Ban Ki-moon’s Keynote Address Opening of the Inaugural Model United Nations Conference GEMS World Academy – Dubai January 9, 2020I am delighted to be here at the inaugural GEMS World Academy, Dubai Model United Nations conference. It is energizing to see so many individuals and schools represented. To be an Ambassador of GWA MUN is a great honour and privilege for me. One of the main reasons I accepted this position from Mr. Sunny Varkey, Founder and Chairman of GEMS Education, was because I knew it would give me incredible insight into the way youth are thinking. You are the world’s future leaders, and by being here it shows that you are committed to the world we live in and your passion to make a difference. I commend you all for that. The theme of the conference, “Challenges of intervention in a complex world”, is so important. It gives you all the opportunity to explore global issues and look for solutions that perhaps world governments, NGOs, and many others haven’t thought of. Yesterday, I had the privilege of meeting the GEMS World Academy Secretariat who organised this conference. I was impressed with the leadership of the entire Secretariat team led by their Director-General Lihong Wang, and Deputy General Aditya Joshi. Without them this conference would not have been possible. Their passion, enthusiasm, and their drive to make a change gives me great comfort. Like all of you, they are so committed to the MUN concept. This fills me with so much pride. You may ask “why?” You are our future and I am confident that you will have prudent solutions to real 21st century problems. But, this conference is about more than that… and I hope that when the conference is over you will realise that you have personally grown and have met inspiring people and that you will have learned a lot. The conference will train some of your skills that will help you shape your future in many ways; from developing key leadership abilities to researching, writing and public speaking. Some of you will learn Moreover, finding realistic solutions to real world problems that are acceptable to a majority of representatives requires incredible skills of negotiation, conflict resolution and cooperation. This is easier said than done! I hope that the biggest take away for your all will be OWNERSHIP. Ownership of the world we all live in. OWNERSHIP for the Sustainable Development Goals. OWNERSHIP of the Agenda 2030. OWNERSHIP of the principle of leaving no one behind. When I ended my tenure as Secretary-General of the United Nations, I knew that there was much more work to be done… So, I founded the Ban Ki-moon Centre for Global Citizens along with Heinz Fischer, the former President of Austria. The Centre is based in Vienna and focusses on empowering women and the youth in the framework of the SDGs and the Paris Climate Agreement. You might ask why we chose to focus on Gender Equality and Quality Education because half of the world is women and half the world is under 25 years of age. And, despite best efforts, in many developing countries, primary, secondary and tertiary education for girls STILL remains a challenge. We cannot ignore this. Currently 264 Million children are not at school, a majority of them are girls. In matters of access to education, professional opportunities, pay and representation there is no gender equality…yet! Women are still under-represented in top positions… 1 in 3 women in the world have experienced physical or sexual violence… And trafficking women and girls is still happening around the world. Child marriage is still practiced and women and young people are the hardest hit in any conflict, war or crisis. This has to stop! The world is currently home to the largest generation of youth ever – with 1.8 billion young people worldwide. Nearly 90 per cent of which live in developing countries. More than 70 million youth are currently unemployed and around 40 percent of the world’s active youth are either jobless or living in poverty – despite working. As we know, unemployment breeds many problems from inequality, crime to terrorism. And this has to be addressed. Yes, progress is being made. But it is not enough. The Ban Ki-moon Centre for Global Citizens puts emphasis on decreasing youth mortality, supporting education, women and youth entrepreneurship – and raises awareness for global citizenship issues. We want to make sure that all young people know about the SDGs and become agents of positive change. This is important given today’s challenges globally. I am often asked: ‘but what can I do as an individual?’ believing that your contribution won’t make a difference. That is wrong! And if you think that it is someone else’s responsibility, then the world will continue to suffer. It doesn’t matter how small your contribution to society is, as long as you are contributing in whatever way you can – within your capability. We all know that the 17 Sustainable Development Goals are each mammoth tasks… but they are achievable if each and every one of us plays our part. One of the biggest challenges is mobilising sufficient financing to effectively pursue the 2030 agenda for Sustainable Development. But, it is also about human-power. This brings me back to ‘what is achievable’ for an individual? You should never think your contribution won’t be enough to be a catalyst for change. Everyone can make a difference. And I want to give you a real example from within GEMS Education. I was delighted to learn that many GEMS teachers are United Nations Climate Change certified – with one school, The Kindergarten Starters, recently becoming the World’s first fully-accredited UN:CC school with all 300-plus of its teachers and support staff certified. I am even more pleased to hear that other teachers across GEMS Education schools are following suit. This was all made possible after ONE single teacher from GEMS First Point – The Villa – Candice Wright – discovered that accreditation was ONLY possible for teachers in the United Kingdom. However, she questioned the process and now as a result of her perseverance, the qualification is available to everyone around the world. This has now resulted in hundreds of teachers becoming UN:CC certified in less than a year. And, it is evidence – within your own network of schools – that one person CAN make a difference. I would like to leave you with this. Be inspired to go out into the world and to work not only for the betterment of your own country, or the country you live in but for the betterment of humankind. Be a global citizen! Act with passion and compassion! Together, we can make the world safer and more sustainable for today, and for generations to come. This is our moral responsibility as human beings. Thank you.