting with you, the next generation of Japanese leaders, thinkers and doers.

I feel a kinship with the University of Tokyo on many levels.  As Vice President Kojima Tanaka mentioned, your university conducted an exchange in 2007 ‑‑ a UT [University of Tokyo] Forum -- with my alma mater, Seoul National University.  This is very important close cooperation.

I understand that my predecessor, Secretary-General Kofi Annan, was here a couple of weeks ago.  It is again fitting and appropriate that you have hosted both the current and the former Secretary-General to address similar topics -— the common challenges facing our world today.  Even your school colour -- Tansei -- is United Nations blue.  I feel at home.

Let me say from the outset, you should be very proud of being one of the most important Member States of the United Nations.  On many important ideals or goals, objectives and projects, it is almost inconceivable for the United Nations to undertake a challenge without the active participation and generous contribution of the Japanese Government and people.

Starting from peace and security, you have many distinguished Japanese men and women who are working as peacekeepers around the world.  In terms of development, you have been a generous contributor to many people who really need support.  In the area of human rights, you are one of the champions in upholding and promoting and protecting human rights around the world.  This is an exemplary model Member State of the United Nations.  Therefore my regular dialogue with the Japanese Government is crucially important for me to carry out my duties.

We are living, and you are learning, through an era like no other -— a time of multiple crises.  The financial crisis is having a profound and widespread impact.  Before that we have had the energy crisis, the food crisis -- and even before that, we have been suffering from climate change.  Each one of these is a crisis that we have not seen for many years, even generations.  But this time, they are hitting the world all at once.  At the same time, we have been facing a development and poverty crisis.  There are at least 2 billion people who are suffering from abject poverty.  There are at least 1 billion people who are living on just a dollar a day.

Japan has been front and centre in confronting these challenges.  The people of Japan are generous with resources, but you are also a major donor of ideas and innovative initiatives -- on disarmament, African development, environmentally-friendly technology, global poverty reduction and so much more.   Japan’s leadership is essential to the international community and that is why I’m so glad to be here today.

Let me briefly turn to a few critical areas where your voice and influence are needed.  As young people, you may think that your influence or your voice may not be a factor at this time, but you should know that you have the power to move global priorities ahead.

First, in the area of climate change.  This is one of the greatest collective challenges affecting all human beings, all our planet Earth.  Emissions are rising and the clock is ticking.  In fact, we do not have much time to waste.  The renowned Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change –- which draws from about 2,500 scientists –- has been issuing assessment reports on climate change.  In November 2007, they issued an assessment that climate change is accelerating much faster than we expect.

This climate change is not a natural phenomenon.  It’s a phenomenon caused by human behaviour, human actors.  Therefore we need to change, by changing our behavioural pattern, by having more innovative technology, by providing and investing more money:  more investment for the green economy, green growth and greener technology.  Now is the time.

That is why I am standing here before the people who will soon assume the mantle of leadership.  I do not want to hand over this legacy and this responsibility to your generation.  I have been discussing this challenge with many leaders around the world.  Two-and-a-half years ago, there were just a handful of leaders who made this issue a priority.  Now climate change has become part of the agenda of almost all leaders around the globe.  Therefore, if they are united, if they demonstrate their political will, I’m sure that we will be better off in addressing climate change.  I simply don’t want to hand over this responsibility to our coming generation, like you.  If I don’t do well, if your Prime Minister, your ministers do not do well, this legacy will be handed over to you and you will blame us.

In this regard, I would like to take note, and even congratulate, the University of Tokyo for your initiative, the Todai Sustainable Campus Project.  You are setting an ambitious reductions target, even higher than the Japanese Government.  You are setting a 50 per cent reduction target by the year 2030.  This is commendable.  I know that you are investing in energy-saving equipment.  You have converted to high energy-efficiency fixtures.  I was told that 80 per cent of the 200,000 light fixtures on campus have been converted, and the remaining 20 per cent have been replaced.  The world should follow your example.

People may believe that what you have been doing in this small campus may not mean much, but this change in the behavioural pattern of each and every one at your home -- that will make a great contribution.  You can move policymakers.  You can move your parliamentarians, you can move business leaders.  You can move even the Prime Minister and ministers.  This year we can make history once again, to retool our economies and generate green growth and green jobs.

In December, the world’s Government leaders and negotiators will gather in Copenhagen.  A number of countries have issued midterm targets to cut greenhouse gas emissions, including Japan.  My strong feeling is that the developed countries, including Japan, should do more to take the lead in effectively responding to the challenges posed by climate change.  Developed countries in particular have historical responsibilities.  They have been contributing through their industries, through their businesses and through their behaviours.  Human actors.  They have contributed to this current global warming phenomenon.

It’s not the developing countries.  Therefore you have historical responsibilities.  What is ironic is that the global warming is impacting all the countries around the world evenly, without respecting the borders and without regard to developed or developing countries.  Therefore, it is morally desirable, it is a moral imperative, that developed countries, including Japan, should bear more responsibility than developing countries.  I therefore urge you to do all you can to help ensure that in Copenhagen, Governments can “seal the deal”, which will be a comprehensive and global and equitable one.

The Kyoto Protocol was a good treaty, but it was not as ambitious as the scientists now say, and it was not comprehensive, in a sense that quite a number of big countries have been staying outside this Kyoto Protocol.

Let me move to some other areas.  We also must deal with the continuing challenge of weapons proliferation.  Some disturbing actions, particularly in this area, are well known.  I mean the situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.  As you know, the Security Council recently adopted a strong resolution on the recent nuclear test by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.  I want to once again express my conviction that, while I believe all differences should be addressed and resolved through peaceful means and through dialogue, at the same time, I will spare no effort in making sure that the Korean Peninsula will be denuclearized.  In that regard, I’d like to commend highly the initiative of the Japanese Government in rallying the international community’s efforts.  A concerted and strong message was sent by the Security Council, by the United Nations, to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

First of all, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea must fully comply with this resolution.  At the same time, all the Member States of the United Nations have to cooperate so that this resolution will be implemented in a most effective way.

Ironically, these events, the nuclear test and launch of short- and mid-range missiles by North Korea [the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea], are taking place against the backdrop of positive efforts by the international community in the area of nuclear disarmament.  We have seen recently very encouraging initiatives by President [Barack] Obama, also supported by President [Dmitry] Medvedev of the Russian Federation.  They have begun nuclear disarmament talks.  For the first time in 12 years, the Conference on Disarmament has adopted a programme of work.

This may sound like a simple procedural matter, to agree on agendas, but this action itself has taken 12 years.  So that shows how much the international community has been lagging behind in its commitment to have nuclear disarmament.  Most encouragingly, they have agreed to start negotiation on cutting fissile nuclear materials.  This is the first breakthrough in a decade.

As the sole country in the world that has been the victim of these nuclear weapons, Japan has a unique perspective on this.  Japan has been a leader to all the major agreements including NPT [Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons] and CTBT -- the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty.  Japan and Australia also have recently launched a major international commission on nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament.

Of course this touches on the broader theme of regional peace and security concerns.  In today’s world, regional threats are global challenges.  I have recently returned from a meeting on the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan.  Wherever there is a threat to peace and security and human rights, we must come together around a common table.  Japan’s continued leadership and reliable support is critical.

And finally, let me touch on the economic and financial crisis.  It has affected every part of the world and the real impact could stretch for years.  I don’t have to tell you about the situation here in Japan, particularly to those who will soon be entering the job market.  These are not easy times for you.

Around the world, millions more families are being pushed into poverty.  Fifty million more jobs could be lost this year alone.

Before coming to Japan, I sent a letter to all the leaders of the G-8 [Group of 8], including Prime Minister Aso Taro, urging them to take concrete commitments and specific action to renew our resolve.

The crisis disproportionately impacts the poorest countries, the poorest people and most vulnerable people.  We need, in that regard, global solidarity.

Without helping those vulnerable people who do need more financial and technical support to address this global economic crisis, climate change and food security, we will never be able to claim that we are living in a prosperous world.

That is why I have underscored the importance of delivering on pledges committed by the leaders of G-8 for the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals.

We have some distance to go.  If we look at sub-Saharan Africa, not a single country is on track.  Here in East Asia, the progress report is lagging far, far behind.  The story is much the same in Latin America.  Therefore, we must work together to meet these targets by 2015.  We have only six years left.

Next year in September, I am going to convene a summit meeting in the United Nations to review the achievement during the last 10 years and what needs to be done in the coming five years.  We know what works, and that is where we must invest.  For example, by helping subsistence farmers increase farm productivity, funding universal access to primary education, investing in global health and maternal health, and helping developing countries promote cleaner energy and green jobs.

This is not charity or a luxury.  It is a development imperative.  It is a moral and political imperative.  And it is a central ingredient to a globally coordinated recovery plan.

All of these crises –- all of these trials –- cry out for a renewed multilateralism.

Why am I emphasizing this renewed multilateralism?  When we are experiencing these multiple crises, not a single country can solve any challenge alone regardless of how powerful, or rich it may be.  Here in Japan –- you are the number two economic power –- but you cannot do it alone. 

All Member States of the international community must pool resources and we must pool wisdom.  We need united action.  We need the United Nations.  And a renewed multilateralism requires a revitalized United Nations.  This has been my commitment from day one.

The multilateral structures created six decades ago must be made more accountable, more representative and more effective.  We also must better tune and target our resources.

That’s why I have worked hard to maintain budget discipline.  As Secretary-General, I have made it quite clear that the United Nations must be accountable for every single dollar, every single yen contributed by the Member States. 

That is why I have emphasized budget discipline.  I have signed management compacts with senior managers.  I have established an ethics office with wide-ranging scope in the United Nations.  I’m creating a more mobile workforce by streamlining contracts.

This may sound arcane to some people outside the United Nations.  But it is the kind of nuts and bolts reform we need, that will build a stronger United Nations for a better world.

Lastly, let me say that we need something very specific when I look out at this audience.

I come from this part of the world, from Korea.  I believe that there is an ethic that runs deep in this region.  A vision that looks beyond one’s own immediate environment to the world at large.  A profound understanding that we are indeed tied by something greater.  We are tied together as members of the international community, as all the challenges are interconnected.

Therefore I urge you as you move forward in life to understand all that the United Nations does, and to consider joining us.

The world will benefit enormously with more understanding, more appreciation of the younger generations who will lead the United Nations, who will lead this international community into the future.

I will tell you this, there is no more noble calling, there is no greater good than a life of public service.

You may join the United Nations.  Also you may join the non-governmental organizations.  You may join another foundation or even your national Government.

This, I believe, is just the moment for you to take a closer look at what you can do for the future of this world.

Extraordinary times like this open extraordinary opportunities for change.

Help us meet the trials of our times and shape the world for better.

And I count on your good vision.  Look beyond where you happen to be at the moment.  Look beyond Japan.  Look to the world.

Thank you very much.  Doumo arigatou gozaimashita.

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