New York

02 June 2015

Secretary-General's remarks at United Nations International School (UNIS) Graduation Ceremony [as prepared for delivery]

UNIS Executive Director, Ms. Jane Camblin, Dear students, parents and friends of UNIS,

It gives me great pleasure to be with you.

Congratulations to the Class of 2015.

Today is a great day in your lives as you graduate school and embark on adulthood. 

I always get a boost of energy when I am asked to speak to young people.

I love it when young people take over the General Assembly hall.

I get a glimpse of the future, and it gives me hope.

I have made working with and for young people a key priority.

You can’t spell youth without “you” – Y. O. U.

And you can’t spell young without UN – y.o.U.N.g.

We – the UN – need YOU, the youth.

That is why I appointed the first-ever United Nations Envoy on Youth.

His name is Ahmad Alhendawi of Jordan. 

He is just 30 years old.

That may sound old to you. 

But it is very young compared to me and most other UN officials!

Ahmad says young people drive change but are not in the driver’s seat.  I agree. 

I have been pressing governments to give youth the driver’s license that will enable them to participate in a bigger way and help us all get on the road to a better future.

People often say youth are the leaders of tomorrow.

But I say you are the leaders of today.

You are the first generation that can end poverty – and the last generation that can avert the worst impacts of climate change.

That means you have a great responsibility on your shoulders.

Your education here has given you a great start in getting involved in helping to address global challenges.

You are an international school – a mini United Nations -- devoted to the principles and values of the UN Charter.

As you know, the UN celebrates its 70th anniversary this year.

The United Nations is marking this milestone at a time of test and challenge.

One veteran told me that he had never seen so many crises on the United Nations agenda at one time.

Right now I could name ten very complex, difficult and dangerous situations, from Syria and Iraq to Yemen and Libya, from South Sudan and the Central African Republic to Ukraine.

We have more peacekeepers deployed than ever before – with some 125,000 personnel in the field.

Violent extremism is a growing, global threat.

There are more refugees than at any time since the Second World War – some 50 million.

There are migrants dying at sea just because they are desperately trying to find a better life.

You can certainly say that the United Nations has not been able to fully realize its goals.

But you can also certainly say that the world would be more dangerous, poorer, hungrier and more unhealthy without the United Nations.

The 70th anniversary is a time to reflect, soberly, on what we have done and what more we need to do.

And it is a time to act.

This year is a year for action.

Action on sustainable development – when we will adopt the sustainable development goals.

And action on climate change – when we hope to get a strong new universal climate agreement.

As you embark on a new phase in life, I have one request – that you always act as a global citizen.

You have been educated to respect and live up to the UN Charter.

To practice tolerance and to live together in peace.

That means we must respect each other.

We must also respect the planet.

On Friday, we will all celebrate World Environment Day.

The theme of this year’s World Environment Day is “Seven Billion Dreams. One Planet. Consume with Care”.

This is our only home.  We must take care of it.

There is no Planet B.  So there can be no Plan B.

We must also care for each other.

That means recognizing and embracing diversity.

Today one of you will be presented with the U Thant award.

He was my distinguished predecessor.

He said “The war we have to wage today has only one goal and that is to make the world safe for diversity.”

That is the war I want you to fight as global citizens.

Fight intolerance.

Join our digital and social engagement campaign called #YouthNow.

Speak out and reach out across cultures and communities.

Get angry at poverty and injustice.

Get active on climate change.

Act with passion.  And act with compassion.

Challenge your leaders, your professors, your peers.

Tell them that we all have a responsibility to make this world more peaceful, tolerant and prosperous.

Let’s work as one towards dignity for all, and let youth lead the way!

Once again, congratulations to the Class of 2015.

I wish you all every success in your lives.

Thank you.