31 Mar, 2016
World Faces Shared Challenge to Build Peace, End Injustices, UN Chief Says at Dag Hammarskjöld Lecture in Sweden
United Nations, 30 March 2016, (UN News) – Following are UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, at the Dag Hammarskjöld lecture on “Evolving Threats, Timeless Values: The United Nations in a Changing Global Landscape”, in Stockholm, today:
I thank the Government and people of Sweden for a very warm welcome. It is a singular honour to be in this magnificent and legendary City Hall among this most distinguished audience to deliver a lecture named for a towering hero of humanity.
Dag Hammarskjöld was Swede through and through, but he also belonged to the world. I feel both privileged and humbled to be serving in the role he once filled so masterfully. I also feel blessed to be serving the United Nations.
During the Korean War, the United Nations was our lifeline. We survived on food from UNICEF (the United Nations Children’s Fund). We were schooled with textbooks from UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization). We were protected by the troops of many nations serving under the UN’s blue flag.
Sweden was among the nations that responded to the call of the Security Council for Member States to support Korea in 1950. More than 1,000 Swedish doctors and nurses served in the Swedish Red Cross Field Hospital and treated 19,100 UN personnel and 2,400 Koreans. I greatly appreciate this strong show of international solidarity. Following the war, Sweden continued to help promote peace and prosperity on the Korean peninsula through its involvement in maintaining the armistice as a member of the Neutral Nations Supervisory Commission.
Every day, I think of Dag Hammarskjöld in the course of my duties as Secretary-General. But, you may be surprised to know, I did so even as a boy. Sixty years ago, I was a sixth grader in rural Korea. It was 1956 and people in Hungary were facing a violent suppression of their aspirations. We wondered: What could we do? How could we best express support from our far-off corner of the world? Then it came to us. We will write to Dag Hammarskjöld!
As the student chair, I read the letter to my entire school at an assembly. “Dear Mr. Secretary-General,” we pleaded, “help the people of Hungary so they can have freedom and democracy.” I did not know Dag Hammarskjöld. Yet, half a world away, more than half a century ago, I sensed both his power as a world leader, and his approachability as a servant of humankind. He did not simply preach these qualities. He lived them with passion and compassion.
Hammarskjöld reached people’s hearts because he strived to understand people’s minds — their hopes and dreams and fears and aspirations. He did so through the arts — music and poetry, literature, sculpture and photography. He did it through spirituality and quiet contemplation. Above all, he pursued it through his lifelong mission — an active life devoted to “selfless service”.
In October 2006, in addressing the General Assembly of the United Nations upon my election as Secretary-General, I shared the story of a boy who had once sent a letter to Dag Hammarskjöld. I expressed the wish that I would not receive such letters from children around the world.
Sadly, today, I do receive the appeals that I once sent as a schoolboy. It is I who must do what Hammarskjöld did: defend the values enshrined in the UN Charter; direct our dedicated staff; and steer the Member States towards our common goals.
The world is changing, dramatically, rapidly. We are more connected than ever before. More people than ever live in cities. New economic powers are rising. There are more than three times as many members of the United Nations as there were in Hammarskjöld’s day. New threats have emerged — climate change above all — and the human family has a new profile: more than half the Earth’s people are under the age of 25.
Our shared challenge is to shape this new world for the better, to build a landscape of opportunity and peace while conquering persistent injustices, from hatred to hunger. Around the world, we are being tested in old ways that Hammarskjöld would have recognized and in new ways for which his example can remain our guide: massive displacement — the most since the Second World War; terrorism; atrocious crimes that defy all norms of humanity.
At such times, the United Nations relies on its strongest supporters to step up, speak out and stay true. Swedes have lived and breathed the United Nations for almost 70 years. In few countries is support for the United Nations so entwined with its own national identity.
More than 80,000 Swedes have served in UN peacekeeping missions. Most recently, Swedish troops have deployed to Mali and I welcome your efforts to increase the number of Swedish police who take part in our operations.
Swedes continue to support UN efforts to prevent and resolve conflicts through mediation and other peaceful means, continuing the noble tradition of Folke Bernadotte, Gunnar Jarring, Olof Rydbeck and Olof Palme.
I especially welcome Sweden’s support for Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) on women, peace and security, and the network of women mediators. Sweden was the first country to appoint a female Permanent Representative to the United Nations — Agda Rössel, in 1958. Today, your feminist foreign policy is bringing new voices to the table.
At a time when humanitarian needs are escalating and the funding gap is widening, you remain the world’s leading donor on a per capita basis. Even with the increased spending needed to address the needs of refugees, you have admirably maintained your commitment to development aid.
Sweden has consistently upheld human rights and universal values, including as one of the largest donors to the United Nations Democracy Fund, and your commitment to people is equalled by your care for the planet — from the 1972 Stockholm conference on the environment, to the work of people like Bert Bolin who served as the first chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, to your commitment to be one of the world’s first fossil free countries. You are also helping to mobilize action to safeguard the health of our oceans — a pressing yet often neglected challenge.
I see Sweden’s contributions every day, from my encounters with young Swedish staff members in Haiti or South Sudan to the outstanding commitment of the United Nations Deputy Secretary-General, Jan Eliasson, who I am privileged to have serving by my side.
I am also grateful for the efforts of Sweden’s Royal Family. King Carl XVI Gustaf is a champion of climate action; Queen Silvia is an advocate of children’s rights; and I am especially pleased that Crown Princess Victoria has just agreed to be one of our Sustainable Development Goal Advocates and I welcome her enthusiastic engagement.
All of this leads me to one conclusion: Sweden is a superpower of solidarity, dialogue and cooperation. In the process, you are showing that leadership in the United Nations and the European Union are mutually reinforcing — as you excel at one, you advance the other — and benefit from both.
The world needs Sweden’s global citizenship more than ever. Today, I would like to highlight four areas where your contributions are crucial and where I would like for us to work together to be even more ambitious: first, addressing the refugee challenge; second, advancing a more sustainable world; third, enhancing peace and security; and fourth, ensuring the strongest possible United Nations.
Let me start with one of the leading trends of our time: human mobility. Sweden, like many countries today, is facing the challenge of refugees and migration. Sweden, like few countries today, is setting an example of generosity and values-led action. You have accepted more refugees per capita than any other country in Europe. You should be very proud of this.
I have just come from a visit through the Middle East. I met with refugees in Jordan and Lebanon. At least one out of four people in Lebanon is a Syrian refugee. I heard moving tales of horror, suffering and loss.
Dag Hammarskjöld famously said that the United Nations “was not created to take mankind to heaven, but to save humanity from hell”. These refugees have fled hell. They need our help in a spirit of shared global responsibility. I know there are tensions and difficulties with receiving great numbers of refugees, but I have been deeply moved by the many stories of Swedish hospitality and goodwill.
My message to Sweden is to keep striving for solidarity. Recognize the economic dynamism that migrants and refugees make possible. Take a stand against negative and nativist narratives. Lead the way to more understanding guided by the universal values set out in the UN Charter.
As Jan Eliasson has said, “Sweden is a part of the global community — but the world is also part of Sweden. An open and tolerant Sweden is a richer Sweden. Building strong and fair communities is a contribution to international peace and security.” I completely agree. Making the most of the blessing of diversity is the winning strategy of the twenty-first century.
That leads me to the second area where we need Sweden’s leadership — building a sustainable world. Around the continent, and around the world, I have urged leaders and citizens to avoid the siren songs of those who sow fear, hate and division. This cannot be a world of “us and them”. It must be a world of “we the peoples”.
That is the spirit of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development with its 17 Sustainable Development Goals, the SDGs. This is a 15-year blueprint to end global poverty approved by world leaders last September. It embodies a commitment to leave no one behind. In many respects, it is a global declaration of interdependence.
I know Sweden is very familiar with the SDGs and the principles underlying it. That is because you were at the forefront in shaping it and in bringing peace, development and human rights together under one umbrella.
Sweden also understood something else from the start, that while promises read well on paper, it takes political action to deliver on the ground. I want to commend Prime Minister Löfven for convening a high-level support group of world leaders to sustain the political momentum for implementation.
You have realized these goals are crucial for your own country’s progress and, once again, the Prime Minister has led the way in mobilizing ministers to drive progress. You understand a sustainable world will be a safer, more prosperous and equitable world. As Hammarskjöld said and as we all know, there will be no development without peace.
This is the third area where we can build on the Hammarskjöld legacy. In Syria, the cessation of hostilities has now held, by and large, for more than a month. This has given us greater humanitarian access and opened up space for diplomacy. Talks are making progress and will resume in 10 days. These are being led by my Special Envoy, Staffan de Mistura, another distinguished peacemaker with strong Swedish roots. We are also moving towards a ceasefire and peace talks in Yemen, where civilians have borne the brunt of Coalition aerial attacks and other violence.
From South Sudan to Mali and Afghanistan, we must resolve the conflicts that are causing so much displacement and destruction. We must also do more to heed a long-known lesson: prevention saves lives and money. We are now taking forward the recommendations of recent reviews of UN peace operations and peacebuilding that highlighted the need for greater emphasis on prevention. Our Human Rights Up Front initiative is a further effort to identify and act on the earliest signs of exclusion and other violations.
Earlier this month, we marked the tenth anniversary of the Human Rights Council, a major institutional reform that has fortified this key UN pillar. One of the architects of the Council was none other than Jan Eliasson, who served as President of the General Assembly session that brought it into being.
The terrorism and violent extremism we are seeing today is a direct assault on human rights. There can never be any justification for such acts. To tackle this challenge, we need to examine the underlying drivers. That means addressing discrimination, ensuring good governance, and providing access to education, social services and employment opportunities. In launching a plan of action to prevent violent extremism, we must also avoid responses that violate human rights and thereby feed the problem we are trying to solve.
Ending impunity for the most serious crimes of international concern is a crucial part of our work for peace. With the International Criminal Court, international and UN-assisted tribunals and courts and other mechanisms, the world has entered an age of accountability. Prosecutions may still take a long time; not all perpetrators have been brought to trial. But, the trend is unmistakable: more justice for societies and more support for the victims.
The conviction last week of Radovan Karadžić for genocide in Srebrenica, as well as for crimes against humanity and war crimes, was a further welcomed step in this direction. Our goal is a reckoning for the crimes of the past and a deterrent to the crimes of the future.
Across our agenda, the United Nations must lead by example and that means ensuring we are fit for the twenty-first century. That is the fourth and final area where I believe we must continue to make greater progress. As I said on my first day in office, we reform the United Nations because we believe in its future and I will continue to act on that conviction until my last day in office.
I publicly issued my financial disclosure statement on day one, the first Secretary-General to do so. I have strengthened results-based management and linked senior appointments to performance. I have streamlined and harmonized UN contracts and am very proud of the many glass ceilings that have been broken at the United Nations.
I have appointed more women to senior positions than at any time in UN history. We have been strengthened by the contributions of dynamic Swedish leaders such as Foreign Minister Margot Wallström, who served as my first Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, and Ann-Marie Orler, the first woman to serve as “top cop” of the United Nations, leading more than 10,000 UN Police worldwide.
But, I also know reform is never-ending. My team and I feel a strong sense of duty to work from within to transform the Organization and to face our failings when we fall short.
There is nothing more outrageous, there is no greater violation of trust than sexual exploitation and abuse by those who have been sent to a country to protect innocent people. I am sickened and shamed that the unspeakable acts of a few have tainted the valiant work of many thousands and caused some to see the UN’s blue helmet as a symbol of fear.
As I told the Security Council earlier this month, to all the victims and their families, I profoundly apologize. Any abuse of power by peacekeepers betrays the very people they have been sent to protect. It also betrays the values of the United Nations.
Under my leadership, we are taking unprecedented action. We are improving oversight so that troops with known histories of abuses will never be deployed. We are strengthening investigations so that individuals or entire contingents that commit abuses will be sent home. We are naming names and withholding payments. We are establishing a trust fund to better support victims.
Last year, I relieved one Special Representative of his command and I have appointed a special coordinator to deepen our work to protect people and uphold the highest standards of professionalism. My message to all UN peacekeeping leaders is clear: report allegations immediately and act decisively.
Of course, the United Nations does not have criminal jurisdiction over troops, so my message to the countries that contribute forces is equally clear: promptly investigate the allegations; quickly punish the perpetrators; hold your personnel accountable. Zero tolerance must be the rule. Sexual exploitation and abuse have no place, least of all in the United Nations, which stands for the rights of women and children.
In all of our work, Dag Hammarskjöld remains a touchstone for courageous, principled action. When I visited his gravesite in Uppsala on the fiftieth anniversary of his death, I laid a wreath in honour of his life and reflected on the timeless example of his service. It is in recognition of that devotion that the medal we give to the families of fallen peacekeepers is named in his honour.
Hammarskjöld was a private person who lived the most public of lives. We know, for example, that he carried a UN Charter with him at all times. We also know some of his innermost thoughts, as set out in Markings, his own personal code of conduct.
But, there is one thing about Hammarskjöld that remains a mystery: the circumstances leading to his death and the deaths of those who accompanied him. We are doing everything to find out what happened. Last year, a UN panel considered new information, including by interviewing eyewitnesses who had not been interviewed before in official inquiries. The Panel concluded that some of the new information was sufficient to warrant further consideration of whether aerial attack or other interference may have caused the crash.
I want to use this platform today to urge Member States with intelligence or other material in their archives to provide that information without delay. We must do everything to finally establish the facts and get to the bottom of this tragedy once and for all.
Dag Hammarskjöld often met with United Nations staff. In 1958, the gathering began with a song that he had asked the UN choir to learn, one of his favourite Swedish folk tunes. It inspired a poem that concludes by asking: “Will the day ever come when joy is great and sorrow is small?”
Hammarskjöld reminded the staff that the United Nations is tasked to inch the world closer to such a day. But, then he added an even deeper personal observation. He noted that whenever we are carrying out a duty “well fulfilled and worth our while”, we can already see joy as great and sorrow as being small.
I see those twin messages rooted in the Swedish character: to both work for a better world and to find ultimate meaning and reward in doing so. That is the Swedish mission, the Swedish purpose. In so many ways, you are more than a country, you are an example. You are a champion and a role model.
Together, let us continue to build a world of greater joy and lesser sorrow. Together, let us strive to narrow the gap between the world as it is and the world as we know it can be.
Tack så mycket. Thank you very much.