From its vital support in protecting civilians during the Côte d’Ivoire crisis to its role in combating poverty, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today lauded Ukraine’s contributions to peace and security, while adding that its experiences offer useful lessons for emerging democracies in the Arab world.
“Twenty years ago, the Soviet Union dissolved. Ukraine gained its independence amid some of the most dramatic events of the modern era,” Mr. Ban noted in his address to the Kiev Institute of International Relations, where he also received an honorary doctorate degree.
“Today, once again, change is sweeping the world. Once again, Ukraine has a role to play.”
Ukraine has much to offer today’s emerging democracies, Mr. Ban said, given its experiences with transforming political and economic systems, of building democracy and dismantling a police state.
“Your experiences provide important lessons for neighbours near and far,” he said, while noting that Ukraine also faces continuing challenges such as fighting drug trafficking and corruption, tackling HIV/AIDS and working to advance transparency and accountability.
The Secretary-General highlighted a number of Ukraine’s contributions, including to various UN agencies working to provide vital humanitarian assistance and to help reduce poverty worldwide.
The country also features prominently in UN peacekeeping efforts, from Kosovo and Sudan to Timor-Leste and Côte d’Ivoire, he added. When the situation in the West African nation descended into crisis, Ukraine sent three combat helicopters, transferred from the UN mission in neighbouring Liberia – a “very courageous decision” that helped to protect civilians from attack.
In addition, Ukraine has been a leader on nuclear issues, he said, noting that it has earned the world’s admiration when it voluntarily gave up its nuclear arsenal. “Early on, Ukrainians recognized a basic truth: if we want to be certain that nuclear weapons will never be used, we must get rid of them.”
Yesterday, Mr. Ban made the first visit by a UN Secretary-General to Chernobyl, the site of the April 1986 nuclear accident, where he paid tribute to the many victims of the disaster and called for a “new chapter” to begin in the areas still affected.
“It is one thing to read and hear about Chernobyl, and it is a completely different story to see for myself,” Mr. Ban told a conference in Kiev, after his visit to the site accompanied by Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych.
In an effort to help advance global nuclear safety, Mr. Ban has offered a five-point strategy that begins with a top-to-bottom review of current nuclear safety standards.
On the sidelines of the conference, the Secretary-General held meetings with a number of officials, including Francois Fillon, Prime Minister of France; Jose Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission; Nursultan Nazarbayev, President of Kazakhstan; Zhang Deijang, Vice Prime Minister of China; and Thorbjorn Jagland, Secretary General of the Council of Europe.
In addition to nuclear safety, some of the other issues discussed were the latest developments in the Middle East and North Africa, and the situation in several global hotspots such as Côte d’Ivoire.
After concluding his visit to Ukraine, Mr. Ban travelled to Moscow, where he visited a centre for disabled children. He discussed the global problem of disability, at a time when about 10 per cent of the world’s people live with a disability – whether physical, emotional or sensory.
“Let us work hard together to make this world where all the children, whether they are living with disabilities or not, can live freely as members of our community together,” he said.