‘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’.
5 July 2022
20th YMCA World Council
H.E. Ban Ki-moon keynote address
Dear President Patricia Pelton,
Dear Secretary-General Carlos Sanvee,
Dear YMCA representatives from around the world!
It is my great pleasure to join you for the YMCA World Council virtually from Seoul, South Korea.
First of all, allow me to congratulate you on the launch and adoption of the YMCA Vision 2030. It is certainly a big milestone of unification of a collective vision and mission.
This is exactly what the world needs at this moment. Global, inclusive and collective action for a better future.
We are stuck in a tangle of alarming, severe crises that demand urgent action.
The worsening climate crisis is impacting every aspect of our lives. It’s further increasing the threat of violent conflicts, health issues, and food insecurity.
In Yemen, the war has been raging for almost eight years; Syria’s crisis grinds on into its eleventh year. Over two million people have been forcibly displaced by the ongoing fighting in the Tigray region of Ethiopia due to brutal violence against civilians.
While Afghanistan’s humanitarian crisis plummets to extreme levels of deprivation, Myanmar’s military factions expand the scale of conflict, increasingly involving civilians.
Most recently, Russia’s unjustifiable invasion of Ukraine forced 6 million people to flee the country while more than 8 million are internally displaced.
These complex emergencies are set against a backdrop of transnational, planetary challenges like the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, which has cost the lives of more than 6 million people worldwide.
All of these extremities have consequences far beyond their immediate impacts. And we need diplomacy and multilateralism more than ever if we are to resolve these conflicts.
Dear Young Leaders,
You are part of the world’s oldest youth empowerment organization which spans across 120 countries reaching over 60 million people a year.
This is a platform and network that represents great diversity, great collaboration, and great opportunities.
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.
Today there are around 1.8 billion young people around the world. 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.
As United Nations Secretary-General I made it my priority to not only work for but with young people. I appointed the first-ever Envoy on Youth, Ahmad Alhendawi from Jordan, to bring the needs and rights of young people closer to the work of the United Nations.
Everyone has a right to have their voices heard and have a role in the decision-making process that shape our communities. The right to participation is a fundamental right and it is one of the cornerstones to enabling an inclusive society. However, a huge proportion of the youth population worldwide, is not only not represented, but also excluded from fully participating in society.
Especially in developing countries, this is even more evident. In terms of education, 175 million young people are not able to read a full sentence and 30 percent of the poorest children between 12 and 14 years are out of school. When it comes to the job market, 71 million young people are unemployed.
For girls, the systemic barriers to access to education are even higher. They have less time for school than boys as they provide essential but invisible care work form an early age.
However, 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.
When I was eighteen years old, I was selected to join the American Red Cross’s Operation VISTA, a program that brought me and other young adults to the United States from some 40 countries.
Our group was invited to the White House and I was electrified by President John F. Kennedy’s remarks. I knew I wanted to help my country recover and grow peaceful and prosperous. President Kennedy told us that good work has no borders and no nationality.
This is the message I have tried to spread throughout my career. We have a moral responsibility to act wherever we are and however we define our place on this Earth. I call that global citizenship.
I see the concept of global citizenship as a key enabler. It equips current and future generations with the knowledge, skills, and values necessary to understand that the challenges we are facing, biodiversity loss, extreme weather conditions, extreme poverty, inequality, political instability are global and not local.
Therefore, together with the Former Austrian President Heinz Fischer, I founded the Ban Ki-moon Centre for Global Citizens located in Vienna, Austria.
Our vision is to build a better, more sustainable world, based on universal respect for human rights, regardless of age, gender, identity, religion and nationality through a global citizenship mindset.
We strive to empower current decision makers and future changemakers to implement my two big legacies the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Climate Agreement.
My team and I are proud to have welcomed aspiring and ambitious young leaders like you from Africa, Latin America, the ASEAN region, the Middle East, and Europe, who seek to strengthen their capacities, take action and become local or international SDG leaders as part of our programs.
As you know, the centrality of young people in policy and practice is key. 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.
There are an estimated 1.2 billion young people impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic response measures. Disruptions to education, employment, services and social support have changed the future of an entire generation.
Yet, young people are also an essential part of the solution to pandemic recovery. They have shown us all remarkable ways out of Covid using their digital skills, adaptability as well as their empathy.
We must support and scale-up youth-led solutions and youth engagement programs across the world.
It is more important than ever that governments, policy makers, academics, busines leaders and civil society come together to find innovative ways of supporting communities and providing hope to younger generations.
Dear Change Makers,
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.
At the BKMC we encourage our young changemakers to spot a real-world challenge, work on solutions with targeted actions for the SDGs that reach a wide network of people. We call these SDG Micro-Projects.
With these projects, the young leaders address a specific societal challenge that needs to be transformed into an opportunity on a local, national, or international level.
We must all push the limits and go further in finding innovative ways that will allow us to address the urgent challenges we face now and achieve global commitments collaboratively and inclusively.
That is why adopting the YMCA Vision 2030, today is crucial in creating the world the YMCA wants to see.
Thank you for listening. Now, I look forward to hearing your experiences and answering any questions you may have.