Seoul, Republic of Korea

20 May 2015

Secretary-General's remarks at opening of Academic Impact Forum

Good morning.

Thank you very much for participating in this important Forum.

I am delighted to be here.

There are so many great minds in this room.

I applaud your initiative to establish the Korean Association in Support of UNAI. UNAI Korea is bringing together Korean institutions in a common commitment to the United Nations.

Let me say a special welcome to the students here today.

Last month, the United Nations Security Council held a special meeting on youth. That was a quite a unique opportunity for the UN Security Council to discuss about youth issues, which was again a very encouraging meeting chaired by a very young leader.

The President of the Security Council for the first time a less than 21 year old man. He was the Crown Prince of Jordan. I told him that we are living in the 21st century and you are leading the world in the twenty-first century.

This is a very powerful era for youth. There is a very important role for educators to teach them what would be significant to become a global citizen, to become a leader in the future.

I really think you also have a very crucially important role as educators, teachers, professors of these higher institutions.

We know that young people are the victims of conflict. Depraved adults even convince some young people to join hateful ideologies.

But when I look at youth, I don’t see peril – I see potential. I see hope.

I am calling on young people to raise their voices for peace. I ask them often why don’t you challenge your leaders, your professors, your congressmen and CEOs. Make this world sustainable. This is the world I will have to leave. Make this situation sustainable. And I am insisting that governments start to listen to the world’s youth – including giving them a place at the negotiating table.

Often, we say, “Young people drive progress.” I say they deserve a turn in the driver’s seat. I think we have to give them proper driving license so that they can drive their [future].

Education is the key.

If we want to understand the power of education to fight violent extremism, just look at how the extremists fight education.

They tried to kill Malala and her friends – just because they were girls who wanted to go to school. Thankfully they survived to inspire the world and other people, particularly girls.

Violent extremists kidnapped more than 200 girls in Chibook, Nigeria from their school.

Scores of students were murdered in Garissa, Kenya and in Peshawar, Pakistan.  

The answer is not to back with weapons. The answer is to pick up our pens and books and refuse to be intimidated. What the terrorists fear most is not a weapon – what they fear most is girls and young people with textbooks.

Educated young people are our greatest hope to defeat global threats.

Last month, I brought together religious leaders from different faith communities to raise their voices for tolerance. We met for two days at United Nations Headquarters.

I am also working with religious leaders to lead and to address other global challenges, including poverty and climate change.

Three weeks ago, I met with His Holiness Pope Francis at the Vatican.

He has a very influential moral voice. And he plans to use it to support the United

Nations on our common goals.

I am especially grateful that he will issue papal encyclical in June on the issue of climate change.

This can help motivate governments to agree on a meaningful, new climate agreement in Paris this December.

Addressing climate change is essential to achieving the future we want.

This year, the world will also adopt a bold new vision for sustainable development.

The Millennium Development Goals were the largest anti-poverty campaign in history. The new sustainable development goals will be ambitious but achievable. They can help all countries to create a life of dignity for all.

 I am very grateful for the education I received in Korea. I am still in touch with many of my teachers. The lessons I learned here have helped me throughout my life.

We thank UNESCO, UNICEF and United Nations agencies who helped us with the textbooks and all education materials during the time of war.

At the same time, I am troubled by some of the approaches to education here.

There is too much emphasis on transferring knowledge without wisdom.

I am pained when I see many students, young students, spending so much time at private cramming schools, cramming information and knowledge in their heads to beat each other at exams when they should be working together to advance a better future.

Memorizing facts from morning until night will not make a person great.

I would prefer to see Korean students – and students everywhere – studying hard and then applying their learning to the realities of our world.

Young people should challenge injustice. They should speak out for what they know is right.

I am confident that these hard-working young students can prove themselves far beyond examination rooms. They do not need to get 100 percent on every test – they need to test their leaders and challenge themselves to help others.

As Secretary-General, I receive many questions about my life, including my accomplishments.

Honestly, I am too busy working to dwell on my record. But I can say to any students who are looking for advice that my most profound proud moments came from addressing the most difficult situations.

There are times when the path ahead of me is clear. But many times, it is not clear. When you navigate down that difficult road and find your own way, you can open up a better future for all people.

I applaud UN Academic Impact Korea for helping to launch the “Friends of UNAI” initiative at the UN to generate more support for the Academic Impact.

The academic community is making important contributions to the United Nations push for sustainable development and a sustainable future.

There are many other UNAI initiatives that help the United Nations.

Researchers from the University of Edinburgh were part of a team that addressed the origins of the Ebola virus that caused last year’s deadly outbreak.

Dr. B.N. College of Architecture for Women in India is working with partners in Tanzania on sustainable housing.

Al-Farabi Kazakh National University is finding new models for renewable energy.

JF Oberlin University in Japan launched the UNAI’s youth branch. It is called ASPIRE – Action by Students to Promote Innovation and Reform through Education.

And the Education Above All Foundation in Qatar, chaired by Sheikha Mozah, is defending the right of children to continue learning in danger zones.

Here in Korea, Handong Global University continues its Global Entrepreneurship Training programmes to help young people create jobs, not just seek them.

Its President, Dr. Kim Young-gil, says education today has a rare opportunity to contribute to international peace and security.

This is absolutely true. Education is also has a responsibility to advance stability.

I created the UNAI to help galvanize academia’s support to solve some of the world’s most difficult problems.

Thanks to all of you, this initiative now is fostering global citizens.

I hope that many more students will join the UNAI and work with my Special Envoy on Youth for our future.

Some people talk about electric power, nuclear power or solar power – but what we really need is your brain power. That will energize our world.

Thank you for your commitment and leadership.