23 November 2010

Secretary-General Asks Participants at Young Atlanticist Summit in Lisbon to Take Ownership of Tomorrow, Strengthen Capacity, Widen Vision as Global Citizens

23 November 2010
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Secretary-General Asks Participants at Young Atlanticist Summit in Lisbon to Take


Ownership of Tomorrow, Strengthen Capacity, Widen Vision as Global Citizens


(Delayed in transmission)

Following are UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks to the 2010 Young Atlanticist Summit, in Lisbon, 20 November:

Thank you very much for your warm welcome and introduction.

It is really a great pleasure for me to be with you this afternoon on the margins of my participation in the NATO [North Atlantic Treaty Organization] meeting on Afghanistan.

I am also very much encouraged to be here with such inspiring young people from so many different countries.  Standing before so many of our young leaders, it seems I am meeting some future summit leaders of NATO.  You [may] become global leaders in the future, [the] not-too-distant future.  It is equally possible that you will be on the international scene soon as a relief worker, humanitarian worker, politician, NGO [non-governmental organization], human rights advocate or development expert, because you understand the value public service.

And almost no matter [which] direction your future takes, you can be part of the work of the United Nations.  That is why often I meet young leaders who will be the leaders of tomorrow.  In fact, this year is the International year of Youth.  So we have discussed a lot how we can deliver this world to the hands of tomorrow’s leaders.  That is why I am here.  I accepted with pleasure this invitation.

I’d like to brief you today on three security issues that the United Nations is dealing with now: Afghanistan, Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  There are many other issues — global issues, regional issues — but I’d like to focus on these three issues.  But you are free to ask me any range of questions on the United Nations and the international community at the end of my remarks.

First, Afghanistan.  As I told the NATO meeting, the United Nations supports a peaceful, political solution that respects the rights of all Afghans.  Afghanistan has been the scene of all these military operations during the last 10 years, but before that, there were many, many wars.  I believe there is no such military solution.  Physically, you have to fight these extremists — Taliban and terrorists.  But if these efforts are combined with a political solution, that can be even more effective.

We are working to help Afghans meet the needs of all citizens, especially on security, development, reconciliation and institution-building.  The process will be long and uncertain with progress and setbacks, but with the partnership and long-term commitment each world leader made today, I am sure that we can succeed.  There were many questions on whether this transition can take place by 2014.  I believe that with strong leadership, strong political support, and with military and political support from the international community, and strong leadership and ownership of Afghanistan, it can be done.

But this transition cannot be seen as the end of something.  We are not talking about end dates; we are talking about a state of affairs where and when Afghanistan’s leadership will be able to guarantee their security and prosperity on their own.

But the United Nations, the international community, members of ISAF [International Security Assistance Force] and troop-contributing countries will continue to assist Afghanistan’s work.  There have been many occasions in London and Kabul where we discussed [this], but today is quite an historic day as far as the future of Afghanistan is concerned.  We have made a firm commitment in terms of time frame.  This time frame was suggested by President [Hamid] Karzai last year in Kabul.  Our commitment is that, through this transition, we will ensure that Afghanistan will take more ownership and leadership on everything — security and development — but that does not mean we will leave them alone.  We will continuously engage ourselves and provide necessary assistance in line with and corresponding to the national priorities.

This is we have agreed to today.  That approach is crucial across the international community.  I’d be happy to receive your questions on that.

The second situation is in Sudan, [a] concern of the international community.  As you know, the war between North and South Sudan left 2 million people dead and almost the same number of people displaced.  There are serious humanitarian [concerns], let alone the political and security concerns.

In another two months, starting on 9 January next year, there will be the referendums determining the future of South Sudan and the future of the region of Abyei.  The Sudanese people will have to choose between independence and continued unity with the North.  Whatever they choose, both sides must establish peace.  The referendums must be conducted in a credible and fair, objective and, most importantly, peaceful manner — without violence.

While preparations are on track, the voter registration has begun since just five days ago without much incident, there is a very serious issue because the Electoral Commission has not yet [been] established in Abyei.  They have been discussing this situation very seriously and, most importantly, just a few days ago in the Security Council.  I have been meeting with representatives of both South and North Sudan up to yesterday before my departure.  The United Nations is working very hard to help the parties conduct a peaceful referendum and manage the consequences.  Millions of people will be affected.

Even as we speak, the parties, in the final weeks, are still trying to resolve outstanding issues on citizenship, grazing rights, access to water points and oil-revenue sharing.  The situation in Darfur also remains critical.  There has been some progress in the peace talks, but also new violence on the ground.  I am especially worried about the impact on the ground on civilians.  I am calling on the parties to stop the fighting and allow the United Nations to get aid to people who need.

The fighting is not only causing great suffering; it is a disturbing sign that the parties are still pursuing a military solution when the only sure answer is a peaceful settlement.  For agreement to bring peace to Darfur, it must address the roots of the conflict and end marginalization.  This will require significant concessions in the areas of power- and revenue-sharing.  It will also require genuine efforts to address national and international justice and truth, and reconciliation.

As young leaders who are aspiring to become global citizens, you need to very closely monitor how the situation evolves from now until the end of January.

Third, let me briefly turn our attention to Democratic Republic of Congo.  You must have heard and read all the disturbing news from the [Democratic Republic of Congo], particularly on human rights abuses against women and girls and children.  We are now talking about a country that is even bigger than the whole of Western Europe with a very limited number of overstretched United Nations peacekeepers.  We have about 16,000 peacekeepers there.  Civilians continue to be attacked and abused, particularly women and girls.

We are working to prevent further violence, bring the perpetrators to justice and provide humanitarian relief, but the needs remain enormous.  I have appointed a Special Representative to fight against violence against women and I have launched a campaign — UNiTE to end Violence against Women — and I have organized many leaders to end this violence against women because I believe men must change their mentality, otherwise [this] will never stop.

We have all our frameworks — the Security Council has adopted [its] very important landmark resolution 1325 (2000).  We will [now] have to work even harder.

These are just some of the crises and threats that dominate my days and keep me up at night.  You are also all aware that our very definition of security is changing and that other issues are taking their place alongside traditional security risks such as armed conflict, nuclear weapons and terrorism.

Today, climate change must be seen in this light.  Poverty, hunger and the spread of disease like HIV/AIDS and cholera now in Haiti also have the potential to generate political instability and movements of people.  We must adapt — both our thinking and our mechanisms.

In the same vein, we must also reflect on our understanding of what we mean by the national interest.  Every country, every Member State of the United Nations is a sovereign State and have sovereign rights and they have their national interests.  What we see is enlightened national interest at work in the international community.  This can go a long way in caring for people and the planet.

But I would like to see greater acceptance of the idea that in an interdependent world, far more often than not, the global interest is the national interest.  And even going beyond the national interest, there are times when one needs to act. 

We are living in an era of interdependence, [in an] interconnected world.  Therefore, just sticking to national interests may not help your national interest.  You have to go beyond your national interests.  When people are suffering [in a] different part of the world, even if we are not directly affected, we should still help them.  When there is instability in our world, whether or not it makes our own countries more unstable, we should still respond.  This what the United Nations has been doing; mobilizing political will, mobilizing financial resources and logistical support.

I believe you understand this.  As the young leaders of tomorrow, you have the passion and energy and commitment to make a difference.  What I’d like to really urge you is to have a global vision.  Go beyond your country; go beyond your national boundaries — this European boundary.

You have to work and think about how we can make this world a better place for all.  This is what I’d really like to ask our young leaders.  We will try as leaders of today to minimize the problems which we will hand over to you.  But it is [up] to you.  You have to take ownership and leadership of tomorrow.  For that to be possible, you have to strengthen your capacity and widen your vision as a global citizen.

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