Mr Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations (UN), was conferred the Honorary Doctor of Letters by NUS Chancellor and Singapore President Dr Tony Tan Keng Yam on 30 August at a special ceremony held at the Istana. The honorary degree was awarded in recognition of Mr Ban’s humanitarian accomplishments and dedication to UN, and the world, in the pursuit of sustainable development, human rights, global peace and security.
Among the dignitaries who attended the event were Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong; Speaker of Parliament Dr Halimah Yacob; Minister for Foreign Affairs Dr Vivian Balakrishnan; Minister of State for Education, and Communications and Information Dr Janil Puthucheary as well as Ambassador of the Republic of Korea Mr Lee Sang-deok.
Calling him a world leader and a personal friend, Public Orator Professor Kishore Mahbubani, Dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy (LKY School) at NUS, said that Mr Ban’s “humanitarian accomplishments and sterling commitment to the citizens of the world in the pursuit of sustainable development, human rights, global peace and security have made a significant impact worldwide, and are widely admired”. Prof Mahbubani was well acquainted with Mr Ban while serving as Singapore’s Ambassador to UN in 2001.
Delivering the citation on Mr Ban, he highlighted the honorary graduate’s key accomplishments which include contributing significantly to the success of the 2015 UN Climate Change Conference in Paris that secured strong global consensus for joint action in the fight against global warming; launching the Sustainable Development Goals in 2015 which aims to achieve universal peace and prosperity by 2030; and advocating women’s rights and gender equality resulting in the establishment of a new Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict. “It is no secret that the job of UN Secretary-General is one of the most difficult and impossible jobs in the world…Mr Ban will be remembered for dealing with so many global crises with remarkable calm and equanimity,” he added.
NUS President Professor Tan Chorh Chuan remarked that the NUS community can draw inspiration from Mr Ban who “has embodied the highest ideals of the UN, as a global leader who has done so much to help improve and secure the well-being of people throughout the world”. Emulating his ideals on climate change, he shared that NUS, too, is playing its part to make its campus more environmentally sustainable and nurture green leaders for the future.
Prof Tan said that throughout his two terms as UN Secretary-General, Mr Ban has been tireless in his efforts to galvanise support from governments, non-governmental organisations, businesses and communities, to build the broad consensus needed to take sustained action, with special concern for the poor and vulnerable. “He has consistently advocated that these complex challenges require global solidarity and approaches, and that ultimately, we all share a common vision of promoting greater peace, prosperity and security throughout the world,” he added.
“On behalf of thousands of other dedicated women and men who work around the world to ease suffering and build a better world, I thank you for this recognition of our global work for peace, development and human rights,” said Mr Ban humbly in his acceptance speech. He took the opportunity to call for greater mutual accountability, compassion and solidarity. “Global solidarity saved my life and my country,” he said, referring to the aid rendered by global humanitarian organisations during the Korean War. “The UN flag was our beacon. I have sought to keep that light shining so that others may find their way out of despair, and so that all people can enjoy a brighter future.”
Mr Ban lauded the work of NUS as Asia's top university, and said that he looked forward to the University’s contribution to urgent sustainable development solutions. “We face enormous challenges. But our capacity to solve them is even greater. If we work together, we can build a better world for all, where nobody is left behind,” he said.
Mr Ban also offered his condolences to the people of Singapore on the recent passing of the nation’s former President Mr S R Nathan.
Earlier that morning, Mr Ban had shared his views on becoming global citizens with students and faculty during a dialogue session at NUS moderated by Dr Noeleen Heyzer, NUS Trustee, social scientist and former UN Under-Secretary-General. He exhorted young Singaporeans to widen their horizon and lead with greater compassion for the marginalised.
Mr Ban is the eighth Secretary-General of UN. He took office in 2007, was re-elected in 2011, and will serve until 31 December 2016. Accompanied by his wife, he was in Singapore on a two-day work trip.