Road to Future Peace, Progress ‘Runs Through the World’s Cities and Towns’, Says Secretary-General at Meeting of United States Conference of Mayors

20 June 2011

Road to Future Peace, Progress ‘Runs Through the World’s Cities and Towns’, Says Secretary-General at Meeting of United States Conference of Mayors

20 June 2011
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Road to Future Peace, Progress ‘Runs Through the World’s Cities and Towns’,


Says Secretary-General at Meeting of United States Conference of Mayors


Following is UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s address to the seventy-ninth annual meeting of the United States Conference of Mayors, in Baltimore, 19 June:

It is a great pleasure and honour for me to be here with so many distinguished mayors.

Mayor [Antonio] Villaraigosa first mentioned this conference several months ago, when I was visiting Los Angeles.  I immediately marked my calendar.

Thank you for the opportunity to join you for this important meeting.  And thank you to all the fathers — and mothers — who are here today working to make your cities and the world better, safer and more prosperous for all people.

When I became Secretary-General four and a half years ago, I did not expect to work so closely with mayors.  Heads of State, foreign ministers, ambassadors, activists, United Nations staff — these, I thought, were the people who would fill my days.

But everywhere I turn, it seems, a mayor is there, front and centre.

When we increased the deployment of police personnel in order to strengthen peacekeeping, to whom did we turn?  Your cities’ finest.  Seventy-six United States policemen and policewomen are part of our operations, from Haiti to Liberia to Sudan.

When we tried to break the global deadlock in negotiations on nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament, who was by our side?  The United States Conference of Mayors and Mayors for Peace.  The “Cities Are Not Targets” petition campaign has more than 1 million signatures — and is now proudly on display at United Nations Headquarters.  I welcome the resolution you will adopt at this conference, in particular its reiteration of support for my five-point plan.

And as we continue to implement our recently adopted first-ever Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, whose expertise have we drawn on?  Your police, your officials at your seaports and airports, as well as others on the frontlines of keeping people safe.

I could go on.  Mayors and local governments are central to the United Nations work on development, human rights, as well as rule of law and peace and security.  My senior representatives work with you and your counterparts worldwide in all of these areas.  Every day.

One look at the latest issue of your organization’s newspaper, U.S. Mayor, shows how many other concerns we share — energy and the environment, crime and coexistence, transport and the toll still being taken by the global recession.

In fact, I have been so impressed with the mayors taking part in our work that I hired a mayor to be part of my team.  Juan Clos, who did such wonderful things in his decade as Mayor of Barcelona, is now bringing that dynamism to UN-Habitat [United Nations Human Settlements Programme], whose work I understand is known to you all.

For me, the message is clear — the road to future peace and progress runs through the world’s cities and towns.

Whether home to the 60,000 people over whom you preside, Mayor [Elisabeth] Kautz [of Burnsville, Minnesota]; or the 630,000 who live here in our great host city, Baltimore; or the millions who fill the streets of Chicago, Los Angeles and New York.

The world’s cities are laboratories, crossroads and magnets, places where innovation is born, economic dynamos that produce 75 per cent of world economic output.  The United Nations wants to work with you even more closely than we do already.

Today, I make two appeals to you.

First, on energy, climate change and creating sustainable economies.  Let me put it as straightforwardly as I can.  The world needs the mayors of the United States to do their part to address our energy and climate change challenges.  Your efforts can have an outsize impact.

You know the potential catastrophe that lies in store if present trends continue.  Extreme weather.  Market disruptions.  Inundated coastlines.  Forty per cent of the world’s people live within 60 miles of a coast, mostly in big cities and towns.

You also know the role of cities in climate change — for good and ill alike.  Cities consume more than two thirds of the world’s energy and account for roughly the same percentage of global carbon dioxide emissions.

I say this not to point fingers — but rather to point towards solutions.

The United Nations continues to push for success in climate negotiations.  Those talks are moving forward, and we need to sustain this progress.  Mayoral delegations were a major presence at Bali, Copenhagen and Cancún.  We need you to be there again, later this year in Durban, South Africa.

At the same time, we need you even more on the ground.  If we can lead with national action, if we can prove what is possible locally, we could well give the talks the push they need to succeed.  That is where you come in.

Cities across the United States are already making great advances towards energy efficiency in transit, infrastructure and street lights.  You are producing and purchasing clean, renewable energy.  You have taken this challenge to heart, and you are finding it good for job creation and good for the health and happiness of your citizens.

I congratulate those of you — more than 1,000 — who have signed the United States Conference of Mayors’ Climate Protection Agreement, which commits your cities to reducing carbon emissions below 1990 levels.  Former Seattle Mayor Nickels deserves tremendous credit for his leadership on this initiative.

The upgrades and efforts you are making save money and create well-paying local jobs, and they revitalize the economies of the cities where they are implemented.

Some of you are involved in the “C40 initiative”.  Mayor [Michael] Bloomberg of New York — your good colleague and, of course, my mayor — has been at the forefront.  He and I are also working together on a life-saving campaign to make roads safer and prevent accidents.  Mayor Bloomberg is seeking lessons from what some of the world’s largest cities are doing.

One great global ally is Mayor Kadir Topbaş of Istanbul, President of United Cities and Local Governments.

Cities around the world are leading the way.

In London, the canal networks are using water and heat-exchange technology to provide an alternative to traditional air conditioning.

In Rizhao, China, 99 per cent of households use solar water heaters and almost all traffic signals, streetlights and park lights are powered by photovoltaic solar cells.

And in Toronto, more than 1,000 concrete-slab apartment blocks are undergoing a retrofit to cut greenhouse gas pollution.

Let us recall that last year’s Shanghai Expo showcased what cities around the world are doing.  I was there.  The pavilions gave me a glimpse — an exciting glimpse — of sustainable urban design.

And let us be clear, we are not talking about breakthroughs in some distant future.  Much of the necessary ingenuity is at our disposal today.  These initiatives forge new industries and claim market share.  I am sure that your cities have what it takes to join this movement, and stay out front instead of having to play catch up.

The smart money is on smart cities — resilient, energy efficient, poised to profit from new, clean, green innovations that will redefine the urban landscape of twenty-first century.

My second appeal is to use your influence to advocate for the United Nations itself.

We are in the midst of big changes in the international landscape.  Transformations we might not have imagined in our lifetime are happening in the blink of an eye.  New economic powers have risen.  And new challenges have emerged — climate change, pandemic disease, human trafficking, food, water and energy shortages — that underscore our mutual interdependence.  No single country — no matter how powerful — can solve all of its problems alone.

The United Nations is engaged on all these fronts.  We strive to make a globalizing world function more smoothly.  We are addressing the needs of the poor and vulnerable, empowering women and responding to disaster.  We are facilitating political dialogue, helping to keep the peace in the world’s most dangerous areas and preventing armed conflict from erupting in the first place.

We are also standing firm for democracy.  We did so earlier this year in Côte d’Ivoire, when the man who was defeated in a free and fair election sought to deny the will of the people.  The legitimate President was inaugurated one month ago.

And we have supported the people of the Middle East and North Africa in their calls for freedom and participatory democracy.  I remain deeply concerned about the situation in Syria, and continue to urge President [Bashar al-]Assad to respond to his people’s aspirations with reform, not repression.

Everywhere, leaders must listen to the voices of their people.

A better world for all is our common goal.

My job is to ensure that the United Nations is up to that challenge — and I cannot do that without you.

That means being a bridge-builder — reaching out to partners such as business leaders.

I have been very encouraged by what I have seen in my visits to cities across the United States.

Your citizens are engaged.  This is borne out by polls that show a large and growing constituency of United Nations supporters in your cities and towns, across the political spectrums.  They understand and appreciate how the United Nations can contribute to their well-being.

I know many of your cities have active world affairs councils, lively Model UN conferences and chapters of the United Nations Association (UNA).

I am pleased to note that many of you know the new Executive Director of the UNA-USA — Patrick Madden — from his previous position as head of Sister Cities International.  He was here yesterday, talking to your international affairs committee.  And he is ready to work with you to deepen our ties.

I will also soon be working with a former Deputy Mayor of Philadelphia to press ahead with United Nations management and reform.  Joseph Torsella has just been confirmed as the United States Mission’s point person on that important issue.

Your country is a key stakeholder in the United Nations.  I count on your help to ensure that the United States continues to engage and lead on the many global challenges facing us.  I look forward to working closely with you in deepening our partnership.

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