Ban Ki-moon to YMCA young people: ‘passion and compassion: it takes both to be a global citizen’

‘Good work has no borders or nationality – are you ready to extend your helping hand to others?’.  Former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon recalled the words he had heard said by US President John F Kennedy in 1962, as he addressed the 20th YMCA World Council today.

The YMCA, he said, is ‘the world’s oldest youth empowerment organization … and a platform and network that represents great diversity, great collaboration, and great opportunity’.

Congratulating the YMCA on the launch and adoption of YMCA Vision 2030 today, he called it ‘a big milestone of unification of a collective vision and mission’. He went on: ‘Adopting the YMCA Vision 2030, today is crucial in creating the world the YMCA wants to see.’

Against the backdrop of current and escalating crisis, he said: ‘I am always inspired to speak to young leaders, because you, young people are continuously stepping up, where the leaders of my generation are failing to tackle the challenges of our time. The coming of age of the biggest young generation of history will not only determine the course of your own lives but also that of our world.’

Exhorting young people to be the change they want to see, he said: ‘When young people are given the right tools of empowerment and the opportunity to speak and raise their voices, they become effective drivers for change.’

Introducing the Ban Ki-moon Centre for Global Citizens, he called on young people to be just that: global citizens. ‘It doesn’t matter where you are from, if you’re rich or poor, man or woman’ he said. ‘We are unique human beings.’

He addressed the young people of the YMCA as ‘change makers’, all of whom have a role to play in creating a better world. ‘I am convinced that small actions, taken by each person, can move mountains and can ultimately play a crucial role in achieving our universal 2030 Agenda.’

He stressed the centrality of young people in policy and practice. ‘Investing in programs, policies and initiatives led by and for young people will bring about sustainable change in the livelihoods and health of young people now and in the future.’

Taking questions, he stressed Sustainable Development Goal 13 on climate action as the Goal on which all others depend. ‘If we don’t meet it, we will wash away every other aspect of our society. Educating young people is crucial’, he said. ‘Previous generations wanted to live better and raise their quality of life, and I understand that. But in doing so, they abused nature’s gifts’, he said.

In the 21st Century, he felt that ‘it seems that there is nothing that we can’t do – but we can’t do anything unless we do it together’. Be empowered, he urged young people. ‘Say: ‘I will do this, I want to do this, I can do this’. Balance passion and compassion. It takes both to be a global citizen’.

He ended by saying the YMCA has strongly influenced and contributed towards the societal development of our world. ‘Be sure to continue to leave a good legacy for generations to come’.