Delivering a lecture at Lehman College in New York, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today urged students to join the global fight against conflicts, poverty, inequality, migration crisis, diseases, and climate change.
“Those who seek to divide often speak the loudest,” he said, asking the students to raise their voices to create a better world.
The UN chief said he has “constraints” that make it difficult for him to speak out at times, but young people have exciting new ways to push for a better world, and to connect with like-minded peers across the world.
“Please make good use of that freedom,” he said. “We need you to rise up for civil rights, for social justice, for equal opportunity and fair play, here in the United States and beyond.”
Mr. Ban gave the lecture in memory of the late Herbert Lehman, from whom the Bronx institution took its name. Lehman was once the Governor of New York and a Senator. He also headed the UN Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA) in the 1940s, overseeing efforts to provide life-saving assistance to millions of people.
For five months in 1946, years before the UN moved into its own headquarters, the college’s campus was home to diplomats and staff who came together to help the world recover in the immediate aftermath of World War II and move towards a future of progress and peace.
Mr. Ban urged students to play a role in carrying forward Lehman’s spirit and in helping to build lives of dignity for all.
Last year, despite global divisions over conflicts in Syria, Yemen, Ukraine and elsewhere, world leaders came together to adopt an inspiring 15-year blueprint for a better world, known as the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, he said.
Women’s empowerment is a thread running through the new development goals – and has been a priority throughout his tenure as Secretary-General, he said, inviting the students to join him in ending violence against women and girls – and in enabling women and girls to fully enjoy their rights and realize their potential.
“I am also passionate about empowering the world’s young people,” he said, explaining why he appointed the first-ever UN Youth Envoy to help connect the Organization and young people, and why the UN launched the Global Initiative on Decent Jobs.
Last December, in another sign of hope at a time of turmoil, world leaders came together to adopt the historic Paris Agreement on climate change. Young people can also be at the centre of climate action.
“I have been Secretary-General for almost ten years and there is the one inescapable truth about all of the challenges we face,” he said. That is: no single country or region - even one as dynamic and powerful as the United States – can solve global problems on its own.
Over the years, the United States has been a generous contributor of humanitarian aid, and a leader in the fight against hunger, he said. The country’s economy and innovations have been engines of progress, and its embrace of diversity has inspired the world.
“I hope that you students, as emerging global citizens, will make the case for even stronger global engagement,” Mr. Ban said. “In today’s globalized world, the walls between the national and international continue to fall away. The international interest and the national interest are increasingly one and the same.”