The Hague, Netherlands

19 April 2016

Secretary-General's Remarks at UN World Class of 2016 [As Prepared for Delivery]

Thank you for inviting me today.

I am honoured to be invited to address this unique initiative launched by Mayor van Aartsen.

I have come to The Hague to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the International Court of Justice and to mark the opening of the permanent premises of the International Criminal Court.

The Netherlands is rightly proud to host these important institutions.

They reflect the country’s long-standing commitment to freedom and human rights.

The Netherlands is a beacon for inclusiveness, diversity, international cooperation and civil liberties.

It is also, perhaps, the tallest nation on Earth!

You also stand tall among the community of nations.

Today, I would like to talk about this community – the United Nations – which just last year celebrated its 70th birthday.

I will talk about the past, the present and the future – the challenges we face, our aspirations for the coming decades and role you can play.

Seven decades ago, across this continent and around the world, cities were filled with rubble, fields were saturated with blood, and families were reeling from their losses.

The horrors of the Holocaust and dreadful threat of nuclear weapons were revealed to a shocked world.

From the ashes of the Second World War rose the United Nations.

It was a necessary gamble to end the scourge of war, reaffirm the equal human rights of men and women, and promote justice, freedom and social progress for all.

With the adoption of the United Nations Charter, a world in ruins found a path to renewal.

Seven decades on, the world needs the United Nations as much as ever.

We need the United Nations to defend human rights for all, regardless of race, religion, nationality, gender or sexual orientation. 

Our relief workers are needed to deliver life-saving aid. 

And our peacekeepers are needed to help countries turn from conflict to peace.

Around the world, we are being tested in old ways and new.

The world is changing – rapidly and dramatically.

We are more connected than ever before. 

More people than ever live in cities.

And the human family has a new profile: more than half the earth’s people are under the age of 25.

New economic powers are rising.

And new threats have emerged -- climate change above all.

Our shared challenge is to shape this new world for the better -- to build a landscape of opportunity and peace.

Our blueprint for this better future is the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, agreed by world leaders last September in New York.

Agenda 2030, with its 17 Sustainable Development Goals, is our guide for ending poverty and building a safer, healthier, more secure world.

It embodies a commitment to leave no-one behind.

In many respects, it is a global Declaration of Interdependence.

The Sustainable Development Goals provide a set of integrated priorities for people, planet, prosperity, partnership and peace. 

One of the threads running through this rich tapestry is women’s empowerment.

This has been a priority across my decade as Secretary-General. 

I hope you will all support me in ending violence against women and girls.

We must enable all women and girls to fully enjoy their rights and realize their potential. 

Dear students,

We will not achieve sustainable development and make the world better for all if we exclude half the population. 

And we will not be able to reach our Goals without action on climate change.

Last December, in another sign of hope, world leaders came together to adopt the historic Paris Agreement on climate change. 

The Paris Agreement is a turning point for global cooperation on one of humankind’s greatest challenges. 

It is the first-ever agreement committing all nations to mitigate their emissions. 

It marks the beginning of the end of growth built solely on fossil-fuel consumption. 

Markets now have the signal they need to unleash the full force of human ingenuity for low-carbon prosperity.

I will count on all of you to be part of the transition to a low-carbon future.

You are consumers who can demand sustainable products. 

You are innovators who can create energy breakthroughs. 

You are voters who can elect leaders who do not deny the problem. 

I also count on you to help build a world of peace and justice.

You are part of the new social media generation.

I count on you to use this powerful tool for global harmony.

As Secretary-General I have consistently urged leaders and citizens to avoid the siren songs of those who sow fear, hate and division. 

This cannot be a world of "us and them" -- it must be a world of "we the peoples".

We must all united and speak out against hate-filled rhetoric, whether it comes from leaders, office-seekers, ordinary citizens or the media.

In an interconnected world, we need to build bridges, not barriers.

I am particularly concerned about refugees and migrants

Many have lost everything – homes, jobs, loved ones – and they have no choice but to flee to an uncertain future.

Many others are seeking better lives because of discrimination or grinding poverty.

My own family was forced to flee our village when I was a child during the Korean War in the 1950s. 

The United Nations brought us food, medicine and textbooks -- and protected us with the troops of many nations, including the Netherlands.

You sent more than 5,000 troops and a Navy Destroyer.

The United Nations was our lifeline.  Its blue flag was a beacon of hope for all Koreans. 

That flag is still a sign of solidarity for so many millions of children and oppressed people caught up in conflict or disaster, or suffering from poverty, hunger and disease.

Today, the refugee crisis is showing no signs of lessening. 

The United Nations is calling for greater solidarity and compassion. 

We are emphasizing the need for all countries to help, including by granting asylum.

I recently travelled to Jordan and Lebanon where I met Syrians fleeing from unimaginable horrors.

We are now in the sixth year of conflict in Syria.

The world has been confronted with an unprecedented humanitarian catastrophe.

The Syrian conflict has been the scene of the use of chemical weapons, siege and starvation as a tool of war, unlawful detention, torture, and the indiscriminate and criminal shelling and aerial bombardment of civilians.

Today, in this home of international justice, I say that those responsible for these crimes must be held to account.

The conflict in Syria is not just a human rights and humanitarian catastrophe for the Syrian people.

It poses a direct threat to regional and global security.

Countries are fighting proxy wars.

And violent extremists are using it to spread their hate and destruction.

The terrorism and violent extremism we are seeing today is a direct assault on human rights. 

There can never be any justification for such acts. 

To tackle this challenge, we cannot just rely on force.

We need to examine the underlying drivers.

That means addressing discrimination, ensuring good governance, and providing access to education, social services and employment opportunities. 

I have launched a plan of action to prevent violent extremism.

It emphasizes that we must also avoid responses that violate human rights and feed the problem we are trying to solve.

We must also intensify our efforts to reach the most vulnerable members of society.

The Sustainable Development Goals include a promise to reach those furthest behind first.

That includes the record numbers of people caught up in conflicts and natural disasters around the world.

The World Humanitarian Summit that I will convene in Istanbul on 23 and 24 May is our opportunity to improve our support for those people.

I am asking leaders to reaffirm our common humanity and to look at the root causes of these crises.

Dear students,

If there is one thing I have learned as Secretary-General travelling the world; if there is one message that I can leave you with today it is this:

We are all members of one single human family sharing one single planet.

We must care for each other and care for our home.

We must act as global citizens.

In today’s globalized world, the walls between the national and international continue to fall away. 

The international interest and the national interest are increasingly one and the same.

We need to work together towards new heights of international cooperation.

Reading the news, the world may seem a scary place.

People rightly worry about the next extreme storm, the next terrorist attack, the next financial shock or the next outbreak of deadly disease. 

But I continue to believe that – as a family of nations, as global citizens -- we can meet these challenges.

But, we have to be united.

We have to stand against those who would divide us.

They often speak the loudest. 

Let us speak louder.

Wherever I go, I tell young global citizens all around the world: please raise your voices! 

I have constraints that can make it difficult for me to speak out at times.

But young people have exciting new ways to push for a better world, and to connect with like-minded peers across the world.

Please make good use of that freedom. 

We need you to shout for civil rights, for social justice, for equal opportunity and fair play, here in the Netherlands and beyond. 

All members of our human family want basic services, decent jobs, democratic systems, human rights and peace.

When we unite to realize human progress for everyone, we can deliver.

Today I ask you to act for our common future. 

I call on you to give back as global citizens. 

Rise to the challenges of your generation. 

Join forces with the United Nations for a better world.

Thank you