21 April 2011

Secretary-General, Addressing Kyiv Institute of International Relations, Hails Ukraine’s Leading Role in Nuclear Disarmament, Peacekeeping

21 April 2011
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Secretary-General, Addressing Kyiv Institute of International Relations,


Hails Ukraine’s Leading Role in Nuclear Disarmament, Peacekeeping

Following are UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s address to the Kyiv Institute of International Relations on 21 April:

Thank you for this very warm welcome.  I am very honoured and pleased and overwhelmed by this strong support for the United Nations, for me, for my delegation, and I am very grateful for this warm welcome.

It is a great pleasure to be in this beautiful city, full of history, culture, civilization and historical legacies.  And it is a great honour to be bestowed this doctorate degree.  Dr. [Leonid] Hubersky, dear students, I accept this honour, not for me, but I regard this as a recognition of the United Nations and your strong support for the United Nations, and therefore I humbly accept this honorary degree in the name of the United Nations.

Many months ago, President [Viktor] Yanukovych informed me that Ukraine would be hosting an event to mark the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Chernobyl tragedy.  Of course, immediately I marked it in my calendar that I would attend this very important meeting.  I knew how important this observance would be, not only for Ukraine, but for the entire world.

For 25 years, Chernobyl has been synonymous with the nuclear threat.  “No more Chernobyl,” people said the world over.  Now we have the disaster in Japan.  Suddenly, “no more Chernobyl” has taken on a new and much bigger and larger meaning.  Nuclear safety.  Nuclear security.  Disaster risk reduction.  These must be our watchwords going forward.

Yesterday, with President Yanukovych, I visited Chernobyl.  The reactor encased in concrete; the town itself with its empty houses; the evidence all around of lives left behind; an entire world abandoned and lost to those who loved it.

I was so sad and I was so moved.  It was an extremely moving visit to Chernobyl.  Seeing the emptiness, seeing all these tragedies that happened 25 years ago, which have been affecting more than 6 million people.  However, I saw such heroism; heroism of those brave men and women, firefighters, who really wanted to put out these fires; “liquidators” who fought the fires and sacrificed so much of themselves to save their lives.

The images of my visit to Chernobyl will stay long with me.  They have taken their place alongside others: the desolation of Semipalatinsk in Kazakhstan, the former nuclear test site that I visited one year ago; the courage and perseverance of the Hibakusha, the survivors of nuclear bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan, whom I met last summer.  All of these are very important and moving visits that I have made during these two years.  They are all connected, these places.  They are why I have come to Ukraine.

One was a nuclear bomb, the other was nuclear safety.  This time, we have to think very seriously about a global debate on the future of nuclear energy.  At Tuesday’s Kyiv Summit on the Safe and Innovative Use of Nuclear Energy, the world leaders agreed on a fundamental principle:  nuclear safety is our common goal, our common responsibility.  Because nuclear accidents respect no borders, we owe it to our citizens to practise the highest standards of preparedness and response.

To launch the discussion, I offered a five-point proposal, global strategy, to improve nuclear safety.  It calls for a top-to-bottom review of current nuclear-safety standards, both at the national and international levels; it aims to strengthen the work of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and focus more on the new nexus between natural disasters and nuclear safety; and it highlights the need for a new cost-benefit analysis of nuclear energy.

And lastly, we have to think very seriously about nuclear energy, nuclear safety and nuclear security; what would happen if the materials and technologies unfortunately are in the hands of terrorists.

At the Summit, leaders showed a collective determination to advance on all these fronts.  For Chernobyl, in particular, they pledged an additional €550 million to complete the new reactor shield and build safer storage for nuclear waste.  I was pleased by the work of this Command Control Centre.  It was a very ambitious, very creative plan to shield this damaged reactor for the coming 100 years.

Ukraine has been a leader on nuclear issues.  It earned the world’s admiration when it voluntarily gave up its nuclear arsenal.  Early on, Ukrainians recognized a basic truth:  if we want to be certain that nuclear weapons will never be used, we must get rid of them.  Let us keep up the momentum.  Perhaps one day, instead of commemorating disasters, we can look forward to a different kind of ceremony, for example, one at which we mark the entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty, known as CTBT, or even the successful adoption of a Nuclear Weapons Convention.

Let me say a few words about another global issue, also involving Ukraine.  Late last year, the incumbent president of Côte d’Ivoire, Mr. [Laurent] Gbagbo, was defeated in fair elections then refused to step down.  This was total disrespect for the fundamental principle of democracy.  He defied repeated calls from the international community, the African Union, the United Nations and ECOWAS, the Economic Community of West African States.

He defied all the calls of the international community.  He disrespected the fundamental principle of democracy.  He even exploited ethnic tensions to retain his power, imported mercenaries and used heavy weapons on civilians.  One million people have been displaced, a thriving economy has stopped, [at a] standstill.

Throughout, the international community stood firm on principle:  that in a democracy, people have the right to choose their leaders.  Leaders must respect the choice of leader.  The power comes from the people.  If you follow the news, you know how this story turns out.  But you may not know how Ukraine figures prominently in this process.

Across the world, wherever United Nations peacekeepers serve, Ukraine is there:  Kosovo; Sudan; Liberia; Timor-Leste; and, most importantly, Côte d’Ivoire.  When the situation in Côte d’Ivoire descended into crisis, Ukraine was there, too.  The forces loyal to the former President, Laurent Gbagbo, began using weapons to fire on civilians, killing their own people, as well as the headquarters of the United Nations.  They attacked United Nations peacekeeping patrols.

That was when Ukraine sent three combat helicopters, transferred from our mission in Liberia.  I discussed this matter very seriously with President Yanukovych, and against all political difficulties, he made the very courageous decision to transfer these helicopters so that we could prevent civilians from being killed.

Earlier this month, we sent them into action.  They helped neutralize the heavy weaponry which was being used by Gbagbo to kill the civilian population and to attack United Nations peacekeepers.  And last week, the former President was finally ousted.  He was arrested.  A duly elected new President has taken his office, determined to bring peace, rule of law, public trust and justice, and rebuild his country.

The difference between success and failure.  That is the measure of Ukraine’s contributions to the United Nations and to the world.  And I am deeply grateful as the Secretary-General of the United Nations for such courageous and decisive support for the cause of peace and stability and human rights the Ukrainian people have shown the world.  Thank you very much again.

Twenty years ago, the Soviet Union dissolved.  Ukraine gained its independence amid some of the most dramatic events of the modern era.  Today, once again, change is sweeping the world.  Once again Ukraine has a role to play.

Last month, I visited Egypt and Tunisia.  “Welcome to a new Egypt,” I was told in Cairo.  In Tunis it was, “Welcome to a free Tunisia.”  Everywhere, men and women, young and old, particularly young people, were speaking a new language of democracy, openness and human rights.  They were full of excitement and pride on what they have achieved towards a genuine democracy and greater freedom and participatory democracy.

These revolutions represent one of the greatest opportunities to advance democracy and human rights in a generation.  Properly handled, they can become a model for similar transformations across the Arab world and beyond.  People have risen up in Libya after decades of repression.  The international community has acted with speed and resolve to deliver relief and protect civilians.

There and elsewhere, it is essential for leaders to engage in inclusive dialogue on change, to respect their freedoms of expression and assembly, to hear the voice of their people.  Success cannot be assumed.  It requires the strong backing of the entire international community, including Ukraine.

That is what, as Secretary-General, I have been doing.  I have been travelling, meeting, calling leaders, convening meetings, and discussing how the United Nations can strengthen our assistance, humanitarian assistance; how we can help politically and how we can protect their human rights; how we can provide a better sense of hope for their future.

Ukraine has much to offer these emerging democracies.  You know the difficulties of transforming political and economic systems, of building democracy, retooling State-owned industries, dismantling a police State.  You had made such a dramatic economic transformation 10 years ago, from a centrally controlled system to a free-market system.  You know the mistakes, the setbacks that disappoint expectations and cause people to doubt democracy and lose faith in the rule of law.  Your experiences provide important lessons for neighbours near and far.

I hope you will join the United Nations and others in helping this new generation of revolutionaries to realize their dreams.  They have realized their dreams provisionally, just the first steps of their dreams.  They have to realize their dreams in a more sustainable way so that they can live in justice and democracy, to enjoy new opportunities for growth and prosperity.

As for Ukraine itself, you also face continuing challenges.  I am encouraged to note that the United Nations Democracy Fund is helping to build up the capacity of civil society to take part in local governance.  The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) is helping to fight drug abuse and drug trafficking, as well as the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

You are fighting corruption, a serious problem that diverts resources, undermines trust in institutions and scares away investors, foreign and domestic alike.  And you are making institutional changes that advance transparency and accountability.  And after two decades, you are eager to exit what seems like a perpetual state of transition.

Seen from the outside, however, your progress has been great.  It’s very interesting, what you have achieved in the last 20 years.  You have only to continue along this path of wide-ranging reform.  Embrace international standards of good governance.  Be confident that economic reform will generate growth, despite the global downturn.

As elsewhere, regional cooperation is key.  Dialogue and engagement costs little but can bring large returns.  What happens in Ukraine matters worldwide.

The United Nations counts on your support.  In fighting climate change or a future Chernobyl, renewable energy is the way of the future.  In the fight against global poverty, Ukraine has become a contributor to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the World Food Programme (WFP) and the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), which enables us to get aid quickly where it is needed most.

Ukraine contributes to peace and security across the world.  Closer to home, Ukraine is a bridge, a regional player able to talk to big and small countries alike, east and west, north and south.  Never underestimate the unifying powers of a “bridge”.

This summer, Ukraine will celebrate the twentieth anniversary of independence.  You took your place in a world where the connections among nations have become more important than differences, a world where collective action produces collective solutions.  This modern era requires, and rewards, progress on the universal values of the United Nations Charter:  justice; equal rights of women and men; and human dignity for all.

Now I’d like to say a few words since I’m speaking with young students who are soon going to be the leaders of your country and this world.

Your senior leaders have made a great transformation, and this transformation and prosperity of your country’s future now largely depends on you.  I belong to the older generation.  I’m one of the leaders of this current generation.

Soon, you have to be prepared to take this torch, not only to care about the future of your country, Ukraine, [but] to care about the whole world’s population, humanity.  There are so many challenges which you have to deal with.

I will do my best to do as much as I can — addressing climate change, sustainable development, nuclear safety, nuclear disarmament, and reduce all the conflicts, bring about peace and security, promote gender empowerment.

But there are clearly limitations.  And soon, you will be the leader of tomorrow.  Be prepared about how you can contribute as the world leaders and global citizens of tomorrow.  Try to have a bigger vision, broader vision, beyond the boundaries of Ukraine.  You are all global citizens of Ukraine.  You are citizens of this global community, where each and every one of you has to work together, try to resolve all of these issues which are interconnected.  Try to have broader, comprehensive views; try to develop your capacity.  You are a proud Ukrainian citizen, but be a proud global citizen.

That is the way which we can work together to make this a more harmonious, more peaceful, and more dignified world for all.  Looking ahead to this august celebration, let me congratulate Ukraine on all that it has accomplished and all that it is doing, in common cause with the international community, to create a better future for all.

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