On the evening of March 29, a session on Ensuring Both Development and Security was convened during the BFA Annual Conference 2023. Ban Ki-moon, the 8th Secretary-General of the United Nations and the Chairman of the Boao Forum for Asia, delivered the following speech:
Development, peace and security are not only lofty goals of humankind, they are also the greatest challenges of our times, a work in progress, an uphill battle. For millennia and centuries, people fought one another over food, land, water, energy, religion, politics, ideology or simply stupidity. It was only after two bloody world wars and untold sorrow that we began to learn to live together in peace as good neighbours. The approach was a multilateral one with the United Nations as the core. For the first time in history, countries were united as a collective whole to safeguard world peace and security. It was no longer a lonely journey.
But still bumpy with twists & turns, ups & downs. The rosiness of the United Nations faded fast as an iron curtain was drawn down to split the world in half politically, economically and ideologically. It was a different kind of war – cold, not hot, but no less devastating for peace. Living in the shadow of nuclear arsenals and mutually-assured destruction, no one felt safe even ended now.
The end of the Cold War brought relief. Countries around the world could now cut defense spending substantially and put it to better use. We were finally able to enjoy a Peace Dividend. Economic globalization picked pace. The world was blessed with a rare window of global development and prosperity.
But it’s far from being peaceful. While regional conflicts and violence continue to rage, we now have to face a variety of emerging security threats. Climate change, terrorism, cyber attacks, loss of bio-diversity, pollution, food and energy insecurity are complicating the scene beyond our expectations. They are no less destructive to peace than cold or hot wars, and we’re less experienced and poorly equipped to cope with them.
And, the long shadow of the Cold War lingers on. After 30 years, the world is again at risk of breaking up along geopolitical or ideological lines, as countries re-group and forces re-align. Governments are spending more on defense in a looming arms race. Global military expenditures hit successive highs last year and the year before last. The conflict in Ukraine was a sobering reminder of how close we could be to the Cold-War type of confrontation. A growing geopolitical rift may well tear the world apart against the will and wishes of majority countries.
Lasting world peace is hard to come by. So is sustainable global development. It was not until 2015, 70 years after the UN was founded, that the global community finally agreed on a universal agenda of action to make our development and future sustainable. We agreed on 17 goals to free humankind from poverty and want. And we agreed to act together as a collective whole. It’s another historic turning point for global consensus and global action.
Again, it is no longer a lonely journey, but remains a bumpy one. Momentum and progress of the agenda suffered a major setback when the pandemic broke out. Some 100 million people were pushed back into poverty. With soaring food & energy prices, persistent inflation and weak growth, the real number could be worse.
The lessons from history are loud and clear. Unless we stand together as one and act as a collective whole, there is no lasting world peace and sustainable global development. 78 years ago, the United Nations was founded to safeguard peace. 8 years ago, the 2030 Agenda was launched to promote sustainable development. These are moments of glory and pride for us as global citizens, sitting in the same boat, rowing in the same direction, hand in hand, side by side.
It’s time to revisit and reinvigorate global partnership and international cooperation as the world drifts in the opposite way. The United Nations is working on a Common Agenda to rekindle global actions for development, peace and security.
The Summit of the Future will be convened this year to press governments and leaders for greater ambition, resolve and action. In the words of Secretary General Guterres, it is a “once-in-a-generation opportunity”, and our “best, last chance” to deliver before it’s too late.
Countries are responding. In this country, China, President Xi Jinping has announced two major initiatives, the Global Development Initiative and the Global Security Initiative. The Security Initiative was launched right here in Boao during our Annual Conference 2022. These two initiatives are broadly in line with the comprehensive & holistic view of the UN on peace & security, and the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development. China’s commitment to the multilateral approach and global partnership is re-assuring and encouraging indeed.
The Boao Forum for Asia is also contributing in its own way. We are primarily a platform for development, but deeply appreciate the value of preserving peace. We believe that peace and security are prerequisites for achieving sustainable development, whereas sustainable development provides the pathway to peaceful societies. They are interconnected. There is no “decoupling” the two in any way.
Two years ago, a global forum on economic development & security was launched in Changsha, Hunan Province. Today, we’re once again gathered here in this room to continue that dialogue. More importantly, let’s act on what we agree and seize the best, last chance to make our world peaceful, inclusive and prosperous.