“If I were to have visited Singapore last year, I would’ve gone around and said, I am SG71.” was the opening remark that brought a hearty laughter rippling through the crowd across all ages. His Excellency, Ban Ki-Moon, the 8th UN Secretary-General notes how his position is often abbreviated into simply “SG”, otherwise known as the internet domain of every website in Singapore. Almost instantly, the audience is at ease but also attentive to every signaling. This is an accomplished yet humbled man, who earned his respect and demonstrates this by the sudden hush that overcomes the exuberant crowd. He begins his speech.
Notably, he emphasises on the key themes that thread throughout his speech – the commitment to combat climate change, the need to promote gender equality, the urgent call to lift people out of extreme poverty and the power that lies within the youth to act as the catalysts for these ambitious plans that have the potential to enforce radical yet positive change.
In September 2015, the UN Sustainable Development Goals were created, comprising of 17 indispensable and interdependent goals to achieve by 2030. Mr. Ban emphasises the 5Ps (Peace, Prosperity, Partnership, Planning & People), the role of ASEAN and Singapore as a key member to promote regional stability and solidarity, the upcoming peace and security challenges, the imperative need for tolerance and coexistence – all done in the name of the common good and realising our shared humanity.
Though each sentence and point was graced with eloquence and a convincing delivery, I could not help but notice how phrases that promised of progress lacked a definite time frame and statistics to support them. Without a doubt, there will be progress from now till 2030. The question is, will the response to tackling these deeply-seated, largely complex issues bring to fruition enough progress and positive change to rectify the problems we as a human race have created and are still creating for ourselves?
As ideal as this all sounds, it will not simply become a reality because a draft resolution had been unanimously passed in the General Assembly in a glass facade, air conditioned New York City high rise. What comes next requires us to realise our inherent obligations and shared humanity, not only by cultivating shared empathy but acting upon it; That is what will make all the difference.
On Mr. Ban’s Legacy
Particularly in Western media, Mr. Ban’s legacy has been portrayed as lackluster, unyielding and by some measures, even a complete failure.
Putting that all aside, I believe we should take heart in what has been unchanging and constant throughout his terms – the steady positivity and hard work that he has invested across the board. Being the humble, down-to-earth and intelligent man he is, I think we have reason to believe his positivity does not come from gullibility or naivety. I think it comes from an unwavering faith in the insurmountable amount of power that is derived from acting in unity, for a common purpose. This is by far the greatest benefit and gift the United Nations have given the world for the past 70 years, and will continue to, regardless of his successor.
So – let us avoid being cynical and be hopeful instead. Let us not simply declare those hopes, but rather approach them with a sense of determination, grit and self-motivation.
Maybe with faith in humanity, a willingness to get our hands dirty and the desire to enact the potential that comes from being unified, this idealistic yet achievable view of our world can actually materialise into a shared reality. Our shared reality.