Long before I became Secretary-General, the United Nations occupied a special place in my life.
I was six years old when the Korean War broke out. I have vivid memories of my village in flames as my family sought refuge in nearby mountains. But another image is even more lasting: the sight of the UN flag and the many thousands working under it to respond to our plight. We were saved from hunger by UN food relief operations. We received textbooks from the UN so that my classmates and I could continue our education even though our school had been reduced to rubble. And when we felt scared and alone, and wondered whether the outside world cared about our suffering, the troops of many nations, united in UN blue, sacrificed their lives to restore security and peace. In these ways, the great value of the United Nations was imprinted on me--early, deeply, and, as it has turned out, forever.
Today, millions of people around the world continue to look to the United Nations to ensure their safety, protect their children and help them secure their future. Their needs and aspirations are my driving force. I know from my childhood, and from decades of public service, the immense difference the United Nations can make.
As we mark the 70th anniversary of the United Nations, we can see a world that has changed dramatically since the Charter's drafters gathered in San Francisco in 1945. Membership in the Organization has grown, and new powers have emerged. Globalization, urbanization, migration, demographic shifts, technological advances, climate change and other seismic developments continue to remake our societies and transform international relations.
We can also look back on a proud record of achievement. The United Nations was founded to prevent another world war, and it has succeeded in that. In most parts of the world, people are living longer, healthier lives. Our efforts have also helped to empower women, advance international law and safeguard the environment.
Yet we are keenly aware that there have been many setbacks along the way, and that today's landscape is scarred by conflict, exploitation, displacement and despair. In truth, the passage to establishing a world of dignity and peace for "we the peoples" is a never-ending journey.
Despite today's difficulties and the multiple crises on the UN agenda, I believe that all who work for and with the United Nations are fortunate to be serving at this time. The 70th...