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Ban Ki-moon: You are the leaders of tomorrow

UN Secretary-General addressed climate change and youth unemployment in his talk at the Royal Library

Ban Ki-moon had a packed agenda for his 48 hour visit to Denmark: he opened the new Energy Efficiency Hub at the UN City; met with the Prime Minister and the Parliament; spoke to the International Pension Funds and attended a climate change meeting.

He also squeezed in the time to talk in front of 400 hundred students at the Royal Library. It’s no surprise that Mr Ban only averages five hours of sleep per night, as confessed to The New York Times.

“You are the leaders of tomorrow,” Mr Ban greeted the audience. “You are part of the largest generation of youth in history: half of the global population is under the age of 25.”

Big problems, big opportunities

The Secretary-General addressed the problem of youth unemployment and noted that 73 million young people worldwide don’t have a job, and that’s without even counting those who have given up looking for work altogether.

“There are no easy answers,” he said, “but if we look at the picture with a new perspective we can see potential solutions. Young people can be transformed into employers if we invest in entrepreneurship.”

He added the challenges posed by climate change could be seen as an opportunity to invest in clean technologies that help the environment and spur economic growth.

Global challenges

Important deadlines are are approaching. The Millennium Development Goals, which have guided international development for the last thirteen years with the aim of ending poverty, will be due in 2015. “We have been successful in cutting by half the number of people in extreme poverty,” said Mr Ban; now it’s time to define the future agenda. The spotlight is on education, healthcare, women’s rights and sustainability.

An agreement on climate change is also expected by 2015.

“We need diplomats and politicians, but we also need artists and activists. Whatever career you choose in the future, you can make a difference. You can protect the environment and speak out against human rights abuses.”

“Living in a European country, you might not be able to see the harsh realities of the world. Go beyond what is comfortable and familiar. Everyone has a big and very strong passion, but many people lack compassion. Reach out to others and be a global citizen. Have compassion. You might be holding a Danish passport, but you are not a Danish citizen: you are a citizen of the global world.”

Question time

In regard to questions on the role of the UN on international peacekeeping, he answered that the focus is shifting on preventive diplomacy that solves conflicts before they break out. Solutions ought to be political, not military.

Then, as quickly as he had appeared, Ban Ki-moon was escorted out, leaving the Queen’s Hall buzzing with comments. Some thought that the Secretary-General had played it safe, with a well-penned speech that did not address sensitive issues directly. Others thought that the experience had been inspiring.

“In Denmark, we tend to be fairly self-centered. It’s good to be reminded to look beyond our nose,” said Pernille, a student of Danish and Communication. “We need to push our personal boundaries and think in terms of global community,” added Mika, student of Law and intern at a UN-related organization.

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