President gives address at Columbia University’s World Leaders Forum

Thu 26th Apr, 2018 | 13:00
location: Columbia University, New York, U.S.A.

Speech at Columbia University’s World Leaders Forum

Columbia University, New York, U.S.A., Thursday 26 April 2018

‘Multilateralism – Towards a Discourse for our Times’

Address by

Michael D. Higgins, President of Ireland

to the World Leader’s Forum, Columbia University

New York City, New York

Thursday, 26th April, 2018


May I begin by thanking you, Professor Madigan, for your very kind introduction.

It is an honour to join you all here today in this, the oldest University in New York, one of the oldest in this country, one known not only for the contribution of its graduates to the formation of this state and to the United States, but also to the development of the cultural, social and economic life of other nations.

I am aware that I address you on the anniversary of one of the most potent expressions of the great upsurge in student and worker activism that swept the United States, and the world, during 1968. Nearly fifty years ago to this day, the students of this University commenced a strike and a series of occupations in protest against the association of this institution of learning with a weapons research think tank, and against racial discrimination.

The Dean, Henry Coleman, was, as many of you will know, held hostage for a day, and later gracefully wrote letters of recommendation for his would-be kidnappers. I can re-assure Professor Madigan that I will not be recommending a repeat of this endeavour today, nor would I suggest false imprisonment as a method for eliciting resolutions that are needed to resolve what are genuine concerns available to be dealt with by discourse in an academic community.  

I myself came in the Autumn of 1966 to the United States as a postgraduate student of sociology at Indiana University Bloomington, in the midst of the draft for the Vietnam War. Getting less than a C in your essay affected your draft status which put an immense moral pressure on myself as the person correcting the essays. I was in Manchester and Ireland in 1968.

Yet for all those moments that seem, to some, exotic today, those students acted with a vital purpose. They were inspired, and would in turn inspire, similar movements of thought and action in that most radical of years, from those brave citizens who stood for greater democracy in Mexico and against authoritarianism in Czechoslovakia, to the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Movement on our own island of Ireland, which was demanding an end to over forty years of sectarian discrimination.

Through all the acknowledged diversities of those movements – the diversity of the cultures from which they sprung, the oppression that they suffered, and the foes with which they contended – there was a remarkable unity in their demands – a demand for economic and social justice, a demand for environmental justice, and a demand, above all, for peace, and all the possibilities that peace brings.

Yes, the exuberance of youth led some to actions which, in the fullness of time, they would come to consider exotic, even mistaken, but we should not doubt that moral vision they held which they held recoiled from a world marred by war, environmental degradation, racism and inequalities in wealth, income and power. Nor should we underestimate the optimism that animated their efforts to change a world that offered to yield only most painfully and slowly to change. 

1968 was also the year in which one of the most important voices for peace, for global solidarity and for a renewed moral purpose, both in the United States and on our planet, was silenced by the bullet of an assassin. Earlier this month, we marked the fiftieth year since Dr Martin Luther King was murdered in Memphis, Tennessee.

Fifty years later we are again in the shadow of war with all its restrictions all of its supporting structures that absorb the best in science and technology.

On Tuesday, I addressed the General Assembly of the United Nations as part of a two-day meeting held on the challenge of peacebuilding and sustaining peace. In preparing my remarks, I recalled the declaration of solidarity that Dr King made fifty-one years ago at Riverside Church, not five minutes’ walk from where we are today. For it was there that Dr King drew together all the strands of the movement for civil rights and equality in this country, and spoke of an enlarged solidarity with those who suffer injustice in other places. He was speaking, of course, of the Vietnam War. If I may quote Dr King:

“There is at the outset a very obvious and almost facile connection between the war in Vietnam and the struggle. I and others have been waging in America. A few years ago there was a shining moment in that struggle. It seemed as if there was a real promise of hope for the poor, both black and white, through the poverty program. There were experiments, hopes, new beginnings. Then came the build-up in Vietnam, and I watched this program broken and eviscerated as if it were some idle political plaything on a society gone mad on war. And I knew that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonic, destructive suction tube. So I was increasingly compelled to see the war as an enemy of the poor and to attack it as such.”

Today, in the first decades of the twenty-first century, we can still speak of a society going mad on war. The rhetoric of war crowds out any slow deliberations of peace. Our boundless capacity for creativity and innovation, and the fruits of new science and technology, are still turned, not to the promotion and preservation of peace, but to the pursuit and prosecution of war and preparations for war.

Fifty years after Columbia University students sought to sunder the relationship between the academy and the armaments industry, too many of our finest minds are still called upon or induced to devote their skill, cultivated over so many years in our institutes of higher learning, to discovering new and more effective ways of killing.

A Joint Report prepared by the World Bank and the United Nations in advance of the meeting of the UN General Assembly this week indicated that, in 2016, more countries experienced violent conflict than at any time in the past 30 years.

Reported battle-related deaths in 2016 were ten times higher than the post-Cold War high in 2005. This has occurred in both lower and middle-income countries, including those nations considered to have relatively strong institutions, which had long been considered a prerequisite for economic expansion and social peace.

That this surge in violence can occur at the very same time as the high point in the internationalisation and liberalisation of capital and goods markets, commonly referred to as globalisation, deserves our attention. A globalisation of trade it might be, a globalisation of ethical interdependence it is not, nor does it aim to be.

There were thinkers who believed a globalisation of trade could be a path to peace.

Well-meaning liberal advocates of the universalization of laissez-faire economics, such as John Bright or Richard Cobden, leaders of the Anti-Corn Law League of 1840s Britain, foresaw a world of free trade and free capital markets as one in which swords would be beaten into ploughshares and spears into pruninghooks as nations made trade and not war.

But the First World War, that collision of empires that consumed a generation of the young and the old, taught us that peace does not rest upon common markets or upon processes such as globalisation, for did not that war begin during the previous high point in the interconnection of capital and goods markets?

Peace, as Dr King may have reminded us, depends upon a fundamental solidarity with one another, upon our capacity for compassion, empathy and sympathy, and upon our shared commitment to institutions through which we may discern, together, the common good and unite behind collective endeavours.

When we speak of nation-states - whose institutions, through habit, intellectual formation or practice, tend to view the world through the prism of a narrow realism, which in its distortion of empirical fact negates very the conceptual value of ‘realism’ itself as a concept, or a philosophical tool.

Any attempt to build that vital solidarity of which I speak can seem, at first glance, hopelessly naïve, a normative emphasis not only unsustainable but doomed to fail in a global state-system founded, we are told, on the principles of the Peace of Westphalia.

To accept such a conclusion is to ignore the lesson that those such as Dr King sought to teach us – nation-states are made by their citizens, who, even in authoritarian societies, have the capacity, through collective action and through imaginative solidarities, to re-define what is so often presented as an imprescriptible ‘national interest’.

It is with great sadness, on occasion, that I reflect on all that could have been, not just here in the United States, but across the world, if Robert F Kennedy – a man very close to the hearts of the Irish people – had not been taken from us in that summer of 1968, only two months after Dr King.

Robert Kennedy was an unusual pragmatist - he seized the moment, with characteristic courage and idealism, to draw upon the energies of the movement that Dr King had done so much to craft and to propose a renewal of the role of the United States in world affairs.

In this decade and the decades to come we must prove ourselves capable of demonstrating that same informing moral vision, and that same spirit of pragmatic idealism, that animated Dr King and Robert Kennedy, as we seek to meet the challenges that they confronted in their time: the requirement for just, sustainable and inclusive development throughout the globe; the resolution of conflicts, both ancient and new; the imperative to confront the great inequalities that divide our societies; the urgent need to welcome those fleeing war, persecution, famine and natural disasters.

We must do so, with what Professor Richard Falk called in a recent tribute to a graduate of this University, Miguel d’Escoto, as ‘ethical radicalism’.

We face new challenges, which were in the 1960s in the hubristic atmosphere of modernisation theory, struggling to become even objects of attention: the loss of biodiversity; the unpredictable effects of anthropogenic alterations to the nitrogen, phosphorus and sulphur cycles; and above all the potentially catastrophic effects of climate change brought about by the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the Earth’s atmosphere.

These neglected challenges of that time are now global in their scope, and they can only be met by global solutions co-ordinated by the only global institution capable of representing the majority of the peoples on this planet, the United Nations. Is it not still thrilling to read the declaration containing opening lines of the preamble of its founding Charter,

the embodiment of the best aspirations of the victors of the Second World War: ‘We the Peoples of the United Nations determined to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war…and to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom’.

That phrase, ‘in larger freedom’, will no doubt be familiar to an American audience, as it reflects, inter alia, the four fundamental freedoms to which President Franklin Delano Roosevelt committed the United States in his State of the Union Address in 1941. If I may quote from that address directly:

‘In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms.

The first is freedom of speech and expression–everywhere in the world.

The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way–everywhere in the world.

The third is freedom from want–which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants -everywhere in the world.

The fourth is freedom from fear–which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbour–anywhere in the world.’

These freedoms, and the rights required to vindicate and secure them – not just civil rights but economic and social rights - were codified in the Proclamation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948 – in the drafting of which another great New Yorker, Eleanor Roosevelt, played such an important part. In affirming the dignity and equality of all men and women on our planet, the Declaration stands as a vital moral achievement.

The United Nations, for all its imperfections and mistakes is the only institutional space where all the nations, irrespective of size and background, aspire to be heard.

There are, of course, institutional rigidities contained within the structure of the United Nations.  For example, the Security Council, the organ of the United Nations charged with maintaining international peace and security, is dominated by the five Permanent Members, whose individual veto powers and, may I suggest, narrow and often self-serving interpretation of their national interests, sometimes frustrate concerted action.

Yet, considering the scale, scope, reach and relative success of United Nations peacekeeping operations – to which Ireland has contributed to for nearly six decades – the Security Council has not always displayed a lassitude of which it is so often correctly accused. Actions in the general interest may not only be attempted – some can even succeed.

It is the General Assembly, in which, at its best, the aspirations of the peoples of the world are most fully represented. It was in that forum that the newly free nations of the colonial world came, after a long and unremitting struggle for independence and national liberation from the old empires, to take their place in the councils of global affairs, and since that time the General Assembly has so often provided a voice to peoples who, lacking power or wealth, had hitherto been voiceless.

In the atmosphere of the Cold War, the newly free were sometimes subsumed into the rivalries of the two blocs, condemned to be proxy battlefields upon which the two foes projected their considerable power.

I so recall those proxy battlefields.  As a member of the Oireachtas, the Irish Parliament, during the 1980s, I sought continuously to draw the attention of the Irish people to the subversion of the fragile democracies of Central and South America by the United States, and as a researcher in Manchester University in 1968, I was appalled when the Soviet Union deployed its armed forces to crush the Prague Spring. Let us also recall that Vietnam and Afghanistan both suffered terribly at the hands, respectively, of the United States and the Soviet Union, as each sought to deny the other a falsely perceived strategic advantage.

The end of the Cold War brought with it the opportunity of renewed international co-operation, and the possibility of finally acknowledging unfair trade, odious debt, great poverty and inequality, and an opportunity too of addressing global environmental degradation and its deleterious effects on the ecology of our shared and vulnerable planet and, with the peace dividend, the opportunity to devote the resources and energy diverted to arms production towards a shared prosperity.      

The prosecution of a theory of interests by the most powerful, a loss of critical capacity at analytical level, a pressure for even the academy itself to belong within an uncritical neo-utilitarianism has made moral reflection within the academy seem reduced to the level of an exotic indulgence. A culture of indifference, an impotence sourced originally in vulnerability that leads to a kind of fatalism.

Yet, there have been extraordinary successes, one that we can build on.  The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Convention on Biological Diversity, and the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification stand as expressions of practical global solidarity, representing not only the three great achievements of the Rio Earth Summit of 1992, but the primary vehicles through which we will organise our efforts to confront the environmental threats that face humanity in this century.

The Millennium Development Goals - in marshalling the Member States, the international financial institutions and the United Nations and its agencies behind a common purpose and commonly agreed set of targets – provided an example of what could be accomplished if nation-states and international institutions were prepared to dedicate their resources to the vindication of freedom from want. Yet, its failings should also be acknowledged.

The Goals – the most ambitious of which was to eradicate hunger and extreme poverty – were only binding on the Global South. In their formulation and preparation, the voices and assumptions of the Global North carried more weight than the countries to whom the Goals applied.

Above all, in this, the tenth year since the onset of the Global Financial Crisis, we should acknowledge that the international economic policy framework of the early 2000s reflected a hubristic faith in the efficacy of liberalised capital markets and free financial flows, a faith that had dominated the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund since the 1980s.

The former chief economist of the World Bank, and one of the most eminent scholars in this institution, Joseph Stiglitz, did the world a signal service by revealing the economic and social damage visited upon the Global South by the imposition of a narrow intellectual framework.  Yet the framework is evidenced in the courses of Economics 101 in universities and business schools across the globe.  It has the medievalist ring of an unquestioned form of a natural law. 

I am speaking, of course, of the theory of government and governance that we now know as neo-liberalism. We know its policy agenda all too well: the removal of all constraints on the growth, use and flow of capital and wealth; the privatisation of state assets and contracting out of the state services; the redistribution of income upwards through sharp reductions in the taxation of capital and introduction of charges for public services; and the dismantlement of collective bargaining and institutions of wage and price co-ordination.

Yet all the research states that more equal societies are healthier societies. Yet inequalities are deepening.

It is heartening to see that now that the international financial institutions – the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund - are beginning to return to some elements of the wisdom of their founding father, John Maynard Keynes, and to recognise that the regulation, even control by the state of capital flows in the public interest should not only be permitted, but should at times be actively encouraged. Then too there is a growing and welcome literature on what Mariana Mazzucato calls ‘the entrepreneurial state’ and its role in sustainable economics.

What once seemed inevitably and ideologically locked institutions are also now beginning, but so slowly, to turn their attention, not only to the undeclared assumptions of bad and dangerous economic models, poor methodology but, and I welcome it, the measurement and tackling, of income inequality both within and between nations. This renewed focus on what are, let us not forget, some of the most fundamental questions of political economy, is welcome and I hope it will lead to a recovery of a spirit of critical inquiry, one that is open to questioning the old and stale orthodoxies of an unmoored economics which claimed to encompass and explain, in its arrogance, the totality of our social and physical reality.

If I mentioned student protests in 1968 I would like to refer half a century later to what it is, and how modest it is, the protest that economics students in Paris and Cambridge have been making in recent years.  It is that they seek simply to have economics taught in a pluralist way – democracy in the curriculum, in the lecture hall.

I believe that something of that spirit of a long-delayed humility which, for a time after the financial crisis, pervaded the Global North, informed the negotiations of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which included the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, applicable, crucially, to all Member States of the United Nations. 

The agreement of the 2030 Agenda by 193 nation-states here in New York in September 2015 was a significant moral milestone, and a departure for our planet, representing the shared resolution of the nations of the world to attempt again through shared action to end poverty and hunger, combat inequalities in income and opportunity, to build peaceful, just and inclusive societies, reverse environmental degradation and create conditions for a shared prosperity. In a word, to achieve the larger freedom that President Roosevelt spoke of 77 years ago.

This shared commitment is so different in character from reliance on, or the imposition of any neo-liberal ‘structural adjustment programme’ of the past imposed by the international financial institutions, or any diktat of the powerful emerging from the Security Council or from any single power.

The Irish and Kenyan Ambassadors to the United Nations were appointed by the President of the General Assembly to facilitate the negotiations. May I say that I am proud of the role that Ireland played in a process which ensured that the voices of all the members of the General Assembly were heard, including our own.

Only three months after that agreement in New York, the Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change came to a settlement, after all the false dawns and recriminations, that finally recognised the demands of climate justice. They acknowledged what is nothing less than an imperative for survival of so many of the peoples of the world in this century.

The global target agreed at the Paris Climate Conference is drafted in a crisis – yet even if the objective of limiting the global temperature increase to below two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels is achieved, communities throughout the world will suffer terrible and unpredictable consequences.

Let us also recall that the Parties pledged to pursue efforts to limit that temperature increase to one and half degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. If we listen clearly to the advice, and may I say the warnings, of the overwhelming majority of the scientific community, we must acknowledge that an additional half a degree Celsius will have an enormous impact in terms of the reduction in crop yields, severity of heatwaves, disruptions to the water cycle and the oceans, and of course to the sea level rise.

We must also acknowledge that there is some scientific debate as to whether we have, as a species, emitted so much greenhouse gases that we have effectively condemned ourselves to a one and half degree Celsius warming. Fear of failure should not dissuade us – indeed, it should spur us to action.

These two agreements, the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Climate Accord, represent a hard-won global consensus, and the means by which we shall, in this century, be judged and measured as to our success or failure. They have the possibility of being the twin pillars on which a more peaceful world can be built, not only by preventing the kinds of environmental disasters which have begat and still continue to beget conflict, but by offering the possibility of realising the global solidarity and its delivery into policy of which Dr King spoke of fifty-one years ago.

2015 was, and perhaps it has not been emphasised enough, a moment of hope, one that proved that, despite the cynicism that too often mars international relations, the nations of the world could discern a global common good, and in doing so, re-dedicate themselves to the founding principles of the United Nations.

Yet the shadows gather.  We have already begun to see Member States resile from their commitments, whether in the temptation of those who consider themselves the great powers to return to safe certainties and the old politics of the Security Council and to the G8 as vehicles for global agreement or through a new and quixotic isolationism which eschews the United Nations and turns instead to a bilateralism informed more by a false nostalgia for the nineteenth century than the needs of the twenty-first century.

We had been making some progress. In 2016, the percentage of global Gross Domestic Product devoted to military expenditure was 2.23%, the lowest since 2000, far below the Cold War heights of 6%, thus presenting the possibility that our intellectual and material resources could be mobilised for a new agreed purpose, not to fan the fires of war, but to cultivate the possibilities of peace. Yet, some of the Permanent Members of the Security Council are now preparing themselves for a new arms race, and the arms industry, buttressed by vast state contracts, continues to export weapons of death and destruction for use in Syria, Yemen, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Let me be direct – it would be easy for me to merely criticise the intention of the United States to withdraw from the Paris Accord in 2020, the year in which its targets, which include commitments to large sums for climate adaptation in the most vulnerable parts of the Global South, are activated; and yes, it is a great disappointment for the entire global community that a founding member of the United Nations which did more, perhaps than any other, to inflect the organisation with its characteristic spirit of democracy and daring, should now turn away.

There is, however, a more insidious risk to our shared global commitments, whether made at Paris or New York. It is that we, and I speak here of the Global North and of my country, were not truly authentic in our words, and that we do not intend to make the difficult and necessary sacrifices demanded of us over the next decades, and that we shall not sanction the substantive change to the global political economy required by the promised new global solidarity. It is authenticity that the young, and so many of the old too of the streets of the world find missing from the discourse of our times. They so easily see behind the spectacles that contrived as substitutes for agreement. They see how language is absorbed by the use of words without context or commitment.

They see beneath the spectacle to be managed. They see how language

None of this is abstract. For example, more than any other place on Earth, the continent of Africa is now, and will be, the crucible for the global challenges that we confront in this century. It is bearing and will continue to bear the greatest consequences of climate change, with all the possible implications for the displacements of people, the degradation of the environment, and the eruption of new conflicts over diminishing natural resources that it brings, and will bring. By 2050, the continent of Africa will contain 2.5 billion people, nearly 1.3 billion of whom will be young people.

By mid-century then, Africa will be the continent of the young, with over forty percent of the young people of this planet residing there. We must not see in Africa a threatening continent, a set of countries that are the source of so many displaced people – as we do too often in the European Union.  

Perhaps, in their invocation of fear rather than possibility, it is that some of our European partners are still informed by the prejudices of a fading, but still present, colonial superiority complex. With so much human possibility, Africa has the potential to be the continent of promise and opportunity in our twenty-first century, one that will carry so many of the hopes, the dreams and the ambitions of our shared planet, a continent where a new symmetry of economics, ecology, ethics, and solidarity can be built, where science and technology can cross borders, be delivered with humane purpose.

These hopes can only be realised if we stay true to the commitments we made to one another in the last months of 2015. This will require a convergence of vision between the institutions of the United Nations, the Member States, organisations of regional co-operation, and, if we are to be serious about reforming the global economy, the Bretton Woods Institutions, including the World Trade Organisation.

It is authenticity of the word, respect for diversity, gender equality, equality in all its forms – these are the gifts our world needs.

The recent death of that distinguished international civil servant Peter Sutherland has reminded us of the enormous difficulty of negotiating multilateral trade agreements, and of the careful diplomacy required to secure the agreement of, if we take the last successful Uruguay Round, 123 sovereign nation-states. The current Doha round, the ninth since the formation of the multilateral trading framework established after the Second World War, now involves 164 members of the World Trade Organisation.

Can that inevitably complex diplomacy be moved to carry the decisions of 2015? Or are we condemning the 2015 decisions to the shadow of the normative and retaining exclusively for the powerful strut of interest. There is a terrible lesson too that we are slow to concede. It is that globalisations of trade, is not, and cannot be, an ethical globalisation of peoples unless we regain symmetry with terra madre and pursue a civilisation of sufficiency and diversity for its peoples.

Surely the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Climate Accord should guide any renewed attempt to complete the Doha round. May I also say that there is no point simply paying lip service to these commitments as part of a kind of simple ‘just-so’ story of trade liberalisation, as I fear happened with the Millennium Development Goals – we must be honest regarding the full effects of liberalisation on the economies of both North and South, and facilitate the role of the state in protecting citizens. We must not affect what Pope Francis has called ‘a culture of indifference’.

We should also not allow our gaze to be distorted, or exhausted, by the considerable quantity of rhetoric being expended on what are considered to be unfair or inimical bilateral trade imbalances between wealthy nations – a contest between the ghosts of an old mercantilism.

We should recognise, as a starting point in any reflections, that over 80% of global trade now takes place in value chains linked to transnational corporations, as the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development has estimated. This is surely, even on its own limited terms, not the model of free trade and commerce between nations imagined by Adam Smith, but is rather closer to that model of the economy proposed by the most distinguished economist Herbert Simon, one in which most economic decisions regarding production, distribution and exchange take place within hierarchical firms.

Does this not point to the necessity for a renewed international discussion surrounding the role of such powerful economic entities? Can we continue to defend the legitimacy of the multilateral trading system, or indeed regional trading agreements, if they give primacy to the rights of such companies over the rights of citizens? Can we come to treat the multilateral trading system as something that is not merely instrumental to some narrow economic end, or as a symbol of negotiating prowess on the part of one country or another, but as a signal that it is possible to come to international agreements on economic matters by a process of deliberation which seeks to put the common interest – as agreed by the world in 2015 -  above any sectional interest?

If we recognise that trade flows are the proper subject of diplomacy, and that they are not the response of any natural phenomena but of a negotiated international settlement, can we also extend our thinking to capital and financial flows, and recognise that states acting in co-operation with one another can, as we have in the past, constrain, control and bind such forces such that they yield to the common good? Do we not need to privilege those productive capital flows that lead to investment strategies that are socially accountable, job-creating, and ecologically and economically sustainable? Investment strategies that, in short, support and do not undermine the global agreements to which we committed ourselves in 2015.

Speaking as I am in an academic institution that is familiar with the value of intellectual history, may I ask was not economics a better discipline, tangible and practiced in a social and cultural context, without any necessary eschewing of ethical consideration?

Dear Friends,

Two years ago, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted Resolution 70/262, which recognised that sustaining peace was both an end-point and process through which a common vision of a shared society could be crafted, in which all the needs of the people could be met. When he assumed office, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, António Guterres emphasised that conflict could only be prevented by, in his words, ‘addressing the root causes through the three pillars of the United Nations: peace and security, sustainable development and human rights. That must be the priority in everything we do’. The Secretary-General has outlined an ambitious plan of action and of reform for the agencies of the United Nations, but, as I stated in my address to the General Assembly, sustaining peace is ultimately the responsibility of the Member States.

If I may recall, once again, the words of Dr King, when he said, in his penultimate sermon, that ‘we are tied together in the single garment of destiny, caught in an inescapable network of mutuality’. That mutuality, and that solidarity, demands that the Member States remain authentic to the commitments that they made to their peoples, and to each other, through those two landmark agreements in 2015. It demands that we summon the same optimism that informed the United Nations in its founding moment and the same vigour, energy, devotion and idealism that Robert Kennedy brought to his campaign for peace in this country fifty years ago. Above all, it demands the same spirit of hope and righteousness that animated the students who sought to change, not only a university or a city, but a nation and the world. May they of a new generation and future generations succeed in scholarship and practice, and thus give meaning and authenticity to life itself. May their world conform to the very best of their shared ethical moral expectations in life for all of our global citizens.