24 June 2016

Remarks at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity

Ban Ki-moon

Thank you very much for your welcome, Zainab Badawi.

My thanks to all of you. I am pleased to be with such a distinguished audience of creative communications leaders.

I have heard a lot about the Cannes International Festival of Creativity. Someone told me this is the world’s biggest gathering of “Mad Men”.

I thought to myself: “You should see some of the people I have to deal with!”

Ladies and gentlemen,

I have just arrived from an extraordinary peace ceremony in Havana. The Colombian Government and the FARC rebels signed a ceasefire agreement to usher in an end to a 50-year civil war. People cheered with happiness. They cried tears of relief.

That was another reminder that despite the turmoil in today’s world, we can find common ground.

That’s the key to a better world – and it’s in our hands.

I am here today to talk about just that -- building a better, more sustainable world together.

And I am here to ask for your help.

This is Cannes – so I have come with a pitch.

I know all of you have tremendous power to shape opinions. You are master storytellers.

And I want you to help us create the biggest campaign ever for humanity.

What do I mean?

Last September, all 193 world leaders adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development with 17 Sustainable Development Goals or SDGs.

It is quite simply the biggest anti-poverty, pro-planet action plan ever adopted by the United Nations.

And it is an Agenda for everyone, everywhere.

If I had to give it a tag line, it’s this:

We are the first generation that can end global poverty. We are the last generation that can address climate change before it is too late.

I know all of you can help the world make these ambitious Goals a reality. Here are three reasons why.

First, none of the SDGs can be achieved by anyone alone. We need civil society. We need academia. We need the private sector.

We need everyone – and everyone has a stake in its success.

Corporate social responsibility is important, but we need to go further. Sometimes CSR is seen as a feel-good, optional approach.

The SDGs touch every aspect of your business and of your client’s reality. They echo what consumers demand. They reflect what shareholders want. And they will instill pride in your employees.

We need your help to make sure the SDGs are the business of all business – and the business of all people.

That leads me to my second point. The SDGs are the people’s goals. They’re the result of broad-based consultations around the world. We need to make sure everyone is inspired to take action. Especially young people. You have some of the greatest young talents in your ranks – as we saw in this week’s Young Lions competition. We must also recognize the goals will not be achieved unless everyone working for them sees the Agenda through the eyes, minds and hearts of women.

Third, we need you to help us find the best ways to tell the story. Your ingenuity, innovation and powers of persuasion are second to none.

Help us transform a complex and abstract agenda into a personal and emotional story about how we can build a better world.

This challenge is not a favour for a charity – or a one-off campaign – or fundraising for a non-profit.

My call to you is to be a part of something bigger. It requires a serious 15-year partnership for humanity.

There is perhaps no brand with a more important purpose in the world than the SDG ring.

The Olympic rings stand for the highest standard in sports. The SDG ring stands for the highest standards in social commitment, human well-being and global solidarity.

In the short term, we want the 2030 Agenda to be known by 2 billion people. We want to mobilize 1 million people as change agents.

Help us reach far and wide.

Ladies and gentlemen,

There is no limit to the power of people to make a difference when they join forces for the global good.

This isn’t just wishful thinking. It’s my life.

I come from Korea. Young people know it as the home of Samsung, K-pop and Gangnam Style.

But I grew up in a different Korea that was ravaged by war.

When I was 6, my family and I had to flee into the mountains.

I watched my village burn behind us.

We came back to rubble. No homes. No hospitals. No schools.

I studied under the shade of trees.

The United Nations provided us with books and food and security.

The UN flag was our beacon of hope.

I learned that solidarity means the difference between despair and hope.

Compassion requires reaching across boundaries.

I have tried to do this as Secretary-General. For example, when I was growing up, no one talked about discrimination based on sexual orientation. But I learned to speak out because lives are at stake. Now I proudly wave the rainbow flag.

We have to transcend differences for the greater good.

A big part of advertising and business is defining your competitor and battling them. But it is equally about finding your partners and working with them.

We have some ultra-competitors we need to beat together. Poverty. Inequality. Injustice.

And I am proud to say that today the communications industry is taking a historic, first-of-its-kind step to do just that.

It began with a challenge laid down at last year’s Cannes Debate by Sir Martin Sorrell.

He said: “Can we in our industry put aside our differences to work together to address the biggest challenges facing our planet?”

One year later, the six biggest communications businesses in the world have risen to what some may have said was an impossible test.

It’s called Common Ground and it has been developed by Dentsu, Havas, IPG, Omnicom, Publicis and WPP.

Together, they have agreed to put their differences aside in support of a joint unique and exciting initiative to advance the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs.

It is both an example and a challenge to all of us to find our own common ground for the common good.

To tell you more about it, I would like to welcome to the stage:

Mr. Yannick Bolloré, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Havas; Mr. Michael Roth, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of IPG; Mr. John Wren, President and Chief Executive Officer of Omnicom; Mr. Maurice Lévy, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Publicis Groupe; and Sir Martin Sorrell, founder and Chief Executive Officer of WPP.