London, United Kingdom

05 February 2016

Secretary-General's address at event co-organized by the United Nations Association of the United Kingdom and Chatham House

It is a great honor and a very moving experience that I am standing on the same podium where 70 years ago our founding fathers of the United Nations were gathered to talk about the future of our world right after the terrible and tragic consequences of the Second World War.

Last month, I participated in a very moving ceremony at the General Assembly Hall, in UN Headquarters, commemorating the 70th anniversary of the first General Assembly of the United Nations. Where, 70 years ago, the first Secretary-General of the United Nations Trygvie Lie was elected which you have seen in the video.

I am just excited and honored and humbled that I am taking this torch, which had been carried down for the last 70 years by my distinguished predecessors.

Before I begin, I would like to express my great appreciation to UNA-UK for bringing us together today.

You are fortunate to have Sir Jeremy Greenstock, one of the most admired UK ambassadors in the United Nations, with whom I had a brief honor and [inaudible]. He was ably representing the United Kingdom, of course not just the United Kingdom but whole world, and all of the members of the Security Council, and I still cherish our friendship and cooperation and his contribution as now the Chairman of the UNA-UK and around the world, a very strong supporter of United Nations.

I also thank Chatham House, one of the world’s leading think tanks.

Thank you all for being here today and for your warm welcome.

Central Hall Westminster is an extraordinary setting.

To be here is to be brought back to the days when the recovery from the Second World War was under way -- and when a new international organization was taking shape.

Heartbreak was fresh as delegates gathered here in early 1946. Across a continent, cities were still filled with rubble, and families were reeling from their losses. In Britain, food was still rationed and young men faced military conscription.

But hopes were very high.  Seven months earlier in San Francisco, United States, states had adopted the United Nations Charter.  Seventy years ago this week, here in this Hall, the United Nations took its first tangible steps, including the appointment of a Secretary-General, as I said.

I want to pay special tribute to one person who was in this chamber at that time: He is one of the great teachers, Sir Brian Urquhart.  Next to my great predecessor Dag Hammarskjöld, no one in UN history has more embodied the ideal of global service and the principles of the Charter than Sir Brian Urquhart.

In tribute to him, the waiting room in my office is named after him.  Whoever comes to see me, whether it is one minute, two minutes or five minutes, they have to stay and think about Sir Brian Urquhart and I really appreciate his contribution.

As it happens, I spent time with Sir Brian just last month.  When he came to commemorate the first general assembly meeting.  He joined us at United Nations Headquarters.  And he is very active even though his health, being 96 years old, a little bit frail but he is still very strong.  His sparkle is undiminished.  I bring you his greetings and his gratitude for all you are doing to carry out and carry forward the work and values of the United Nations.  He is with us in spirit today, and I thank you very much.

And I am also very happy to be with amongst so many young ladies and Gentlemen, you are the hope of us, we are living in an era of peril where world leaders are really trying to send [inaudible] a good sense of hope and promises which I’m going to discuss with you in the [inaudible] discussions.

The United Nations has succeeded at the job for which it was founded: for example, to protect succeeding generations from a third world war.  In that regard, I think we can be a little bit proud that we have been able to prevent that kind of a horrible and tragic world-scale war. But unfortunately, we are now seeing and we have seen so many crises here and there.  In fact we have helped to defeat deadly diseases, most recently the Ebola outbreak.  And we have got children in school, even though there are 60 million people children out of school at this time.  We have at least lifted more than a hundred million people out of abject poverty, but still we have as many people still in poverty. At the same time, we are keenly aware of our failures and setbacks.

The United Kingdom has been a key partner every step of the way.  You have championed human rights, international law and agreements such as the Arms Trade Treaty.

I was pleased to stand with International Development Secretary Justine Greening last month in Davos Forum in announcing the establishment of the UN’s first-ever High-level Panel on Women’s Economic Empowerment.  

The United Kingdom is a leading humanitarian donor -- as we saw again yesterday with your generous pledges for Syrian refugees and Syrian people under siege.  And at a time when others are cutting back on development aid, Britain has ring-fenced its own vital support for the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people.  I really appreciate such kind of contribution and leadership of United Kingdom.  As I said, United Kingdom is no exception, you are going through a very difficult financial economic difficulties, but Prime Minister David Cameron has ring-fenced 0.7% of GDP for official development assistance.

A few years ago, when I was attending the G8 summit meeting, I was with the G8 leaders and with some African leaders, including the president from Korea.  I particularly recognized Prime Minister David Cameron’s visionary and firm commitment to ring-fence this 0.7% . UK is one of just five countries who are keeping this promise for humanity. Yesterday, again under the leadership of the United Kingdom, co-sponsored by the prime ministers of Norway, Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and Emir of Kuwait together with United Nations, you have shown such a great strength of solidarity for humanity raising more than 10 billion dollars.  During my time as Secretary-General, during the last nine years, I have never seen mobilized more than 10 billion in one day for one single cause, for Syria. This is something which we should be very proud. Ladies and Gentlemen,

Today we need UK contributions as I said more than ever.  The world is being tested.  People worry about the next extreme storm, terrorist attacks, financial shock or outbreak of deadly diseases.

We are very much alarmed about Zika virus.  I have discussed this matter with WHO Director General Margaret Chan in Geneva last week. We have mobilized all [inaudible] donations and major countries who have capacity to prevent and eradicate this Zika virus.     


Yet through all this I am confident about our future.


I take heart in part from the two landmark achievements of last year, 2015: the Agenda aiming 2030 Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement on climate change.  These are two important visions and commitments adopted and laid out by the world leaders. They have shown sense of purpose,  a sense of unity, despite all political and ideological, religious differences.

More than 150 world leaders came – again, I have never seen in my life that more than 150 presidents and prime ministers came in one place at one time in one day.

Yesterday we have raised more than $10 billion in one day for one cause so we have seen in just over one month we have shown such great solidarity and leadership and vision.

That is what I am asking in world leaders and world citizens. Show your unity of purpose.   

In shaping the 2030 Development Agenda, we asked the people around the world, through the MyWorld survey.    [inaudible] .  Using United Nations website we’ve been asking  people around the world what kind of a world do you want just let us know – and 8 million people responded. I want this I want that and we all summarized and compiled and presented to the General Assembly of the UN. It was inclusive dialogue it was the way we really wanted to make inclusive dialogue for sustainable development.

The Millennium Development Goals which was adopted in 2000 generated remarkable gains.  The Sustainable Development Goals, which is now abbreviated as SDGs, will take us even farther. Human rights and women’s empowerment are major threads.  The goals focus on good governance and other critical factors for stability.  Crucially, the new goals are universal, applying to all countries -- since even the wealthiest societies have yet to fully conquer inequality or exclusion.

The Paris Agreement is a further turning point: it’s not the end. Some people say look, we have signed the agreement, that’s all. It is not the beginning though it is not the end either; it is a very important turning point in making our people and our earth onto a sustainable path where we will be able to contain the rise of global temperature below 2 degrees centigrade or even we will strive to get it down to 1.5 degrees centigrade. Without that we will have serious consequences affecting not only us but our whole world.

If we see people abusing the privilege of nature - it seems that people believe we have 2 planet earths – but we only have one earth. This is the only place where human beings can live together with nature. We cannot negotiate with nature, we have to do according to what nature does. We cannot go against it. We cannot negotiate with nature. In that regard Paris Agreement is a good turning point to change our way of thinking, to change our whole behaviour to change our cause living harmoniously with the nature.

The 2030 Agenda is the world’s Declaration of Interdependence. Now I’m telling you this interdependency of climate change agreement and sustainable development goals. We have 17 goals which cover all spectrums of our life, our nature. Climate change is just one of 17 goals – number 13 goal is climate change. If we do not fully implement and if we do not go as science tell us then the rest of the 16 goals will be seriously undermined. Not a single goal in 17 exists singly or separation they are all tightly interconnected. So all of these [inaudible] comprehensively.

I have great hope.  At the same time, the world faces undeniable dangers.

The savagery in Syria will soon enter its sixth year.  We must continue to press for an end to the fighting, sieges and abuses of human rights.

Yemen is also in flames.  Coalition air strikes in particular continue to strike hospitals, schools, mosques and civilian infrastructures.

In this world, at this time, more than 125 million people need immediate humanitarian assistance.  Just in the interest to make you remember this: If we have all these 125 million people living in one country, suppose we establish one independent country with 125 million people around the world, this will be the 11th largest country in the world, only next to Japan. So how would a country which had to sustain and support all these 125 million people every day, day and night. There’s a huge challenge. But with the solidarity, support you have shown yesterday, I think we can do it.

These numbers are unsustainable.  The human costs are intolerable.

I myself was once a displaced person. Some of you might have read my life story. I was born in Korea just before the end of Second World War. When I became 6 years old the Korean War broke out in 1950. I was just 6 years old, it was before my school and I had to flee my home with my parents without knowing where to go. Life was miserable, terrible, but for a young, young boy, I couldn’t feel as seriously and terrible as my parents might have felt. Most of you may not feel as I felt at the time.

We survived on food and medicine which was provided by the United Nations and UNICEF. They provided all. Humanitarian assistance, powdered milk and small toys even. And UNESCO provided us textbooks, notes. United Nations provided us more importantly the security. The United Nations exercising for the first time the authority to maintain international peace and security. The Security Council has shown unity at that time. [Inaudible] the Security Council adopted the resolution creating a United Nations [inaudible]. 16 nations provided their soldiers, including many young men from the United Kingdom. Many hundreds of United Kingdom young men died in the battlefield. They’re still buried in Korea.  And Korean people are looking after all those sacrifices. Without the United Nations, I would not be able to stand before you today. If I think about all what had happened to me and to my country, to my people, I only was able to survive because of the United Nations, with the aid of the United Nations. And now I’m standing as the Secretary-General and feeling humbled. At that time to me, as a young boy, the United Nations blue flag was a beacon of hope. Our saviors. And I’m much more humbled than before whenever I travel around the world. I see still, to many people in this world, the United Nations flag, the United Nations logo itself, are beacons of hope. Then I have no other choice but to be motivated to render all what I have. Only problem is that I have limited resources, limited capacity as a human being. This is what I’ll tell you, particularly young people here. You may not appreciate all this wealth and happiness and stability as much as I or my generation did or many people around the world who are living in very difficult [inaudible] may appreciate it. Don’t take it for granted. Nothing should be taken for granted. I’m asking you to look beyond the United Kingdom. United Kingdom is one of the most powerful, richest countries in the world. This is not for free. Democracy [inaudible] and all these sacrifices has built up and made you strong.

People these days, people still are struggling to keep their lives. People who cross the Aegean Sea, Mediterranean Sea or the English Channel in search of better lives are symptoms, not themselves cause for suspicion or concern.  We must counter those who promote dangerous myths about refugees and migrants.

We must look at the roots of the conflicts and governance failures that compel people to undertake perilous journeys.

Across the United Nations, we are placing greater emphasis on prevention.

The Human Rights up Front initiative calls on us to act early in response to violations of human rights, before countries reach the point of no return.

The United Nations Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism focuses on underlying drivers of radicalization -- and the need to avoid approaches that end up alienating the people we are trying to reach.

We are going to convene a humanitarian summit meeting to address all these 125 million people who need our immediate support in Istanbul in May.

We continue to advocate the Responsibility to Protect – especially to build up national capacities to prevent genocide and other grave violations of human rights. We have learnt hard hard lessons, tragic lessons from the tragedies. We have seen genocide in Rwanda in 1994, we have seen genocide in Srebrenica in 1995, and we have seen the genocide in Cambodia in the 1970s. Each time world leaders committed: never again, never again. When Holocaust happened during the Second World War. People committed by establishing the United Nations, never again. But this never again has been always muted. It happened again and happened again. That’s why I’m asking the member states of the United Nations to invest more on prevention rather than countering. When you see there is a symptom for fire then you better address those symptoms before rather than bringing all fire engines after fire has broken out. That’s preventive diplomacy.

I just jokingly say, last month in Davos forum, I was asked by a reporter, if you’re given an opportunity of flying a time machine, would you like to go back to the past or would you like to go fly to the future. My answer was that if I were given that opportunity, I’d like to fly back to the future. But why? As Secretary-General, I’d like to go back and try to find out what has gone wrong. Could we have been able to prevent, if we had taken some measures properly, could we have been able to prevent such kind of genocide and tragedies. That would be a great lesson. Then I would like to go forward. I would like to see how people will build on my legacy as Secretary-General. And what kind of world my great great children would be living in. I might be too much ambitious but that was my pure and general feeling as a Secretary-General. So let us look back at what have you done wrong and what could you have done better to prevent something which might happen or which has already happened.

The United Nations looks to states, many member states such as the United Kingdom for leadership across all the agenda, which I have presented.

Preventing extremism and promoting human rights go hand-in-hand, and we look to you to set a positive example by upholding these hard-won gains abroad and at home.

I commend the United Kingdom for its role in the landmark deal between Iran and the P5 + 1 countries on Iran’s nuclear programme. We must show the same determination in resolving conflicts in the region.

In both Syria and Yemen, the United Nations is doing all it can to get a dialogue started between warring parties.  Sectarian tensions and regional power struggles are proving hard to surmount.

There is no military solution, that’s what I’ve been saying. Even this morning I talked to a reporter, there is no military solution. Only through inclusive political dialogue can we solve all these seemingly intractable complicated situations. We need States that are party to the Arms Trade Treaty to set an example in fulfilling one of the Treaty’s main purposes: controlling arms flows to actors that may use them in ways that breach international humanitarian law.

As a permanent member of the Security Council, the United Kingdom has a key role and key voice in establishing and guiding UN peace operations.  The UK has recently pledged support for peacekeeping in South Sudan and Somalia.  We hope you will go beyond those engagements and provide even more troops for this flagship UN activity.

UN Associations are among our most important allies.  They bring UN ideals and objectives into their communities – and local concerns into the world arena.

I welcome your special commitment to mobilize new generations of UN supporters.   Empowering young people and women is one of my top priorities. I have made women empowerment as one of my top priorities. Next time you come to my conference room you will see almost a half of women Senior Advisors sitting around me, around the table.

You may remember Dame Margaret Anstee. She wrote a very famous memoir: Never Learn to Type. At that time for ladies, women, the maximum position you would expect was secretary. So you have to know how to type. She wrote a book entitled: Never learn to type. It was quite inspiring, moving. I met her a few years ago. She was the first woman Special Representative of the Secretary-General.

I have appointed how many, maybe 50, 60.   Depending upon this double appointment who has moved from here to [inaudible], more than half of them are women, Assistant Secretary-General or Under-Secretary-General.  I changed all the landscape.

I’d like to do more for youth. It was I that appointed for the first time a Special Envoy on Youth. There was no such title and he is working very hard, to promote the future of young people. I’m always happy to work with young people.

I know that there are voices that question greater role of the United Nations. I’m conscious of the criticism and expectations [inaudible] about the United Nations. Can you do better? Can you do it more efficiently, more effectively, more accountably, more transparently? I am very much conscious we are now doing great work to change the United Nations to meet the expectations to be able to deliver the Charter to serve the people, We the Peoples.

The distinction between the national and international benefits and interests are falling away, there is no such boundaries that keeps people in one place. This world may be small but still there are so many things to do. I see a new understanding emerging which grasps the global logic of our times -- and which agrees that British traditions are best sustained, and British interests best pursued, through full engagement with the world and with the United Nations.

We face great challenges, that’s true, but our capacity to solve them is even greater, we have unlimited capacity if we are united. If we work together, and we can build this world better for all Let’s work together, Ladies and Gentlemen, to make this world better where nobody is left behind.

Thank you.