Global Perspectives on Young Leadership
Dear “Young Leaders”,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a great delight for me to speak at this seminar and I would like to thank the King Carl Gustaf Foundation for Young Leadership and the Swedish Guide and Scout Association for inviting me back to Stockholm.
The presence of so many distinguished guests is testimony to the importance of the topic you have chosen. It is also a clear indication of the high standing of the scout movement and the values on which it is build in Swedish society.
Outside of this room, every third Swede is or has been a scout. In here, I would assume the ratio is even more impressive.
But as impressive as the sheer numbers is the kind of people who are part of the movement. Here in Sweden, Your Majesty and many other leaders in their field have gone through scout training.
The same is true around the world. Bill Gates, Paul McCartney and Mohammed Ali are all scouts and even my predecessor at the UN, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, is one.
Scouts have assumed leadership positions in every part of our globe, and even well beyond – of the 12 men to walk on the surface of the moon, 11 were scouts. It should not come as a surprise that the very man, who sent them there, President Kennedy, was a scout, too.
Before I continue, I thus think it time for a confession: I have not been a scout. But I have spent over 40 years in a very similar movement.
The Scouts and the United Nations have indeed much in common.
Both are truly universal, with scouting associations existing in over 160 countries.
Both are organizations with a clear purpose and an ambitious mission, uniting people of different backgrounds under a common ideal.
And most importantly, both want to make a real contribution to creating a better world.
The Scout movement seeks to do so by developing the individual, by instilling values and by preparing young people for positions of leadership.
As such it makes for a perfect point of reference for my speech today, for I want to talk about the crucial importance of value-based leadership.
In our increasingly globalized world, such leadership is needed as never before.
Economic integration and rapid communications have brought people and countries closer together, breaking down old barriers and creating new realities.
We now live in a world where we are almost instantly affected by what is said and done across the other side of our planet; a world where diseases like swine flu can be carried across oceans, let alone national borders, in a matter of hours; a world where a sub-prime crisis in the US can lead to the worst global recession in decades; a world where failed states in the heart of Asia and Africa can come back to haunt us as safe havens for terrorists; a world where changing climatic patterns affect everyone, regardless of where they live, or what they do.
The old saying “we are all in the same boat” has never been more relevant.
But despite the storms all around us, this message seems not to have been learnt yet by many in government and business. Or, if leant, has failed to change their decisions.
The fact that we now live in an extraordinarily interdependent world – that we are a true global village – has not led to the fundamentally different policies and tools needed to tackle this new reality.
Nor are our discussions or decisions yet shaped by the basic values needed to allow us to overcome the many challenges we face.
We are confronted by global food shortages, the prevalence of poverty and violence and, of course, the gravest economic crisis for over 60 years.
We also have to struggle with environmental degradation and climate change which threaten to worsen today’s crises of extreme poverty, famine, conflict, disease, and natural disasters.
No continent, country or community can deal with all these interlinked challenges on its own. Cooperation is no longer a choice but a clear imperative.
The challenges we face require a new style of leadership – one that looks beyond narrow national or sectional interests and that has basic values at its heart.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I know that I am not alone in urging the importance of values such as prudence, fairness, generosity and public spiritedness.
These are values which we all understand. They are the basis for healthy communities. These are the very values scouts pride themselves on. They are the values on which the UN was founded.
So we don’t need to re-invent them. But we do need to re-assert them and put them into practice.
For these values no longer seem to inform the way businesses and economies function, or are regulated.
The global economic crisis has been a true wake-up call. It has shown that we ignore these values at our own peril, and – even worse – that of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable.
For it is the ones least responsible for the crisis that have had to bear the brunt of its burden.
And while anxiety levels in boardrooms and stock markets may have come down, the daily drama of survival has worsened for many in the world’s least developed countries.
Jobs have gone; incomes and opportunities have been lost. Tens of millions more people have been added to the already scandalously high number living below the poverty line.
Crucially, we have not taken the steps needed to ensure that the mistakes and misjudgments that led to this crisis are not repeated.
There is a danger, too, that the lessons which should have been learnt from the initial success of the global response are quickly being forgotten.
I believe very strongly that without recourse to leadership, policies and practices rooted in basic values, the next crisis is just around the corner. And that without them our efforts to address other challenges like climate change, inequality and injustice will also be bound to fail.
First and foremost, this places a heavy burden on our political leaders. They need the courage and vision to place the common good ahead of narrow national or political self-interest.
But leadership must not be confined to politicians. One of the major lessons I learnt as Secretary-General is that governments alone cannot solve the world’s problems. We all need to accept our respective responsibilities; we all need to lead.
For a start, we need to ensure that values, not self-interest, drive our decisions and the way we behave, as individuals, but also as members of communities and organizations. Together, we must make sure that they are hardwired into public policy and international relations.
It is thus particularly important that we convey these values to the next generation of leaders.
There are many ways to do so.
The establishment of Your Majesty’s foundation for young leadership has already set a great example.
The awards you will present to three remarkable young people later today are not only an appreciation of their hard work and dedication. They are also a call and encouragement for others to follow in their steps.
Every single one of us in this room, whether you are a leader in the public or the private sector, can do our bit.
Lord Baden-Powell, the founder of scouting, rightly said “There is no teaching to compare with example”.
Let your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more and become more.
If I look around this room, if I look at the achievements of the young leaders we are about to honour, I feel that we are on the right track.
It can be fashionable to decry the younger generation, to suggest they are somehow less concerned about others.
But this is simply not true.
It is exactly because of the concern for others, their commitment and courage – qualities highlighted in the work of the scouts – that I look to the future of our world with optimism despite the enormous challenges we face.
I want to end, if I may, by speaking to the young leaders here directly.
It is your generation who must pick up the challenge from people like His Majesty, Leif and me. The recognition you are receiving today is a privilege for which you have worked extremely hard. But it is also a responsibility. It is a responsibility to use your talents and energy to improve our world.
The events of the last few years have underlined how small our planet has become and how, wherever we live, our futures are now so closely inter-linked.
You are the first generation who can genuinely call yourself citizens of the world.
So whatever you are working on right now, whatever your ambitions for the years ahead, you have to think globally – even when you act locally.
It means understanding that your decisions and actions can have an impact – for good and bad – on people right across the other side of our planet. You must constantly look outwards beyond the boundaries of your community and your country.
We have seen the power of the forces of globalization. We now have to make sure we shape them for good. The way you respond to the challenges I outlined will decide the health and happiness of billions of people across the globe.
It is a big responsibility. But it is your world now. You must have the courage to change it for the better.
I, for one, have every confidence in your ability to rise to the challenge and wish you every success.