8 July 2016

Amid Proliferation of Philanthropy, Deeper Global Partnerships Must Seize Chance to Advance 2030 Agenda, Secretary-General Tells ‘Committee of 100’ in China

Following are UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks at a lunch with the “Committee of 100” Chinese philanthropists, in Beijing today:

It is a great pleasure to be here today with you with such distinguished leaders in business and philanthropy community.  Before I say a few words, I’d like to take this opportunity to express my deep thanks for your understanding, very kind understanding when I had to unavoidably cancel my meeting last year and I know that it was with great embarrassment for you and disappointment for you, and it was myself, I was also very much embarrassed and disappointed.  But, it was unavoidable.  Sometimes it happens to me, so I hope you understand.  Anyway, I kept my promise that I’d be there next time, next time.  Next time is today and I thank you all for your understanding.

This is an important and timely opportunity for a mutual exchange on how Chinese philanthropy can advance sustainable development in China, and in the region and around the world.  China is a key player in our common global effort for economic, social and environmental progress.  The enduring partnership between China and the United Nations is crucially important.

Last September, at the United Nations Headquarters, President Xi Jinping demonstrated unequivocal support for the United Nations by announcing a $1 billion China-UN peace and development fund.  President Xi also called on all world leaders to reject the so-called “winner take all” mentality and create a shared future for mankind, based on “win-win cooperation” that everybody appreciated.

China’s perspectives and contributions are indispensable as we embark on implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals with 17 goals and the historic Paris Agreement on climate change.  Supported by 17 goals, the 2030 Agenda is quite simply the biggest and most ambitious and far-reaching anti-poverty, pro-planet action plan ever adopted by the United Nations in history.  It is an Agenda for everyone, everywhere.

I do not pretend to be especially wise.  But, as Secretary-General of the United Nations, I have learned a few lessons.  So, I can clearly tell you that this Sustainable Development Goals is the most ambitious, flexible but far-reaching vision the world leaders have ever conducted in 70 years of history of United Nations.

Perhaps the most important lesson which I learned is no country, however big and powerful or resourceful, like China or the United States, or G1 or G2, no institution, however universal like the United Nations, and no individual, however rich one may be, cannot do and cannot address today’s challenges which are now being faced by human beings.

The solutions must involve everyone — world leaders, academia, young people, business CSOs, civil society and philanthropists like yourselves.  We must work together — across sectors and cultures — in broader and deeper partnerships.  You are among the leading philanthropists and entrepreneurs of Chinese descent.

The spirit of giving is not new to China and its people.  You have a long tradition of giving, integrated in your culture and history and in harmony with your values and practices.  Chinese philanthropy has made significant contributions to education, health, the environment and in responding to natural disasters.  You were there when Sichuan suffered a devastating earthquake, and again, you responded with generosity in Yunnan.  And I myself was even briefly in Sichuan with the former premier Wen Jiabao and I was deeply impressed by what the Chinese people were helping to rescue all the people to recover from these disasters.

As I travel around the world, I have witnessed first-hand the vibrant promise of philanthropy.  The rise in global philanthropy is unprecedented in modern history, both in its scale and diversity.  In Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Latin America, new actors are determined to address local and global challenges.  They are contributing innovative solutions by leading on issues relevant to their reality and in harmony with their culture.

This proliferation of philanthropy is catapulting us into uncharted terrain, bringing unprecedented opportunity.  In China, this rapid transformation has created the need for a new “Chinese philanthropic paradigm”, integrated within the global context.  I know many of you feel an enormous sense of responsibility.  You also have legitimate questions:  How can we achieve the greatest impact?  Where should we channel our resources so they are not wasted?  How can we engage globally and do so in harmony with our local reality?

I am not here to ask you to give money to the United Nations.  What I am asking you is align your programmes with United Nations values and goals.  That means align your projects and programmes with sustainable development and climate change.

In particular, I want you to take this 2030 Agenda as your inspiration and guide.  We are the first generation that can end global poverty.  And I’m also saying that we are the last generation to address climate change.  We have to do all what we have to do before we direct for our succeeding generation.  We have a whole responsibility to deliver this planet Earth and environment to our succeeding generation to live sustainably.

We need your help to make the SDGs [Sustainable Development Goals] a reality for all people everywhere.  There is no limit to the power of people to make a difference when they join forces for the global good.  That isn’t just wishful thinking.  I have experienced it first-hand myself.  I heard from Chairman Frank Wu that Gordon Brown, the former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, who is now working as special envoy on global education.  He must have told you about what I experienced.

Today, the Republic of Korea is an economic power.  It is a totally different world than the country when I was a young boy.  When I was just six years old, [in] Korea in 1950, when I had to flee with my parents to a safer place.  I was called a so-called internally displaced persons, IDPs.  There were millions of IDPs at the time.  I watched my village burning behind us.

When we came back after three years, after the Korean War was over, only remaining was rubble and destruction.  There were all our schools destroyed.  There was nothing — no chairs, no desks, no textbooks.  At that time the United Nations came.  In fact, not only did the United Nations provided [us] with food and water and shelter, they provided us security.  They were our lifeline; they were our beacon of hope.

At that time, just looking at the blue flag of the United Nations was our protector, was our protector and our saviour.  I learned then that solidarity means the difference between complete despair and hope for the better future.  It is why I decided to devote my life to public service.  What can I do for my country, for my team.  That’s why I’m here as United Nations Secretary-General to ask you to be part of a serious 15-year partnership with the United Nations.

This 2030 Agenda is ending in 2030, so it’s starting from this year, 15 years.  So, I’d like to have a 15-year strong partnership with you and all the business leaders and civil society leaders.  I know all of you can help the world make these ambitious Sustainable Development Goals a reality.  The Committee of 100 is a coalition of powerful individuals who care about social transformation.  You have already proven your immense ability to effect change in the Chinese community.

You now have a clear political signal and framework for aligning your action with the global good.  Now you have a chance to help us make history by intensifying and framing your contributions in the context of the SDGs.  We need to build an inclusive global partnership, with mutual accountability and a fair sharing of responsibilities.  We must combine and capitalize on our comparative strengths and resources to achieve meaningful results.

In this regard, I wish to recognize the new law passed by the Government of China in March this year, which takes steps to create an enabling environment for the domestic philanthropy sector.  And I thank everyone in this room who has helped to seed the grounds for a new era of sustainable development, through your contributions, your advocacy and your example.

I sincerely hope that the enduring partnership between China and the United Nations grows even stronger in years to come, and help us to deliver on the full promise of the SDGs.  Let us work together for a life of dignity and opportunity for all.  Let us give all the people around the world strong sense of hope for a better future.  And I thank you for all your strong engagement and commitment and I thank everyone.  Xie xie.

For information media. Not an official record.