New York

14 April 2016

Secretary-General's remarks at Special Joint Event of the World Federation of UN Associations and the New York City Bar Association [as prepared for delivery]

Mr. Bonian Golmohammadi, Secretary-General of the World Federation of United Nations Associations (WFUNA), President of the New York City Bar Association Ms. Debra Raskin, Ladies and gentlemen,

Thank you very much to the World Federation of United Nations Associations and the New York City Bar Association for this chance to speak to you about the future of our world.

Mr. Golmohammadi and I have met several times. I welcomed him last May to my conference room and he said, “Let’s take a selfie!”

So we did. Later that picture was chosen as Snapshot of the Month for the Model UN page.

As a photograph, it was not my best angle – but I was really pleased because I so deeply value WFUNA, especially its outreach to young people.

I make it a point to meet with United Nations Associations everywhere I can. The United Nations has no better friend than WFUNA. I thank all the members for your unwavering support.

You connect the United Nations to the people – and now, more than ever before, engaged global citizens shape history.

I am especially grateful that you have joined forces with the New York City Bar Association this evening. All of its members can also help advance the mission of the United Nations to secure justice and the rule of law.

This is absolutely integral to securing lasting progress and establishing peace.

Member States have recognized the inextricable links between peace, justice, human rights and human dignity in our new, ambitious plan to end poverty and establish security on a healthy planet.

The new 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development represents a major advance in our approach to global problems.

It reflects an understanding that peace demands justice, development fosters security, and human rights are always paramount.

Today I will focus on how the legal community can help us realize this vision to end all forms of poverty, fight growing inequalities and ensure that all people live in dignity.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Every day, I see the global threats we face and the remarkable people forging shared solutions.

This year, I have already visited a number of difficult security environments, including Iraq, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

In these and other places, we see the dangers of a breakdown in our common normative framework of international human rights, humanitarian and refugee law.

This erosion has forced families to make terrible choices. Do they stay, and risk getting killed, or do they leave, and risk dying in a dangerous escape? And even if they manage to arrive in safe countries, they may not be safe from bigotry and violence.

The televised brutality of Daesh and other terrorists groups only tells part of the story. Atrocities are rampant in conflict areas. Whole populations are deeply traumatized.

The United Nations is working to make a difference in people’s lives around the world. But the needs are enormous. Millions of people are denied the basics to survive. They have no food. They have no medical care. They understandably lose hope.

I grew up in wartime. When I go to camps for the displaced, I see members of my own family reflected in the faces of the people. We may come from different sides of the world, but we all feel the same pain of hunger. We share the same fear when we run from our homes. And we burn with the same hope that our children can have a different, better life.

During the Korean War, when my family was living in the mountains, my grandfather searched for anything he could find to feed us. Eventually, the United Nations rescued my community and my country. I fervently believe in the mission of the United Nations because without the UN, I would not be standing here.

The same spirit of global solidarity led to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It is a ringing promise to the world’s people. We call it our “Declaration of Interdependence”.

It represents a major breakthrough – especially its call for promoting peaceful and inclusive societies where all people have access to justice with effective, transparent and accountable institutions.

World leaders recognized in Goal 16 that lasting progress demands the rule of law, access to justice and solid institutions. It requires legal frameworks that provide for equal access to land, property, financial services and other basic commodities.

People need recourse to address harm to the environment in their communities, and corruption or discrimination in public services.

This is more than a matter of justice. It is also essential for economic development.

Businesses of all sizes, from a local store to a transnational corporation, benefit from transparent regulation and corruption-free institutions.

Development also requires that people trust in police and courts – and that they live free from fear of organized crime and violence.

These are the conditions that foster inclusive societies, where progress is strong and lasting.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Everyone knows that in today’s world, we are more connected than ever before.

I am calling for people to become more united as well.

It is not enough to be able to reach millions of people with a click. We also need to reach across divides and forge a common purpose.

That is why when we started negotiating the Sustainable Development Goals, we conducted the biggest public consultation in United Nations history. We engaged with young people, the private sector and civil society. And millions of individuals around the world took part in our MyWorld survey online. We heard their views. And we listened.

The 2030 Agenda was born from this collaborative process – and now we need all partners to help carry it out.

Each of you can contribute by holding your governments – and the United Nations – accountable for delivering on our promises for people, the planet and prosperity.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Next week, I will travel to The Hague to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the International Court of Justice – and to inaugurate the permanent premises of the International Criminal Court.

These Courts are a source of hope for victims that justice can be served – and a symbol of international resolve and solidarity.  

The Hague is our capital of international law and justice. This cause can also be served in every corner of the world.

I urge all of you to be part of the global push by the United Nations to achieve justice and usher in a new future for the planet and all people.

If we just watch the news, we may feel like there has never been a more dangerous time for the world. One can easily be overwhelmed by the daily headlines – atrocious terrorist attacks, devastating disasters, deadly diseases.

The United Nations is leading the response to save lives today.

At the same time, far from the headlines, we are shaping a better tomorrow. Last year’s breakthrough agreements proved the power of multilateralism. More and more people appreciate the need for global cooperation -- and they understand that the United Nations is the best forum to generate global solutions.

I am committed to leading the United Nations to rise to this moment in history.

Thank you.