Chairman Ban joined the TIME for a virtual interview. The TIME100 Talks was revealed on-line on the 17th of June, focusing on the importance of global cooperation and building a better post-COVID era. The guest speakers were the 8th UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, tennis star Naomi Osaka, actor Ayushmann Khurrana, and CEO Kai-Fu Lee. K-pop group Monsta-X attended as a special performer.
In his interview, Chairman Ban introduced the Ban Ki-moon Foundation for a Better Future, which he established to promote and raise global citizenship. As the UN Secretary-General, he has witnessed many world renowned global leaders, engaging in narrow short term political gains. Global leaders must look beyond their national borders and work on addressing global issues as a member of humanity as a whole.
Chairman Ban also expressed his concerns on rising nationalistic behaviors. A whole new set of challenges have emerged like trade war, xenophobia, increasing refugees and migrants. At a time when solidarity and unity is required, we are seeing cases of segmentation like the Trump administration, Brexit and ‘yellow vests’ rather than cooperation.
He also criticized ‘one country first’ policies. The Donald Trump administration has withdrawn from multiple multilateral institutions and agreements. “Since the 2016 election of President Donald Trump, I’m afraid that this ”America First” policy has in fact isolated the US on the global stage and in practice, does look more like “America Alone”,” he said. International organizations cannot function without the cooperation of its member states. Hence the confrontation of the two state powers, China and US is hindering the operation of international multilateral organization to solve the global challenges we are facing. Chairman Ban urged global powers to be reasonable and to support the international institutions.
He affirmed that diplomacy still is the best measure to deal with the escalating tension in North Korea. While president Trump played ‘his ego and penchant for pageantry,’ North Korea seems to have succeeded in gaining nuclear weapons. “It’s not only the security and safety of the American continent. It’s the safety, security and threat to the whole of humanity once North Korea uses nuclear weapons,” said Chairman Ban.
“We must always remember that global problems require global solution. There is not a single country or an individual, however powerful and resourceful one may be.”
The rise of populous leaders and their blame at multilateral institution is worrisome. “Sadly, levels of xenophobia, racism, anti-Semitism, and sexism have dangerously increased globally in tandem with the rise in populism,” he mentioned. In the hyper interconnected 21st century, international cooperation is the glue to bind the world together.
Lastly, Chairman Ban spoke of the situation in Hong Kong. He hoped for the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’s role in mediating the conflict between the two powers, US and China. The situation in Hong Kong must be solved in a peaceful manner, that the people of Hong Kong can prosper and advance under the one country two system framework.
Below is the transcript of the interview with the TIME:
Hi everyone, welcome to this TIME100 talk, I’m Charlie Campbell, East-Asia correspondent of the TIME. I’m delighted today to welcome Mr. Ban Ki-moon, he served as the 8th SG of the UN for two terms from 2007-2016. Mr. Ban, thank you for join us today, very grateful for your time.
Thank you. It’s a great pleasure and an honor for me to be with you today.
Fantastic. I understand you’re in Seoul Korea at the moment?
Yes I’m staying at this time in Korea. And I have been staying here for the last 3 months full, and now it is the 4th month that I have been lock-downed in Korea. It is quite worrisome that this kind of lockdown continues still, while we are living in the 21st century, hyper-interconnected world.
I hope that soon we’ll be able to freely travel, move around, meet people and talk.
Well actually, I love visiting Seoul myself. I look forward to coming over and perhaps meeting you there one day soon. We have a lot of talk to deliver a little bit about the South Korean coronavirus response later on in this conversation, but perhaps this time we might talk about your Ban Ki-moon foundation for a Better Future, which I understand you set up with a name of encouraging global citizenship. Why do you think that is so important?
During my tenure service as the UN SG, I have met numerous numbers of political, economic, businesses and civil society leaders. I’m now going to talk about the political leaders of major countries, national leaders. What I have found during last 10 years is that largely, these political leaders who claim to be global leaders, lack global reason, global citizen. That is why the first thing I have done was to establish Ban Ki-moon Centre for Global Citizens in Vienna, Austria, where one of the four headquarters of the UN is located.
Then May last year in Korea, I have established the Ban Ki-moon Foundation for a Better Future. These two organizations, carrying my name, are mutually reinforcing to promote and raise global citizenship.
Global citizens are those who identify as members of their nations but instead as member of humanities more largely. They look beyond the national borders and narrow prism of national, personal political interests. Mostly they are engaging in short term political gains. That’s not what we need as leaders. We are very closely interconnected with a lot of global challenges like climate change, sustainable development, eradicating abject poverty, and global health like COVID-19. This is something which we have to mobilize full global citizenship with compassion, solidarity and sense of unity. But I’m sorry to tell you that largely we are embarrassed that such kind of global leadership is absent in most of the countries, particularly in one of the most important countries.
Absolutely. Because it seems that while you’re trying to bolster global leadership, there has been a worrisome rise of nationalism across the world in many countries. How worrying is that for global peace and prosperity?
This global rise in nationalism is deeply concerning and has ushered in a new period of unpredictability and risk that threatens international peace and security, sustainable development and human rights, particularly on those vulnerable group of people.
Populist skepticism and anger – of globalization, institutions, experts, and even on science and facts – has fueled many of the seismic geopolitical changes I have witnessed in recent years. This includes notably, I’m sorry to say this, President Donald Trump of the US, Brexit in the EU, and some “yellow vests” in France and there are many such leaders.
Such events share many underlining connected threats such as frustrations with inequality, manifestation of xenophobia and resurgent of nationalism. And as nationalism spreads, continues to grow, and make electoral gains around the world, a whole new set of challenges has emerged. Trade wars; free trade is hindered and hurting the global economy. Refugees and migrants. We have more than 75 million refugees and migrants. This is the highest number since the end of WW2. Human rights are being undercut and critical multilateral institutions and agreements are at risk like the Climate Change Agreement. These dynamics are making it harder to resolve conflicts.
At the time when we need solidarity and unity much more, we are losing our capacity, our limited capacity to handle all global issues.
And of course during your time in charge of the UN, you sought to combat global challenges such as climate change, spearheading initiatives of the Paris Climate Agreement. The US has withdrawn from the Paris pacts and has announced its intents to defund the WHO, has withdrawn from the UN Human Rights Council and at the moment there is a growing momentum for words even withdrawing from the WTO. How damaging is US’s disengagement from global affairs?
US is the most powerful in every aspect, in every standard and most resourceful. And US have been leading this world particularly since the end of WW2 with the fundamental value inscribed in the Charter of UN. That is global peace and security, sustainable equitable development and also human rights for all.
Now embarrassingly we are seeing some absence of American leadership since the administration of Donald Trump began. Now the US has withdrawn from the UN Human Rights Council. American people leadership has derailed from universal human rights. They have withdrawn from UNESCO, they have also withdrawn from major international agreements, starting from Paris Climate Change Agreement, JCPOA, Iranian Nuclear Deals and they have also canceled the INF(Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty).
I am very much afraid to say that, at the time when American leadership is most needed, Americans are now backtracking from this kind of world challenges.
Absolutely. Some of the criticisms which have been leveled at is now so into institutions of the UN from Donald Trump. Is there any validity in these criticisms? Is there a real argument that these international institutions need to be reformed?
International Organizations can be as effective and strong as much as the member states support them. There is a clear lack of resources. Only with member states’ financial and technical support, can UN SG or DG of WHO work to address these global challenges, including the pandemic, peace and security in many conflict genres, and protect those vulnerable groups of people whose human rights are being abused.
Now US and China are two great powers in terms of economic as well as in terms of military. They respect their status as such. But they are now confronting each other and I sincerely hope that US particularly, as a number one global power, should lead this world with much more reasonable and active support for the organization.
I don’t think it is fair to criticize WHO. WHO is one of the 16 specialized agencies, focusing on global health and security. After the 4 months of the pandemic eruption, the UN SC has never been able to take any single decision because of the confrontation between China and US.
This is sad. There should be a sense of global responsibility to be recognized as a global leader. Global leadership cannot just stay there. They should lead by being an example.
Other than serving as a foreign minister, you were also former chief national security adviser to the South Korean President, and both roles involve working closely with North Korea. President Trump is has switched from a hostile approach to Kim Jong Un to unprecedented engagement. Recently Pyongyang has resumed flying rockets. Is engagement still the correct course?
I think diplomacy is still the best approach, dealing with North Korea’s nuclear issue and reconciliation between South and North Korea. The first year of President Trump was very dangerous relationship between North Korea and United States, and there was nothing—no movement even between South and North Korea. The robust US-ROK security cooperation, and maintenance of the UN Security Council sanctions etc, has really helped to maintain the stability of the Korea peninsula until this time. 3 times of summit meeting, one-on-one meeting with Chairman Kim Jong Un of North Korea and president Trump has made good contribution. But at this time, unfortunately, by being granted one-on-one summits three times with President Trump and perhaps playing to his ego and penchant for pageantry, Kim Jong-un seems to have succeeded in acquiring de facto nuclear state status for his country. This is something which I am very much worried about.
The United States has been changing the position when it comes to denuclearization. First, they said the CVID, complete verifiable irreversible denuclearization. Then now, sometimes they changed to FFVD(Final, Fully Verified Denuclearization). President Trump has been saying that it’s okay that [North Korea] are testing some small range missiles, as it cannot reach the American continent. It’s not only the security and safety of the American continent. It’s the safety, security and threat to the whole of humanity once North Korea uses nuclear weapons. It is a known fact that they are already stockpiling, and that is 22 to 60 nuclear weapons in their own hands. They have never declared even though they declared and signed with president Moon Jae In in Panmunjeom in 2018, that they would adhere to denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, but they have never implemented that agreement. That is why we are very much worried about this. This is much to the detriment of the long-stablished and collective efforts by the international community, including the UN Security Council, to achieve denuclearization in North Korea. At this time, I am particularly worried about North Korea’s recent resumption of missile testing, that is quite concerning, and it may foretell a glimpse of renewed tension ahead.
But I am also encouraged about the fact that diplomatic process techniques remains open, and has not collapsed completely.
Your country South Korea had very robust technology driven response to the coronavirus pandemic, building on its quite frightful experience with the MERS epidemic when it was second worst hit country after Saudi Arabia. Is it possible do you think for just strengthening global institutions to build on a South Korean coronavirus response to perhaps create a blueprint to …
Of course, Korea is ready to share with other members of international community, the expertise, know-how and experiences. Korea’s recent history with the pandemic disease dealing with SARS(2002) and MERS(2015) has undoubtedly better prepared to offer us to combat COVID-19. Mask wearing has already been ingrained in the lives of Korean people, and the government’s very aggressive response related to the three ‘T’s — ‘testing, tracing and treatment’ — has been particularly effective in keeping cases, hospitalizations and deaths relatively low. Now, that’s why Korean government is actively seeking to exchange our experiences and knowhow with other developing countries.
As a former SG, I joined many global leaders, urging G20 leaders to do much more for Global South in Africa and other countries where they do not have capacity—even to test.
The relatively low numbers of occasions and death are because of their inability to verify. Therefore Korea is now ready to work with UN and WHO, and I believe that there are many lessons to be learned that could be replicated from the lessons of the Korean people.
But I can caution you that there is no such one-size-fits-all, but at least we can share our experiences.
It seems that countries with populous leaders looking at the US and Brazil, seems to have suffered disproportionately badly during this coronavirus pandemic, and a lot of these populous leaders take aim at national institutions like the UN. Why do you think there is such a rise of populism across the global community?
As I said earlier, attacks on the UN or international organization are nothing new. Now they are using the anger of people on the ground. This is quite worrisome. The rise of populous nationalism over the last few years has dovetailed with anger at institutions, globalizations, inequality and perceived a demographic threat as a result of migration and refugee issues. Because the global leaders have not done enough for all those helpless people who have to flee their country for a better opportunity, there is only rise of anger. That is the problem now.
Opportunistic leaders and politicians in the United States, Europe, Southeast Asia, and Latin America have exported these convergences as well as other related climate action and gender inequality to frame globalism (and the U.N.) as the enemy of national values. Sadly, levels of xenophobia, racism, anti-Semitism, and sexism have dangerously increased globally in tandem with the rise in populism.
Despite such disheartening developments, we must always remember that global problems require global solution. There is not a single country or an individual, however powerful and resourceful one may be, can handle these global problems at this time.
On top of your work at the UN, you were also South Korean Foreign Minister and a diplomat, including postings in New Delhi, Vienna and Washington D.C. The current Trump administration advocates a policy of “American First” but insists that does not mean “America Alone.” As a former diplomate, do you find that reassuring? Is it possible to have both?
I’m also very worried and concerned about this “One country first”, not only “America First” policies. We are living in a small planet earth, hyper-interconnected world. There is no place where we cannot reach within 24 hours by airplanes. That is a fraction of seconds. We can communicate like we are right now. If only one country wants to live alone, that means this country would fail. Since the 2016 election of President Donald Trump, I’m afraid that this ”America First” policy has in fact isolated the US on the global stage and, in practice, does look more like “America Alone”
The US has decided to withdraw from major global agreements (Paris Climate Agreement, UNESCO, the UN Human Rights Council, and the Iran nuclear deal, JCPOA) which have already been inaugurated. This is a serious problem and I am really urging American leadership to really look back on what is happening in global community when there is absence of American leadership. There will be more nationalism, terrorism, abuse of human rights, and regional conflicts. Other powers such as China and Russia are also taking notes and trying to fill the global leadership vacuum resulting from this US retreat from multilateralism.
I am urging the United States to look at this situation seriously. International cooperation is the glue that binds everybody together. Nationalism and Protectionism are simply not viable alternatives to cooperation and partnerships.
And the latest dispute between Beijing Washington these days on semi-autonomous Hong Kong and the National Security Legislation, and debates that is continued on the topic of economic special status. Do you think that international institutions like the UN could help mediate disputes like this?
I hope that UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres will be able to play a certain role in this very worrisome situation between two big powers—China and the United States. I have been closely monitoring the current situation in Hong Kong with a great concern, as a former SG.
And as one of global citizen, the acute political confrontation between the United States and China is another worrisome example of the nationalism falling apart.
First of all, it is of utmost importance that the current situation be resolved in a peaceful manner and that Hong Kong continues to enjoy and prosper, to advance under the one country two systems framework. That means that Hong Kong’s autonomy should not be undermined. Freedom of expression and freedom of assembly should be guaranteed. At the same time, any expression such as anger through demonstration should be carried out in a peaceful way, without disrupting law and order. At the same time, basic human rights of the millions of Hong Kong citizens should be respected.
I sincerely hope that there is a time for both the China and the United States to engage in each other, and they should take more prudent action before taking any unilateral measures
Mr. Ban, I’m afraid we’re out of time. Thank you so much for joining us today a TIME. It has been a fascinating discussion. I hope we can talk again soon and you’re able to continue your travel and your work.
Thank you very much for this opportunity. I hope we’ll be able to meet in person. Thank you.