I was recently in Dubai for a Model United Nations conference where students from across the United Arab Emirates gathered to participate in simulated sessions of the UN Security Council to address key issues that directly impact the world we live in. The title of the conference was ‘Challenges of Intervention in a Complex World’. Our world is complex, yes, and it faces unprecedented global challenges that require unprecedented global responses.
Maintaining peace is invariably challenging given there are always many sides to any issue. Conflicts and wars run the risk of becoming protracted, and dialogue often slows things down. When inflammatory words are used, angers flare and emotions go unchecked. The risks to humanity and the world as we know it must always be at the forefront of any decision. Dialogue, if used correctly, can play a crucial role. Agreements can be formed.
Take, for example, the 2016 Paris Agreement on Climate Change, which was backed by more than 200 governments after a process of dialogue. Strong international support and unwavering commitment was reflected in the consensus of governments around the world that robust global cooperation — and action — was essential to undertake ambitious efforts to combat climate change and adapt to its effects.
Students’ leadership skills
In Dubai, I was hugely impressed by the young men and women I met. Their passion for the world and its future was clear to see as each sought to find realistic solutions to some of the biggest issues facing our planet. Finding solutions that are acceptable to a majority of representatives requires incredible skills of negotiation, conflict resolution and cooperation. I was interested to see what leadership skills these students would portray and if they would explore solutions that world governments, NGOs and others might not have thought of before.
What impressed me most was the way they looked at the issues from multiple viewpoints — a key trait that all United Nations members must have. In fact, these students, made up of more than 100 nationalities, were not unlike the United Nations itself. Many have lived outside their home countries for years, yet they maintain great pride in their heritage and have the upmost respect for the country in which they live as well as the wider Middle East region, which is no stranger to conflict. It made me think that these students are truly global citizens with a strong global vision. And this is what our world needs. They are receiving quality education that is preparing them to be future leaders, rooted in global citizenship. Their eyes are wide open to their surroundings and they respect the views of their peers.
The best advice I can give students, who could one day be our leaders, is to always consider each person’s point of view and find dialogue that takes everyone’s needs into consideration.
As the conference got under way there were reports circulating of an escalating crisis between the US and Iran. Fortunately, the crisis is now de-escalating, and dialogue is the only way to resolve it going forward to ensure permanent solutions are found. Forging an international consensus, at the best of times, is not simple, and even harder when tension sets in.
The best advice I can give these students, who could one day be our leaders, is to always consider each person’s point of view and find dialogue that takes everyone’s needs into consideration. For that, they must be armed not with weapons or threats, but with two key traits — passion and compassion.
When I left the United Nations, I founded the Ban Ki-moon Centre for Global Citizens based in Vienna along with Heinz Fischer, former president of Austria. The centre focuses on the framework of the Sustainable Development Goals for empowering women and youth. Gender equality and quality education are critically important for the future of our planet. The reason is that women make up half of the world’s population, while half of the world’s population is also under the age of 25. Yet, despite best efforts, in many developing countries, primary, secondary and tertiary education for girls remains a challenge. Currently 264 million children are not at school, and a majority of them are girls. The world is also home to the largest generation of youth ever, with 1.8 billion young people worldwide. Nearly 90 per cent of which live in developing countries. More than 70 million youth are currently unemployed, and around 40 per cent of the world’s active youth are either jobless or living in poverty — despite working. As we all know, unemployment breeds many problems, ranging from inequality and crime to terrorism.
It is up to us as individuals to go out into the world and work for the betterment of humankind. To be a global citizen and act with passion and compassion so we can make the world a safer and more sustainable place for generations to come.
The youth I encountered in Dubai gave me hope, and filled me with great pride, that together we can make a difference and drive change. A brighter future depends on global citizens like you.
— Ban Ki-moon is 8th Secretary-General of the United Nations, and co-founder of the Ban Ki-moon Centre for Global Citizens.