Addressing University Students, Secretary-General Says Iceland Gives World ‘a Glimpse of the Possibility of a Sustainable, Low-emissions Future’

2 July 2013

Addressing University Students, Secretary-General Says Iceland Gives World ‘a Glimpse of the Possibility of a Sustainable, Low-emissions Future’

2 July 2013
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Addressing University Students, Secretary-General Says Iceland Gives World

‘a Glimpse of the Possibility of a Sustainable, Low-emissions Future’

Following are UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, at the University of Iceland:  “ Iceland and the United Nations:  Building a Sustainable Future for All”, in Reykjavik, 2 July:

Góðan dag.  Thank you for your warm welcome.  It is an honour to visit this beautiful country.  I welcome this opportunity to speak at this prestigious University.

I am energized here in Iceland.  Maybe it has something to do with the remarkable Hellisheiði energy plant I just visited.  But, I am also charged up by being in a country where the Government and people are such good global citizens and long-standing friends of the United Nations.

Let me extend a special greeting to the members of the UNICEF and UN-Women National Committees who are here today.  You are great allies of the United Nations in sharing with your fellow citizens what we do and why it matters.

Feeding the hungry; sheltering refugees; supporting elections; vaccinating children and getting them into school; keeping the peace; keeping violence from breaking out in the first place — this is the UN’s mission, every day, around the world.  Iceland makes important contributions across this agenda.

You host important training programmes of the UN University in geothermal energy, fisheries, land restoration and the empowerment of women.  Your deep connection to the marine environment has generated very strong support for the Law of the Sea Convention.  You are a global leader in renewable energy — giving the world a glimpse of the possibility of a sustainable, low-emissions future.

And while Iceland may seem somewhat alone up here near the top of the planet, the country is outward-looking, fully engaged with the world across a full spectrum of human need.

You support international criminal justice and human rights.  And even at a time when Iceland was enduring its own deep economic distress, you strived to uphold your commitments to help the world’s poorest and most vulnerable countries.

That sense of global solidarity has never been more needed.  These are trying times for the human family.  Over the past several years, the world has faced wave upon wave of crisis.  A jobs crisis, a food crisis and, of course, the economic and financial crisis that struck Iceland and others with particular force, and which is still with us.

We are seeing dramatic changes to the global landscape.  New Powers are rising, as dynamism shifts to the global South.  We are more connected than ever before.  There are more of us than ever before, including the largest-ever generation of young people.

We are witnessing the gathering force of climate change.  Politics are on the move, as people in the Arab world and elsewhere demand greater freedom and a bigger say in the decisions affecting their lives.

But, let me be clear:  amid great change and challenge, I see great possibility.  I see country after country, and leader after leader, recognizing that we can only tackle our challenges by working together.

My job as Secretary-General is to harness these dynamic forces to build a better world for all.  That means sustainable development and sustainable peace.  Let me say a few words about each.

Iceland is taking big steps to promote sustainable energy both at home and around the world.  I have seen it for myself and I commend you for it.  Energy will be critical in helping us avoid the worst impacts of climate change and in making a much-needed transition to sustainable development.

My “Sustainable Energy for All” initiative aims to help jump-start the transition.  It brings together the main actors — Governments, business and others.  It focuses on dramatic increases in energy access, efficiency and the use of renewables by 2030.  President [Ólafur] Grímssonis a member of the advisory board, yet another example of Iceland’s leadership.

The transition to a sustainable future also depends on achieving the Millennium Development Goals — the world’s eight-point blueprint for combating hunger, disease, illiteracy and environmental degradation.  The MDGs have been the most successful anti-poverty push in history.  Yesterday, in Geneva, I launched our latest MDG report documenting both progress and challenges.

Two important tasks now stand before us.  First, with less than 1,000 days before the deadline to achieve the MDGs, we must accelerate progress.  Second, we must shape a global agenda beyond 2015 — including a new set of goals for sustainable development.  Our aim is to give full voice to the world’s views and aspirations.  And we are engaging civil society, the private sector, scientists, scholars and others.

We should build on the gains of the MDGs.  And we should go where the MDGs did not:  more deeply, for example, into the empowerment of young people; more fully into sustainability and the importance of governance and institutions; and more inclusively, with shared responsibilities for all countries.  I will set out my own thoughts in a report in the months ahead.  I look forward to Iceland’s continuing contributions.

Sustainable development is inseparable from sustainable peace.  I came into office determined to heighten the UN’s emphasis on prevention — a low-cost, high-yield investment.

We now have mediation specialists ready to deploy anywhere in the world with 72 hours notice.  We are strengthening ties with regional organizations.  We are on the ground, with political missions and regional offices.  And we are doing more to support civil society, so agreements more fully reflect the will of the people.

We must also bring more women into key positions in peace processes — both as UN mediators and among the parties to talks.  The gender dimensions of conflict, and action against sexual violence, must be priorities for peace.

At the same time, we are acting to bolster UN peacekeeping.  Peacekeepers today face increasingly volatile threats.  Our challenge is to consider new ways to meet these goals.  For example, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, we are deploying a new intervention brigade to carry out targeted offensive operations.

But, the paramount focus of our efforts is to implement the peace agreement we brokered earlier this year.  Mary Robinson, the UN Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region, has called it a “framework of hope”.  While the situation remains volatile, we believe this comprehensive new approach gives the DRC [ Democratic Republic of the Congo] and the Great Lakes region its best chance for peace and economic development in many years.

Our most immediate peace and security challenge is, of course, the crisis in Syria.  The conflict has spawned a huge humanitarian crisis, and risks destabilizing the entire region.  The United States-Russian initiative to bring the Syrian parties to a negotiating table is the best opportunity for a negotiated solution.  It is essential that we do whatever is possible to ensure that this conference takes place.

The people of Syria need peace, but all they have for the moment are talks about talks.  We must do better.

This is a moment that cries out for good international solutions, and for effective multilateralism.  No nation, on its own, can address today’s serious and multiple threats.  Every nation can gain by working with others.

Iceland knows about navigating stormy seas and uncertain skies.  Sailors are your country’s heroes.  Your air traffic controllers are responsible for a critical part of global airspace.  I have no doubt that the people of Iceland have much to offer in helping the world find its way to the stronger sense of collective purpose that will, in turn, lead us to a sustainable future for all.  Thank you.

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