Ban Ki-moon delivers climate message in Leuven


UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon is in Belgium this week, addressing the European Parliament, meeting with Belgian politicians and accepting an honorary doctorate from KU Leuven

“Become global citizens”

The University of Leuven (KU Leuven) awarded an honorary doctorate to United Nations secretary-general Ban Ki-moon this week. In a speech at the ceremony, Ban called upon the world to take urgent action on climate change and on poverty.

“We are the first generation that can put an end to poverty, and we are the last generation that can put an end to climate change,” he said.

Change was already taking place at a faster rate than we realise, Ban continued. “ The consequences could affect the full range of human needs — health, food, water and national security.  At the same time, there are solutions. Many businesses and governments are already seeing the benefits of climate action.” He called on governments to adopt a new and meaningful climate change agreement when they meet in Paris in December.

Ban also had a special message for young people: “Here at Leuven University, students are earning one of the great gifts a person can have:  a good, quality education. I know that is hard work, but I have another homework assignment for you:  Become global citizens with global vision.  Act with passion and compassion.  Challenge your leaders, your professors, your presidents, prime ministers and CEOs.  Tell them that you have a responsibility to make this world more peaceful and prosperous. … Use your voices to claim your rights, and I will work as your ally.”

The secretary-general’s trip to Belgium, part of his goodwill tour marking the 70th anniversary of the UN, also included a speech to the European parliament focused on the migration crisis, a meeting with King Filip and Queen Mathilde and a meeting with members of the Belgian government at Hertoginnedal Castle in Brussels. Prime minister Charles Michel, foreign minister Didier Reynders and development minister Alexander De Croo were present.

Ban thanked the government for its efforts in Burundi over recent weeks to prevent an increase in violence and asked that Belgian troops be kept in the region for the time being while there is still a chance of unrest.

Photo by Eric Lalmand/BELGA