The United Nations has thus far fulfilled its charter to prevent a third world war, but with 60 million refugees, continued bloodshed with unresolved civil conflicts and terrorism spreading like cancer, the world's leading peacekeeping organization must spearhead global action, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Friday at Stanford on the 70th anniversary of the international organization.
Ban, the U.N.'s eighth secretary-general, did not rest on any laurels during his speech at a public event sponsored by the Walter H. Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center (APARC). "I humbly accept criticism that the U.N. is not doing enough," he said.
However, the situation could have been worse if not for the United Nations, he continued. "Without peacekeepers, or without the U.N.'s continued humanitarian assistance and advocacy of human rights, I'm afraid to tell you that this world would have been poorer, more dangerous and even bloodier without the United Nations."
Ban's visit to Stanford – his second to the university in less than three years – was part of a trip to the Bay Area to commemorate the signing of the U.N. charter. In 1945, representatives from 50 nations gathered in San Francisco to create the United Nations – an international organization aimed at saving future generations from the "scourge of war."
Today, the United Nations has grown to 193 member nations. Its challenges – from climate change and poverty to civil wars and terrorism – have never been greater, Ban said.
"This is a critical year; 2015 is a year of global action," he said. "The U.N. cannot do it alone. We need strong solidarity among government, business communities and civil societies, from each and every citizen."
The fact that so many young people around the globe are drawn to violent narratives is worrisome, Ban said. "Violent terrorism is spreading like cancer around the world."
The rise in terrorist activities stems from "a failure of leadership," he said. That's why the United Nations needs to develop a comprehensive plan of action to address extremism, he maintained.
The U.N.'s 70th anniversary coincidentally fell on a momentous day of tragedy and celebration around the world. Dozens were killed when terrorists launched horrific attacks across three continents – in France, Tunisia and Kuwait – fueling anger, sadness and fear of more violence.
But in the United States, celebrations rang out in response to a landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling that legalizes same-sex marriages nationwide.
Ban, who has long advocated for equality and last year pushed the United Nations to recognize same-sex marriages of its staff, drew a round of applause when he heralded the court ruling as "a great step forward for human rights."
The June 26 event was co-sponsored by Shorenstein APARC and the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies at Stanford University, with promotional co-sponsors Asia Society, Asia Foundation and the World Affairs Council of Northern California.
May Wong is a freelance writer for the Stanford News Service.
Coverage and related multimedia links:
Remarks at Stanford University by Ban Ki-moon (U.N. News Centre, 6/26/15)
Photos of Ban Ki-moon at Stanford University (U.N. Photo, 6/26/15)
At Stanford University, Ban says U.N. ready to build a better future for all (U.N. News Centre, 6/27/2015)
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomes growing engagement of India, China (NDTV, 6/27/2015)
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon speaks at Stanford, celebrates U.N.'s 70th anniversary (Stanford Daily, 6/29/15)
Hoover archival photographs featured at lecture delivered by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (Hoover Institution, 6/29/2015)