Secretary General Ban Ki Moon spotlights the role of United States youth in UN’s success

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This article originally appeared on the UN Youth Envoy Blog. 

The United States and its young people, in particular, are essential to the success of the United Nations,Secretary General Ban Ki Moon said last week in his remarks to the UN Association of the United States of America (UNA-USA) Members Day gathering at Headquarters.

“I am asking you, particularly young people, to have a global vision. Just forget that you are American citizens. Living in New York or California…This is a very small world. [People elsewhere] are our brothers and sisters and fathers and mothers, so we have to live together,” Secretary General told participants at the UN 7th Mid-Atlantic Regional Conference.

The Secretary-General thanked the organization for its advocacy in helping reach young people and promote support for the UN in the US. As it stands now, the US is the largest single donor country to the UN – 20-27 per cent of all the Organization’s financial requirements come from US taxpayers.

In his remarks, Secretary General recalled growing up in Korea as a little boy. “Tens of thousands of American young men and women came to Korea to rescue us, as a part of the United Nations collective security. Without the US and without the United Nations, all Koreans or even the Republic of Korea might not have been able to exist…I owe a great deal – I am one of the greatest beneficiaries of the United Nations.”

Now, the UN is building refugee tents, providing food, water sanitation, and make-shift schools. And although this year marks 70 years since the UN’s creation and the end of the Second World War, there is still work to be done to fight racism, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and other forms of intolerance.

Recalling his participation at yesterday’s White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism and Terrorism, Secretary General emphasized the importance of solidarity among people from countries of different faiths and religions. Fighting violent extremism “is not a war against any religion by any religion or against any civilization or by any civilization. This is a war against a brutal criminality – unspeakable, intolerable brutality – beheadings, kidnapping, killing, raping.”

There are reasons why this kind of extremism happens such as bad governance including failed leadership, corruption, injustice, and inequality. Addressing this is a global challenge and not a single country, however powerful or resourceful, can do it alone. The United Nations also cannot do it alone. Therefore, it’s important to show solidarity and mobilize.

Human dignity and human rights go hand-in-hand in preventing violent extremism, Secretary General said. “I think you should feel a responsibility as citizens of the most resourceful, richest country in the world. You should have a global citizenship.”

Secretary General said he plans to host a high-level meeting, inviting all the faith leaders around the world to spotlight the importance of tolerance and education. Killing people is a crime, no matter the cause or grievance.

That’s why, on the occasion of its 70th anniversary, the UN has very ambitious goals to make the world sustainable – environmentally, socially, and economically. Member States have already announced 17 very ambitious goals with 169 targets to make these goals achieved by 2030.

“By 2030, our target is that we eradicate poverty…by that time, we will have gender equality. By that time there should be no children who are left behind at school, at least secondary schools,” Secretary General said.

There are still 67 million young people, school-age children who are out of primary schools. By 2030, they will have to have access to secondary school. By 2030, the UN will have reduced significantly the mothers who are dying while delivering babies and girls and boys who are dying from preventable diseases such as malaria, polio and so many diseases which are preventable. By 2030, the world will be more environmentally sustainable.

The Secretary General said he looked forward to December this year, when in Paris the world will plan to sign a historic climate change agreement. But first, in July, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Member States will meet for a conference on development financing.

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