Ban Ki-Moon

Since its founding more than 70 years ago, the United Nations has had as a central purpose, "to achieve international co-operation in solving international problems of an economic, social, cultural, or humanitarian character." Yet only during your near-decade at the helm of the United Nations has the opportunity signaled by this goal become fully visible and the need to embrace it become so urgent. You have faced a formidable task and shouldered the burden admirably. Climate change, infectious disease, poverty, terrorism, refugee migration, violence against women, and financial instability. It is a roll call of 21st-century problems resistant to remedies engineered by any single nation, yet occurring at a moment when the prospect of reliable global cooperation, though closer at hand than ever before, often remains out of reach. Never have the words uttered by Trygve Lie, the UN's first Secretary-General, upon his passing of the torch to his successor, Dag Hammarskjöld, been more apt: "You are about to take over the most impossible job on earth." Perhaps your foremost asset in meeting this challenge is a personal history that exposed you, at a young age, first to the horror of modern warfare and then to the triumph of national rebirth supported by the international community. The travails of your childhood in Japanese-occupied Korea were surely on your mind as you stood among a group of young international Red Cross delegates on the White House lawn and heard President Kennedy say that collectively you personified the "hopes we can have for the future." It was a pivotal moment for an 18-year-old, setting you on course to become a diplomat, policy advisor, foreign minister, and, ultimately, only the eighth person to serve as Secretary-General of the United Nations. In this role, you have been determined to see progress on intractable, long-term challenges while remaining attuned to the exigencies and opportunities of the everyday. Responding to past United Nations' efforts to promote gender equality that were undermined by inadequate funding and the absence of a clear mission, you established UN Women, a new entity with the resources and governing mandate to bring an end to the pervasive gender violence and discrimination so shocking to the conscience of society. And just last month, at United Nations Headquarters, you presided over a ceremony that saw 175 world leaders sign the Paris Agreement for global action on climate change – the largest number of nations ever to sign an international accord on a single day. For a lifetime of selfless public service firmly grounded in President Kennedy's exhortation that "we are one human family and this one planet is our home," we are proud to present you with the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa.