New York Times Posts Ban Ki-moon’s Opinion on the Refugee Crisis

In 1951 a young boy and his family fled their burning village during a brutal war that brought immeasurable death and destruction to their country. He witnessed pronounced human suffering that would continue to haunt him in the days and years to come.

This child uprooted by conflict was me — the same boy who would grow up to be elected as the eighth secretary general of the United Nations in 2006.

As secretary general, I met so many children around the world, particularly in Africa and the Middle East, who reminded me of my own wrenching experience of displacement. Seeing myself in each of them, I have remained determined to elevate the plight of refugees to the top of the global agenda today.

As of the end of 2017, a record 68.5 million people around the world had been forced from their homes, including 25.4 million refugees, according to the United Nations refugee agency. Only 102,800, less than 1 percent of the total number of displaced, were admitted for resettlement in 2017. Furthermore, data from the Missing Migrants Project shows that nearly 2,000 refugees and migrants died during the first six months of 2018 as they made perilous journeys across borders and high seas.

Despite the scale of the refugee challenge, we need to think of it first and foremost as a crisis of solidarity. Whether the world can come together to effectively support these vulnerable groups will be a true test of our collective conscience.

An increase in political will is urgently needed from our world leaders, as is a readiness to partner with others. This political will must be guided by an enhanced sense of our common humanity, rather than a belief in barriers and barbed wire.

Faced with images of unthinkable suffering from the conflicts in Syria and Yemen, or with evidence of gross human rights violations in Myanmar and elsewhere, too many leaders have lacked the necessary courage to respond with generosity and support. Some leaders have gone so far as to actively encourage prejudice against refugees and migrants simply to win votes.

Countries in the developing world — Turkey, Pakistan, Uganda, Lebanon, Iran, Bangladesh and Sudan — are host to among the largest numbers of refugees, while the prosperous nations of the global north have failed (with the exception of Germany) to share the burden fairly. This needs to change.

Wealthier countries must admit and resettle significantly more than the less than 1 percent of the world’s refugee population resettled in 2017. Such equitable sharing of responsibility is critical to ameliorating this crisis of global solidarity.

In September 2016, I convened the United Nations Summit for Refugees and Migrants in New York to confront the refugee challenge head-on. At this historic gathering, world leaders committed to developing a Global Compact on Refugees and a Global Compact for Migration, an international negotiation process overseen by the United Nations until its conclusion this past summer. Together, these agreements — which will likely be adopted by the United Nations later this year — will help ensure the dignity and protection of refugees, migrants and host communities alike.

In particular, the Global Compact on Refugees will allow for better burden-sharing among host countries, while elevating the voices of refugees and civil society groups.

Despite the hard work undertaken by the international community in support of refugees, we must recognize that the global political environment has changed dramatically in recent years. In a number of countries, the global compacts were negotiated in the shadow of populist backlashes that have tapped into and stoked nativist fears about immigrants and their descendants. Some politicians feel that they must be tough toward immigrants, that they must protect their country’s borders and national identities. In the United States, the resulting policies have taken on increasingly cruel forms, with children detained and separated from their asylum-seeking parents in violation of the best interests of the child.

The United States’ decision to withdraw from the migration pact, announced in December 2017, is a deeply regrettable step that undermines international solidarity. It also hampers efforts by nation-states, international agencies, nongovernmental organizations, multinational corporations and others to increase partnership efforts.

Such partnerships are crucial in easing the suffering of refugees. For example, the United Nations refugee agency and the Ikea-supported company Better Shelter have come together to provide thousands of innovative temporary housing structures for refugees and displaced families in Iraq, Greece and elsewhere. The Japanese government generously supported Better Shelter’s housing efforts in Iraq.

In Lebanon, Johnson & Johnson has partnered with the nongovernmental organization Save the Children to provide refugees displaced by the crisis in Syria with access to early childhood development services.

I fondly remember when, in 2016 — my last year as secretary general — I witnessed the entry of the Refugee Olympic Team at the opening ceremony of the Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro. For the first time, refugees were allowed to compete in the Olympics as a stand-alone team. The refugee athletes said to the world: We are young people, just like scores of others, and although we are refugees, we can compete at the highest level.

The huge crowd gathered at Maracanã Stadium felt the same way: Tens of thousands of people gave the refugee team an extended standing ovation. It was a beautiful moment, full of pride, solidarity and hope.

This is the same spirit in which we must address the global refugee crisis. Only by standing together — with each other and with refugees — can we succeed.

Original publication with photos: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/16/opinion/politics/ban-ki-moon-refugee-crisis.html

Photo: Ali Dia/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Ban Ki-moon speech at the EFA 2018 Opening Session

Your Excellency President Van der Bellen,
Your Excellency President Pahor
Your Excelleny President Vučić,
Your Excellency President Thaci,
Your Excellency President Fischler,
Your Excellency Commissioner Hahn,
Your Excellency Minister Kneissl,
Your Excellency Minister Köstinger,
Dear Heinz,
Distinguished Guests,
Dear Global Citizens,
Gruess Gott! Good Afternoon!

I am pleased to join you today on the occasion of the opening of the Political Symposium of the European Forum Alpbach 2018.
This year marks the third time I have had the pleasure to be part of the vibrant and truly global atmosphere which everyone can experience year after year in Alpbach. In fact, this should be my 4th time, had I not cancelled my participation in 2013 because of the Syrian Crisis. Now, I am here to pay my overdue

Today, the values of mutual understanding and tolerance – so deeply embedded in the United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – celebrating its 70th Anniversary this Year – are facing profound tests around the world.
Diversity in the form of an open and inclusive society continues to be challenged by walls, closed doors, prejudice and fear. People are targeted because of their origins, culture, faiths and traditions.
Today, too many decision makers and politicians use cynical math and biased messaging to steer fear.

In times of fear and growing hate and discrimination towards people of different beliefs, nationalities, and sexual orientations, promoting tolerance through diversity and resilience should be of fundamental importance for decision-makers worldwide.
Therefore, resilient and thus more inclusive and diverse societies that can draw on the ideas, creative energy and talents of each of their members, are profoundly encouraged by tolerance, acting as a lever for sustainable development.

Already as Secretary-General of the United Nations I underlined that the Sustainable Development Goals are our only chance to put our planet on the right path. We do not have a Plan B or a Planet B – we only have one world and one plan. The SDGs are the people’s agenda, a plan of action for putting social conflicts to a rest, for reaching equality in all its dimensions, irreversibly, globally.
The SDGs and the Paris Climate agreement need to be our guiding principles to leave no one behind. We owe this to the billions of children, women and men who, through their courage, vitality, dreams and engagement help make our global society a more prosperous, resilient and diverse one.

Ladies and gentlemen,
I have special ties to Austria. As many of you know I have opened a small humble Centre for Global Citizens in Vienna in January this year and I am leading it together with my dear friend, Heinz Fischer. Thanks to you, President Van der Bellen, Chancellor Kurz and the whole Austrian government and many others who supported us on this journey so far.

Since the beginning of this year, we have worked to build the Cente up. It is still a small start- up enterprise. We created it to help to continue to address some of the challenges the world faces today. The Centre is just a small contribution to the worldwide ongoing efforts and we are still in the process of raising adequate funding for putting our plans into practice. We cannot do this alone, so we need all your help.

Let us act as Global Citizens. Let us look beyond national borders and empower each other to thrive in a peaceful and prosperous world. For the first time in history we can end poverty, for the first time in history we are all interconnected and have the knowledge of humankind at our fingertips. We have more tools at hand than ever before. Particularly the young need to be given the right opportunities to build “their tomorrow.”

Let us therefore see the world and all its possibilities through the prism of “we the people” and let us – at the same time – reject the failed mindset of “us” versus “them.”
We are all in this together.

I believe in a world of justice and peace for all. A world where girls can grow up free of fear of abuse. A world where human rights are respected, and women are treated with the respect and dignity. A world where poverty is eradicated. A world where economic growth and sustainable development are not mutually contradictory. A world where young people have a voice and a chance for a prosperous tomorrow.

Ladies and gentlemen,
As the leaders of tomorrow, I urge you all to remain engaged, not only during this year’s European Forum Alpbach, but also beyond: You have the passion and energy and commitment to make a difference. Exchange experiences and lessons learned and encourage each other to go faster and further. Have a global vision. Go beyond your country; go beyond your national boundaries and act as a truly Global Citizen.
We can build this world – together – to leave no one behind.
Thank you.

Statement by Mr. Ban Ki-moon on passing of Mr. Kofi Annan, the 7th Secretary General of the United Nations

Having heard with a great shock and deepest sorrow, my wife and I join the world´s people and all the colleagues of the United Nations system in extending our deepest condolences to Mrs. Annan and his bereaved family on the untimely passing of Mr. Kofi Annan, my predecessor Secretary General of the United Nations I also convey the same to the government and the people of Ghana.

For the last 15 years, I have had closely worked with Secretary General Kofi Annan for peace, development and human rights for all the people around the world. After retirement from the United Nations, Mr. Annan has been most energetic in the sublime works of realizing the goals of the United Nations, and has been leading The Elders Group where I had been honoured to work with him since 2017.

During and after his life-long service with the United Nations, he has been astutely guiding the United Nations organization into the 21st century defining an ambitious agenda that had made the UN truly indispensable to peace, prosperity and human dignity around the world.

He will always be admired and remembered for his vision and courage in upholding the United Nations principles and ideals.

May his soul rest in peace and eternity,

Ban Ki-moon
8th Secretary General of the United Nations

“Be a global citizen – act with passion and compassion”

Ban Ki-Moon and Heinz Fischer launch a new Centre for Global Citizens to empower young people

Vienna, 3 January 2018

Today Ban Ki-moon, (UN Secretary-General from 2007 – 2016) and Dr. Heinz Fischer, (Federal President of Austria from 2004 – 2016) officially inaugurated the Ban Ki-Moon Centre for Global Citizens in Vienna at a ceremony at the Federal Chancellery of Austria, at the invitation of the Chancellor of the Republic of Austria, Mr. Sebastian Kurz.

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