Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations Secretary-General, is reaching the end of his second term at the helm of this world organisation. Eight years in which he has faced many challenges in an increasingly complicated world.
Since Ban Ki-moon took over from the charismatic and high-profile Kofi Annan in 2007, his time in office has had mixed results according to the experts. “He (Ban Ki-moon) is a good man, frustrated by the failings of the organisation“, says the Columbia professor and expert on the United Nations in the European Council on International Relations, Richard Gowan to El País.
Most analysts agree on the mistakes made during his term, for example, the lack of initiative and creativity when dealing with complicated issues, insufficient forcefulness in sexual scandals involving UN peacekeepers, the tendency to consolidate before reforming. However, his detractors also reveal that he managed to deliver on a pact against climate change that everyone thought was dead and he pushed through the 2030 Agenda, ensuring that all countries work together for a more sustainable world.
However, we believe one achievement, while less high-profile in the short-term, will prove him right over time. For Ban Ki-moon, integrating young people in the United Nations System has been a key achievement; particularly during his second term.
One of the key reasons that led Ban Ki-moon to focus on youth as one of his goals was, without doubt, the Arab Spring. Young people were the driving force behind this popular movement that arose in some Arab countries in 2010 and a series of social demands led them to take to the streets against their governments.
In 2011, at a meeting in Paris during the G20 Finance Summit, the UN Secretary-General said, referring to these protests, that “Since the dawn of the Arab Spring, young people around the world have taken to the streets, demanding greater opportunities to participate in economic and political life. (…) Let us listen to them, lest the coming decades be marked by an instability and alienation that undermine our prospects for peace, security and prosperity for all”.
In 2013, Ban Ki-moon opened the Office of the UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth. The envoy to date has been the Jordan, Ahmad Alhendawi. His mandate, clearly set out from the beginning, was to cater for the needs of young people, listen to their demands and make young people aware of youth-related work performed by the United Nations.
The ECOSOC Youth Forum, a mouthpiece for youth leaders since 2012, is also one of the milestones during the Secretary-General’s term. The event, which lasts two days, is a meeting point for the exchange of ideas.
These achievements, together with other relevant issues, have been, in the view of the International Campaign for the Proclamation of a Youth Employment Decade, Ban Ki-moon’s great contribution to the world. Young people can now channel their concerns through and participate in the United Nations System. An achievement that largely comes from his efforts to integrate the new generations and provide them with the energy and drive that will lead to change.