29 April 2015

Secretary-General, in Paris University Address, Urges Students to Take on Global Challenges

Following is an unofficial transcript of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s address at the Institut D’études Politiques de Paris, entitled, "The United Nations at 70:  New Global Challenges.  A Conversation with Ban Ki-Moon", in Paris today:

Thank you, Professeur Frederic Mion, Director of the Institut d’études politiques de Paris.   Mr. Ghassan Salamé, it’s a great pleasure to see you again.  He has served as a senior official of the United Nations and now you are contributing greatly to the future of our world.  Merci.

Mesdames et messieurs, bonjour. Je suis très heureux d’être ici parmi vous.  Merci de votre accueil très chaleureux.  Malheureusement aujourd’hui je devrais parler tout en anglais.  I would like to thank His Excellency Ambassador François Delattre, représentant permanent de la France auprès des Nations Unies.  Merci de votre participation.  He is a great diplomat.  We are working very, very closely.  He is an asset for France and for the international community and for the United Nations.

Distinguished members of the faculty, dear students, it’s a great pleasure for me to have this brief opportunity this morning [to speak to you] on the occasion of my visit to France.  France is the country where I have been visiting, during the last eight and a half years, the most number of visits — maybe except for the United States.

I am here with all the leaders of the United Nations system, including the Bretton Woods [institutions], World Bank and IMF [International Monetary Fund] and all UN specialized agencies and funds and programmes and the Secretariat.  All are here to discuss our future — how we can better serve the people for whom we work.  And I’m very much pleased for [France’s support] — unconditional support — for world peace and development and human rights.  There are not many countries who are contributing unconditionally, with a lot of sacrifices of their citizens to preserve peace and security.

You are part of a grand academic tradition that has raised important global leaders.  Many of my senior advisers, as well as national presidents and prime ministers, are alumni of Sciences Po — including, I know, President François Hollande and also Ambassador Delattre.  I know that Christine Lagarde of the IMF is also an alumnus of yours here.

I always appreciated working with, and working together, with France.  As I said, I expected that I may have to speak in my halting French, but I was told that I better speak in English.  French is very romantic and I am still learning French.  My wife and I have been married 45 years – and she still gets a soft look in her eyes whenever I speak in French.  I like to call her mon petit chou.  I hope she understood.

I look forward to our conversation, more seriously, joking aside, and I hope you will ask some questions.  That will be a more encouraging and motivating session.  First, I will speak about the global challenges facing the United Nations as we mark our seventieth anniversary this year:  climate change, threats to peace and human rights.

Governments and people are turning to the United Nations for answers.  I know that, in this world, we have limited capacities, limited resources.  There are so many wild fires, brutal fires, taking place at this time.  I may immediately name 10 crises around the world.  But, that is not the purpose.  I am here to discuss a brighter future, since you are the future of our world.  You are part of the largest generation of youth in our history.  You are connected, global citizens who can shape our future.

I have just come from Rome.  Yesterday, I was in Rome where I had the honour to meet with His Holiness Pope Francis.  He strongly supports the United Nations, and I am very grateful for his leadership.  He told me that he will add his moral and spiritual voice to the United Nations’ strong commitments in addressing climate change.  I think his voice, when he issues a papal encyclical in June, will have a huge, profound impact on our discussions in climate change.

I attended a workshop after that on the theme, “Protect the Earth, Dignify Humanity”.  This is a fitting slogan for the entire world in this pivotal year.

I also had an opportunity of visiting a naval ship operating in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea together with Prime Minister Matteo Renzi of Italy, and High Representative Federica Mogherini of the European Union, to watch and to witness how people are trying to search and rescue all these helpless migrants coming from North Africa.  I will be able to discuss this matter with you later.

I am telling everybody that 2015 is a year for Global Action.  This year marks the deadline of the Millennium Development Goals — which have already lifted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty.  And in 2015, we will have to adopt a bold and ambitious new set of sustainable development goals, known as SDGs, instead of MDGs that apply to all human beings.

Then, in December, in Paris, I expect, under the leadership of President Hollande, that world leaders will adopt a universal and meaningful, very ambitious climate change agreement to address all these global challenges.  This is not easy, but it is essential and it must be done.

People used to warn me not to raise my voice about climate change.  When I became Secretary-General, first in 2007, I met then-President George Bush at the White House, in January.  My Senior Advisers said:  “Don’t talk anything about climate change to him, you will have trouble.”  But, I raised climate change with him.  But, what the United States Government and President Bush did at that time was a turning point for me, for the United Nations, for the international community — adopting Bali road map that was the first road map, in 2007.

Since then, I have been working with President [Barack] Obama.  He has also taken huge initiatives.  Agreeing with China, announcing a joint statement with China last year that has also turned the tide.  And now I think that we are walking towards the right direction.  It’s very important that President Hollande and Foreign Minister Fabius and all Environment Ministers of the French Government work together with the United Nations and other Member-States to make this happen.

Many people see climate change as only an environmental issue.  They think it should be addressed after we have taken care of all other urgent domestic or global economic, financial issues.  But, their ideas are wrong and short-sighted.  They are all integrated.  If we invest wisely in climate change we will have invested wisely towards domestic economic growth.  So, this is two sides of one coin, it’s a tightly connected one.  It’s mutually reinforcing.

We are the last generation who will have to tackle climate change.  And we are the first generation that can end poverty.  That is why I say 2015 is a year for global action.  Climate change is more than an environmental issue — it is an economic challenge and a planetary imperative.  The daily concerns of all people are tied to climate change.  It influences our health, food security, water and even our national security.  Action on climate change is action against poverty and injustice.

No country can solve this problem alone, however powerful, however resourceful.  France is a very powerful and very resourceful country, but you cannot do it alone.  The United Nations even cannot do it alone.  We have to embrace all our resources and all our political will together.

For 20 years, Member States have been negotiating in conference rooms only.  They have been always talking, talking, talking, without reaching any agreement.  I decided to go out into the world.  I went to Antarctica and the Arctic.  I am going to visit the Arctic in July again to show my strong commitment and to sound alarm bells, stepping on the Arctic ice.  I visited many frontline climate disasters in the world.

You name any place — I think I have seen them all.  I mourned victims of earthquakes, typhoons and massive floods.  I saw major lakes and seas like Lake Chad, Aral Sea all dried up and smog destroying health.  But, after all my travels, I am more optimistic than before — because I have also seen solutions.

Scientists of the world have determined that climate change has been caused by human behaviour.  Human beings have created these problems — and human ingenuity can overcome it.  It’s natural that we have to address and solve this problem because we are the source of the problems.

The most cutting-edge businesses are profiting wisely by rising to the climate challenge, by their wise investment in climate and low-carbon economy.  Every day, there is new news on exciting developments in renewable energy.  Look up at the sky.  Innovators are now developing planes that fly without fuel — that fly with only solar power.  Look down on the ground.  People are using cook stoves that save trees, cut pollution and protect our health.  There are many more ideas waiting to happen.

I am impressed by the Sciences Po initiative to do a simulation to the climate change conference.  I have high hopes for the students who will gather here from all over the world to discuss the issues later this month.  And I wish you all the best.  Young people have more creative ideas and I really count on your strong engagement.

Just tell your professor, tell your senators and president and ministers:  “Look, this is our world, this is the place I have to live.  Please, leave this Planet Earth environmentally friendly and hospitable.   This is the place our succeeding generations will have to live in.”  Those kinds of challenges and debates can push leaders into action.

Your studies must be very hard.  I do not think the political science textbooks can keep up with all the fast-changing situations in the world.  The United Nations used to cope with a handful of crises at once.  Now, it’s very hard to address so many fires.  We have a limited number of fire engines.  There are more fires than fire engines.  Then we have to borrow fire engines from you and other countries.

There are at least 50 million refugees at this time, today — the largest number of refugees since the Second World War.  There are more than 130,000 peacekeepers and police officers around the world in 16 different peacekeeping missions.  Record numbers of people are fleeing war and persecution.  Migrants are desperately trying to find a better life.  Because their living grounds have been destroyed and they have been persecuted.

When I went to the Mediterranean Sea and watched all the naval ships, I was wondering:  “Why are they risking their lives?”  For them, I was thinking in their shoes — either they stay in their country or not.  The result will be the same.  They may have thought that there are better chances for [inaudible].

If they stay and they will be persecuted, they will be killed and there will be nothing for them to do, then they risk their lives.  Forty thousand people have landed last year and this year.  About 3,000 people have been killed.  The chances are 1 out of 20.  That is why they are coming, they are risking their lives.  I warned Europeans leaders, they may continue to come unless we address root causes.  Why?  Because they have nothing to do, they have no opportunities and they fear for their own lives.  This is why they are risking [their lives].

It will be very important to have robust search-and-rescue operation schemes, and at the same time, there should be political solution, as well as addressing root causes.  This is not a faraway problem.  You are facing all these issues, so we have to address all these issues.  I am now speaking to European leaders every day about the shocking tragedies we are witnessing in the Mediterranean.  It is true that more needs to be done for human rights.  I tell them that the first priority shall be given in saving lives whatever the situation may be, and then provide necessary legal protection.

The Middle East is becoming even more unstable.  The prospects for a two-State solution for Israel and Palestine are becoming more distant — with potentially dangerous consequences.  We are in the fifth year of a devastating crisis in Syria.  More than 220,000 people have been killed.  This is a very conservative estimate.  The United Nations wants to make sure that they were counting exact numbers, at least confirm the deaths during the last four years.  I am sure that there will be much, much more.

[In Yemen], 18 million people are affected, including 12 million people without food and without shelter.  I am deeply concerned about the terrible suffering of civilians and I have called for an immediate ceasefire by all parties.

Violent extremism is a growing and global threat.  France has become again a target and has been affected by this terrible terrorist attack.  Charlie Hebdo was one case, but around the world many people are brutally killed by extremists and terrorists.  And I am working with leaders from around the world, including President Hollande, to forge a strong response.  The United Nations is now preparing a plan of action on combating violence and extremism that I will present to the General Assembly later this year.  And right now, we are mobilizing all partners.

Last week, I invited Government leaders and religious leaders from around the world to the United Nations General Assembly.  Religious leaders, teachers, professors, have a crucially important role to teach their followers and students the correct meaning of reconciliation and living together harmoniously and respect the traditions and civilizations of others.

The next day, the Security Council held an extraordinary meeting on youth.  Interestingly, it was chaired by a 21-year-old person, who is now the Crown Prince of Jordan.  He was the youngest person in the history of the United Nations to chair a Security Council [session], at the age of 21.  I told him that he is, at 21, already a leader of the twenty-first Century.  You are the leaders of the twenty-first Century.

Young people are suffering terrible atrocities.  We cannot forget the kidnapped girls in Chibok, Nigeria, or the students killed in Kenya and Pakistan by extremists.  Only a small fraction of the world’s young people are committing violent acts — and many of them are being manipulated by depraved adults.   Many young people are actively working to wage peace, not war.  They are fighting injustice, not people.

It’s not religion, it’s not belief that kills people.  It’s people who kill people, so we must make sure that it’s not related to religion.  It is not a war of a religion against another religion.  That kind of misperception is very, very dangerous.  So, I am making again clear that this is not a war against any religion by any other religion.  We are fighting against those criminals who have been [attracted] by the wrong ideology, by wrong ideas, used and manipulated by certain people.

For the first time in history, to promote better opportunity for young people, I have appointed a United Nations Secretary-General’s Youth Envoy to my Cabinet as part of my resolve to work for — and with — young people.  Our policy goes far beyond saying that youth are the leaders of the future.  You are already working as leaders of today, together with current leaders.  It is a call to action for young people to lead now.

Sciences Po is one of the most prestigious and well-known universities in the world.  You must have struggled hard to get here.  But, now I ask you to struggle even harder for a much bigger purpose — to take on the grave challenges facing our world.  Living and studying in a country like France you may not be able to see how people in other parts of the world are doing, so try to broaden your scope, try to become a global citizen.

I am asking you, all of you, to become global citizens with global vision.  Young people always have a very strong passion; you always have dreams.  At the same time, you should have compassion.  So, I am asking you to become a global citizen with a passion for compassionate leadership.  Then you will become great contributors to our world.  And let’s work together to make this world a better world for all where everybody can live in human dignity without any fear for their future.  The United Nations is ready to work with you to build a better future.

For information media. Not an official record.