Global perspective Human stories

Today’s challenges require global leadership, new multilateralism – Ban

Today’s challenges require global leadership, new multilateralism – Ban

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (left) with Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the US House of Representatives in this file photo
Addressing the class of 2009 at Johns Hopkins University in Washington, D.C., Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for a special brand of global leadership and a new multilateralism to deal with the complex challenges facing the world today.

“Threats spill across borders. Just as the world’s people have become more interdependent, so have the issues. No nation can deal with them alone,” he said in his commencement address at the University’s School of Advanced International Studies.

“This new world demands a special brand of leadership…global leadership,” Mr. Ban stressed. “We need new vision, bold action, powerful partnerships for enduring peace and prosperity. That is why I call for a new multilateralism.”

He added that the new multilateralism should focus on delivering global goods: freedom from hunger, health and education and security from terror or the threat of Armageddon.

“A multilateralism that couples power with pragmatic principle, recognizing that in our interconnected world the well-being of any one nation depends, to an increasing degree, upon the well-being of all,” he told the audience of students, faculty and well-wishers.

At the same time, the Secretary-General cautioned against expecting quick results and emphasized the need to be realistic. “The new multilateralism, however welcome, offers few easy fixes. Progress comes in fits and starts, usually without the clear triumphs of a long-distance runner crossing a finish line. Ours is a world of half-loaves, of glasses half full — when we are lucky.”

The UN chief, speaking from personal experience, urged young people to consider careers in public service, saying that there is no more noble calling.

“There is no greater good than a life of public service. This I know, personally. During my boyhood in Korea, I experienced first-hand what is it like to be hungry, afraid and alone. It was after the war, and I went to school in the open air. There were no walls; only rubble. There was not much to eat. Often I went to sleep, crying from hunger.

“The United Nations, led by the United States and other countries, helped feed and defend my people… It helped rebuild my country. Ever after, for me and my country, the United Nations has been the symbol of hope. For many hundreds of millions of people, it is so today.”

Mr. Ban began his day in the US capital with meetings with the Speaker of the US House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, as well as with some key members of the House and Senate Appropriations Committee.

“I regard the partnership between the United States and the United Nations as crucially important in promoting world peace, security, development and human rights,” he told reporters after his meeting with Ms. Pelosi.

The Secretary-General added that Congressional support is vital to many of the issues raised in today’s discussions, including climate change, and peace and security in places such as Darfur, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Mr. Ban is now headed to Sri Lanka for a two-day visit to get a first-hand look at the situation on the ground in the wake of this week’s announcement by the Government that its military operation against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) had ended.