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UN Secretary-General's Welcome


Geneva, 5-7 August 2009

It gives me great pleasure to greet all those involved in the first-ever Global Model UN Conference being organized by the United Nations itself. Thank you for your commitment to the Organization’s objectives and ideals – and for getting this annual event off to a promising start.

The word “model” has a number of meanings. In the context of the model United Nations, it is commonly understood as “a small copy”. But I prefer another of its meanings: “a praiseworthy example to be copied”.

People often criticize young people for their idealism, or even try to talk them out of it. But I think idealism is one of your strengths. Without it, we would have a far more difficult time imagining and building a better world.

Idealism is also a big part of what animates the United Nations. When the Organization was established in 1945, the world was reeling from a destructive period of warfare that had touched the lives of just about everyone on the planet. Those who drafted the UN Charter were determined to prevent any recurrence of such atrocities and upheaval. They wanted to see a new international consciousness emerge from the ashes – one grounded in human rights and peaceful coexistence. They too were idealists, but at the same time understood the need, bred of recent experience, to erect safeguards against human cruelty.

The past six decades have not been easy. There have been major advances in the human condition. But war and poverty still plague our world. And we can all sense the perils of the present moment, as a global economic crisis and the gathering force of climate change combine to threaten our future well-being.

That is why I am heartened to know that this conference will focus on the Millennium Development Goals. There has been important progress, but in most parts of the world much more needs to be done. The world has the human, financial and technological resources with which to lift the bottom billion out of poverty. Young people will be crucial in mustering the political resolve and forging the partnerships we need for success.

Indeed, this model UN exercise is no empty role play. Half the world’s population is under 25. You are their representatives. Many of you will move on to positions of real leadership. All of you, by your choices as consumers, by your decisions as voters, will assume real power to shape and change our world. The United Nations, for its part, attaches great importance to engaging with you and building new generations of support for our values and work.

As you participate in this conference, I encourage you to keep in mind both meanings of the word “model”. I urge you to pursue the solutions that depend on imagination and courage, consensus and compromise. Hopefully your time at this conference will give you a taste for the complexity of international relations. Most of all, I hope it will help you become the models the world needs to fulfil the ideals of this indispensable organization.