Acceptance Remarks by H.E. Ban Ki-moon, 8th S.G. of the UN, at the 2023 “Diwali Stamp – The Power of One Award,” aka “Oscars of Diplomacy,” at ECOSOC Chamber, United Nations

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11 December 2023

Thank you for this great honor for me to receive this 2023 “Diwali Stamp – The Power of One” Award. H.E. Olof Skoog, Head of the EU Delegation to the UN, thank you for your wonderful remarks for me and for all these awards. Madame Ranju Batra, Chair of the Diwali Foundation USA, and also Ravi Batra, a moderator, a good title. 

Excellencies, Distinguished Guests, Ladies & Gentlemen,

I’d like to also congratulate H.E. Mirsolav Lajčák, 72nd President of General Assembly, and Ambassador Mirsada Čolaković, Permanent Representative of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and my good friend who is not able to participate here – who is one of the four Awardees – Ambassador Kim Sook, former Permanent Representative of Republic of Korea. 

It is my privilege to stand before you this afternoon and humbly accept the 2023 “Diwali Stamp – The Power of One” Lifetime Achievement Award. I’m very grateful for this esteemed honor, and it is quite meaningful to follow in the footsteps of the previous luminary awardees. Thank you very much.

When I was entering this hall, I was momentarily confused whether I am still in charge. Because there were so many ambassadors waiting and greeting me. This is an official place for ECOSOC, so I never attended this kind of meeting during my last 7 years as a former Secretary-General.

Now let us talk about Power of One. I am also a little bit confused. Who is ‘Power of One’ here? I thought it was you, Ravi Batra, who has always been emailing me and calling me. Later, I found that Ranju Batra was ‘Power of One,’ as she is the Chair, and he is just a moderator. [Laughs heartily.] Let us be clear. I am not the Power of One. Let us not talk about Power of One here anymore. But when it comes to United Nations, the current Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, he is the Power of One. I might be a “former,” but I never claimed to be the Power of One. 

I was just one of the Secretaries, and among Secretaries, I was the General – General Secretary, and many people are confused with it. When you come to eastern countries, particularly Russia, General Secretary is number 1, but Secretary General is just a Secretary among generals. So let us be clear that the ‘Power of One’ belongs to you [Ranju], and you [Ravi] are just the Moderator! [Laughs.]

Anyway, joking aside, my special recognition goes to Mrs. Ranju Batra for her visionary patronage of these awards, as well as for her longtime advocacy efforts in support of world peace, global citizenship, and sustainable development issues.

I also take this opportunity to commend the work and forward-thinking vision of the Diwali Foundation USA for advancing vital light in a world of increasing darkness.

Indeed, the critical efforts you undertake to support the UN Charter “to form a more perfect world” are increasingly essential as we collectively strive to expand understanding, cooperation, and tolerance on the road to international peace and security, and global sustainability.

My deepest gratitude goes to the Diwali Foundation USA, as well as all of the 2023 Award Ceremony Co-Organizers and Co-Sponsors, for this special honor.

Excellencies, Distinguished Guests, Ladies & Gentlemen,

Our world seems fractured like never before. Conflict, COVID-19, and the climate crisis, particularly regional crises as we see today in the Middle East and Ukraine – they have kept nations and people apart, and hindered global cooperation and progress.

But, it is exactly at times such as these that the work of the United Nations is indispensable. The UN and its pursuit of peace, human rights, and sustainable development

exemplifies the values and principles that we should all espouse to replicate.

And for me, this is not abstract. I have seen the bravery of UN peacekeepers protecting civilians; the heroism of aid workers responding to disasters; and the courage of health

specialists providing care in the most dangerous places.

Over the last seven years since my “retirement,” – it’s already 7 years now, I have strived to stay as engaged as possible by undertaking diverse local and global responsibilities in the spheres of development, peace and security, climate change, and human rights.

Indeed, my ongoing efforts on behalf of humanity and the planet underpin my current work with The Elders, which was established by Nelson Mandela, composed of 12

former head of state, government or Nobel peace Laureate and I do not belong to any of the three categories but as a former Secretary-General of the United Nations, I am now working as a vice chair of the Elders. Mary Robinson, former Irish president and former Human Rights

Commissioner, is now the chair of the Elders, and also the BKM Foundation for a Better Future, and elsewhere.

Particularly, I have continued to raise my voice in response to the deepening climate crisis — by urging governments, businesses, civil society, and, importantly, young people, to take more urgent action.

The bottom line is that the earth is in serious crisis. Temperatures are shattering records around the globe daily, and it is scientifically, economically, and morally clear that fossil fuels are a dead end for humanity and our planet. In this regard, I would like to remind what Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has defined, we normally have been saying global warming, but he said that the era of “global warming” is over but now we are now living in the era of “global boiling.” How accurately he has described the current state of our planet Earth. It’s really boiling – boiling water – and we have to take urgent action.

Fortunately, we do have viable blueprints – the Paris Agreement – to limit the worst climate impacts and chart a brighter path forward for all, by decisively taking action and adopting the Paris Climate Change Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals. 

With this in mind, halfway to the 2030 target date, I humbly call on all those here today to elevate the urgency of SDG implementation. I think this is our collective responsibility.

Ladies and gentlemen,

As we move towards 2024 and beyond, we share a common destiny illuminated by peace, sustainability, and prosperity. Let’s work together and expand our unified efforts to realize this shared destiny for all. This is your political responsibility, and for me, my moral responsibility as a former Secretary-General and as an Awardee of this Diwali Stamp – ‘Power of One’ award.

I thank you for your attention as well as this great honor.



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