Secretary General of the United Nations Ban Ki-Moon joined a distinguished group of world leaders when he delivered a major, end-of-the-year policy address to the Seton Hall community as a part of the John C. Whitehead School of International Relations and Diplomacy’s World Leaders Forum on Nov. 22.
As The Setonian previously reported, Ban’s address was on the seven-part U.N. agenda for the current year. Ban focused on three parts of the U.N. agenda in particular, what he said he sees as the “big three” challenges facing the international community: climate change, the global fight against poverty and addressing the plight of human beings in crisis.
He called upon the students of Seton Hall to help the U.N. address “a whole new generation of threats, threats unlike any that have come before.”
“We are natural partners, Seton Hall and the United Nations,” Ban said, after receiving a honorary doctoral degree of humane letters, “you, with your commitment to global education, and we, the United Nations, the pre-eminent global institution for our global era.”
By addressing what he believes to be the three greatest challenges facing the world today, Ban said we will create “a greener world for all . . . a more prosperous world for all . . . (and) a safer world for all.”
Ban rebuffed critics of the U.N., many of whom he said “criticize the United Nations for not solving all the world’s ills.”
In particular, Ban pointed out how the world expected much more from December 2009’s Copenhagen convention on climate change.
“World leaders gathered in a small room . . . They talked far into the night, and they emerged, if you believe the news reports, with virtually nothing.” Ban said. “It is true that Copenhagen did not meet the very high expectations. We hoped for a comprehensive, legally binding treaty that would usher in an era of sustainable, low-carbon prosperity. Nonetheless, despite the conventional wisdom that Copenhagen was somehow a ‘failure,’ much in fact was achieved.”
Copenhagen had three major successes, according to Ban. For the first time, he said, developing countries acknowledge their responsibility to curb emissions of greenhouse gasses and all the countries involved agreed to work to limit the global temperature rise to “well below 2 degrees Celsius.” Additionally, countries pledged to finance efforts to mitigate the effect of climate change and help the world adapt to changes in climate.
“The bottom line,” he said, “we made progress.”
In turning to the U.N. poverty agenda, Ban placed importance on the U.N.’s Millennium Development Goals. The goals call on the world to reduce poverty and hunger, improve the health of mothers and their children, fighting the global HIV/AIDS epidemic, improving education, protecting the environment and encouraging global development.
Again, Ban said conventional wisdom will say the goals are simply unattainable; however he pointed to major progress that the U.N. has made.
“We are controlling disease better than ever before, polio, malaria, AIDS,” Ban said, stating that polio now exists in only four countries, and efforts the UN has taken to prevent the spread of malaria and AIDS.
“With the right policies, with the right leadership and resources, targeted at the right people, we can achieve the goals,” he said.
With regard to his third policy platform, helping human beings in crisis, Ban described the U.N. as “the world’s first responder,” highlighting his trips to, and the U.N.’s efforts to assist, Pakistan, Haiti and Myanmar after each country faced humanitarian crises after natural disasters.
He also focused on the U.N.’s peacekeeping role in Sudan after years of conflict. Today, he said, the U.N. is doing everything it can to maintain peace while the nation is preparing for a January referendum on whether the country will remain united or if Southern Sudan will become an independent nation.
“Should there be violence, we are ready to act,” Ban said.
The secretary-general also took questions from a pre-screened group of students and alum after his address, where he further discussed the Sudanese independence vote.
“We are in full alert and vigilance,” Ban said. “The voter registration began on Nov. 15 and all is going well. They must decide whether they will be separated or united. Whatever their decision, the U.N. and the world will respect it, but the referendum must be conducted in a peaceful and credible way.”
Ban pointed out efforts he took to incorporate women in the U.N., without whom he said he “will not be able to address any of the challenges” he outlined during his address.
“Resources are precious; we must make every dollar count. We must mobilize all human resources as well. This means tapping the world’s most underutilized resource: women,” he said. “We need women leaders. We need the women of civil society to push for change. And we need women to be healthy and educated, as is their right.”
For those reasons, and others, the U.N., according to Ban, has placed women’s empowerment and gender equality at the center of their work, beginning with the creation of U.N. Women, a new agency to promote the standing of women throughout the world, as well as the appointment of women to many senior U.N. leadership positions, including the U.N.’s top lawyer, top humanitarian, top development administrator, top climate negotiator, top human rights commissar, top doctor and “top cop.”
Jennifer Perry, a senior diplomacy and international relation major, was excited that Ban raised the issue of women’s equality in his address.
“I interned with an NGO (non-governmental organization) at the U.N. this summer, Caritas Internationalis,” Perry said. “I am really glad he brought up things that are going on now, like the Sudan, the Millennium Development Goals and women.”
Other students in attendance, such as Michelle Hernandez, another senior diplomacy major, were surprised with the content of Ban’s address.
“I thought he brought up three points that were substantial,” Hernandez said. “I thought he would bring up less controversial issues, but he brought up really pertinent ones.”
Senior political science major Jesse Beutell and Hernandez said they thought it was fantastic the Whitehead School was able to bring the current secretary-general of the United Nations.
Beutell called the address “enlightening,” and Hernandez said she “really liked him.”
“I actually thought he was better than Tony Blair,” Hernandez said. “He is a current world leader and could talk about what he is doing.”
The Whitehead School of Diplomacy and International Relations World Leaders Forum has hosted multiple leaders to promote dialogue on the global concerns of the day.
Past guests of the forum include former Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Tony Blair, then U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, Iranian President Mohammad Khatami and former Israeli Prime Minister and current President Shimon Peres.
Ambassador John Menzies, dean of the Whitehead School, presented Ban with a Tiffany crystal globe made in New Jersey “to thank him for being the world’s leading peacemaker” after the address.
Ban, 66, of the Republic of Korea became the eighth secretary-general of the U.N. in January 2007. Ban’s ties to the U.N. date back to 1975 when he served as the First Secretary of the South Permanent Observer Mission before South Korea joined the U.N. as a member state in 1991. He has also served as his country’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade as well as various foreign posts, including as Ambassador to New Delhi and Vienna.
Brenden Higashi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.