Ashgabat, Turkmenistan

13 June 2015

Secretary-General's remarks to International University for Humanities and Development [as prepared for delivery]

Sizing Bilen Dushushýanyma Örän Shat (I am glad to be with all of you)

Thank you for inviting me to the International University for Humanities and Development. 

I am grateful for this recognition.  I accept this honorary degree on behalf of the dedicated women and men of United Nations working here in Central Asia and around the world to advance peace, development, and human rights. 

I know this is a new university and I am delighted that in your early days, the International University for Humanities and Development has joined the United Nations Academic Impact.

As Rector of this University, you, Professor Aydogdiyev, are a valued friend of the United Nations and have served with distinction in diplomatic postings around the world. I know the vision of this University is to actively engage officials of foreign diplomatic missions and international organisations in Turkmenistan – and that fits in perfectly with the mission and vision of the Academic Impact. 

When I launched this initiative four and a half years ago, I saw it as a forum where universities, researchers and students could have an exchange of ideas and, in so doing, contribute to global problem solving.
Members of Academic Impact have advanced issues ranging from public health to environmental sustainability, from promoting human rights to expanding entrepreneurship opportunities.

Now you are also part of a global cooperative effort for international educational engagement, a global movement of minds.

Once again, thank you and welcome to the United Nations Academic Impact.

Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Dear students,

I am here on the last full day of a five-nation tour of Central Asia.  I have spent my time in the region looking ahead to a better future – and so it is fitting that one of my final stops is with you – the future of this country.   

This university will be a training ground for tomorrow’s public servants, lawyers, economists, thinkers, journalists and civil society activists.

It is also a place where you will gain confidence to form opinions and express them with your communities and your leaders; where you can develop a deeper sense of justice and morality.

It is a place where you will analyze national and global issues; where you will form your thoughts on the world and how you want to shape it.

You are proud citizens of Turkmenistan.

But you also have a responsibility that stretches far beyond the borders of your country – one that reaches all of humanity.  You are citizens of the world. 

As global citizens, I urge you to raise your voice.  Speak up on the issues you care about.  Take action.  Challenge leaders to uphold their responsibilities in all realms, from business to politics to human rights.

That is my main message to you today and, indeed, to all the young people of Central Asia.

Ladies and gentlemen,
Dear students,

I know the global picture may sometimes look demoralizing.  Wars are raging.  Inequality is growing.  Extreme weather patterns are spreading.  Tensions within communities are building. 

The United Nations is working hard to address these challenges. 

I appreciate the importance that Turkmenistan attaches to peace and security.

Your country’s neutrality status – uniquely recognized by the United Nations General Assembly -- forms the basis of Turkmenistan’s foreign and domestic policy and is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year.  Earlier this month, the General Assembly reaffirmed its support for Turkmenistan’s neutrality status. 

Turkmenistan is also the host of the United Nations Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy for Central Asia, UNRCCA, which helps nurture dialogue and cooperation among the states of the region.

Your country is also making vital contributions to Afghanistan.

The United Nations welcomes these initiatives.  We stand ready to support Turkmenistan as it confronts challenges to peace and security, including the fight against drug trafficking, and as the country strives to strengthen the rule of law and ensure access to justice for all.

I want to once again encourage Turkmenistan to make full use of United Nations mechanisms and expertise to advance peace, development and human rights.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We are calling this year, 2015, a year for global action.  

The United Nations is celebrating its 70th anniversary.  

World leaders have committed to take three vital steps in the months ahead that can lead to a better world for generations to come.

First, next month in Addis Ababa, the international community will set out a framework for financing development.

Second, in September in New York, world leaders will adopt a new development agenda, including a set of Sustainable Development Goals, that will provide a roadmap to ending poverty by 2030 and ensuring a life of dignity for all.

The negotiations that have shaped this agenda were supported by the most transparent and inclusive consultative process in U.N. history. In Turkmenistan, I understand that more than 8,000 people took part in two rounds of national consultations.

The new Sustainable Development Goals are ambitious, transformative and achievable.  I am confident that Turkmenistan will play its part in implementing them.

Third, in December in Paris, Member States have also committed to reach a meaningful, universal climate agreement at the Climate Conference.

I congratulate the President of Turkmenistan on approving the National Climate Change Strategy.   I am encouraged by the Government’s intention to soon approve a strategy and action plan for moving toward a green economy.

I also welcome Turkmenistan’s efforts to work with its neighbors on issues related to climate change, water, energy and other environmental issues. 

Together, we can be the first generation to end poverty and the last to address climate change before it is too late.

Ladies and gentlemen,
Dear students,

There is no peace without development.  No development without peace.  And neither is possible without a respect for human rights.

Violations of human rights are often warning signs of much worse to come.

That is why I launched what we call the Human Rights Up Front initiative to strengthen early action and to address human rights violations before they escalate.  Here, too, the United Nations stands ready to help the region.

I was last in Central Asia five years ago.  I am greatly impressed by the progress that I have seen on the streets in such a short time – new buildings, new growth, new opportunities.

At the same time, I have also heard concerns about the deterioration of some aspects of human rights – a shrinking of democratic space.

Sometime this may be triggered by perceived security threats – in particular, rising concerns about terrorism and violent extremism.

But sometimes those same threats may be used as a pretext to clamp down on civil society, minorities and human rights defenders.

As we have seen in many regions of the world, the terrorist threat can lead some in power to think that the answer is to curb religious freedoms and place further limits on fundamental rights such as the freedoms of expression, assembly and association.

But experience has shown this only backfires.

Curbing freedoms may create an illusion of stability in the short-run.  Things may seem calm on the surface.  There may not be protests on the streets.  But the denial of free expression leads to a brewing underneath and ultimately a breeding ground for extremist ideologies. 

It fosters deep frustration which can lead to even greater challenges.

The failure to respect human rights, build accountable institutions, promote political participation, and ensure opportunity for all creates gaps. 

The wider the gaps, the greater the openings for violent extremists. 

I see this phenomenon on the rise in the region and it troubles me greatly. 

There is a better way.

Young people should be sent a message: democracy in Central Asia can work. 

Around the world, the way to confront threats is not more repression, it is more openness.  More human rights.

The road to a stable future is by strengthening the rule of law.  By fighting corruption.  By ensuring an independent judiciary.  By guaranteeing free media. By building just societies.  By empowering citizens.

This is the path to security for people.  This is the definition of strength as a nation.

Dear students,

You are the future of your great nation. You are also responsible for it. As you focus on your learning, do not forget the world around you. 

Listen most of all to those without a voice – and raise your voice for them.

Aim high.  Have a global vision.  Act with passion and compassion, And I am confident you can join us in building a better future for us all.

Thank you.

Sag boluung – Thank you