Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Vienna (Austria), 16 February 2012
It is a great honour for me to be amongst such an influential and informed audience today.
Vielen Dank für diese Ehre. Es ist wunderbar, wieder in Wien zu sein.
There are many words to describe this very beautiful city of Vienna – historic, glorious, dazzling, dynamic.
All fit – especially here in the magnificent Hofburg Palace.
But the first word that comes to mind when I think of Vienna is “home”. My home, and home of the United Nations.
Ich bin in Wien zu hause.
I am at home here for many good reasons.
Personally, because I spent a couple of unforgettable years in Vienna as an ambassador. It is good to see so many familiar faces and old friends here today.
And professionally, because Vienna is a pillar of the United Nations – and an epicentre for global action. You are one of four UN headquarters worldwide. Excluding UN headquarters in New York you are one of three largest UN presences and headquarters worldwide. You host the International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, the UN Industrial Development Organization, and the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Test-Ban Treaty Organization where I served as Chairman a long time ago.
But perhaps most of all, I am at home in Vienna because of your commitment to multilateralism, your ethic of engagement.
So it is fitting that we gather here today to talk about empowering people in our changing world.
The national leaders here are working hard to empower your people. But as Secretary-General of the United Nations, I am working to empower all the people around the world. We have 7 billion people. There are billions of people underprivileged, marginalized, jobless, hopeless, frustrated people. To empower all these people, particularly women and children and youth — this is a top priority and concern for the United Nations.
The time is right for us to discuss this matter.
This is a period of global transition.
Economic shocks around the world. Shifts in power and new poles of global growth. The rising threat of climate change. And, of course, a revolution of people-powered change.
Think back at the events and images of the past year.
The dramatic transformation which we have observed and witnessed in the Arab world and North Africa.
Tahrir Square and the fight for democracy throughout the Arab world.
Occupy Wall Street, los indignados in Puerta del Sol, protests in Greece.
What was the common thread? Look at the faces in the crowd.
They were overwhelmingly women and young people.
Women demanding equal opportunity and participation – decision-making participation
Young people worried about their future, fed up with corruption, and speaking out for dignity and decent jobs.
Their power and activism turned the tide of history.
Throughout these events, we called on leaders to listen to their people. Listen very carefully what their aspirations, what their challenges are.
Some heard – and benefitted. Some never did. Still we are seeing this kind of situation in Syria. And maybe somewhere else.
From the very beginning, I talked with President Assad by telephone and urged him to change before it was too late. Take a bold and decisive moment before it is too late. Instead, he declared war on his own people.
Lack of access has prevented the United Nations, the international community and humanitarian workers from knowing the full toll, yet credible reports indicate at least more than 5,400 people were killed as of last year. We have not been able to have credible information how many more people have been killed between 1 January and today.
Every day those numbers rise. We see neighbourhoods shelled by tanks. Hospitals used as torture centres. Children as young as ten years old jailed and abused.
We see almost certain crimes against humanity.
We cannot predict the future in Syria. We do know this, however: the longer we debate, the more people will die.
I commend the efforts of the League of Arab States to find a political solution. During recent days, I have been meeting and speaking with many world leaders, among them today I will meet with the Russian and French Foreign Ministers, and of course the Austrian Foreign Minister and others.
Once again, I urge the international community to speak in one voice in a coherent way: Stop the violence. Stop the bloodshed.
Ladies and gentlemen,
There’s a broader lesson here, beyond Syria. This is very serious, but we have to look at the broader perspective.
I believe that every institution and every leader, everywhere, must ask that same question:
Are we listening? Are we doing enough, fast enough?
I am convinced that we must act now.
We face a once-in-a-generation opportunity to empower people in our changing world.
Last month, I briefed the General Assembly on a five-action agenda for the future. I outlined five imperatives for the next five years as Secretary-General.
Sustainable development is at the top of the list. This is critical to empowering people – to eradicating poverty, lifting billions of people from poverty, generating decent jobs, expanding education, and protecting our fragile planet from this ever-warming temperature.
Today, I want to focus on providing women and young people with a greater say in their own destiny and a greater stake in their own dignity.
This is fundamental to our entire agenda – crucial to everything we do.
I want to talk about this with you – an esteemed audience in all seasons of life.
All of us – women and men, the young and what I might call the “formerly young”, have a profound interest in getting this right.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Half the world is women – and half the world is under 25 years of age.
One out of five people are between the ages of 15 and 24.
Nearly 90 per cent of them — youth — live in developing countries – nearly one billion live in Asia and Africa.
In places like Gaza, three out of four people are under the age of 25. In Iraq, one-quarter of the population was born since the start of the war in 2003 alone.
Some demographers call this a “youth bulge”.
I am not a big fan of that term.
I do not see the largest-ever generation of young people as a “bulge.” It is a dividend.
It is not a threat; it is an opportunity.
To seize it, we must face a new generation of empowerment challenges.
Let’s start with empowering women.
Around the world, women educate the children, they are the key to healthy families, they are increasingly the entrepreneurs.
Wherever I travel, I urge leaders to put more women in genuine decision making roles.
More women in the Cabinet. More women in legislatures. More women leading universities. More women on corporate boards.
I am very happy to see Dr.