I am proud to be a guest in your beautiful country. I am profoundly honoured to be the first United Nations Secretary-General to address this august Parliament. And I am deeply grateful for this special session.
I have come bearing a two-word message to Zambia from the world: Congratulations. Chipolopolo! What a victory! Africa and the world saw more than the success of a football team. We saw the spirit of Zambia in the Africa Cup of Nations football win. All who believe in miracles, all who root for unsung heroes, all who honour those who came before, we know: Zambia’s victory was indeed written in the sky. I believe our partnership is made of that same great spirit.
It started from day one. The United Nations and Zambia share the same founding day — 24 October. This is not coincidence. Your founders — led by Dr. Kenneth Kaunda — made a deliberate choice. That choice involved far more than aligning dates on a calendar. It was about connecting with the goals and ideals of the United Nations Charter. And, of course, we were bonded in grief when the final mission of my esteemed predecessor, Dag Hammarskjöld, ended tragically in Ndola.
Through the years, we have strengthened our partnership, advanced our common values, worked together for a better future for the people of Zambia and the world. You, as parliamentarians, are a pillar of that partnership and I am very grateful. You debate the legislation, approve the budgets, and ask the hard questions. You translate international agreements into domestic law. You give practical meaning to larger freedoms and people’s dreams.
Now we meet at a time of global transition — in the world, on the continent, and in all nations. From afar, we have watched great transformations — the “Arab Spring”, the rise of democracy sweeping the continent, the new economic dynamism of Africa. The sun shines on Africa. Africa is rising. Ultimately, this is a testament to the power of people, and to the empowerment of people.
You, the people of Zambia, know this well. This, too, is your history. You have deepened democracy and set a high bar for the continent, and indeed the world. Last September, once again, you conducted free and fair elections. Once again, you managed a smooth and dignified transition of power. Once again, you showed courage and leadership across the political spectrum and across communities. I commend President Michael Sata for his dedication to democracy. And I praise the Zambian political leadership and all citizens for your example.
I know Zambia’s commitment to freedom runs deep. Zambia was home to Southern Africa’s liberation movements. When it comes to the legacy of democracy and freedom in the region, the road leads back to Lusaka. You paid a high price — in lost lives, infrastructure, trade. So you understand more than most how important it is to stand up for human rights and protect human liberty.
Now you have embarked on a transformation agenda — a process for a new people-driven constitution that will be a foundation for Zambia’s progress, a constitution that will stand the test of time. This offers Zambia an opportunity to lead once more by enshrining the highest standards of human rights and protections for all people — regardless of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation or disability.
The beautiful words of your own national anthem put it best: “All one, strong and free”. And we will also stand with you as you strengthen accountability and institutions.
Corruption is a cancer. Unchecked, it strikes at the very heart of democracy — and the very ability to deliver to those in need. In this fight, there can be no sacred cows. There can be no parallel systems of justice — one for the poor and weak, another for the powerful and protected. The United Nations and the international community will continue to support Zambia as it renews efforts to end corruption by strengthening legislation, empowering people and their institutions.
As such a distinguished member of the international community, we also need you to help us tackle the global challenges of today. I would like to address three this afternoon — sustainable development, empowering women and young people, and working for peace. The first — and overarching — challenge is sustainable development. We know that building a more prosperous economy, expanding opportunities and fighting climate change are all closely linked.
We cannot make progress in one without progress in the others. That is why the United Nations is making sustainable development our top priority for the coming years. Zambia has been blessed with abundant forests, mineral and water resources. I am greatly looking forward to seeing Zambia’s natural beauty for myself in Livingstone on Sunday. But deforestation is happening at an alarming pace. And access to safe drinking water remains a challenge.
Your economy is growing steadily. Poverty is slowly declining. There has been progress in achieving some pillars of the Millennium Development Goals. Yet the benefits of development are not reaching all of the women, men and children of Zambia. And the Millennium Development Goals deadline of 2015 is fast approaching.
We must use this time to make a big push on reducing maternal, under-5 and infant mortality. We also must not relent in the fight against HIV/AIDS. Every Zambian family knows the reality of this terrible disease. By taking the threat seriously — you have made tremendous progress in HIV prevention. Let us build upon these gains — and go farther by realizing our vision to end all new HIV infections, AIDS-related deaths, and discrimination. And let us work to invest more in quality secondary education and environmental sustainability.
I ask each one of you to be active leaders in achieving the 2015 goals, especially by advancing this agenda in communities. I also invite the Government and people of Zambia to participate actively in the Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development. By safeguarding and carefully managing Zambia’s vast environmental resources, you can ensure gains for today and tomorrow. You hold the power to make those responsible choices. The United Nations will stand with you in your efforts to diversify the economy and generate inclusive growth that creates jobs, reduces poverty and increases human dignity.
Zambia’s greatest resource is its people. And people’s voices and full engagement in political and social development is key. This leads me to the second challenge: empowering women and young people. Zambia will realize its full potential when its women and youth can realize theirs. You have heard the voice of young people in your communities and in the voting booth. I know you are working hard to integrate young women and men in national development. They need to feel the benefits of economic growth in their own lives and their own futures. They need quality education and the training and skills to find and create decent jobs. I look forward to meeting some of Zambia’s young people tomorrow as I visit the Olympic Youth Development Centre. I will be joined by the President of the International Olympic Committee, Jacques Rogge. This is a major and unique visit — the first time a United Nations Secretary-General and International Olympic Committee (IOC) President travel together to push for progress in reaching our collective development goals.
The United Nations is also working hard around the world to promote economic and political empowerment for women. Here in Zambia, there is progress on many fronts. I congratulate this Parliament for its farsighted Gender-Based Violence Act — and I salute President Sata for his commitment. I am encouraged to learn that for the first time, the Zambian police service will be led by a woman and just this month, I was proud to receive the credentials of your new female Ambassador to the United Nations, Dr. Kasese-Bota.
Yet all of us recognize there is much more work ahead. In Zambia, women represent 51 per cent of the total population, and yet that potential, that strong voice, that driving force, is not yet reflected in this, the people’s house. Today in Zambia, women’s representation in Parliament stands at 11 per cent, an all-time low. Many of your neighbours are setting the trend not only for the continent, but also the world. I know Zambia can join them. The African Union and your region have set achievable goals. Many countries have proven the effectiveness of initiatives such as quotas. These temporary special measures have made a permanent difference. They can do the same for Zambia.
Ensuring that the Zambian Constitution guarantees minimum thresholds for female representation, and provides equal access to decent work and fair pay, will help Zambia make the most of the enormous potential that you hold. I urge you: make change happen.
Third and finally, I want to recognize Zambia’s leadership for peace, here and far from home. Today more than 300 Zambians serve under the blue flag of the United Nations. They are working for security and a better life from Darfur to the Democratic Republic of Congo, from South Sudan to Liberia and as far away as Timor-Leste. Zambians have made great sacrifices in the name of global peace. Seventy-three brave Zambians have paid the highest price. I want you to know how proud the United Nations is of them. I want you to know how grateful I am to all of you, personally, and how much we value your extraordinary contribution.
You also have a proud history of welcoming people fleeing conflict. For 40 years, you have given shelter and peace to hundreds of thousands of refugees. Many have gone back home when peace was restored, taking with them grateful memories of the sanctuary you provided. In the next two years, refugee status will cease for several other populations, including Angolans and Rwandans. I am encouraged that your Government is considering local integration, in addition to voluntary repatriation. This is a way of normalizing the lives of those who came here decades ago and who want to remain and show strong and binding ties.
The resilience of the people of Zambia is well-known. In his first United Nations address as President in 1964, Dr. [Kenneth] Kaunda said “compare our African spirit to the rushing waters of the mighty Zambezi River, that spirit, harnessed to, purpose, produce(s) tremendous power”. With more than 70 tribes, you have forged “One Zambia, One Nation”
In a region that has suffered far too many deadly conflicts, you have stood tall as a landlocked island of peace. A refuge for those fleeing conflict, a sanctuary for those building freedom, a global example of finding unity in diversity. I take deep inspiration from all that you represent, all that you stand for. That is why I have the brightest hopes for the people of Zambia. That is why the world cheers you as you build a stronger Zambia — just as we cheered you on as you won the Africa Cup of Nations. With hard work, energy, perseverance and faith — Zambia has proven anything is possible. As it is on the football arena, let it also be on the playing field of life
I am so honoured to be here and to reach out my hand to the people of Zambia — through you, their elected leaders. Let us continue our journey. Let us walk together with one heart. Tiyende pamodzi!