Secretary-General Tells Students in Tashkent World Needs Modern Uzbekistan; Aim High, Have Broad Vision Beyond Central Asia

5 April 2010

Secretary-General Tells Students in Tashkent World Needs Modern Uzbekistan; Aim High, Have Broad Vision Beyond Central Asia

5 April 2010
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Secretary-General Tells Students in Tashkent World Needs Modern


Uzbekistan; Aim High, Have Broad Vision Beyond Central Asia


Following is the text of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s lecture at the University for World Economy and Democracy, in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, today, 5 April:

Assalomu Alaykum hurmatli talabalar.  Aziz dustlar! [Hello dear students! Esteemed friends!].

What a pleasure to be with you in Tashkent, this city of parks and fountains, reborn after the earthquake that destroyed so much of this city ‑‑ this famous city of history.

Standing before you, I feel that you have such a bright future.  It is a great pleasure for me to meet with such young leaders of the future of this country.  This is, of course, my first visit as Secretary-General but I am an old friend to you.  I have been here several times in my previous capacity as Foreign Minister.  I have a special attachment and respect for all that your country has built during thousands and thousands of years.

I remember my stay vividly and with great affection.

You count many Koreans among your countrymen, a testament, if I may say, to the strength and energy of your diversity.  I know there are many ethnic groups and you are maintaining such great harmony and common prosperity and well-being of [all of them].

I am honoured to speak to you, today, at the University of World Economy and Diplomacy, the training ground of many of your future civil servants, diplomats and entrepreneurs and artists.  This is a great birthplace for so many future young leaders of your country.

To the young people among you, I say:  think about a career in international organizations such as the United Nations.  And I do welcome you to join the United Nations and work for the common prosperity, common good of the international community.  That’s what I believe you are studying.  I also studied international politics, economics and diplomacy ‑‑ that’s why I am here as Secretary-General.

The United Nations would like to congratulate [you on] a happy Nowruz.  The United Nations for the first time also celebrated Nowruz, as a result of a resolution of the Member States.  Even though it is a little late, but never too late, so Happy Nowruz, Nowruz Mubarak to you all.

Nearly 20 years ago, you celebrated the spring of your nationhood.  With independence, you gained a new freedom and a sudden opening to the world.  You also gained new responsibilities for your country, for the well-being of your people, for your role in the region and in the world.

Despite many challenges, you persevere.

You dream of social and economic development.  You aspire to democratic modernization that will release the potential of your hard-working, entrepreneurial people.

You have weathered a series of global crises.  I know that, despite this economic crisis, you have achieved 8.5 per cent of economic development.  I told the Prime Minister yesterday, there seems to be only two countries in the world who have weathered this financial crisis:  Uzbekistan and China, which have achieved 8 per cent [of economic development].  You should be proud of your leadership, your Government.

You are making progress in health and education.

Today, Uzbekistan holds the chairmanship of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization ‑‑ with which I am going to sign a Joint Declaration after this meeting.

You have been playing a major role in Afghanistan.

And as you look to the future, you build on a proud history.

Your diversity, your cultural and ethnic inheritance is a source of great human wealth.

For more than two millenniums, for more than 2,000 years, your great cities were centres of international trade and learning.

This year, Tashkent celebrates its 2,200th anniversary.  Congratulations.

Standing in the square of the Registan, I myself have seen the cultural connection to a broader world.

I was told by President [Islam] Karimov yesterday that in Samarkand, there is historical evidence showing that a Korean envoy at that time, from the Kingdom of Goguryeo, came through Samarkand, 2,000 years ago.  It’s amazing that people were exchanging at that time.

The majestic architecture is echoed in Europe’s great universities and places of learning around the world.

Today, as then, Uzbekistan should take its place in the much larger and broader world.

That is what I would like to talk to you about this morning.

We live today in a new world, very different from that of two decades ago, when you were born as a new nation.

We live in a new era of multilateralism.

This is an era that requires and rewards progress on the universal values of the United Nations Charter:

Justice.  Tolerance.  Dignity.  And equality.

It is a world where the connections among nations shape the destiny of each nation, a world of collective action and collective solutions, dialogue and cooperation, working together in common cause.

My message to you is very simple and direct:

Central Asia is central to this world ‑‑ a key player.  That is why I am visiting all of Central Asia, delivering the same message to the leaders and businessmen and young students like yourselves:  You have an important place in the universal agreements that bind us as a community of nations.

You have committed yourselves to many of them, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Convention against Torture, more than 60 other international treaties on human rights, which Uzbekistan has signed.

It is time to deliver; to put them fully into practice.

The United Nations stands ready to support you in achieving your ambitions for reform and modernization, just as it stands ready to help Uzbekistan, and the world, meet the global challenges that confront us all:  climate change; nuclear proliferation and global terrorism; pandemic diseases; the many obstacles to social advancement and economic development.

Today, I want to focus on four areas in which dialogue and cooperation are particularly vital for moving this country and your region forward.

These are security, the environment, development and human rights.

First, security.

You initiated the declaration of Central Asia as a nuclear-weapon-free zone.  In doing so, you have led by example.  President Karimov has initiated this idea.

Your Shanghai Cooperation Organization, established to deal with security issues, is taking on a more dynamic role in politics, economics and culture.

Your contribution in Afghanistan is crucial and enormous.  Your leadership is, therefore, very important and crucial.

The United Nations welcomes all of these initiatives.

The United Nations can also help on many issues:  from combating drug trafficking to strengthening of the rule of law.

I encourage the Government to make full use of the United Nations resources, including our Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy.

Second, climate change and the environment.

Yesterday, together with the Prime Minister, I flew over, by helicopter, the Aral Sea.

I was shocked.  I expressed some of my feelings, my impressions to the media, which has been widely reported.

I was standing on the shore of a vanished sea.  I looked out, I saw only a cemetery of ships ‑‑ rusty, completely rusty.  Marooned in the sands, I saw at least seven or eight such ships, standing on the cement pier.  There must have been water and sea, but there was nothing, all desert and all I saw was dusty, salty storms.  I was told that these salty dust storms go all the way up to the North Pole.  I was told again shockingly that the oldest species living in there had perished completely.

I met an old woman ‑‑ there were about 20 or 25 villagers who came to see us and explained their challenges.  I was so moved.  She told me she used to play there, she was very happy.  Now there is no place.

All that is gone, those days of her happy youth.

All those jobs, industries, livelihoods and trade ‑‑ they are all gone.  Today there is sickness.  The land is poisoned.

This disaster, entirely man-made, is a vivid testament to what happens when we neglect the environment, when we mismanage our natural resources.  This is a very serious lesson which we must learn and which we must not repeat in the future.  It reminded me of my visit to Lake Chad in 2007.  I was shocked, but this was much more shocking.  The size of this Aral Sea, I was calculating, is two-thirds of the South Korean territory.  That vast mighty body of water has perished.  More than 90 per cent has perished.  It is shocking.  I could not believe my own eyes.

As I told President Karimov yesterday evening at dinner, this is a collective responsibility, shared among the communities and shared among nations of the world.

Whether the issue is climate change or the Aral Sea, one simple fact is clear:  no single nation can solve the problem alone.  However powerful, however resourceful one nation may be, we must have collective wisdom, collective cooperation.

That is why I welcome Uzbekistan’s efforts to work with your neighbours in the International Fund for Saving the Aral Sea.

The earth’s resources are limited and increasingly precious:  water; clean air; oil; and gas.

We must share them fairly and peacefully, respecting each other’s interests, helping each other.

Where differences arise, they must be resolved cooperatively, harmoniously, regional solutions for regional problems.

Here, too, the United Nations stands ready to help.  The United Nations specialized agencies will be there.  The United Nations country team led by the Resident Coordinator will be standing with you.

The third area I would like to speak about today is development.

The world is full of hardship.

According to UNICEF, 25,000 children die each day because of poverty.  This is unacceptable, intolerable.  This is a great, serious problem for us.

A mother dies every minute in childbirth and complications of pregnancies.

The list goes on and on.

That is why the United Nations has championed the Millennium Development Goals, dedicated to improving the world’s health, education and living standards by 2015.

This was a commitment of world leaders.  President Karimov signed the Millennium Declaration in 2000, at the United Nations.  The Millennium Development Goals must be realized by 2015.  That is why I will convene a special United Nations Summit meeting on the Millennium Development Goals, in September this year.

You have made good progress in education, you made good progress in health.  Child mortality and much more girls are registering in primary schools.

Recently, your Government signed an agreement with the United Nations, laying out the steps for reaching all the Goals, complete with benchmarks for progress.

The deadline for achieving the Millennium Development Goals is now just five years away.

The clock is ticking.

I have invited President Karimov to come to the United Nations Summit meeting in September.  I hope he will consider this favourably.

Fourth, human rights and the rule of law.

As a signatory to so many international conventions on human rights, you recognize the fundamental importance of these universal values.

They are the key to social and political modernization, to a prosperous future where all people can live in dignity and equality.

They are the door to full standing in the broader international community.

These agreements should be fully implemented, as reflected in the recent Universal Periodic Review by the United Nations Human Rights Council.

As a leading nation of the region, it is important that Uzbekistan act upon these recommendations, as soon as possible so that civil society may flourish, so that your people can enjoy the benefits in their daily lives.

I urge Uzbekistan to welcome United Nations Special Rapporteurs and other international experts who could help you along this path.

I commend Uzbekistan for signing the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, and encourage you to ratify it as soon as possible.  I also commend Uzbekistan for abolishing the death penalty.  Your action will help reinforce the global commitment to ending impunity for genocide and other crimes against humanity.

Openness, transparency and international standards are vital to your future.

Let me close with a word to the young people in the audience.

Your country is a young democracy, a young country.  Sixty per cent of you are under 30 years old.  That’s what my statistics show.  Your President has designated (this year) “Harmonious developed generation ‑‑ year of youth”.  That is a very important designation.

You are eager to learn, to fully benefit from our age of information freedom.

You, here, are the face and voice of this new generation.  You are called upon to be its conscience.

You are the future of your great nation.  Therefore, you are responsible for it.

Have a broad vision, beyond Uzbekistan, beyond Central Asia.  Aim high, and you have to have a global vision, to train yourself as a global citizen.  Put it to good use.

As your proud nation’s future, you know that dialogue and cooperation, justice, democracy and human rights are powerful drivers for progress.

This is your new world.  It needs you.  The world needs a modern Uzbekistan.

Thank you.  Katta rakhmat.

* *** *

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