New York

26 September 2015

UN Secretary-General's Remarks at High-Level Event on New Rural Development Paradigm and the Inclusive and Sustainable New Communities Model Inspired by the Saemaul Undong [As Prepared for Delivery]

Thank you very much for being here. I am grateful to the United Nations Development Programme, the Organization for Economic Cooperation for Development and in particular, President Park Geun-hye of the Republic of Korea for bringing us together.

Yesterday, the world made history by adopting the 2030 agenda. Leaders have pledged to create a life of dignity for all people.

Today is even more important.

This is Day One of proving that our ambitious plan is achievable.

We have promised to leave no one behind – including families in rural areas.

There will be no progress on global development without local development.

I myself grew up in a small, dusty village.

I saw how the Saemaul Undong movement changed my village and my country. I feel proud to have witnessed myself how the once-poor village and the mindset of the people changed.

The Korean countryside went from poverty to prosperity.

Saemaul Undong, the New Village Movement, is remarkable for its focus on people – just like our visionary sustainable development goals.

It was based on three key principles.

First: diligence.

Second: self-help.

And third: mutual cooperation.

By empowering people, Saemaul Undong uplifted communities. And these communities went on to transform the nation.

Education was the key ingredient in our recipe for success.

The Republic of Korea is the only nation in the world that moved from the list of least developed countries to the OECD.

It achieved this in just one generation. It was remarkable to see the villages and people making changes day after day. The government leaders motivated people by practicing “lead by example”. People who were sceptical participated, voluntarily becoming part of a huge tide of societal changes. Education played a key role. It spread like wildfire.

As Secretary-General, I have been witnessing many changes taking place in Africa and elsewhere.

Many years ago, I visited Kigali, Rwanda. I was so impressed by what I saw in Kigali. People were cleaning, sweeping their streets and villages. I told President Kagame that I had been very impressed. Showing me a book on Saemaul Undong, he said, ‘We were doing what you, the Korean people, have done.’

I am such a strong believer in the value of education, I advocated education for development at every opportunity, including at the World Education Forum in Incheon last May and the Summit on Education for Development in Oslo in July.

I am not the only one. People everywhere understand how education drives progress.

In June, 2013, I was invited to speak at a school in Harlem, New York, called Democracy Prep.

I like to go out into the community, so I accepted – even though I had never heard of the school before.

When I got there, I learned it has an incredibly high success rate. And I was surprised to find out the school’s founder was inspired by the Saemaul Undong movement in Korea.

This reminded me that education for empowerment works everywhere.

Finally, I would like to thank President Park for her initiative to share Korea’s experience with many developing countries.

We a new universal agenda for ending poverty – and we know how to achieve it.

Together, let us build a better future for all!

Thank you.