Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations, was very popular at the University of Auckland today.
Multiple lecture theatres were packed to the brim with people excited to watch his speech titled ‘New Zealand and the world: Sustainability and security in a time of global transition’.
He is in Auckland to attend the Pacific Islands Forum, after visiting the Solomon Islands and Kiribati as part of a ‘Pacific’ round-trip. The previous UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, visited New Zealand back in 2000.
I am particularly encouraged to hear that this man, who intricately understands the pressures facing the world and is so committed to spreading the urgent message of action and unity required to mitigate and adapt to climate change, is going to be in discussions with New Zealand Government leaders (e.g. there is a one-on-one meeting scheduled with John Key this afternoon!).
Apparently on September 21st he intends to call upon all international leaders to make sustainable development a TOP priority. Fingers crossed that his presence in New Zealand might strike a chord.
His speech today focussed on the two big challenges (or priorities) that he is most interested in: security (i.e. current and future upheavals) and sustainability (i.e. addressing climate change and resource use).
He communicated a sense of urgency [I try my best to quote]: ‘Climate change is not a thing in the future, it is about today. Science has made it very clear that climate change is happening, and happening much faster than expected … I have seen it. I have visited places where the negative impacts are visible today … and my visits have strengthened my vision … climate change is a threat to humanity and a threat to peace and security’.
He went on to say that this news may be sombre and shouldn’t be sugar-coated, especially for young people, because there are solutions (and just like our problems these are often well interconnected). He says that whilst he may be a leader today it is the young people that will be the leaders tomorrow who will have to be prepared to take on all these burdens… and he acknowledges that it is his job (his responsibility) to leave as few burdens as possible.
Some of his closing remarks included: ‘Young people are the most important force to hold today’s leaders to account … speak up for your future … you have the right to ask for a better world … you can count on me, but I need your engagement and your support … everyone has to do their part’.
Coming away from this (my closest ever contact with anything UN related) I am greatful to the UN’s role in giving hope and encouragement to others to build courage for action.