Category Archives: Secretary-General’s Messages and Activities

OP-ED: “A CALL TO EMPOWER YOUTH”

August, 2016

The 2016 Olympics have already shattered records, but even before the first competition began, these Games made history by giving athletes who have no country to call home a place on the starting line.

I expressed my appreciation to the President of the International Olympic Committee, Thomas Bach, for his compassionate leadership in forming the first-ever Refugee Olympic Team, whose members I had the privilege of meeting. Their strength in surviving the horror of displacement and the pain of loss was remarkable. Although nothing can change the past, these athletes are proving that even the most impossible odds can be beaten. Whether or not they earn the chance to stand on the podium, they are already towering winners.

I saw in these young refugees the passion and promise possessed by millions of youth in our world. At this time of rampant poverty, hateful discrimination, rising violent extremism, environmental degradation and other global threats, we must look to those hardest hit, especially young people, for solutions.

The United Nations is committed to working for and with youth. I appointed the first-ever UN Envoy on Youth, Mr. Ahmad Alhendawi, when he was 28 years old. We are working on the ground to ensure every young person has the education, health, employment and rights they deserve. Every year, the UN’s Economic and Social Council Youth Forum brings together senior government officials and young activists to discuss the most pressing global concerns. And the United Nations is partnering more and more with youth-led and youth-focused organizations to promote peace and development around the world.

International Youth Day, observed annually on August 12th, should be a time for real commitments. This year, I used the occasion to announce new steps to empower young people.

One serious injustice I have been seeking to correct is the exclusion of youth from security matters. It seems plain to me that if young people are considered good enough to die in wars, they should also have a seat at the table when leaders negotiate peace.

The United Nations Security Council finally recognized this last December when it adopted Resolution 2250 on supporting young peacebuilders.

To study progress on this unprecedented measure, I announced the members of a new Advisory Group. Like most other such panels, the Group is diverse and international – but it has the added benefit of including people who have lived the issue at stake. Nearly half of the Group’s members are young. One lost her father in war. A second survived being shot. Others were refugees. With the combined expertise of all the members, I expect their report will lead to new advances.

Young people have all the skills and energy needed to contribute to society – but they lack opportunities for decent work. Globally, more than 70 million are unemployed. To help rise to this challenge, I named a new Special Envoy for Youth Employment, former Chancellor of Austria Mr. Werner Faymann. He will work with my Youth Envoy and the UN’s experts on this issue, including in the International Labour Organization, to make a difference.

In our view, youth can do more than fill jobs – they can create them. I have called on young people to take risks based on the understanding that every successful entrepreneur climbed to the top on a stack of failures.

Young people everywhere can help realize the vision of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, our global plan for people, the planet and prosperity.

This year, the United Nations will name the first-ever class of UN Young Leaders for the Sustainable Development Goals – 17 outstanding young individuals, chosen from more than 18,000 nominations. We will bring the appointees to UN Headquarters in September to hear their ideas for our common future.

These steps may seem small and largely symbolic. After all, 17 sustainable development leaders are just representative of the change we will need. The Advisory Group on youth and peacebuilding has only a handful of members. And a new appointment may not seem game-changing.

Of course I understand these measures will not solve global problems overnight – and I am calling on all people, especially youth, to do their part. Everywhere I go and every chance I get, I urge young people to be global citizens, raise their voices and change our world. Tens of thousands of young people are already leading successful efforts. We need millions more to reach the Goals.

Incremental progress adds up. I remember holding my children in my arms, and now they have children themselves. You might not notice a young person growing little by little each day but you will surely see a dramatic difference over time. When we steadily support the world’s youth, they can create a safer, more just and more sustainable future for generations to come,676904

MESSAGE ON WORLD HUMANITARIAN DAY

A record 130 million people are dependent on humanitarian assistance to survive.  Grouped together, these people in need would comprise the tenth most populous nation on Earth.

These figures are truly staggering, yet they tell only a fraction of the story.  Hidden behind the statistics are individuals, families and communities whose lives have been devastated.  People no different to you and me: children, women and men who face impossible choices every day.  They are parents who must choose between buying food or medicine for their children; children who must choose between school or working to support their families; families who must risk bombing at home or a perilous escape by sea.

The solutions to the crises that have plunged these people into such desperate hardship are neither simple nor quick.  But there are things we can all do – today, and every day.  We can show compassion, we can raise our voices against injustice, and we can work for change.

World Humanitarian Day is an annual reminder of the need to act to alleviate the suffering.  It is also an occasion to honour the humanitarian workers and volunteers toiling on the frontlines of crises.  I pay tribute to these dedicated women and men who brave danger to help others at far greater risk.

Today, I urge everyone to sign on to the United Nations “World You’d Rather” campaign.  As well as raising awareness and building empathy, the campaign has a concrete goal: to raise money for the UN’s Central Emergency Response Fund and to enrol the support of individuals everywhere as Messengers of Humanity.  We need everybody to demand that their societies and governments put humanity first.

Earlier this year, 9,000 participants gathered in Istanbul for the first-ever World Humanitarian Summit.  World leaders committed to transform the lives of people living in conflict, disaster and acute vulnerability.  They rallied behind the Agenda for Humanity and its pledge to leave no one behind.

This promise is also at the heart of the Sustainable Development Goals.  With their focus on human rights, resilience and poverty eradication, these 17 global goals offer a 15-year plan to reduce needs and vulnerability and promote a world of peace, dignity and opportunity for all.  To succeed on this collective journey, we need everyone to play their part.  Each one of us can make a difference.  On this World Humanitarian Day, let us unite in the name of humanity and show that we cannot and will not leave any one behind.685060

THE SECRETARY GENERAL’S MESSAGE ON THE INTERNATIONAL DAY OF NOWRUZ

21 March 2015

The annual observance of Nowruz is a wonderful opportunity for people to jointogether to celebrate cultural diversity, dialogue and mutual respect. It is a moment ofunity and solidarity, within and among societies, that is all the more important at times ofstrife and division.

This year’s Nowruz also takes on special meaning as the United Nations worksto shape a new vision for sustainable future and adopt a meaningful universal climateagreement. These priorities for 2015 are in line with the spirit of Nowruz, which promotes harmony with nature and all peoples to foster cooperation for lasting peace.

This ancient New Year tradition coincides with the arrival of spring, giving rise to a rich array of customs, rituals and festivities, from communities in Western, Central and Southern Asia, to the Caucasus, Balkans and other regions. Nowruz is inscribed on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, under UNESCO’s Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage.

I wish joyous and peaceful celebrations to all. May the spirit of Nowruz live on throughout the year.

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THE SECRETARY GENERAL’S MESSAGE ON INTERNATIONAL DAY OF HAPPINESS

20 March 2015

I wish everyone around the world a very happy International Day of Happiness!

The pursuit of happiness is serious business.

Happiness for the entire human family is one of the main goals of the United Nations.

Peace, prosperity, lives of dignity for all – this is what we seek.

We want all men, women and children to enjoy all their human rights.

We want all countries to know the pleasure of peace.

We want people and planet alike to be blessed with sustainable development, and to be spared the catastrophic impacts of climate change.

Let us give thanks for what makes us happy.

And let us dedicate our efforts to filling our world with happiness.

Thank you.

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THE SECRETARY GENERAL’S MESSAGE FOR INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY

8 March 2015

Twenty years ago, when the world convened a landmark conference on women’s human rights, the devastating conflict in the former Yugoslavia prompted deserved attention to rape and other war crimes there against civilians. Two decades later, with girls as young as seven not only targeted but used as weapons by violent extremists, it would be easy to lose heart about the value of international gatherings. But while we have a long way to go to achieve full equality – with ending gender-based violence a central goal – progress over the past two decades has proven the enduring value of the 1995 Beijing Conference on Women.

Since the adoption of its Declaration and Platform for Action, more girls have attained more access to more education than ever before. The number of women dying in childbirth has been almost halved. More women are leading businesses, governments and global organizations. I welcome these advances. At the same time, on this International Women’s Day, we must acknowledge that the gains have been too slow and uneven, and that we must do far more to accelerate progress everywhere.

The world must come together in response to the targeting of women and girls by violent extremists. From Nigeria and Somalia to Syria and Iraq, the bodies of women have been transformed into battlegrounds for warriors carrying out specific and systematic strategies, often on the basis of ethnicity or religion. Women have been attacked for trying to exercise their right to education and basic services; they have been raped and turned into sex slaves; they have been given as prizes to fighters, or traded among extremist groups in trafficking networks. Doctors, nurses and others have been assassinated for trying to operate in their professional capacity. The women human rights defenders brave enough to challenge such atrocities risk – and sometimes lose – their lives for the cause.

We must take a clear global stance against this total assault on women’s human rights. The international community needs to translate its outrage into meaningful action, including humanitarian aid, psycho-social services, support for livelihoods, and efforts to bring perpetrators to justice. With women and girls often the first targets of attack, their rights must be at the centre of our strategy to address this staggering and growing challenge. Empowered women and girls are the best hope for sustainable development following conflict. They are the best drivers of growth, the best hope for reconciliation, and the best buffer against radicalization of youth and the repetition of cycles of violence.

Even in societies at peace, too many girls and women are still targets of domestic abuse, female genital mutilation and other forms of violence that traumatize individuals and damage whole societies. Discrimination remains a thick barrier that must be shattered. We need to expand opportunities in politics, business and beyond. We need to change mind-sets, especially among men, and engage men in becoming active change-agents themselves. And we must back up our resolve with resources based on the sure understanding that investments in gender equality generate economic progress, social and political inclusion and other benefits that, in turn, foster stability and human dignity.

This is a vital year for advancing the cause of women’s human rights. The international community is hard at work on establishing a new sustainable development agenda that will build on the Millennium Development Goals and shape policies and social investments for the next generation. To be truly transformative, the post-2015 development agenda must prioritize gender equality and women’s empowerment. The world will never realize 100 per cent of its goals if 50 per cent of its people cannot realize their full potential. When we unleash the power of women, we can secure the future for all.

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THE SECRETARY GENERAL’S MESSAGE ON WORLD WILDLIFE DAY

3 March 2015

The United Nations General Assembly has proclaimed 3 March – the anniversary of the adoption of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) – as World Wildlife Day. On this second observance of the Day, the UN system, its Member States and a wide range of partners from around the world are highlighting the simple yet firm message that “It’s time to get serious about wildlife crime”.

Illegal trade in wildlife has become a sophisticated transnational form of crime, comparable to other pernicious examples, such as trafficking of drugs, humans, counterfeit items and oil. It is driven by rising demand, and is often facilitated by corruption and weak governance. There is strong evidence of the increased involvement of organized crime networks and non-State armed groups.

Illegal wildlife trade undermines the rule of law and threatens national security; it degrades ecosystems and is a major obstacle to the efforts of rural communities and indigenous peoples striving to sustainably manage their natural resources. Combatting this crime is not only essential for conservation efforts and sustainable development, it will contribute to achieving peace and security in troubled regions where conflicts are fuelled by these illegal activities.

Getting serious about wildlife crime means enrolling the support of all sections of society involved in the production and consumption of wildlife products, which are widely used as medicines, food, building materials, furniture, cosmetics, clothing and accessories. Law enforcement efforts must be supported by the wider community. Businesses and the general public in all countries can play a major role by, for example, refusing to buy or auction illegal ivory and rhinoceros horn, and insisting that products from the world’s oceans and tropical forests have been legally obtained and sustainably sourced.

On this World Wildlife Day, I urge all consumers, suppliers and governments to treat crimes against wildlife as a threat to our sustainable future. It’s time to get serious about wildlife crime.

THE SECRETARY GENERAL’S MESSAGE FOR WORLD DAY FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE

20 February 2015

World Day for Social Justice comes at a pivotal moment for people and our planet. Around the world, there is a rising call to secure a life of dignity for all with equal rights and respect for the diverse voices of the world’s peoples. At the core of this movement lies the need for social justice.

This year’s commemoration focuses on the scourge of human trafficking and the plight of approximately 21 million women, men and children in various forms of modern slavery. New instruments such as the ILO Protocol and Recommendation on forced labour and human trafficking are helping to strengthen global efforts to punish perpetrators and end impunity. We must continue to do more. We simply cannot achieve development for all if we leave behind those who are socially and economically exploited.

In this crucial year for global development, as Member States work to craft a post-2015 agenda and a new set of sustainable development goals, let us do our utmost to eradicate all forms of human exploitation. Let us strive to build a world of social justice where all people can live and work in freedom, dignity and equality.

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THE SECRETARY GENERAL’S MESSAGE ON WORLD RADIO DAY

13 February 2015

On World Radio Day, we celebrate a medium that captures the imagination and brings people together.

Every year, United Nations Radio broadcasts over 1,200 documentaries, news items andeditorials over the airwaves.

This year’s observance of World Radio Day highlights the importance of radio to the world’s 1.8 billion young women and men.

Radio matters for youth across the world.

As the international community shapes new sustainable development goals and a new global agreement on climate change, we need to hear the voices young women and men, loudly, strongly and urgently.

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THE SECRETARY-GENERAL’S MESSAGE ON THE INTERNATIONAL DAY OF COMMEMORATION IN MEMORY OF THE VICTIMS OF THE HOLOCAUST

27 January 2015

Seventy years ago today, allied forces liberated Auschwitz Birkenau, the German Nazi Concentration and Extermination Camp.

More than a million inmates, primarily Jews, were brutally and systematically killed in the place where the Nazis introduced the monstrous concept of “industrialized murder”. Among the other victims were non-Jewish Poles, political prisoners, Soviet prisoners of war, Sinti and Roma, homosexuals, disabled persons and Jehovah’s witnesses.

Unprecedented in human history, this mass killing was motivated by the perverse, race-based ideology of the Nazis, who sought to track down and kill every last Jew and any others they considered to be inferior.

Humankind united to overcome the Nazi menace. Today, we are being tested again. Minorities everywhere often face bigotry. Sectarian tensions and other forms of intolerance are on the rise. Anti-Semitic attacks continue, with Jews being killed solely because they are Jews. Vulnerable communities around the world continue to bury their dead while living in fear of further violence.

The mission of the United Nations was shaped by the tragedy of the Second World War and the Holocaust. We are committed to protect the vulnerable, promote fundamental human rights and uphold the freedom, dignity and worth of every person.

For the past decade, the Holocaust and the United Nations Outreach Programme has mobilized students and educators around the world to help us achieve these goals. We are grateful to our many partners – including Holocaust survivors — who have contributed to this work, which spanned 42 countries in the past year alone.

The violence and bias we see every day are stark reminders of the distance still to travel in upholding human rights, preventing genocide and defending our common humanity. We must redouble our efforts to eradicate the deep roots of hatred and intolerance. People everywhere must unite to stop the cycles of discord and build a world of inclusion and mutual respect.

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