On Friday 5th February, members of staff from UN House Scotland and the United Nations Association Scotland travelled to London to listen to the Secretary General (SG) speak regarding his experiences over his term.
The event was opened through the utilisation of video presentation which demonstrated the historic association of Central Hall Westminster and the UN, with the first SG of the UN, Trygvie Lie, being elected in the very same building. Natalie Samarasinghe from UNA-UK welcomed the SG and his wife to the UK and the morning’s event and expressed that this visit marks the final event in a series celebrating the 70th anniversary of the UN. Natalie addressed the increasing need for the UN, speaking directly to the UN being stretched by the series of crises experienced globally in 2015. She made special mention to the 1 million people fleeing to Europe across the Mediterranean last year and the increasing strain on UN agencies who are aiding these individuals.
“In our turbulent world, the need for an effective UN is greater than ever.”
Following Natalie, the Rt Hon Baroness Anelay of St Johns DBE commended the recent and ongoing global work of the UN and Sir Jeremy Greenstock then welcomed the SG to the stage on behalf of the UNA-UK.
Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon spoke of the honour to be standing on the same podium as the founding fathers of the UN when they gathered to speak on the future of the world following the atrocities of the Second World War. He expressed his excitement to be carrying the torch of his predecessors. The SG gave a special mention to Sir Brian Urquhart who he said “embodies the ideal of global service and the principles of the Charter”. The SG made special mention of the situation arising in Yemen, explaining that the region is ‘awash with weapons” and stated that there needs to be further control of arms flow in accordance to the Arms Trade Treaty.
Mr Ban spoke most fervently regarding the instigation of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), often referred to as the Global Goals, and the Paris agreement on climate change made at the COP 21. This is especially highlighted as the 13th goal of the SDGs specifically related to climate change.
“Not a single goal in 17 exists singly or in separation, they are all tightly interconnected.”
The SG spoke to his experiences as a six year old child when his family were displaced during the break of the Korean War in 1950. He referred to the supplies provided to his family by UNICEF and UNESCO but most importantly the security afforded them through the protection of the UN. “This was the first time the United Nations exercised its authority to maintain international peace and security.”
“At that time to me, as a young boy, the United Nations blue flag was a beacon of hope. Our saviours.”
The United Nations is placing a greater emphasis on prevention rather than response. The SG spoke of the need for continued advocacy for the Responsibility to Protect and commended the UK for its key voice in the Security Council with regards guiding the UN peace operations.
Mr Ban referred to his special interest in “mobilizing new generations of UN supporters”, especially with reference to empowering women and young people as his top priority. This statement received a round of applause. However, the SG said he would like to do more to “promote the future of young people” – one of his reasons for appointing the first ever Special Envoy to the UN for Youth.
The SG ended his address saying “we can build this world better for all, let’s work together…”
A young lady of 14 asked of Mr Ban ‘how can she make her voice heard’. His response was: