Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, UN Headquarters, 27 July 2011

Thank you, Mr. Sean Koh,

[Founder and CEO, Koherent Inc.], for your very kind introduction. It is very inspiring, what you have been saying. That is exactly what the United Nations is trying to achieve.

Mr. John Kluge, philanthropist and entrepreneur;
Ms. Reeta Roy, President and CEO of MasterCard Foundation;
Ms. Monique Coleman,
UN Youth Champion;
Ladies and gentlemen,

Good morning, and thank you for joining us today. I am very impressed by being here with such a distinguished group of young leaders. From your eyes, and from your faces, I think I am seeing a much, much brighter future for our world of tomorrow. I believe you will soon be standing, or sitting, on this podium and in many important positions of our community to lead this world.

I may be one of the leaders of today, but I am sure that tomorrow will be much better taken care of by your vision and by your leadership. This is exactly what we are aiming for today by getting together. Thank you very much.

You all know Ted Turner, I am sure. Fourteen years ago, he gave, without any conditions, $1 billion to the United Nations, to support UN causes.

In making this historic pledge, Mr. Turner encouraged others to follow suit. He personified a new spirit of philanthropy aimed at creating a better world.

It is a noble tradition, begun by Rockefellers, Carnegies, Fords and Nobels and carried on today by the likes of the Aga Khan Foundation, well-known in Africa and Asia for its humanitarian assistance.

In India, where the Bharti Foundation helps poor rural children – especially girls – to receive a quality education.

In China, where Li Ka-shing has pledged to donate one-third of his considerable fortune to philanthropic projects around the world.

That is why we are here today.

Private sector companies are playing an ever-larger role on the global stage. They are increasingly active in promoting grass-roots development. They are establishing foundations. They are pioneering new codes of corporate social responsibility.

Two years ago, in Seattle, I met with Bill and Melinda Gates. We had breakfast together, and he often came to the United Nations to my residence, where we discussed all about how we can work together for United Nations causes, how we can help women, how we can help youth, to provide them with better social and economic opportunities. We discussed food security, women’s and children’s health and many other things.

After the meeting, a journalist asked if the emergence of such wealthy philanthropies could undermine the work of the United Nations.

I said, ‘to the contrary’. They are all partners. This is exactly what we want to see today. Look at the challenges the world faces. Sean Koh has just mentioned: climate change, humanitarian emergencies – as we are now seeing in the Horn of Africa – threats of disease, starvation and the consequences of poor education and lack of social opportunity, especially for women and girls.

To deal with these challenges, we need the power of partnership – the widest possible partnership: governments, international NGOs, philanthropists and business, all working together in common cause in the name of our common humanity.

That is why I am so pleased to see so many of you here this week.

This event is an important opportunity – an opportunity to engage with the next generation of global leaders.

As you know, [this week] we had the high-level UN Conference on Youth. The General Assembly has designated this year as the International Year of Youth.

The very fact that you are here means a great deal. It means you are leading by example.

To the corporate leaders among you, I say this: keep up your good work. The world is watching. Your engagement in helping to create a better world – to do well by doing good – will inspire others to follow.

To the younger entrepreneurs and activists in the audience – the next generation of philanthropists – let me speak directly to you as well.

Many of you have already achieved financial success. Others among you are on the way.

Perhaps you will choose to donate your wealth to a noble cause.

Perhaps you will establish a foundation and leave a legacy.

Or perhaps you will start a global movement for change.

Or perhaps you will choose to give back to society simply by running your businesses — and your lives — in sustainable ways.

Whichever path you may choose, I hope you will work with us more and more closely.

Help us to make next year’s Rio + 20 conference a great success.

Help us to advance sustainability and responsible business practices through the Global Compact initiative.

Help us build bridges between young people and business; and between youth who have plenty, and those who have much less.

Work with us in partnership.

This is the way of the future – governments, international organizations, foundations and businesses working together in common cause.

Whenever I speak to audiences like this one – audiences filled with young people engaged in the issues of our times – I stress the power of the individual, the power of the individual to make a difference, to force change. Look at the case of Mohamed Bouazizi, a 27-year-old Tunisian, who was just a street vendor, but who set himself on fire and committed suicide just to express his personal frustration. Nobody expected that his death, one single death, one lonely young man, a street vendor, that his death would spark the Arab spring – democratization. There is always the power of the individual who can make change, who can make a great difference. All of you – each and every one of you – who are sitting here, can be the power of change.

We see young people do this again and again, in many fields, in so many ways – never more so than today. We see it through great technological innovations, through inspiring social mobilization.

The challenge for you – and for us, together – is to bring your talent, vision and resources to bear on the great social challenges before us.

You know this from your own experience, I am sure, but I will say it again: never, ever lose your faith in the ability of the individual to make a difference in the lives of others.

There is no greater pursuit, no more noble calling, than advancing human well-being and the global common good.

With your commitment, vision and sense of global purpose, we can do that.

And remember: by helping others to lift themselves, we in turn lift ourselves. We, too, are empowered.

That is why I am so encouraged that we are here together today.

Thank you for your faith in the United Nations. The United Nations can only be successful when we are supported, so that we can support others. As Secretary-General of the United Nations I am always humbled by seeing what is happening and how I can help towards a better future and wellbeing of young people like yourselves and many marginalized people like women and girls, and those people who are sick, who need our helping hand. There are at least a billion people who go to bed hungry every night. Look at the case of all the people in Somalia, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Kenya – hundreds of thousands of people are gathering into very crowded refugee camps. The United Nations lacks funds. I have spoken yesterday to the King of Saudi Arabia, [Emir] of Kuwait, and the Prime Minister of Qatar and the rich Arab country leaders, asking them to help us, so that we can help these people.

Thank you for your energy and your dedication as agents of change. We need people like yourselves.

I know you are going to be part of something BIG for common humanity.

I cannot wait to see what it will be, but you are the leaders, you are the owners of your own vision and engagement with all world affairs. I count on your leadership and strong commitment to work together with the United Nations to make this world better for all. I thank you very much.