Ban Ki-moon Delivers Call to Action on Global Challenges

October 22, 2008
by Robert O'Neill

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon MPA 1984 called Tuesday for the international community to move quickly and boldly in addressing urgent global challenges.

Ban, speaking at theJohn F. Kennedy, Jr. Forum, warned that the world had already been facing a dangerous confluence of crises, including climate change, soaring food and energy prices, and development challenges, before the onset of the recent global financial crisis.

“In these times of crisis when we are tempted to look inward, it is precisely the time when we must move the common good to the top of the agenda,” Ban said.

He warned that global goods, such as climate change solution, global health, disarmament, and action against terrorism can only be addressed in a global context.

“These global public goods distinguish themselves from other issues of concern because they endanger all countries, whether rich or poor, small or big, and all their people, and they cross borders freely,” said Ban, a Mason Fellow and former South Korean foreign minister. “They cannot be resolved without action by all.”

Ban had been scheduled to speak at the Forum last May but cancelled his appearance in order to help coordinate an international response to the cyclone that devastated Burma. This time, he said, other crises had created “unrelenting waves that are buffeting the world’s people and institutions.”

Ban said the financial crisis had moved from Wall Street to Main Street. But he said that addressing the problem must include special consideration for the poorest and most vulnerable - those with no street.

“Wall Street, Main Street, no street, the solutions devised must be for all,” he said. “We cannot allow the global economic crisis to turn into a prolonged human crisis.”

Ban called climate change “the defining issue of our era,” and called for immediate action. “This is no longer a theory,” he said. “Its impact is documented with new evidence from around the world every day.”

He commended Harvard for its sustainability initiative and its academics for their work in understanding the underlying science and the possible solutions. But he called for the United States to demonstrate leadership when countries come together next year to begin drafting a new international approach to climate change.

Ban said terrorism, combined with the spread of weapons of mass destruction, represent the most serious threat to international peace and security. And he called on a more coordinated effort in combating global public health challenges, such as malaria and tuberculosis.

“We must move from silos to building systems, systems that work for the poorest and most vulnerable,” he said.

But Ban said he believed that the “historical pendulum” was swinging back towards multilateralism and said he was convinced the next U.S. president would take a leadership role in solving global problems.

Ban Ki-moon

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for the international community to move quickly and boldly in addressing urgent global challenges. Photo credit Martha Stewart.

“Wall Street, Main Street, no street, the solutions devised must be for all. We cannot allow the global economic crisis to turn into a prolonged human crisis.”

Ban Ki-moon

Ban called climate change “the defining issue of our era.”


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