U.N. Secretary-General pushes ‘global citizenship’

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Photo by Joyce Xi.

In a speech entitled “Shaping Solutions for a World in Transition,” United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon discussed the major problems facing the world and the need for people to consider themselves global citizens.

Speaking before an audience of roughly 200 in Luce Hall Tuesday afternoon, Ban discussed his push for immediate global attention to continuing conflicts in the Middle East, climate change and the lack of basic resources in some of the world’s poorest regions. Provost Peter Salovey, who will become University president on June 30, 2013, served as master of ceremonies for the event and introduced Ban, praising the Secretary-General’s ongoing commitments to sustainable development, women’s empowerment and arms control. During his lecture, Ban urged professors to cultivate “global citizenship” in their students, adding that students must approach their futures with an eye to international problems.

Ban said the modern era is one of dramatic transformation.

“We are living in an era of inequality, instability, injustice and intolerance, but people are demanding freedom, accountability and equal opportunity,” he said.

Citing the continuing violence in Syria, Ban said the Arab world has undergone a period during which regimes content with a “repressive” status quo have been falling apart. The Secretary-General said he remains “gravely concerned” about the situation in Syria, particularly with regard to the brutal force the Assad regime has employed against peaceful protestors and its refusal to honor a truce during the important religious holiday of Eid. Ban said he has appealed to both the Assad government and the opposition to stop the use of violence and to begin the process of political dialogue immediately.

Ban also voiced support for the Obama administration’s promises to curb climate change, and discussed U.N. efforts to bring critical resources to communities in need. He said the creation of Every Woman Every Child, the Zero Hunger Challenge and Education First during his tenure helped create stable living conditions and gave historically underserved populations worldwide the tools necessary to have an active role in the 21st century. He stressed that these goals are inextricably linked to global security challenges.

“Terrorists don’t fear governments’ guns, but they do fear education,” Ban said. “They fear girls with a textbook. When people are educated, there remains no place for terrorists to stand.”

During his lecture, Ban emphasized the importance of the United States’ partnership with the U.N., remembering his own childhood and recalling that U.S.-backed international forces from the U.N. fought against North Korea during the Korean War.

He also reminded the audience he was in tune with contemporary culture.

“I guess you came to hear a Korean on the international scene,” Ban said, “But I’m not going to dance Gangnam Style.”

Four students interviewed said they were disappointed that Ban did not bring a new perspective to the issues he addressed in his lecture.

“His speech was entirely rhetoric,” Luis Schachner ’15 said. “I was expecting thought-provoking new ideas about international problems but they weren’t there.”

Ban became Secretary-General in 2007.

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