We welcome Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to the MacArthur Foundation and appreciate this opportunity to recommit the Foundation to supporting the United Nations.  The Secretary General is in Chicago for two days as part of a tour of major American cities to talk about his priorities.  I will open up with a summary of MacArthur and the UN and we will then hear from the Secretary General who has graciously agreed to questions after his remarks.

As you all know, Mr. Ban succeeded Kofi Annan as the 8th Secretary-General on New Year’s Day, 2007.  He came to the UN after 37 years of public service for South Korea, where he was Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade at the time of his election to Secretary-General.  In his first 13 months on the job, he has flown more than 200000 miles around the globe, bringing attention to critical issues such as Darfur and climate change.  And he is bringing a fresh perspective to the management of the UN itself.

We are also pleased to welcome his wife, Madame Ban Soon-taek.  Madame Ban has been very active in the diplomatic community, particularly through her volunteer service in numerous fundraising activities to assist senior citizens and children, hospital work, and for flood relief efforts.  Madame Ban shares MacArthur’s special interest in issues concerning women's development and health, which we will hear more about later.

MacArthur has a long history of support for and work with the UN.  Our very first direct grant to the UN was in 1988.  It went to the UN Regional Center for Peace and Disarmament in Africa to train military and civilian officers on conflict prevention and resolution. 

Since then nearly 70 grants for $17 million have followed to just about every part of the UN and also support groups – including UN Development Program, UNSECO, the UN Environment Program, and the UN Population Fund.  In 2007 alone, we have supported the Global Forum on Migration and Development, a rapid response fund for the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and technical capacity for the Office of Disarmament Affairs.  We also stand ready to support the biotechnology initiative that the S-G has proposed to bring all stakeholders together to explore ways to share the benefits of the revolution in the life sciences, even as we seek to mitigate the risks of potential misuse of these technologies.

As we celebrate our 30th anniversary, the MacArthur Trustees have approved a new mission statement: “MacArthur seeks a more just, sustainable and peaceful world.”  Mr. Secretary-General, in reading your statement of priorities I was impressed with a powerful overlap between your agenda and ours.

You said, “the Universal Declaration of Human Rights…must continue to drive activity on the ground…the expression ‘never again’ must hold real meaning.  I will strive to translate the concept of the Responsibility to Protect from words to deeds to ensure timely action when populations face genocide, ethnic cleansing or crimes against humanity.”  MacArthur was privileged to support the international commission that framed the Responsibility to Protect and we are prepared to help Frances Deng and Edward Luck as they take up their new duties.

MacArthur has a major investment in strengthening other elements of the emerging international justice system as well—the cornerstone International Criminal Court has been a central focus along with the regional human rights courts and commissions whose jurisdictions now cover 85 countries.  We are currently helping the new Africa Court of Human and People’s Rights get started, and we are watching with great interest the progress toward a new human rights body within ASEAN. 

Your statement rightly emphasizes peace and security in Africa, Darfur in particular.  The Security Council referral to the ICC reflected growing consensus that impunity cannot stand and mass human rights abusers must be held accountable to reach a sustainable peace. Vigorous efforts to make good on state obligations to cooperate with the Court in the Darfur case and others will send a clear message.  MacArthur is supporting a group of NGOs planning a campaign to encourage nations to push for the enforcement of ICC arrest warrants for Amed Haroun and Ali Kashib.

In the development area you said, “We must spare no effort in reaching the MDG’s, particularly in Africa.”  We also believe it is essential that the wealthy countries make good on the commitments made in the Millennium Development Goals, lest the goals become another example of good intensions unfulfilled, dashing hope and reinforcing cynicism and despair.  While all the MDG’s may not be fully met, it is essential that some are nearly met.

MacArthur is assembling a coalition of foundations committed to MDG #5, a substantial reduction in maternal mortality by 2015.  Post-partum hemorrhage accounts for about 30% of the 515,000 maternal deaths each year; a third of those deaths occur in India and Nigeria.  In those two countries we have funded an intervention that can cut maternal mortality by 80%.  The central element is an anti-shock garment that stabilizes hemorrhaging women for up to 48 hours, time enough to get to a medical facility.

We were pleased to see non-proliferation and disarmament high on your list of priorities.  It is high on ours as well.  We agree with your warning that “the risk of proliferation of nuclear and other weapons hangs like a sword of Damocles over our heads.”  That is why we are pleased to make a grant to enable the Office of Disarmament Affairs to preserve the high quality technical capacity of UNMOVIC scientists as it builds its capacity to support your leadership. 

We applaud your leadership on climate change and agree with your injunction that “If we care about our legacy for succeeding generations, this is the time for decisive global action.”  Here we have made a significant commitment to assisting conservation scientists, practitioners and policy-makers learn adaptive measures to preserve the world’s biodiversity, but we would like your guidance on how we could be helpful to your effort.

Finally, MacArthur is a strong supporter of the Global Forum on Migration and Development.  We are inspired by your leadership on issues of international migration and your call for a “rational, forward-looking conversation” on this topic. 

We are open to hearing other ways in which we can be helpful to you and the U.N.  With offices in India, Mexico, Nigeria, Russia and, soon, China, we are a global foundation sharing with you a sense that we live at a pivotal moment of opportunity and a sense of obligation that now is the time to act.

Africa, Asia, Human Rights, Migration/Immigration, Population