Secretary-General, in University Address, Hailing Turkey’s ‘Natural Leadership’, Says It Has Earned Right to Speak Forcefully on Global Matters

21 May 2010

Secretary-General, in University Address, Hailing Turkey’s ‘Natural Leadership’, Says It Has Earned Right to Speak Forcefully on Global Matters

21 May 2010
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Secretary-General, in University Address, Hailing Turkey’s ‘Natural Leadership’,

Says It Has Earned Right to Speak Forcefully on Global Matters


Following are UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks, as prepared for delivery today, 21 May, at Bogazici University in Istanbul:

Thank you for that kind introduction.  And good morning to you all.  Or better, Iyi gunler.  What a pleasure to be here on this beautiful day, in this beautiful place.

I have been to Turkey many times.  But I must say this is my first visit to one of your great universities.  And rarely, in all the world, have I seen a campus as splendid as this.  If learning and wisdom are related to beauty, you will grow to be wise indeed!

Thank you for your warm welcome, and thank you for the opportunity to speak with you.  I have been looking forward to your questions and comments — to having a conversation.  Let me get us started with a few thoughts on a subject that concerns us all:  Turkey, the United Nations, and your role in our changing world.

Before coming here, I was told of a Turkish proverb, often used when someone asks how things are going.  I hope I get this right:  “Eski tas, eski hamam.”  “Same old bowl, same old bath” or, “nothing new”.  But I know that would not apply to Turkey today.  Instead, it would be:  “Yeni tas, yeni hamam.”  New bowl, new bath.

Ours is indeed a new world — a world of dramatic change and immense uncertainty — and Turkey is changing with it.  We have seen enormous shifts of geopolitical and economic power.  We are interconnected as never before — through the Internet, through the global flow of people and goods, through challenges that no country can solve on its own.  Climate change.  Pandemic diseases.  The spread of deadly weapons.  At times like these, we need the engagement of every nation and every citizen.

And you can be proud:   Turkey is leading by example.  You are part of UN peacekeeping missions in Lebanon, across Africa, with NATO in Afghanistan.  Your police are with us in Haiti, a tangible expression of global solidarity at a moment of urgent need, far from home.

You are among the top 25 contributors to the UN budget.  Your diplomacy has been energetic, creative and principled.  Most importantly, it gets results.  Last weekend in Greece, Prime Minister [Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan showed true leadership.  Your efforts to create a stable neighbourhood — a sphere of common Mediterranean prosperity — will go far in helping historic rivals to seize common opportunities.

This week, Turkey worked with Brazil to offer an important initiative in resolving international tensions over Iran’s nuclear programme by peaceful means.  And tomorrow, nations gather for the reconstruction conference on Somalia.  This effort demonstrates not only Turkey’s generosity, but also its concern for a country that has seen little peace or stability for more than two decades.

Leadership comes naturally to Turkey.  For centuries you have been a bridge among countries and cultures.  You promote dialogue within the region; you open channels of communication that might otherwise close.  You engage with determination, on many issues, in many directions.

Let me now suggest three ways in which Turkey can go further.  First, through your membership in the G-20 [Group of 20].  I know that Turkey was hit hard by the global economic crisis.  Recovery has not yet translated into jobs.  And like many others, you face enduring social challenges.

Yet overall, the Turkish economy has held up well.  Major businesses and banks are solid.  Even amid difficult economic times, you have increased aid to the most vulnerable countries.  Turkish civil society groups build schools in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq.  Turkish engineering and construction firms build roads and infrastructure throughout the developing world.  All this gives you real credibility in pushing for action at next month’s G-20 Summit in Canada.

The needs are clear.  More aid.  Fair trade.  Stronger support for the Millennium Development Goals.  More efforts to empower women — one of the keys to the Goals.  A more equitable world economy.  Turkey has earned the right to speak out forcefully, on issues of global importance.  Let your voice be heard, loud and clear.

Second, let your voice be heard on issues of peace and security, as well.  Turkey is a member of the Security Council.  You have become a force for progress across the region, and beyond.  I have mentioned Turkey’s welcome role with respect to Iran, working with Brazil.  We hope that this and other initiatives may open the door to a negotiated settlement.

The International Atomic Energy Agency will provide its own professional assessment, of course.  Let us continue to work together in the name of dialogue and peace, Turkey and the United Nations.  Let us work together for a just and comprehensive solution in the Middle East.  Most immediately, let us do all we can to ease the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

Let us work together for stability in Central Asia, for which I know you feel a strong sense of brotherhood.  On my recent visit to the five countries of the region, I saw for myself the urgency of the challenges; issues of political stability, democracy and rule of law; the threat of transnational crime and drug trafficking; potentially dangerous rivalries over natural resources, chiefly water.

Let us build on your new relations with Armenia.  And let us seize the opportunity in Cyprus.  Turkey has a special role to play in resolving the 35-year division of the island.  Talks resume next week.  A convergence of views is taking shape.  We should seize this critical moment.

Yes, it is an ambitious agenda.  So much the better.  Let us embrace the vision of your Foreign Minister: let there be “zero problems” in the neighbourhood.

The third topic — one where Turkey’s history and its vision for the future come uniquely together.  That’s the Alliance of Civilizations.  In many ways, the Alliance is the embodiment of the best within us, a global community of cultures, embracing fundamental values and certain inalienable rights.  It stands for tolerance and mutual respect.  It stands against extremism and intolerance, against those who seek to divide us.

Turkey has been second to none in supporting this important initiative.  And next week in Rio de Janeiro, the Alliance gathers to plan the way ahead.  Here, too, you are part of a larger story.

Over the decades, Turkey has built a robust democracy.  Modernization has touched all spheres of life — economic, social and political.  Like other nations, you do not always agree on the next steps.  The important thing is that the debate goes on with full respect for democratic principles.  The strength of any society, ultimately, is best measured in tolerance, equality, guarantees of free expression and cultural diversity, human rights and the rule of law.

Most of all it is the bedrock primacy of the people’s wishes, expressed through the ballot box.  All this testifies to the remarkable strength and vigour of Turkey today.  The path you have chosen may not always be easy, but it is the right path.  You do not walk it alone.

If I may speak more personally for a moment, I would like to remind you that we Koreans have a special tie with Turkey.  Sixty years ago, you were among the first to answer the call of the United Nations.  More than 5,000 Turkish troops fought in the Korean War.  You call them “Koreli”.  Nearly 500 lie in the world’s only UN cemetery, in Busan.  Most of you are too young to remember those events.  Yet perhaps you remember the World Cup, eight years ago, when Turkey and the Republic of Korea played for third place.  It was a close game; Turkey won.

But you were reluctant victors, it seemed.  At the end of the game, players on both teams joined hands to wave the flags of our two countries.  I took that as a symbol.  As Secretary-General, I root for all countries now.

To quote your great thirteenth-century poet, Yunus Emre:

Don’t look down on anyone;

Never break a heart;

The mystic must love all 72 nations.

At the United Nations today, we have 192 Member States.  But that poem could be our credo.  The United Nations is founded on the most noble ideals.

I thank Turkey for its strong support, and I thank each of you.

* *** *

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