Sep 05, 2018 07:21 PM

Q&A: Ban Ki-Moon Says China Plays Important Role in U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals

Former Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon. Photo: Che Yicen
Former Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon. Photo: Che Yicen

The first Asia-Pacific Philanthropy Summit was held in Seoul, South Korea, in August, at which former Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon gave a speech about the role of philanthropy in achieving the U.N.’s 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. The summit was jointly hosted by the Community Chest of Korea and United Way Worldwide.

The Sustainable Development Goals are a list of 17 global social and economic goals that, including an end to poverty, eliminating hunger, achieving gender equality and ensuring sustainable consumption.

In his speech, Ban said that expanding cross-sector innovation and cooperation, broadening ideas about technology and culture, and raising public participation will all be important factors in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals in a constantly changing world.

In an interview with Caixin and other media outlets on the sidelines of the summit, Ban talked about his achievements during his 10-year tenure as U.N. chief, the Sustainable Development Goals and the future of the Boao Forum for Asia.

Caixin: There are lots of problems that need to be solved to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, such as the gender gap. Also, people’s different cultural and religious backgrounds can be obstacles. How can we get together to overcome these obstacles and to solve those issues? What role should the United Nations and other countries and regions play?

Ban Ki-moon: It’s true that China is different from Korea, the United States and Japan. We may be living in different places, but we are all global citizens. And with the transformative development of science, technology and transportation communication, we are all living in a very small world. So there is no difference between China, Korea, Japan and the United States. We are all just global citizens.

Based on that, the United Nations has presented a very ambitious and far-reaching vision, which are the Sustainable Development Goals. The main philosophical idea of it is that all people in this world should be able to live without any fear of poverty, health and security. In a nutshell, nobody should be left behind; everybody should be on board.

In that regard, China can play a very important role. Some say that China is one of the G2 — you have a lot of resources and the will. The most important thing is that President Xi and your people are more inclined to come forward to the world.

I was very impressed when President Xi announced that China will support $60 billion for Africa for the coming three years when he visited South Africa two years ago. This is what we expect that China will continue to do.

Globally, that is what we call “ODA,” official development assistance. Regionally, President Xi has announced the Belt and Road Initiative. I hope other countries like (those in) the OECD could do more to help developing countries.

As the former head of the global village, what are the most memorable achievements during your tenure? If you had more time in office, what would you do? What score would you give yourself?

There are three things.

One is the Sustainable Development Goals which were adapted during my tenure. I have spent very passionate leadership on this.

Second is the Paris Climate Change Agreement, which President Xi, President Obama and myself worked very closely on and (in which) China played an extremely important role.

Third, I have devoted (myself) to empowering women and youth.

What I want to do more (of) as the former secretary-general is to continue to raise my voice or add my voice to help the world leaders to implement the climate change agreement and Sustainable Development Goals and women’s rights.

As for the scores, I will leave it to historians to judge.

Now corporations and governments are participating in the Sustainable Development Goals, how can we mobilize individuals to take part in this?

Media, newspapers and broadcasters should play the important role here. There is a tendency for people to believe that the Sustainable Development Goals are for the governments, the presidents or the prime ministers. But it’s not true. Governments are important in exercising political will, but business communities and civil societies also have to contribute.

Without the help of the media, nobody knows what’s going on. Therefore, media should try to cross examine what President Xi is doing, what business leaders are doing and what civil societies are doing in China.

The vision “community of common destiny” which President Xi has declared is very important, and we have to emulate and implement it.

Your new role as chairman of the Boao Forum for Asia has been well-received in China. People are curious about what your role will be and how the Boao Forum will continue to demonstrate its significance?

I am honored to be elected chairman of the Boao Forum for Asia and to have received such confidence from the Chinese government led by President Xi.

With 17 years of history of activities, the Boao Forum has been able to contribute to regional integration and cooperation in the Asia-Pacific area.

My thinking is that now the Boao Forum should not only look inside Asia, but look beyond Asia. Because the Boao Forum has reached out to Southeast Asia, even to Europe, it should look beyond Asia.

The Belt and Road Initiative is in line with what the Boao Forum is trying to pursue.

Now, I’m working very hard with Li Baodong (vice minister of China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the secretary-general of the Boao forum) to prepare a Boao Forum regional conference in Seoul in November. This is first time that Boao Forum is going to be held in South Korea.

Yu Bokun contributed to this article.

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