‘Use your voices to claim your rights,’ Ban urges university graduates in Belgium

28 May 2015

Addressing the graduating class at the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium, where he was bestowed an honorary degree today, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon gave students one final homework assignment: become global citizens with global vision.

“Use your voices to claim your rights and I will work as your ally,” Mr. Ban

pledged. “Act with passion and compassion. Challenge your leaders, your professors, your presidents, prime minister and CEOs. Tell them you want to be at the negotiation table with them taking part in the decisions affecting your lives.”

“With this honorary degree, you give me another moral mission and I accept this moral mandate and mission as Secretary-General. I know that you ask the United Nations to do much more, and I am committing myself to work for world peace, development, and human rights,” he added.

Mr. Ban is in Belgium where yesterday he addressed the European Parliament on the migration crisis in the Mediterranean. He also met with the leadership of the European Commission and the European Council.

Speaking at Leuven, Mr. Ban said that this year’s 70th anniversary of the United Nations is a good moment to reflect on the past, but even more importantly, a time to have a conversation about how to build a better future.

“We are also working at a deeper level, trying to nurture new generations of global citizens. Today, around the world, too many millions of children are out of school, and too many others do not get an education that matches the needs of today’s economy,” the UN chief continued.

He highlighted ways Belgium is involved on the global stage and encouraged the European nation to engage further in pushing for the adoption of sustainable development goals (SDGs) in September in New York and adopting a global agreement on climate change in December in Paris.

“We are the first generation that can put an end to poverty and we are the last generation that can put an end to climate change,” declared Mr. Ban, adding that the United Nations is working hard to address global challenges such as war, migration and education.

On migration, he said that what is happening on the European continent and in Southeast Asia, has taken on new urgency with tragic situations in the Mediterranean and Southeast Asia. Migrants are desperately trying to find a better life, but fall prey to perilous journeys, he said.

“I know we have all been saddened to see so many men, women and children lose their lives in the Mediterranean. Our efforts are aimed at saving lives but also resolving the conflicts and poverty that lead people to flee in the first place,” Mr. Ban emphasized.

But the United Nations cannot solve the crises of the world alone. It will need the full support of every citizen in the world.

“We have to shape the future development agenda, which will put us all on a sustainable path, where all the citizens of the world can live peacefully, harmoniously, where their dignity can be respected,” the UN chief said.

In Brussels today, Mr. Ban also met with the President of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, to welcome Europe’s proposal on migration, including the relocation of 40,000 asylum-seekers, as a step in the right direction. The two leaders also deplored terrorism and pledged to counter the violent extremism.

Also today, Mr. Ban briefed reporters on his meeting with Belgium’s Prime Minister Charles Michel. They also discussed efforts to promote peace in Central African Republic (CAR) and Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and also the situations in Yemen, Libya, Syria and Burundi.

Prime Minister Michel and Mr. Ban also touched on sustainable development, climate change, and July’s conference on financing for development set to take place in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

“This is an opportunity – a historic opportunity – to place the world on more sustainable footing, and I encouraged Belgium to continue doing its part to make this year a great success for the world’s people,” he said.


♦ Receive daily updates directly in your inbox - Subscribe here to a topic.
♦ Download the UN News app for your iOS or Android devices.

News Tracker: Past Stories on This Issue

Ban tells European Parliament to work together to address challenge of migration

In Brussels today, where he was addressing the European Parliament, the United Nations Secretary-General today the important role played by the European Union in boosting the UN agenda, particularly on matters of peace, development and human rights.