New York

20 February 2015

Secretary-General's remarks at UNA-USA Members Day at the UN 7th Mid-Atlantic Regional Conference

It is a great pleasure to welcome all of you to the United Nations. I am delighted to be able to address you today. I thank Chris Whatley and Jeanne Betsock Stillman for the opportunity to do so.

I must begin by remembering our late good friend and colleague, Mr. John Whitehead, who passed away unfortunately a few days ago. He was a person whose charisma and energy and dynamism we shall all miss.

I was not able to participate in his funeral ceremony, but I sent my wife on my behalf and a Senior Adviser of the United Nations represented.

He achieved so much success in this role and many others. He was a great inspiration to us all. I’m sure that he will be with us in spirit, even this morning. I’m sure he’ll give us all support and his blessing in spirit.

You are the largest network of advocates for the United Nations anywhere in the world. Over half your members are young people, and to all of you, who have travelled especially to be here today, welcome to the United Nations!

Last week I surprised some young Brazilian students who were having a guided tour in the United Nations. Of course they all wanted to take a selfie with me!

Meeting them showed me yet again that young people are vital and very dynamic and energetic to the success of the United Nations -- and how big an impact they are having on world progress.

So I thank the UNA – USA for your advocacy efforts in helping to reach out to young people and for all that you do to promote support across the United States.

In my life as Secretary-General, I meet a lot of people, mostly government leaders.  They are all formal, even though we have some private talks -- business leaders and civil society leaders.

But, when I get most energized and motivated and grateful is whenever I meet members of the UN Association like yourselves  or even today when I met members of the UNA-USA or some people on the street or in the aeroplane or airport or railway stations -- just the common people who recognize me and they say “Hello, how are you? You are doing a great job” or “Thank you for what the United Nations is doing”.  This really gives me great strength.  Great strength. Of course you know, I cannot recognize all of them, but they recognize at least that I am the Secretary-General of the United Nations.

I may not be able to recognize each and every one of you tomorrow, even though we may meet on the street.  But please give us and the United Nations strong, friendly support. We do not want any financial support from you.  What we want is your blessing and support.  Solidarity with the United Nations -- that is more important than any other thing.

Of course, the United Nations cannot survive, we cannot carry out what we have to do without financial contributions from Member States. That’s what your country – the US government is doing. 

The US is the largest, single largest donor country to the United Nations – 20-27 per cent of all UN’s financial requirements are coming in fact from your pockets.  You are paying tax – it’s not tax but your contributions, very generous contributions. But from you, I need strong solidarity. That’s why I am here. I thank you very much.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

This year marks the 70th anniversary of the United Nations. The UN was founded in 1945. By coincidence, legally I am also still 70 years young.  But, I am one year older than the United Nations. I was born in 1944.  I celebrated my 70th birthday last year, but still before my birthday I am still 70 years old.  So the UN and I are the same. Many of the great achievements that have taken place in my life could not have happened without the United Nations acting as mid-wife, nurse-maid and wise parent.

And this is particularly so as I am coming from Korea.  Do you know what had happened to Korea? Tens of thousands of American young men and women came to Korea to rescue us, as a part of the United Nations collective security. Without the US and without the United Nations, all Koreans or even the Republic of Korea might not have been able to exist. So I don’t know where I would have been. I may not be here definitely as Secretary-General. So I owe a great deal – I am one of the greatest beneficiaries of the United Nations. 

I try to send this message to many young people who are much more unfortunate and unlucky and poor at this time. So I told them that. While traveling at the Syrian refugee camps I met so many young people who have nothing to eat, nothing to wear. [I told them] don’t despair. I became Secretary-General.  The life in my time was much worse than [here]. At least, we built refugee tents, provide daily food, water and sanitation, and make-shift school. Without exception, we establish schools - chairs and desks and books - but I didn’t [have them].  I had to study in the dirt on the ground. When it rained, no class. That’s what happened.  Even with that kind of hardship one can even become Secretary-General. You can become President or Senator or Congressman. So I really wanted to give a sense of hope.  I am deeply grateful to all of you – to the American people.

This year also marks 70 years since the end of the Second World War and the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau, where I myself was there last year.  This year we had very solemn celebration marking the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau.  Still we have to fight racism, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and other forms of intolerance.

I participated yesterday at the White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism and Terrorism. President Obama and Secretary Kerry and Ministers and Vice-Ministers and experts and senior advisors from at least sixty countries participated.  I made the keynote speech. What is important at this time is that we were able to see solidarity among the people. They were coming from all different countries of different faiths and different religions. We were united. This is not a war against any religion by any religion or against any civilization or by any civilization.  This is a war against such a brutal criminality - unspeakable, intolerable  brutality - beheadings, kidnapping, killing, raping. All this must be addressed in the name of humanity.  This requires a multi-dimensional effort. 

I told them that first of all we have to look at the root [causes]. There are reasons why this kind of extremism happens.  First, bad governance -- failed leadership, corruption, injustice, inequality.  These really put peoples’ anger – makes people angry and frustrated and leaves them no choice than to react in a violent way.

This is a global challenge -- not a single country, however powerful, however resourceful one can country may be -- like the United States is the most powerful, most resourceful and richest country in the world, by any standard.  But, the United States cannot do it alone.  The United Nations cannot do it alone.  We cannot do it alone. Therefore, we have to have everyone’s hands on deck. We have to show solidarity and we have to mobilize all this.

Is it the only way to address this violent extremism, terrorism, by military or forceful means? It may be necessary when people are killing people then we have to stop by whatever means. But that’s not all, that’s one part of the solution. The more important solution would address how to make people have a sense of belonging. Well, I belong to the United States, I belong to California, I belong to New York. One should have this kind of belonging.  I have my family, my family community, my school, my country. 

But there are some people, many people, who are even born there, but because of some different language, speaking a different language, believing in different faiths, there is some misperception, discrimination, marginalization, without any job opportunities, without political or social opportunities, this comes much more so when everything becomes much more so for women and girls. 

Suppose you come from a minority group, when you are a woman, you become more minor among minorities.  So we have to address all these issues.

Then another one, it’s important to address in a military coalition whatever, maybe intelligence, but human dignity and human rights should go hand in hand in preventing violent extremism.  Those are some of the messages, those are some of the messages which I have laid out and I believe that everybody should feel a responsibility.
I think you should feel a responsibility as citizens of the most resourceful, richest country in the world.  You should have a global citizenship.  If you live in the United States, it would be very hard for you to understand what is going on, what is now happening in other parts of the world. 

I’ve been traveling all around the world, to almost all the countries, all the places where it’s not like I’m seeing always presidential palaces. I see more where people are really living, on the ground.  I see more, meet more people who are not the leaders of the communities, just commoners, common people, sick people, marginalised people, minority groups.  That’s what I am doing.

Then when we address all these issues, all together, I think we will be able to make this world better and more harmonious, more respecting each other. 

That’s why yesterday, I’ve announced my own idea that I’m going to convene a high-level meeting, inviting all the faith leaders around the world.  Because I believe that there is a clear responsibility and role for religious leaders to play a role, and teachers, professors and scholars who can play a role. Education will be very important.  Of course education takes a long time - ten years, twenty years.  But at least in my generation and in your generation, I think we should be able to live in a more harmonious way.  That’s what I did. 

President Obama made a very inspiring speech yesterday.  You must have read it in the newspaper already.  That the people who are killing and justifying in the name of Muslims or in the name of another religion, that’s just simply lying.  Killing people, that’s criminality. It should not be seen as one religion against any religion, one belief against any belief.  We have to really have some caring and sharing community.  That is I think basic and the beginning of global citizenship. 

I am asking you, particularly young people, to have a global vision.  Just forget that you are American citizens. Living in New York or California, that’s wonderful, but you’re not seeing what other people, how other people are living. They are our families. This is a very small world.  They are our brothers and sisters and fathers and mothers, so we have to live together. 

That’s why, on the occasion of the 70th anniversary, the United Nations is going to have very visionary and ambitious goals.  Our priority now to make this world sustainable - environmentally, socially, economically sustainable for everybody regardless of what you are or where you are.  Member States have already announced 17 very ambitious goals with 169 targets to make these goals achieved by 2030. 

By 2030, our target is that we eradicate poverty on this earth. 

By that time, we will have complete gender equality. By that time there should be no children who are left behind at school, at least secondary schools.  We have still 67 million young people, school-age children who are out of primary schools.  By that time, we will have to have secondary school.  By that time, we will have reduced significantly the mothers who are dying while delivering babies, and girls and boys who are dying from preventable diseases - malaria, polio and so many diseases which are preventable.  There are tens of millions of people who are dying from preventable diseases.  By that time we will have to make this world environmentally sustainable. 

We have to have global temperature rise below two degrees centigrade.  By December this year in Paris, we will have to have a climate change agreement. That will be historic, if and when we will have this climate change agreement, those are the United Nations, those are my top priorities. 

In July this year, in Addis Ababa, in Ethiopia, the Member States will meet at the highest level to discuss about the means of implementation.  We are going to have a climate change agreement, we are going to have sustainable development goals that can be implemented when we don’t have means, ways and means, mechanisms without resources. It may be pie in the sky. Can we eat these pies in the sky? So, those are our visions, those are our visions. 

We need support from the United Nations Association.  We have about 150 or so United Nations Associations in the countries.  We have a World Federation of United Nations Associations.  All these associations in countries are under one Federation. This is a good system, but this system should be run by you, all of you, your active participation, despite minus 16 degrees today. 

I’m feeling a lot of energy and heat today - warm - this is exactly what I need and with this the United Nations can deliver what we have to deliver to many people around the world and I really thank you for your support.  And I hope you will have good discussions and the United Nations is ready, always near you and behind you and we will be standing in front of you. 

Thank you very much, I wish you all the best. Thank you.