Seoul, Republic of Korea

30 October 2012

Secretary-General’s address to the National Assembly of the Republic of Korea: “The United Nations and Korea: Together, Building the Future We Want” [as prepared for delivery]

I am deeply honoured to be the first United Nations Secretary-General to address the National Assembly of the Republic of Korea.  Ordinarily, as Secretary-General, I should speak in one of the official languages of the United Nations.  But as a Korean, speaking in the National Assembly of the Republic of Korea, I hope you will understand why I will speak today in my mother tongue.

As I look back at the long special relationship between Korea and the United Nations, I am especially pleased to stand at the beginning of my second term in this august chamber which represents all of the Korean people.

Korea and the United Nations have worked hand-in-hand for this country’s spectacular development.  The special relationship began in 1948.  The United Nations sent an electoral supervisory mission to witness Korea’s first democratic general elections — the first such deployment anywhere in the world.

Following the outbreak of the Korean War two years later, the United Nations came to the defence of Korea, becoming a beacon of hope for the Korean people.  With the help of the United Nations, Korea overcame the tragedy of war and quickly began down the path of astonishing economic growth and deeper democracy.  Today, Korea stands as an example, ever striving to represent the ideals and objectives of the United Nations.

Throughout my travels around the world, I share the experiences of Korea’s economic development and democratization process.  I am often amazed to see the strong interest among leaders around the world to learn from Korea’s example.

Korea also is achieving great global success in culture, sports and the arts.  As is clear with the recent rise of Psy’s “Gangnam Style”, the Hallyu-wave and Korean pop music, Korean culture is making its mark on the world.  Korea also showed its potential in sports in the London Summer Olympics, which impressed the global sports community.  This youthful, creative and dynamic Korea is rising as a new hope in the world.

Today I would like to talk about how Korea and the United Nations can work together to build the future we want, a more secure and prosperous world for all.  I want to talk with you about this because I fully appreciate your crucial role as elected members of the National Assembly in representing the people and their aspirations.

Wherever I travel, I seek out leaders of the national assemblies.  I address Parliaments.  I do so because you are the institution that puts people first and this is what ties you and the United Nations together.  Indeed our Charter begins with the words “we the peoples”.

The world is facing great uncertainty and undergoing a turbulent transition.  Around the globe, there is rising insecurity, inequality, injustice and intolerance.  These issues cannot be addressed by one country or organization alone — regardless of its size or resources.  These are global challenges — that require more effective global engagement — and global leadership.

The United Nations is increasingly called upon to play a greater role in renewing and strengthening multilateralism.  The United Nations is the one and only global organization — with universal membership — and the largest operational presence around the world to advance our common values.

Our funding is under severe pressure because of the global economic crisis.  At the same time, the worsening situation is also increasing demand for the United Nations to assist the most vulnerable.  We must find a solution to address peace and security, development and social challenges.

Let us not forget that when the world came to help Korea, many said in their own countries, “We have budget pressures and problems at home.  Why should we help those people so far away?”  Despite such questions, the peoples of other nations came to Korea’s assistance in the hour of need because they knew it was the right thing to do.

Earlier this year, I thought of the importance of that global solidarity when I set out key priorities for the next five years.  With the close cooperation of Member States, we are working to implement my vision of reforming the United Nations and building partnerships to do more with less.

I am fully committed to making the United Nations a more transparent, effective and responsible Organization.  This will require the full commitment of the international community to work with the United Nations in the spirit of advancing and deepening good governance everywhere.  I am also committed to strengthening early response and conflict prevention measures and enhancing preparedness to reduce the risks from natural disasters.

In an unstable world, we must intensify our efforts to stop the spread of weapons of mass destruction and conventional weapons.  We must do all we can to enhance nuclear safety and prevent nuclear terrorism.

Allow me to address some burning issues of global concern that are at the front and centre of our work.  The Arab Spring has brought historic change to Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Libya and even Syria.  The people’s will is sacred.  The events in the Arab world showed once again what happens when leaders fail to listen to their people.

There are many parallels with Korea’s own difficult transition from authoritarianism to democracy.  Many lessons from that experience can be shared with the international community.  I have urged leaders in countries undergoing transition to put aside narrow differences, respond to people’s genuine demands, and follow the trend of history.

I am appalled that the recent call to suspend the fighting in Syria was ignored and violated by both sides.  Instead of the agreed upon halt, more than 450 Syrians were slaughtered during the most important Muslim holiday period.  This should be unacceptable to Syrian leaders, opposition figures, and all humanity.

No matter the divisions on a political solution for Syria, surely we can all unite around the conviction that the killing must stop.

It is clear that the Syrian people need to see transition and real change in their country.  Violence is not the way to promote that change or stop it.  There is no military solution.  I condemn both sides for continuing to use arms instead of dialogue and mediation.  The Syrian people have suffered far too much.

Starting with the Syrian Government and the armed opposition, we all have a responsibility to end the bloodshed, now.  The international community must work together to resolve this crisis.  The members of the United Nations Security Council, who are responsible for ensuring international peace and security, must speak with one voice.

For the past five years, the United Nations has developed a new principle — the responsibility to protect — as an integral part of national sovereignty.

The principle of the responsibility to protect gives expression to a growing global conviction that it is immoral and unacceptable for States to commit or allow serious international crimes against their people — acts or threats of genocide, ethnic cleansing, war crimes or crimes against humanity or their incitement.  Now it is increasingly evident that those committing these serious crimes will eventually be held accountable and that there will no longer be impunity for international crimes.

Last year, the responsibility to protect went through the reality test — and passed.  The results were not perfect, but democracy was restored in Côte d’Ivoire, and lives were saved in Libya, where that country’s people rose up against the dictatorship.

Over the last two decades, international criminal tribunals and courts have been established from the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda to Cambodia, Lebanon and Sierra Leone.  The permanent International Criminal Court was also created.  These institutions have become important foundations for international criminal justice.  A number of Korean judges have played an important role.

The winds of change that started with the Arab Spring will continue to blow.  They are unstoppable.  I will continue to remind leaders, in Syria and beyond, of their responsibility to listen and respond to the will of the people.

The international community must make progress on the three pillars of United Nations engagement.  First:  sustainable development.  Second:  conflict prevention and resolution.  And third:  advancing human rights and democracy.  Korea has unique lessons to share on all three pillars and can be an active catalyst in bringing the world together on these issues.

Korea evolved from a developing to a developed country within the span of a single generation, and successfully hosted the Group of 20 (G20) Summit.  The international community is looking to Korea with high expectations.

I thank you with respect for rising from a beneficiary to a donor.  I take this opportunity to ask you to continue by focusing on five key priorities.

First, Korea made a promise to increase overseas development assistance.  I expect that promise to be faithfully implemented.  Yes, this is a way to repay the assistance the country received in the past to help it become a respected member of the international community.  But it has even greater significance.

Africa is one of Korea’s largest recipients of development cooperation.  But Africa is also one of the fastest growing regions in the world with rich resources.  Korea’s development assistance must be seen as far more than charity.  It is an investment for the future.

Korea must establish an advanced system to improve aid effectiveness.  I applaud the Development Alliance Korea, a public-private partnership launched last August to do just that. I commend the decision to increase assistance to 0.25 per cent of GDP (gross domestic product) by 2015 despite the difficult economic climate.

I would also like to ask you to keep going.  A pledge of up to 0.7 per cent would truly mark Korea’s commitment to being a stronger and more developed nation on the global stage.  I ask you to present a clear path to the international community and continue to move in that direction.  I hope that the National Assembly will play a leading role in ensuring that Korea reaches this goal.

Second, we look forward to Korea’s proactive efforts to help the world achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) over the next three years by the deadline of 2015.  The target year of 2015 is not an end, but a new beginning.  I also look forward to Korea’s active participation in helping to establish the post-2015 development agenda and the sustainable development goals.

We need much cooperation in laying these foundations.  The National Assembly’s United Nations-MDG Forum can play a key role.  The extension of the Airline Solidarity Levy as the first agenda item of the newly-elected 19th National Assembly is an important example of your global leadership.

Third, the United Nations is focusing on a number of sustainable development initiatives.  “Scaling Up Nutrition” and the “Zero Hunger Challenge” aim to revolutionize the way the world tackles the problem of under-nutrition and hunger. I am proud of the fact that the Republic of Korea has achieved Zero Hunger, and has challenged others to do the same.  As the host of last year’s Fourth High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness, Korea should strive to align its development assistance programme with the goals of enabling all people, everywhere, to enjoy their right to food and for all food systems to be sustainable.

Women’s and children’s health is at the heart of achieving the Millennium Development Goals.  Our “Every woman, every child” Initiative has galvanized over 260 public and private partners to save 16 million lives by 2015.  The Republic of Korea can help us to achieve this objective by following through on its commitment to universal health coverage by 2015, and by adopting an integrated approach to health care delivery.

We have also just launched a new initiative:  Education First.  When I visit other countries, I share how Korea’s investments in education paid dividends for success.  I also relate how Korean students once used textbooks with the help of the United Nations.  Education First will help open school doors for all children, improve the quality of learning, and foster global citizenship.  We expect Korea to play an active role in this effort.

And we are strengthening partnerships for sustainable energy for all.  This initiative has three complementary objectives to be achieved by 2030.  First, providing universal access to modern energy services for all.  Second, doubling of the rate of improvement in energy efficiency.  And third, doubling the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix.

The Government of Korea has demonstrated strong leadership and commitment in this area.  I have personally witnessed and benefitted from the energy transformation that happened in this country in the past century.  I call on the Republic of Korea to work with us and lead the way to transform the world’s energy sector.

Climate change, in particular, is a clear and present danger.  The international community must work together to meet their obligations to establish a legally binding treaty by 2015.  We must never forget that we are stewards, borrowing this planet from the next generation.  We must strive to preserve the planet so that the next generation can live free from the fear of extreme weather.

Korea’s leadership in green growth is a future-oriented strategy that takes into account both the needs of climate change and economic growth.

I believe that Korea must reach its target emissions rate and can play a leading role in encouraging other countries to do the same.  I congratulate the recent launch of the Global Green Growth Institute in Seoul last week as an international organization.  I am also pleased and happy to congratulate Korea on being selected by the board of the Green Climate Fund as the host of its new secretariat.

This reflects the international community’s expectations for the Republic of Korea.  There is a global recognition of the country’s experiences as an emerging economy, as well as its efforts to help lead cooperation with industrialized nations on climate change.  I hope that the Government and people of Korea will play an active role and strengthen its cooperation in boosting climate change-related agreements, as well as managing the development of the Fund.

Fourth, the Korean experience of advancing democracy, peace and prosperity is an important resource upon which the world can draw for international peacekeeping efforts.  Since joining the United Nations in 1991, the Republic of Korea has contributed to global peacekeeping with resources and troops.

Korea’s peacekeeping forces in various missions around the world have received high praise from the international community for their expertise and skills, excellent discipline, and ability to connect with the local population as “bridge builders”.

On behalf of the United Nations, I thank the National Assembly for approving peacekeeping deployments to Lebanon, Haiti and, most recently, South Sudan.  I hope that more can be deployed — more Korean peacekeepers — more police, in particular female officers.  I also applaud the adoption of the 2010 Peacekeeping Operations Law and the creation of stand-by troops.  I look forward to the Republic of Korea’s continued and growing engagement with United Nations peacekeeping operations.

On the 18th of this month, the Republic of Korea was elected as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council.  I congratulate you on this great achievement, which marks the second time that the country will serve on the Security Council since it became a member of the United Nations in 1991.

This reflects the recognition by the Member States of the contributions that the Republic of Korea has made to the United Nations.  It also reflects the high expectations that the international community places on Korea’s contributions to international peace and security as well as global development.

Now is a good opportunity to build on this reputation and solidify Korea as an important contributor to peace.  I believe that Korea will be able to contribute effectively to conflict prevention measures and efforts to expand universal values and human rights.

As Secretary-General, I often meet with leaders that have human rights and corruption challenges.  I share with them my honest assessment based on Korea’s own experience — and my candid warnings of the failure to act.  Again and again, leaders who initially resisted talking about such issues eventually opened their minds after hearing about the Korean experiences and possibilities for change.  I feel that this is a tremendous source of Korea’s “soft power”.

Fifth, Korea can contribute more to empower women and youth.  While Korea’s population is aging fast, the world’s population is increasing in developing countries, with more than half under 25 years of age.  Young people want decent work.  This is a global challenge and we must work together to promote dignity and opportunity.

The rights of women must also be given the high priority they deserve.  This is a top goal for me.  I have been urging leaders around the world to do more to place women in high-level positions.  At the United Nations, I have increased the number of women in senior United Nations positions.  As a result of my appointments, the number of women at the senior-most positions at the United Nations has increased by more than 60 per cent.  By opening up the doors of opportunity, more women are making a difference by serving as my Special Representatives in the field, leading troops in various peacekeeping missions around the globe.

Finally, more work must be done to protect the rights of minorities.  That means social protection for people with disabilities, migrant workers, refugees and the growing number of multicultural families.  I am pleased that the Korean Government has recently lifted travel restrictions on those who are HIV-positive.

We commend the broad support provided to accelerate resettlement and social assimilation of those Koreans who have moved from North to South, seeking freedom.  We hope such support will be further advanced and that relevant countries will provide assistance based on universal human rights and humanitarian principles.

As a fellow Korean, I hope for an improvement in the situation on the Korean peninsula.  I have an ardent desire for moving towards unification.

I fervently hope that the new leadership of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea meets the international community’s call for denuclearization on the Korean peninsula.  I also hope that as a responsible member of the international community, the leadership continues to take full responsibility in improving the lives of its people.  I take note of the remarks by [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea's] Kim Jong Un, First Chairman of the National Defence Commission (NDC), in his first public address on 15 April.  He stated that the he would go hand in hand with anyone who desires the country’s reunification and the nation’s peaceful prosperity and would make responsible and patient efforts towards that end.

Human dignity must be enhanced by implementing the recommendations of the United Nations universal periodic review of human rights.  I will spare no effort to help both the South and the North move towards eventual reunification and a Korean peninsula that is peaceful and free of nuclear weapons.

As Secretary-General, I am committed to doing my utmost to play any role in helping to advance peace on the Korean peninsula.  That includes visiting the [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] under the right conditions.

Today, the United Nations is leading the effort to provide humanitarian assistance to the most vulnerable in the [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea].  In particular, children are suffering from malnutrition and stunted growth — a very serious problem.  The future of the Korean people demands that we urgently address this challenge.

The United Nations is best equipped to provide needed assistance to those in need without diversion.  I hope that Korea will look at this problem with big hearts in the interest of the whole Korean people and that the National Assembly will take the lead.

Looking ahead for the future of the Korean people, I hope that the Korean peninsula can move from being the “land of challenges” to the “land of opportunities.”

It is essential that we have the cooperation of our regional partners.  North-east Asia is a rising global centre.  Its intra-regional trade and exchanges have risen dramatically.  However, tensions rooted in past history still remain.  We must increase bilateral cooperation based on an accurate understanding of history and dialogue to look forward and address such tensions peacefully and expand interaction in all areas.

In parallel, efforts to promote intra-regional economic integration and political cooperation should continue.  There is much to learn from the efforts of others such as Europe, Africa and South America where intra-regional integration and cooperation are increasing.  Greater engagement will require strengthened multilateralism and Korea can serve as a bridge.  Through this process, I hope Korea will play a leading role in shaping the new order in East Asia.

As Secretary-General, I travel often to some of the farthest reaches of the planet.  More times than I can count, I have often come across young Korean women or men who have volunteered to serve the neediest.  I feel very proud when I meet those Koreans who show their love for humanity in difficult and conflict-riddled situations.

I am saddened to think of the young volunteers who lost their lives in Sri Lanka, but I believe their giving spirit will serve as an inspiration for us all and will long be remembered.

I see Korea’s bright future through those volunteers.  Korea ranks as a world leader in providing volunteers around the globe.  That passion for service has been well appreciated by the international community.  It also provides a good model to the UN Volunteers.  I am confident that the young generation of Korea will continue embracing the world, and become global citizens by trying to realize “ Korea in the world” and “the world in Korea”.

The future we want cannot be created alone.  As I said in my second-term acceptance speech, “Together, nothing is impossible.”  I draw strength from the proverb:  If you want to go fast, go alone.  But if you want to go far, go together.

When I became the United Nations Secretary-General in 2006, I vowed to strive to make more “success stories” based on Korean values and experiences. I wish to see my mother country, Korea, stand tall and proud as an advanced nation by making a bigger contribution on the world stage and gaining ever more respect in the international community.

The window of opportunity is wide open.  We can add a new chapter to the success story of Korea.  Let us never forget that ending poverty, advancing democracy, protecting human rights, working to secure peace, is possible.

That is the story of Korea.  And with your help, we can make it the story of the world.  I am confident that Korea will become a stronger partner of the United Nations in our journey to realize “the future we want:  a safer and more prosperous world”.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the people of Korea who have supported me since my appointment as United Nations Secretary-General.  Yesterday, I received the 11th Seoul Peace Prize.  I was very honoured to receive such a prestigious distinction.  It is a tribute to the work of the United Nations.  I will do my best to promote a better life for all humanity and world peace.

From day one as United Nations Secretary-General, I have worked to take the initiative and set an example every day.  I will work even harder with passion and compassion to live up to your support and the expectations of the international community.  I sincerely wish for a bright future for the Republic of Korea.  I wish you and your families much health, happiness and blessings.