Source: Chatham House Official Youtube Channel
On July 7th, Chairman Ban engaged in a webinar hosted by the Chatham House. Chatham House, the Royal Institute of International Affairs, is an independent research institute and a forum on spheres of politics, diplomacy, academia, business, media, leadership and more. Chatham House is holding a series of events to mark their 100th anniversary since its founding in 1920. Chairman Ban appeared on the 2nd Members Event, a webinar on “Bridging the Divide Between Local and International Action”.
In this event the Chairman shared his thoughtful insights on multilateralism, human rights, youth empowerment and climate change. Many young students from around the globe actively participated in the dialogue with the former UN Secretary-General.
In his opening speech, he began by acknowledging the importance of local’s voices. “I have always been speaking out that there is no difference between local and global – local is global and global is local,” he said. The support of local communities and the civil society is crucial to the work of UN. Especially in difficult times as today’s COVID-19 the value of cooperation, solidarity and a sense of compassion from every corner of our community shall not be overlooked.
“At the same time, we all need to be vigilant about the risks posed to peace, democracy and public health,” he said, referring to the prevailing hate speech, fake news and disinformation on digital platforms. Lessons should be learnt from 1920-1945, 25 years in between the founding of the Chatham House and the United Nations. It reminds us that the failure of multilateralism and far-sighted leadership led to terrible consequences. The history is teaching us that populist isolationism, disregard for international law and the abandonment of key treaties and institutional governance mechanisms will not be the right way.
Chairman Ban also mentioned the injustice issue in addressing climate change. “The countries and people who have contributed the least to global warming are paying the highest price,” he grieved. He urged the responsible leadership of economically developed nations to address climate justice.
Climate change, nuclear proliferation, terrorism, racism and economic injustice; these are all ‘problems without passports’. Although there are cynics on the role of UN, Chairman Ban confirmed that without a global body such as the UN, threats to international peace and security cannot be dealt with. “We cannot solve these problems if we retreat behind our own borders, obsess about definitions of sovereignty or indulge in specious rhetoric about “national greatness”,” he asserted, calling on international solidarity.
When asked about the Human Rights Council, Chairman Ban explained the transition from the Commission to the Council. Even with its limits and weaknesses, Chairman Ban had persuaded the Obama administration to stay within the Council, pointing out that this is where human rights agendas can be handled. Unfortunately the Trump administration has withdrawn from the Council.
Chairman Ban is of the idea that human rights should be prioritized in all circumstances. Peace and security, sustainable development, and human rights are the three pillars of the UN Charter, equally valuable. Yet, human rights should always be up front; protecting human dignity must be considered on top of peace and security and economic development.
Students joining the webinar were much interested in active youth engagement. Youth participation and women empowerment was one of Chairman Ban’s most notable attainments as the UN Secretary-General. He shared his experiences working as the Head of UN, how he organized the UN Women and the Special Envoy on Youth to provide opportunities for women and youth. UN guarantees full equality. ‘We the people’ in the UN Charter is representing inclusivity; inclusivity beyond sexual orientation, age and nationality.
On the acute question of the reformation of the UN Security Council, Chairman Ban did approve of the dilemma of the current P5 system. The present P5 do not represent Africa and Latin America. Moreover, the lack of political will of the five states leads vetoes, discontinuing the function of the Security Council. “When it comes to humanitarian crisis, veto should not be exercised,” claimed Chairman Ban, upset at the Security Council’s inaction in the face of COVID-19.
Today, democracy is being challenged around the world by authoritarianism and rocky balance between representative democracy and direct participatory democracy. South Korea’s experience of candlelit processions and demonstration was made possible on top of the strong civil society and the people’s awareness of democratic values. Political leader’s devotion to democratic principles and human rights, and the active support of international society is essential to overcoming the challenges of today.
The last question was on the role of business communities in the UN system. When it comes to SDGs, considering that the industry sectors cause pollution and that they can mobilize fund for the implementation of the SDGs, participation of business sectors is critical in achieving the goals of the UN. The UN Global Compact (UNGC) was established by Kofi Annan at the Davos Forum for these reasons. Chairman Ban is also actively supporting the works of the UNGC, closely working with the Global Compact Korea Network.
Below is the full transcript of the Webinar:
[Dr. Robin Niblett CMG]:
My very great pleasure to welcome the former Secretary-General of the UN, Ban Ki-moon to join us today for what should be a very interesting conversation about the topic of “Inclusive Governance and Sustainable Development”. The reason we are so pleased, not just to have him with us today but also to be having this conversation, is that we are, as Chatham house, making as one of our 2nd century goals, the whole issue of more inclusive and accountable governance. So with that in mind, to be able to discuss with him today specifically the topic of how you bridge the divide between local and international action, strikes us as especially important.
As we know, most of international affairs work on multilateral initiatives focuses on big aid packages, G20’s debt relief, and the 0.7% targets of GDP for foreign aid, some of the big infrastructure projects that have been taking place around the world, but the positive impacts of development are crucially connected to local contacts and local implementation, whether this connects into the climate impacts or development, or the role of women in development, we really want to think about how governments’ models can change, so that we can engage more local involvement in the process of sustainable development, both in the execution and in the implementation and in the design. This means engaging civil society actors, private sectors, but also some of the more marginalized parts of international society who are not involved in developing sustainable development as they would like to do.
As I said, we are absolutely delighted to have Ban Ki-moon with us today all the way from Seoul. Mr. Ban, great to have you with us.
I think you all know he was Secretary-General of the UN from 2007-2016 and he has become the Deputy Chairman of The Elders, a very notable group of former world leaders and it was kicked off from the time of Nelson Mandela, Kofi Annan was involved in it as well, and to have you here with us today both in your role as former Secretary-General of the UN but also importantly as someone who understands the delivery of complex policy solutions as the former Foreign Secretary of South Korea.
As Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon focused on the launch of the SDGs, the Sustainable development Goals, he put a very heavy focus on climate change, and he also helped launch the UN Women program of initiatives as well as being a big supporter of universal health care another area also of Chatham House focus in our centenary.
After inviting former Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to say some words of, you know, to set the scene on this topic, just to let you know we will be engaging some of you who can join us in conversation. Could I please encourage you to type any Q&A questions, if you have any questions, into our Q&A function at the bottom of your ZOOM page. I’m sure you’re all very experienced on doing this now, so if you go to the Q&A function, just type in your note there. If you would like to ask the question in person, than feel free to say so in the Q&A and then we can always call on you to unmute your microphone so you can ask the question in person. Otherwise, I will moderate the questions that I pick up as I see them coming along.
So once again, former Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Mr. Ban, wonderful to have you with us today for our centenary week, which is the 2nd in the series of special events that we’re doing this week to mark the 100 year since our founding in 1920, and we really can think of no one better to address this big issue of inclusive governance and bridging local and international action.
Over to you, sir.
Thank you very much Dr Robin Niblett, the director of the Chatham House.
First of all my warmest congratulations on the centenary anniversary of the Chatham House. It is a great honor to commemorate this occasion through this webinar. I have participated in events with the Chatham House as the Secretary-General, and I think this is my 2nd time through a webinar.
For the past hundred years, Chatham House has performed a valuable service to the whole world as a center for independent thinking, thorough research and – perhaps most importantly – constructive dialogue in an atmosphere of mutual trust and respect.
You have made many important subjects like local voices, etc. I have always been speaking out that there is no difference between local and global – local is global and global is local. Without any support of the civil societies; no country, no leaders can perform their visions smoothly. This is why I think continuous dialogue between academic research institutes like Chatham House and many types of civil society is very important for the work of the UN.
Now more than ever, we need the values of Chatham House at the center of public life and discourse. COVID-19 has shone a light on the acute vulnerabilities of our interconnected world. No country can tackle this kind of global challenges alone, without having full cooperation, solidarity and also a sense of compassion for other people.
Digital technology offers many positive ways to facilitate this cooperation and transparency.
Webinars, video conferences and other online platforms can play a significant role in maintaining a global conversation about global problems, and in holding leaders and their advisers to account.
At the same time of course, we all need to be vigilant about the risks posed to peace, democracy and public health by the rising amount of hate speech, fake news and disinformation amplified via social media and the Internet during this time of crisis, sometimes as deliberate state propaganda and sometimes as cynical “clickbait” designed to maximize revenue for digital platforms and providers.
This vigilance is all the more important amid the current global climate of populist isolationism, disregard for international law and the abandonment of key treaties and institutional governance mechanisms.
2020 marks not only the centenary of Chatham House but the 75th anniversary of the founding of the United Nations. As the former Secretary-General this has important meaning and reflections.
Those intervening twenty-five years, from 1920 to 1945, serve as a reminder to us all of the terrible consequences of the failures of multilateralism and far-sighted leadership. Faced then as now with a devastating pandemic, growing nationalism, systemic racism and profound economic inequalities, too few of the leaders of 1920 had the courage or wisdom to tackle these threats collectively. Rather, they retreated into narrow nationalism, tried to maintain unsustainable and unjustifiable colonial empires, and indulged in punitive posturing towards former adversaries.
In 1945, it seemed as if the world had, finally, learned the lessons of past mistakes. The United Nations was created, in the words of its Charter, to “save the world from the scourge of war” and pursue peaceful and inclusive paths to global prosperity and democracy.
Cynics might argue that the fact that war, inequality, discrimination and poverty have not been vanquished over the past 75 years means that the UN is a costly failure. I vehemently disagree!
If anybody asks be, ‘is the UN still necessary?” my answer would be: if we have to disband the UN, then we will have to create another UN tomorrow. Without UN, and without such global body, it will be very much difficult to handle all the problems.
Where the UN has failed, I would argue that this has been because member states – particularly but not exclusively the five Permanent Members of the Security Council – have not lived up to their responsibilities, and have placed their narrow national interests above common priorities. It is very rare that all these five countries have a full agreement, even on purely humanitarian issues. You may remember the Security Council has not been able to issue any statements or resolutions on this COVID-19 crisis. During my time, when Ebola happened in 2014, it took only one day to declare that it was a serious threat to maintenance of international peace and security. Because of the political differences between the China and the US, this is not the case now.
Climate change in particular is an existential threat that can only be solved through collaborative action based on the principles of solidarity, equality and inclusivity.
This is why the multilateral instruments and processes created to tackle climate change, including the Paris Climate Agreement of 2015 and the broader UN Sustainable Development Goals, 17 goals, need to be informed by a sense of “climate justice”.
The countries and peoples who have contributed the least to global warming are paying the highest price as temperatures and sea levels rise, making their homes uninhabitable and their livelihoods unsustainable, from fishing and agriculture to traditional indigenous cultures. They have done nothing wrong; it is mostly industrialized countries who have done wrong to our planet earth. This is what we can say, injustice. So my good friend and Chair Mary Robinson has created her own foundation on climate justice.
A country like the UK – a permanent member of the UN Security Council, one of the architects of the international order, a significant player in the global economy and the President of the next COP – has a particular responsibility to show leadership and set a global example on climate justice.
Back in 2019, I expressed my concern about the role played by UK Export Finance in funding fossil fuel projects overseas even when the UK Government was proclaiming its success domestically in moving away from coal-generated power.
I called on the then-Prime Minister Theresa May to recalibrate the UK’s export finance policy so it is fully consistent with international climate trends and obligations, and I repeat the call today to Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
I know that many people across the UK, in government, the devolved administrations, business, academia and the think tank community, had been working hard to ensure a successful COP 26 summit in Glasgow this November.
Covid-19 has forced the summit’s postponement to 2021, but there must be no diminution of the UK’s ambition and efforts to secure a meaningful outcome that puts the world firmly on track to meet the target of keeping global temperature rise below 1.5 degrees Celsius, as recommended strongly by the IPCC October 2018.
This must mean listening to and learning from activists at a local level, and providing a platform via the medium of digital technology so these lessons can be translated into international action plans.
In conclusion, I would like to remind you of some wise words from my dearly-missed friend and predecessor as UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan. He described the existential challenges facing our world, from climate change and nuclear proliferation to terrorism, racism and economic injustice, as “problems without passports”.
We cannot solve these problems if we retreat behind our own borders, obsess about definitions of sovereignty or indulge in specious rhetoric about “national greatness”.
Covid-19 is a sombre reminder of our common human bonds and vulnerabilities. We will dishonour its victims unless we respond to the pandemic and other shared threats with a renewed sense of solidarity and collective action.
This is my brief opening remark, but I’ll be very happy to engage in dialogue with the students.
[Dr. Robin Niblett CMG]:
Thank you Mr. Ban. Thank you for those very thoughtful remarks for the quite appropriate reminder of this being the UN’s 75th anniversary as well and I think especially important that you noted what was it that happened between that period of 1920 and 1945. It was the failure of the LN and then the rediscoveries of the new system of international governance built around the UN, even with all its failing, it needed to be reinvented to deal with these problems without passports, to quote your predecessor Kofi Annan.
Thank you for these very important remarks, also for bringing up some of the more current issues. Not just the issue of climate change but also the issue of hate speech, disinformation, and populism and as you said particularly strong reminders of injustice. Not just in developing parts of the world that are being inflicted by ubiquitous poverty, but also in some of the more developed countries around the world as you see in the UK, the US and around Europe in recent weeks.
We’ve got quite a few questions coming in. Before I turn to S(questioner), let me just ask you one specific question Mr. Ban, which is about the role of the UN Universal Declaration on Human Rights. Because it does strike me that this is a time when, you focused on the limits of governments and what governments can achieve, but the UN did have in its founding this idea of the rights of individuals, and I can think of no more important way of thinking of blossom up than, thinking about the rights of individuals, is to be enshrined in that UN’s Universal Declaration on Human Rights. Could you say where you think that stands right now? We look at the UN Human Rights Council; it does not seem to bear a resemblance to somebody like me looking on the outside, to the values that are upheld in that Universal Declaration, this used to be a dichotomy. Now that you are no longer Secretary-General, maybe you could share your thoughts on that and then after that I’ll turn to S.
First back to you, Ban Ki-moon.
Thank you very much, that’s a very important question.
When I became Secretary-General on January 2007, we had already transformed from the Human Rights Commission to the Human Rights Council. In fact there had been strong criticism from international community, particularly countries like the US and many European countries that the Human Rights Commission has become very much politicized. Then they decided through many long heated discussions to reform this commission and created the Human Rights Council.
We hoped the Human Rights Council to be less politicized by certain group of countries, but it was almost the same. That is why unfortunately, the US has been in and out of the Human Rights Council.
When I was the Secretary-General, I had strongly advised the newly elected President Obama and his administration, and I have in-depth discussions with Ambassador Susan Rice that:
I know that you’re not satisfied with the Human Rights Council, but the Human Rights Council was created upon a strong urge. If you speak up outside the Council, whatever your concerns may be, your concerns will not be addressed. If you have concerns than come in, join the Council, and speak out there as a member of the Council. Everybody will welcome. Normally the Council members are elected but I’m sure you will have no problems getting elected.
President Obama accepted, and he joined. There were some very serious issue between Arab countries, Palestine and Israeli issues. Unfortunately President Trump administration has decided to withdraw from the Human Rights Council. This is very sad.
Now apart from this, my policy has been: human rights should be upfront, the highest priority. As you know, the 3 principles of the UN Charter are peace and security, sustainable development and human rights. Which is more important? I think they are all equally important. But in reality, if there is no peace and security you cannot guarantee human rights and you cannot engage in sustainable development. In normal countries, without economic development, no political leaders can sustain their political power. They can easily be voted out in the next election. So peace and security and economic development should go hand in hand all together.
There are some countries that seem to be very peaceful and economically developing well, but the peoples’ are not being much heard. That means when no human rights, no human dignity are respected then peace and security and economic development may not mean anything. So I’ve been speaking out that human rights should come first.
Learning from the very serious and tragic lessons from the Sri Lankan tragedy where the UN was not able to perform their proper role during the crisis, in 2011 we created the Human Rights up Front, HRUF. Human rights should always be up-fronted, on top of peace and security, even during the times of conflict, human dignity and human rights must be protected.
How about in reality, when there is war? In front of gun battles, you cannot claim human rights. There is the justice issue. I’ve been speaking out that justice will be there. If not today, tomorrow. If not tomorrow, surely the day after tomorrow or in the nearest future. This is what we are now seeing. We have established a lot of special tribunals and prosecutors and this is what we see in many countries. So as far as the human rights concerned, I am most, most committed. This is what The Elders is doing, The Elders take the human rights the most importantly.
[Dr. Robin Niblett CMG]:
Thank you very much for underscoring the importance of it. As you’ve said, there is the dilemma of: Is it peace and security and economic development first and then human rights, we hear some people talk about human rights as being economic rights first, and then other political rights second. I think as you’ve explained here, it’s very hard to divide them and I think the terminology that was developed by you and your, I think your Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson, about Human Rights Up Front which you referenced there. I thought it was a very clever way of putting its centrality.
Let me bring in some younger voices as this is also meant to be, inclusive governance is about being inclusive of perspectives as well as nationalities. I’m thrilled that we have S with us today. (The host introduces S) Why don’t you share your thoughts and a question for Ban Ki-moon.
Over to you when you’re ready.
Yes. Thank you so much. It’s an honor to be here, and to be speaking with you Mr. Ban Ki-moon. As already mentioned, over the past months I have been engaging in the Common Futures Conversations with a great team. We established an idea in terms of youth participation and youth representation. (S introduces her team.)
Together what we were actually brainstorming was that a lot of the youth networks and constituencies are infirmly formed. What we saw from our own experiences is that they are therefore very often overlooked and undervalued by more formal institutions, governments, and different bodies, so our idea centered on trying to integrate these informal networks within more formal bodies.
We proposed a structure where a number of young people will be formally appointed within government ministries and agencies. And in their positions they would actually be engaging; proposing policy recommendations, attending their meetings, even representing the government. In order to get the actual, get the informal, wider, broader youth networks engaged, we also proposed that they would be supported by a selected network of formal and informal youth led movements that actually represent the diversities that exist among young people. So this would include the geographic spread, cultural backgrounds, academic backgrounds, and in their position they would actually form a sounding board for these young people within these bodies and also trying to gather opinions within their own communities and feed this into these youth representatives and also bringing forward key concerns that exist among young people in their own context
And then the last aspect of our idea would be that, we also know that a lot of action needs to happen very fast. So in terms of that what we were thinking was also to appoint a smaller board that could actually provide direct on the spot proposals to these different young people, so this could be in the case of an urgent meeting popping up or an urgent proposal that needs to be put forward and that these representatives still have some kind of backing from young people and from different youth movements then themselves.
So given this idea, our question for you sir is, how could initiatives such as your own with The Elders actually join force this with projects such as their Common Futures Conversations in order to bridge the divide between local and international action.
[Dr. Robin Niblett CMG]:
Thank you very much S. We also have another member of our Common Futures Conversation, M. What I’ll do Mr. Ban is let me let both S and M, both put their questions together and then you can answer them together. I’ll introduce M quickly. (Introduces M) Maybe you can tell us, M, where you’re joining us from? I think S is in the Netherland, and M, why don’t you tell us where you’re calling in from?
I’m from Italy and actually 5 years ago I had the chance to meet Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in New York during the UN alliance of civilizations. My question is starting from this particular moment. In that occasion, you, Ban Ki-moon, you said “You young people, you are the last generation that can end the climate change crisis and you are the first generation that can achieve the ending of global poverty.” Five years later, and here is the connection with the proposal of S, after 5 years, is it still relevant, your call to the young people? Or is it now the time to make a shift from the ‘youth of the future’ to become the ‘youth of the present’?
S and M, thank you very much for your good questions. I think S mentioned about inclusivity, including youth empowerment. I think M’s question is focusing on youth issues.
Now when UN was created as you know, just after the WWII, it was mainly focused on how the states, nations would contribute to maintaining the peace and prosperity. So most of the work has been done between and among the nations. But as we progress into the 20th and the 21st century, people realize that it is not only the national government leaders, political leaders. We need to have partnership with the business communities, we need to have partnership with civil society, and we need to have a participation of women, young people and many people not by how they look and how they are born. They have been discriminated. Not to discriminate, to have everybody on board the process; this has been lifted during my time as the Secretary-General.
Can you believe that from 1945- 1992, 47 years, there were only 3 women senior staff in the UN. No one paid attention to the young people. So I thought that somehow, we need to fully utilize, involve and engage women’s participation, power and potential, whose number are more than men. More than half of the global population are women, and more than half the population are under the age of 25, boys and girls, that means that 75% of all world population are either women and young people.
So how to fully utilize these very valuable elements, resources, the first thing was that in 2010, I created the UN Women. That’s a super agency in empowering women’s ability. I have been reaching out to many business communities, education leaders to teach more girls and women. I appointed Michelle Bachelet, the former president of Chile, as the head of the UN Women. Then in 2011 I thought, without having young people joining, without empowering young people, we will not be able to do climate change and sustainable development. At that time, there was no SDGs, but MDGs.
I appointed Ahmad Alhendawi. She was 28 years old, and many young people applied for this as a special envoy of Secretary-General on Youth. It was the first institution that I established. Ahmad Alhendawi is now the Secretary-General of World Scout Federation. This is what I have been working very hard on.
Then there is an issue of quality education for women and young people. There are still many young people more than 60 million young people who are not able to go to school. So the SDGs are now very clearly focusing on empowering women. Empowering women is number 5 of SDGs.
Equality of sex, and there are many people around the world who have different sexual orientations. During my time, this issue was exposed. When I became Secretary-General, I knew that there were many UN staffs who were just working and living under the shadow, and who were not able to come out and speak out. So I just brought them and declared to myself that I will make the UN the best workplace where all people with different sexual orientation will be able to work.
Then there were strong push back from conservative countries such as Arab states. There is a family allowance when men and women live together as a couple, but when they are lesbians or gays, they have not been able to receive these benefits.
The UN’s position was that if a country or that person respect different sexual orientation, then we respect it. But during my tenure, I abolished that and enhanced it. Whether or not a homeland country respects the difference in sexual orientation, UN will guarantee full equality. This is inclusivity. Inclusivity can cover various aspects. Philosophically speaking, ‘we the people’ in the Charter of UN. Most important development of recent years has seen remarkable growth in scale, and influence of cross border civil society. I know there was even a demand from the international community that there should be department for civil society under Secretary-General. I would support this even though I do not have any power. If I were still Secretary-General, I would have a strong support in establishing a dedicated department on empowering civil societies.
[Dr. Robin Niblett CMG]:
There was a perennial question about the veto wielding aspect of the UN. Secretary-General yourself has also mentioned in your remarks the failure of the UN to address the issue of Syria due to vetoes. Is there any prospect, if not of removing the veto, finding ways to work around it? And what experience you have there? D, you were going to ask some version of this question. Let me invite D to make this comment.
I’m the editor of Asian affair magazine. You expressed your frustration in your opening remarks about the situation in the Security Council of the UN at present. And you said that you noted that it has been unable to offer a resolution on the COVID-19 crisis. Do you think it’s time to reform the membership of the United Nations Security Council?
That is a very good question, but it is very difficult for me to answer. I won’t be able to give you any clear answer as a former Secretary-General.
It has been one of the most difficult moments when I had been asked this question. This has been a long held aspiration of member states of UN. But somehow as a result of the WWII’s terrible tragedies, they seem to have a way that there should be a very effective decision making power, which can be forcibly implementable. That is why they made the permanent members of the Security Council. In fact, any resolution of the General Assembly is just an advisory recommendation. Therefore, it doesn’t have any force to be implemented.
A lot of discussions have been made, there have been many aspirants. In Africa and Latin America, there has not been a single country represented for this among P5. Therefore, you can understand such huge push backs from those countries. Therefore, the UN has taken this as one of the very serious issues, but the discussion has been always been very slow.
They first established working groups which didn’t have results. Then this item has been picked up by the General Assembly itself. General Assembly has been making a lot of discussions.
It is because of the lack of political will among P5. Opposing to regulations, or making any such decision should have a full five permanent member’s concurrent vote. But I don’t think any is willing to give up their power. Then countries like France or US have been very generous saying that the Security Council should be expanded, with even veto powers. But it has been mostly lip service. They know that even though they would support certain countries’ permanent membership, there will be some natural enemy country who will veto it.
It is very easy political promise, but I am afraid and deeply disappointed that not a single decision has been made by the Security Council regarding COVID-19. While more than 12million people have been infected, and more than half a million people have died, because of the dispute between US and China, they have never been able to agree on any single resolution.
One should learn the lessons from Ebola case in 2014. It took just one day by the Security Council. They declared it is a serious threat to the maintenance of international peace and security.
Why are they not able to agree and make solidified actions? This may not be my answer, but my answer to your direct question is: at this time, there may not be a possibility of any agreement on the form of the Security Council, expanding the permanent membership with the permanent power. Without veto power, there may be some possibility that expansion of permanent members, but other than that, I don’t have any hope.
[Dr. Robin Niblett CMG]:
It was easier for Ebola because it was happening Africa, so it was possible for permanent members to approve it. But the source of COVID-19 was made into a political issue. So maybe the idea is out there.
French government was very persistently pushing this idea that when it comes to absolutely humanitarian crisis, then veto wielding power should not be exercised. But there has been support from some country, but basically, they were not willing to support any changes.
[Dr. Robin Niblett CMG]:
Well, maybe this is a movement for the future to make.
S, could you ask a question please?
My question is regarding the recent escalation in the region of the conflicts between Indian, Bhutan, Pakistan, and China. In your opinion, how can local communities contribute to inclusive and sustainable government policies in terms of national resources? How can local communities take action to counter climate change related issues, and make a better world?
This is a very important question, but difficult.
It should not be difficult in fact.
When it comes to India and Pakistan, they are both nuclear power states.
When it comes to India and China, relationship dispute again, they are both nuclear power states.
India and Pakistan are very important power states in South East Asia. Because of this long standing dispute, UN has deployed UN peace observing mission. But unfortunately, Indian government has not been rendering any support to UN’s observer mission until now. This is sort of regret for me as a Secretary-General.
While they occasionally have been engaged in peace talks, but somehow, it has not been able to do that. And UN has not been fully and effectively engaging in to implement their mandate which has been given by the Security Council.
Therefore, UN observing mission has not been able to observe the Indian side of the border line, but only Pakistan side. This is what I really regret very much as a Secretary-General. We have been discussing this matter, but they are not willing to engage in dialogue.
And recently, we have been very much concerned about the dispute between India and China. I hope that those two countries should really bear their responsibilities as a very important regional and global powers, and also nuclear power states. This is what I am really asking you. One should look at the longer vision other than their own national vision.
We are living in a very small planet earth. We have been affected by climate change, and there are many global challenges which we have to solidify our limited resources. I think climate change is the most important and urgent issue.
Now, India, Pakistan, and China have been poor heartedly been supporting this climate issues, but still, having some potential exclusive political issues not resolved, there will always be unstable situation in South East Asia.
[Dr. Robin Niblett CMG]:
Mr. Ban was describing how difficult it was going to be to try to overcome it, given the water relationships as you were mentioning between China and India particular. This could become a real flashpoint in the future. Not just the unregulated border between the two countries, but the fear of blockages of water supplies so hopefully, it is also a good reminder to Chatham house to make sure we are able to combine this with resource management and environmental stewardship, and ways of promoting peace and stability, because there is a connection there, where maybe you can get people to walk towards common interests in ways that is very hard to do when you talk about things like borders. You know borders bring out all those atavistic concerns.
J has an interesting question to ask about Korean Peninsula.
Echoing your earlier remarks at the beginning of your presentation about the connection between the global and the local, I am reminded of former US House speaker Tip O’Neil’s own famous phrase “all political is local”. And I think about the experience of South Korea and those dramatic candlelit processions and demonstrations that led to a dramatic political change in South Korea.
What lessons do you think can be learnt from the South Korean experience of participatory democracy? Particularly as a basis for challenging authoritarianism, and also very importantly managing the balance between representative democracy and direct participatory democracy? How can South Korea’s example be a lesson to other countries that are grappling with these questions at a time of rising populism?
I as a Korean am very proud that Korea has something to extend to show as well as share with some countries. People are still not able to fully engage in the activities without any political fears. Of course, democratic rules and values, this is a basic and fundamental trait of the UN Charter.
There are still countries where people can seemingly enjoy the declaring engagement as some prosperity but when there’s no freedom of speech or assembly, then it would be very difficult to society.
Korea, because of our very dire and serious security issues confronting South and North Korea, and surrounded by many big powers, and having experience of terrible Korean War in 1950. In fact, Korea is still at the state of war. Even though there may not be some exchange of fires, but North Korea is heavily militarized and very dictatorial. On the other hand, South Korean government, during the succession of administrations, we have gone through very dictatorial to very full blown diplomacy. But that was not free. A lot of civil society freedom fighters were sacrificed, killed by military regimes. But upon these kinds of things, with fully engaging in international communities, and with growing awareness on the importance of human rights, democratic values and principles, all Korean people are fully enjoying the freedom of speech and assembly. Sometimes, it may look disorderly. People are speaking out against government and their employers. Civil society is very strong and no political leader can effectively carry on mandate, without fully engaging with labor unions, civil societies, women, and youth group. So this is something which Korea can share with many countries where the situation may not be same.
So it is very important first of all, for political leaders, and business leaders, they should have clear sense based on democratic values, principles, and human rights, Then I think slow changes can happen.
Also, there should be full support from international communities. UN, Human Rights Council, UN’s specialized agencies, and there are many international human rights groups. I think their voices also helped Korea to democratize, and we have been the target of criticism by Human Rights Watch and all humanitarian groups.
[Dr. Robin Niblett CMG]:
I want to finish our talk with a question about the role of business. There has been a very important meeting, a summit with the UN Global Compact members with Angela Merkel, presidents of Botswana, Columbia, Costa Rica, Ethiopia, and many CEOs all focused on the role of business and the private sector and private capital driving positive change, and they committed to in the areas of health, inequality, and climate change.
I wonder if you can finish up your last remarks by saying something about the role of business.
Business seems to me to be going beyond where governments go in many cases. There are many new alliances, new form between business leaders and civil society. In many cases, businesses are listening more closely to the local communities than the governments are.
How positive are you about the role of business in helping drive more local, accountable, and inclusive change in the UN system?
Businesses are a very important tools and means to make sure that the climate change and SDGs are implemented. Goal number 17 is about global partnership. After discussing all 16 very important goals, the member states agreed that stablishing fully committed partnership among government, business communities, and civil society, this tripartite partnership is the most important tools and means of addressing global challenges including climate change. In that regard, I am very much grateful for the foresight of my predecessor Kofi Annan who initiated this UN Global Compact. As soon as this MDGs were adopted by the member states, he went to the Davos Forum, and proposed to the global community that we should establish a UN Global Compact, where we expected that the business leaders should render and be part of MDGs. Now they are a part of SDGs. I am proud to tell you that I have prioritized the strengthening much more about UN Global Compact. When I assumed my job in 2007, it was just the 7th year of UN Global Compact. But during my time of 10 years, I have expanded to the current size of more than 15,000 global business firms, big, small, and medium.
My strong argument was that without full participation and support of business communities, nothing can be done and nothing can be achieved. Most of the global emissions are coming from industrial sectors. Most firms mobilize trillions of dollars. I think even Samsung mobilize much more bigger budget than Korean government.
I am also proud that even after my retirement; I am still working as the honorary chairman of the UN Global Compact Korea Network. I am very closely engaged in Korea Global Compact. I have also established while traveling many countries, even in Myanmar and in several African countries, I have established new Global Compact. Even though I know that the economic situation were not strong, but having mindset among business leaders that they are a part of this process is very important.
There are also big global companies such as Coca Cola, Nestle, and Ford showing 10 principles of UN Global Compacts. The 10 principles combine constitution of all the big principles of the UN and its Charter, starting from human rights, gender empowerment, and peaceful resolution of labor issues and global health issues. They are very important element and principles which UN Global Compact is comprised of.
And with UN Global Compact successively continuously engaging, I think we will have a better prospect of fulfilling the visions of sustainable development goals.
[Dr. Robin Niblett CMG]:
I think to finish with this idea of business and the 10 principles of Global Compact was a good place to finish. Multinational businesses, which are so important in creating jobs, link those jobs to principles that are progressive and work towards reducing inequalities, work towards providing more health, work towards tackling climate change and sustainability. Then that is going to create an environment that governments will respond to. I think that was what you were saying Mr.Ban.
We have of course a reminder in the last 2 months, of how much money governments can maneuver. So if you could get that partnership between business, civil society, and government working in the same direction, we could bring about incredible change.
We are very grateful for the time you have given us, more than an hour today Ban Ki-moon.
Thank you so much for this opportunity, and congratulations again for this centennial anniversary of Chatham House.