NUS bestows top honour on UN secretary-general

President Tan with Mr Ban at yesterday's ceremony at the Istana, where the UN chief received an honorary Doctor of Letters degree from NUS. Dr Tan is also the NUS chancellor.
President Tan with Mr Ban at yesterday's ceremony at the Istana, where the UN chief received an honorary Doctor of Letters degree from NUS. Dr Tan is also the NUS chancellor.PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

United Nations chief Ban Ki Moon received the highest honour from the National University of Singapore (NUS) yesterday in recognition of his humanitarian accomplishments and work in sustainable development, human rights, global peace and security.

The 72-year-old was given an honorary Doctor of Letters degree from NUS at a ceremony at the Istana that was presided over by President Tony Tan Keng Yam, who is also the NUS chancellor.

Mr Ban, a South Korean, is the UN's eighth secretary-general and the second Asian to take the post. He took office in 2007 and was re-elected for a second term, which ends in December.

He has pushed for climate action and women's rights, strengthened peacekeeping operations, improved humanitarian response and revitalised disarmament efforts.

In his remarks, Mr Banrecalled how, during the Korean War as a six-year-old, he and his family survived on food and medicine from Unicef and how he, along with others, studied with textbooks provided by Unesco.

HANDLING AN 'IMPOSSIBLE' JOB

It is no secret that the job of UN secretary-general is one of the most difficult and impossible jobs in the world. Mr Ban will be remembered for dealing with so many global crises with remarkable calm and equanimity.

PROFESSOR KISHORE MAHBUBANI, dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, reading the citation for Mr Ban Ki Moon

"The UN flag was our beacon," he said. "I have sought to keep that light shining so that others may find their way out of despair, and so that all people can enjoy a brighter future."

Acknowledging that the world is going through a difficult time, he said: "People worry about the next extreme storm, the next financial shock or the next outbreak of deadly disease.

"No country is immune from the threat of violent extremism. Singapore itself, stable and prosperous, has had to take steps recently to heighten its defences."

Professor Kishore Mahbubani, who read the citation for Mr Ban, said one of his key achievements has been to "secure a strong global consensus" for action on global warming.

Prof Mahbubani, dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, also noted Mr Ban's contributions to gender equality, including pushing for the creation of UN Women as a separate agency in 2011.

"It is no secret that the job of UN secretary-general is one of the most difficult and impossible jobs in the world," he said. "Mr Ban will be remembered for dealing with so many global crises with remarkable calm and equanimity."

Meanwhile, on Monday, Mr Ban gave a speech to 3,000 guests at the Suntec Convention Centre, where he delivered the eighth lecture in the Singapore Management University's Ho Rih Hwa Leadership in Asia Public Lecture Series.

Speaking to a crowd of mostly students, he said young people have "unlimited potentiality" to make the world a better place, and praised Singapore for its strengths.

"At a time of global divisions, you continue to build a prosperous society of tolerance and co-existence," he said. "Singapore is also a force for regional stability and solidarity through its involvement in Asean."

He also lauded the country's innovations in water management, waste management and energy efficiency. "Singaporean nationals have served with distinction in many capacities across the world," Mr Ban noted.

•Additional reporting by Lin Yangchen

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 31, 2016, with the headline 'NUS bestows top honour on UN secretary-general'. Print Edition | Subscribe