“Global problems demand global solutions. And the United Nations is, truly, the world's only global institution,” Mr. Ban said in an address to a Town Hall Meeting organized by the World Affairs Council.
He acknowledged polls showing a majority of United States citizens think the UN is “doing a poor job,” but pointed out that “these same polls show that even larger majorities – 74 per cent to be exact – believe the United Nations should play a larger role in the world.”
The Secretary-General, who took office in January, said he remains “very ambitious” in his goals for the world body. “Since day one I have set up my reform goals as my top priority, which includes putting this house in order to make the Organization more efficient, more effective and more relevant in the twenty-first century,” he told the approximately 1,300 participants attending a Town Hall meeting at the Fairmont Hotel.
In addition to holding special significance for the UN, San Francisco is the first foreign city Mr. Ban visited in what would turn out to be a lifelong international career. Present in the audience was Mrs. Libba Patterson, who hosted the Secretary-General when he was a visiting student from the Republic of Korea.
“I'm still very moved by what Mrs. Patterson, her husband and their children did for me,” he said. “They showered me with affection, love and kindness when I was just a very young Korean student who had never been in a foreign country.”
For her part, Mrs. Patterson told the UN News Service that Mr. Ban “is as sincere now as he was when he was 18.”
The Secretary-General's trip to San Francisco, cite of the UN's founding, is centered on not only honouring that significant past achievement but also highlighting the present efforts by California to address climate change.
Prior to his address, the Secretary-General visited the War Memorial's Opera House, site of the United Nations Conference on International Organization sessions, as well as the Herbst Theater, where the UN Charter was signed on 26 June 1945. There, he voiced hope that San Francisco's role in forging the UN could be built on by launching new momentum on climate change.
“San Francisco is the birthplace of the United Nations, which was created to save this world from the scourge of war. I'm here to discuss the future of our planet Earth, and this can become the birthplace of a new movement to save it for future generations,” he said.
The issue of climate change is expected to feature prominently during meetings tomorrow that the Secretary-General will hold with California Governor Arnold Schwarzeneggar.