The third Asia Leadership Forum was held by the LIU Institute for Asia & Asian Studies at the University of Notre Dame in Notre Dame, the US on September 12th, 2018. The Centre’s Co-chair Ban Ki-moon presented on “the United Nations and Global Citizenship” at the forum. Below is the script of his keynote address.
Thank you for your kind introduction.
Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C, President of the University of Notre Dame,
Mr. R. Scott Appleby, Marilyn Keough Dean of the University of Notre Dame,
Dear Students, Faculty Members, Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Our world is going through pronounced changes and this is resulting in elevated uncertainties and new risks.
Challenges to the post-Second World War international order and our multilateral institutions are being felt in a variety of spheres.
Tariffs and protectionism are threatening free trade, conflicts between the US and its traditional allies such as Canada are growing, and US trade wars with China and the EU are expanding.
Human rights are under threat as nationalism and xenophobia spreads. Development and humanitarian funds are being slashed. Our climate is changing as well, and this is bringing dire risks to our ailing planet.
At the same time, new technologies are altering how we communicate, live, and work. Sweeping advances in the fields of AI, blockchain, biotechnology, and robotics will alter the future of our countries, cities, businesses, and interpersonal relationships.
Under this backdrop of waning internationalism and dizzying change, we must continue to work together through expanded partnerships and cooperation. We must also forge ahead through a driving commitment to global citizenship to help cope with these seemingly insurmountable challenges.
However, despite these challenges, we have made progress in key areas and I am confident that we also have invaluable opportunities to change the world for the better.
Much of this progress is grounded in the power of partnerships and cooperation to achieve our development and climate goals. And much of this hope is driven by my belief in education, youth empowerment, and action.
Therefore, I firmly believe that we must remain committed to our international system anchored in multilateral institutions such as the United Nations.
Solving the problems of our changing world, which are intrinsically global in nature, will continue to require robust cooperation and global solutions.
During my ten-year tenure as United Nations Secretary-General, I strived to execute my global leadership duties by leveraging the power of partnerships. This is important since the UN and its Member States can no longer bear these responsibilities alone in our rapidly changing world.
That’s why young people and universities are such a crucial part of the ultimate success of the UN’s efforts to ensure a more peaceful and sustainable world.
In 1945, as the ashes of war lifted, the UN was born to provide an international forum for maintaining global peace and security. Its critics were numerous then, but the UN offered all nations and peoples an alternative to the bombs, guns, and destruction of the Second World War.
This alternative was based on the guiding belief that diplomacy and cooperation offered the international community a better way of resolving conflicts.
And so, 74 years later, the UN remains the preeminent forum for every country in the world to address serious global issues together. During this time, the UN has tirelessly pursued its three interconnected pillars of peace and security, sustainable development, and human rights. But challenges remain.
Today, I will speak to you about how we can advance and also flourish in this era of increased global uncertainty and insecurity. We can achieve this goal through sound policies, the power of cooperation and partnerships, and a driving sense of global citizenship.
But we must all play our part in this process, particularly young people such as you and leading academic institutions such as Notre Dame, if we are to succeed in creating a better world for all.
Having said this, let me touch upon three key areas. First, I will discuss the great necessity of achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Second, I will address the most serious challenge we currently face: climate change.
And third, I will speak about the need for expanded youth participation and the role of global citizenship in forging a more sustainable, peaceful, and prosperous future.
Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,
We have taken significant leaps forward in the field of global development in recent years. The international community, guided by the landmark United Nations Millennium Development Goals, has undoubtedly improved human welfare around the world.
Extreme poverty rates have been cut in half by 2010. This represents over 1 billion people and is truly an incredible achievement. During this period, the under-five mortality rate has been halved and rates of maternal deaths have been reduced by 45 percent.
And since 1990, 2.1 billion people have benefited from access to improved sanitation and over 2.6 billion people now have improved sources of water.
But there is still much work to be done. Nearly 10 percent of the world’s workers and their families still live on less than $1.90 a day. Over 6 million children perish each year before they reach their fifth birthday.
And 663 million people remain without drinking water. This figure is in danger of worsening as a result of climate change-accelerated droughts.
Inequality is also growing, both between and within nations. Since 2000, 50 percent of the increase in global wealth has only benefitted the top 1% of the world’s population.
Even more jarring, a recent report indicated that just 42 rich individuals hold as much wealth as the 3.7 billion people who comprise the poorest 50% of the global population.
During my two terms as UN Secretary-General, I am proud to have prioritized and expanded the importance of the Organization’s global development efforts.
The 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals is one of the UN’s most significant achievements. It builds on the Millennium Development Goals and provides humanity, and our planet, with a collaborative blueprint to ensure the future we want.
Adopted by 193 countries in New York in 2015, the SDGs offer us a way forward to confront the most critical issues of our time. These include poverty, education, inequality, climate change, public health, and gender equality.
However, three years since the SDGs were adopted, progress remains uneven and some sectors and geographic areas are moving faster than others.
For example, according to the 2018 SDG Index and Dashboards Report, while most G20 countries have started SDGs implementation, visible gaps remain. Additionally, no country is currently on track towards achieving all of the SDGs.
Furthermore, conflicts around the world are leading to reversals in SDG implementation, and progress towards sustainable consumption and production patterns is too slow overall.
At the regional level, countries in East and South Asia face persistent challenges related to SDGs 2 (Zero Hunger), 3 (Good Health & Well-Being), 9 (Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure), 14 (Life below Water), and 16 (Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions).
With this in mind, global partnerships, including the active participation of universities and students like you, are necessary if we are to deliver on our development commitments. Goal 17 of the 2030 Agenda clearly highlights the prominent role that academic institutions, alongside the private sector, civil society, and others, should play to help achieve the SDGs.
It calls for “multi-stakeholder partnerships that mobilize and share knowledge, expertise, technology and financial resources, to support the achievement of the sustainable development goals in all countries.”
In this regard, I am proud to have expanded the UN’s partnership efforts with academic institutions. In 2010, I launched United Nations Academic Impact (UNAI). It aligns institutions of higher education with the UN to actively support and contribute to the realization of the SDGs and other global efforts.
Educational institutions and research centers are essential partners in our quest to achieve the SDGs. They serve as launch pads for new ideas and incubators to forge solutions to the seemingly insurmountable problems that we face.
And the academic community, including universities such as yours, has stepped up to the plate to help with these efforts to achieve the SDGs and our climate goals.
I am proud to have expanded and mainstreamed the UN Global Compact, which ensures that business is done both sustainably and responsibly. The UN Global Compact does this by bringing together over 12,000 signatories from 170 countries in a public-private partnership to help achieve the SDG’s.
Notre Dame’s efforts to this end are a shining example of the power of partnerships in action. But we must maintain our forward momentum, together.
In this regard, I would like to introduce my engagement in the implementation of the SDGs in Korea. Last year, the Institute of Global Engagement and Empowerment and the Ban Ki-moon Center for Sustainable Development were established at Yonsei University, a prominent private university, and the oldest in Korea.
I assumed the position of Honorary Chairman of the Institute and hosted a “Global Engagement and Empowerment for Sustainable Development Forum.” The Forum featured many nationally and internationally recognized persons including Mr. António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations, the Prime Minister of Korea, the President of the UN General Assembly, and Jack Ma, Chairman of Alibaba, the most successful businessman in China.
It is my great hope that the Institute of Global Engagement and Empowerment and the Ban Ki-moon Center for Sustainable Development can help Asia take on an even more prominent role in the field of global development.
All of these elevated efforts, borne out of partnership and propelled by the spirit of global citizenship, will not only help improve human development around the world, they will also help fortify the protection of our vulnerable planet.
Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Climate change is altering the character of our planet and creating dire risks and instability. We must increase our collective efforts to protect ourselves, our communities, and our world from the existential threats that this will bring. The play clock, however, is counting down.
From record-breaking heat waves and wildfires, to hurricanes and flooding of historic intensity, climate change is no longer a debate. It is clearly here right now.
Here in Indiana, a warming planet could render this scenic state starkly different in the coming years. Hotter summers and volatile rainfall and flooding could upend the state’s $31 billion dollar a year agriculture industry and the livelihoods of its proud farmers. Extreme weather conditions and a warming climate, if left unchecked could severely affect crops, livestock, and local ecosystems.
The recently released “Indiana Climate Change Impacts Assessment” warned that state temperatures are projected to rise from 5 to 6 degrees by the middle of this century. This could make Indiana’s climate feel more like the Deep South rather than the Midwest if we fail to act.
And elsewhere, the extreme weather events of just the last few months alone point to a bleak and dangerous future. 2018 is on track to be the fourth hottest year on record globally, with the three previous years the only ones hotter.
This summer, California has been engulfed in flames and smoke from historic wildfires. Intense and prolonged heat waves claimed dozens of lives in Japan and Korea. And near Greenland, the Arctic’s thickest sea ice broke up for first time on record. These events no longer seem like anomalies; rather they appear to be the new normal.
So we must immediately take the necessary steps to combat climate change, or these turbulent shifts will continue to bring dangerous scorching heat waves to our cities and rural areas. They will cause sea levels to rise higher and lead to deadly flooding. They will make hurricanes and typhoons even more frequent and intense. They will drive displacement and seriously threaten entire communities and countries.
With this reality in mind, we must step-up our collective efforts to implement the Paris Agreement. The bottom line is that we don’t have a plan B, simply because we don’t have a planet B either.
The Paris Agreement, signed by 197 countries in 2015, offers us a clear game plan to confront these serious threats to our planet. It sets viable targets to impede rising temperatures, constrict greenhouse gas emissions, and spur climate-resilient development and green growth.
During my time serving as United Nations Secretary-General, this is one of my most significant achievements. And I truly believe that the Paris Agreement offers us our best hope to persevere over the serious threats to our ailing planet. But to achieve this goal, we need to keep working together.
However, I must take this opportunity to communicate my deep disappointment regarding the current US government’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement.
This isolates the US from literally every other country in the entire world on climate policy, including even North Korea and Syria. It is scientifically wrong, economically irresponsible, and President Trump will be on the wrong side of history. I greatly hope that this decision is reconsidered and reversed.
But, despite this, there are still many reasons for optimism.
I am impressed by the “We Are Still In” actions of the many cities, states, and companies in the US who have joined together to ensure implementation of the Paris Agreement despite the unfortunate decision of the US government. This includes cities in Indiana such as South Bend, Carmel, Gary, and Bloomington.
These actions will help fill the vacuum and work towards reducing this nation’s carbon footprint and Paris implementation. And this is another inspiring example of the utility of catalyzing public-private partnerships, anchored by the spirit of global citizenship, in helping us achieve our climate goals.
Asian countries have a prime opportunity to take the lead on climate issues. China’s growing climate leadership in these difficult times for our planet has the potential to positively affect the Asian region and the world more largely. China’s decision to set a deadline to completely phase out sales of fossil-fuel-powered vehicles is a sterling example in this regard.
At the same time, other countries such as Korea, India, Japan, and Indonesia must continue to lead by example in the fight against climate change for the betterment of their countries, Asia, and the world.
There are individual actions we can all take as well, and young people like you can lead these efforts. Don’t waste water or electricity. Be aware of your consumption and carbon footprint. Learn more about supply chains and buy sustainable products. Recycle, compost, and avoid single-use plastic. Take a sustainability pledge. Talk with your family and friends about the dangers of climate inaction.
We are all in this together, and we simply must continue our momentum forward, together.
Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,
In this era of division and uncertainty, I strongly believe that fighting climate change and achieving the UN’s SDGs are two efforts that must unite all nations and global citizens through cooperation and partnership. Quite plainly, our collective existence moving forward depends on it.
But this urgent and historic undertaking can create opportunities as well. We can cultivate essential partnerships, spur economic growth, expand social inclusion, and work for the greater good. And I am confident that leading academic institutions such as the University of Notre Dame and young people like you will be central to these unified efforts.
During my time as UN Secretary-General, I understood that young people and women are absolutely essential to solving so many of the world’s biggest challenges. This includes achieving the SDGs, tackling climate change, and building peace and resolving conflicts.
Indeed, the active engagement and empowerment of the youth and women is critical in ensuring the success of the international community. Consider the fact that young people and women comprise at least 75% of world’s population.
So we must do more to engage and empower these two groups as they are the enablers to achieve our sustainable development and climate goals. By doing so, we can help unlock their unbridled potential as the agents of change and dynamic global citizens of tomorrow.
Global citizenship is an important concept that can serve as a unique tool to help solve some of our most pressing challenges and assist us in reaching our global goals.
Global citizens are those who identify themselves not as a member of a nation, but instead, as a member of humanity more largely. They are understanding and tolerant of other people and cultures.
They fight for the protection of our planet and human rights. They are committed to service and helping others, including refugees. They build bridges rather than construct walls. They look beyond the narrow prism of national and personal interests and work for a better world.
And to establish long-term solutions, we need inclusive and participatory action from young global citizens as an essential ingredient to leverage the great potential of partnerships that I spoke of earlier.
So for these reasons, I’ve been trying my best to help elevate global citizenship as a driving vision for young people around the world.
In this regard, I am proud to inform you that I recently launched the Ban Ki-moon Centre for Global Citizens to continue my work as UN Secretary-General and help forge a brighter future for the next generation. Based in Vienna, Austria, the Centre aims to help provide young people and women with a greater say in their own destiny, as well as a greater stake in their own dignity.
Alongside the UN, the private sector, and other key stakeholders, I see the University of Notre Dame, Yonsei University’s Institute of Global Engagement and Empowerment and Ban Ki-moon Center for Sustainable Development, and the Ban Ki-moon Centre for Global Citizens in Austria as natural allies in our partnership efforts to engage the next generation and advance policy-oriented research to achieve our global goals.
Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Please allow me to conclude my remarks by saying that despite the challenges we currently face, if we join together in strong partnerships and move forward as global citizens, we can achieve our global goals and create a brighter future for all.
But to do this, I humbly ask you to harness your vision, studies, and work to prioritize global action. Look outside your immediate surroundings, your state, and your country. Think beyond yourselves. We need to ensure that the global goals are local business; here in Indiana, in Asia, and beyond.
Students, you hold the keys to unlock a more sustainable, peaceful, and prosperous world. You are the innovators, the change-makers, the leaders, and the global citizens of both today and tomorrow.
Play your part in helping advance the United Nations global development and climate goals. Hold politicians and leaders accountable. We only have one planet, and our ability to sustain it will ultimately dictate our collective future. Your voices are more powerful than you know.
I will leave you with the eloquent words of Pope Francis who, in his encyclical Laudato Si – On Care for Our Common Home, said: “We require a new and universal solidarity…We must regain the conviction that we need one another, that we have a shared responsibility for others and the world, and that being good and decent are worth it.”
So please, work hard in your life and future careers heeding these resonant words alongside a driving outlook rooted in global citizenship. Include the excluded and act with both passion and compassion to help humanity, and our planet, move forward.
I have no doubt that you can change the world.
I thank you for your attention. /End/
Photo: Zachary Yim