New York

18 August 2014

Secretary-General's Remarks at 500 days of Action for the Millennium Development Goals Event

Welcome to the United Nations, it is a pleasure to see you.

I am very happy to be with our inspiring young leader Malala Yousazfai. She is a daughter of the United Nations, welcome to the United Nations.
While we are very happy to be with Malala today, we have many good reasons, at least two good reasons, to commemorate and celebrate today.

First, we are here with Malala who has been inspiring leaders to promote the Millennium Development Goals.

Second, we have 500 days to go before we meet the target of the Millennium Development Goals.

And then, I know that we have 500 young people here.

Where can we have a better opportunity to celebrate and commemorate this day than in front of 500 young leaders of tomorrow?

Thank you very much for your commitment and your support for education and Millennium Development Goals. As you know, during the 1,000 day milestone, I was in Spain. At that time I was thinking: how should I observe and commemorate and remind people of the 1,000 day milestone before the end of the MDG’s?
I went to a football stadium where Levante and Real Madrid teams were competing. I had my ceremonial kick. I kicked with the hope that we are kicking out poverty from our world. At that time I thought to whom should I speak?

Then I thought Malala would be the best person to send out this message of education and MDG’s. I telephoned her and, we Skyped in fact, she was still recovering from her wounds.

She said: Secretary-General, I was shot, but I can walk, I can talk, I can do anything for the benefit of the whole world, particularly for young girls and women. She said that a pen can change the world. Indeed, she has been leading by example. Her one pen has been changing the whole landscape of our commitment for the Millennium Development Goals, and in particular education.

I really appreciate her strong commitment.  I really appreciate the strong support her parents, her teachers and her friends have given her.

What the Talibans feared the most was a girl with a textbook. I immediately tweeted and it got millions of support. Because when girls are educated, when girls are united there is nothing we can’t do. This is what terrorists and Talibans are trying to fight. They are very much afraid of that.

When they see some rooms where people are not educated, they can provide a breeding ground for extremism and terrorism. Therefore we have to promote education. While she was almost on the verge of death because of the Taliban’s attack, she was still keeping that faith, that belief, that education can make a lot of difference.

As you know, I grew up in war-devastated Korea where at that time everything was in rubbles, everything was devastated, we didn’t have classrooms, we were studying under the shade of the trees. 

But we were very thirsty, we were very hungry for education, we were very hungry for learning. That’s why I am here. I am telling all the people who are still not receiving an education: do not despair, do not lose your hope, if you are committed, if you are really determined to study, then you can change the whole world. That’s what the United Nations is doing.

In that regard, I have full support for Malala and for young people. It is often said that young people are the leaders of tomorrow, but you have already taken a lot of important decisions, a lot of actions today. You have already put yourself into this world. Make a difference, let us work together to make this world better for all, for all people, regardless where you come from, whether you are rich or poor, whether you are a man or a woman, girls or boys, we are same human beings, that’s what the United Nations derives from.

We still have 50 million people, school-aged people, young students who are not able to get an education. We are bringing them back to school. That’s our vision now that we are approaching the 500 days deadline.

When we meet this deadline, there are some areas we need to work on, education is one of them. But this coming future Development Agenda, what we call Sustainable Development Goals aiming 2030, another 15 years, will provide quality education, will provide secondary education, beyond primary education, that’s our vision, that’s my vision.

I hope you will all raise your voice today and tomorrow and make this world better for all.

Thank you very much for your support.