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Photo courtesy of Ban Ki-moon
Demand Equity

‘We Need Leaders Who Are Global Citizens’: Former UN Head Ban Ki-moon on Building an Inclusive World


Why Global Citizens Should Care
This December, Global Citizen Prize will honor leaders across government, business, entertainment and the arts, philanthropy, and more, as well as Global Citizens and young people dedicated to achieving the UN's Global Goals and ending extreme poverty. Join us in celebrating those who are taking action to help create the world we want — and take action to help achieve the Global Goals here.

With a series of unprecedented global challenges, such as COVID-19, racial unrest, and increased poverty, this year has proven difficult for many of us — and especially for those living in extreme poverty.

But as we look back on what lessons we can learn from these crises, now is also the time to look up to the leaders who inspire us to overcome them.

This December, at the Global Citizen Prize award ceremony, the Global Citizen Prize for World Leader will celebrate a political figure who advocates for and has implemented policy changes that have improved the lives of those living in poverty. 

Following in the footsteps of iconic former winners, such as United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed in 2019, and Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg in 2018, the 2020 winner will be honored alongside exceptional activists during an unforgettable ceremony premiering globally from Dec. 19. 

You can find out more about Global Citizen Prize here, and we’ll be announcing the lineup of artists and presenters, as well as international tunein details soon, so stay tuned and follow @GlblCtzn on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for the latest updates. 

In the lead up to the award ceremony, Global Citizen spoke with former United Nations’ (UN) Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who, as part of the Prize for World Leader judging committee, will help decide this year’s award winner. 

Reflecting on his unique experience as a prominent leader himself, Ban stressed the need to build a more inclusive world and the importance of celebrating those taking action towards this goal. 

He also shared his thoughts on what it will take to put the world back on track to eliminate extreme poverty and achieve the Global Goals by 2030.

Global Citizen: How important is it to celebrate activists and leaders doing great work, particularly given the global context this year?

Ban Ki-moon: [This year] has proved to be a very challenging year with COVID-19. The current pandemic spotlights and deepens the vast inequalities that persist in our societies, worldwide — yet it also has been a year of great opportunity. 

Thanks to technology, we have so many tools to make the world a more peaceful and prosperous place. It is in these times of challenges that true world leaders rise to the occasion. Therefore, it is imperative to highlight the progress the world has made until now — and to celebrate outstanding Global Citizens, leaders, and their impact toward both achieving the Global Goals and tackling the immediate global crisis.

As we enter the decade of action, it’s more important than ever that we celebrate changemakers and carry that momentum. The Global Citizen Prize awards honor the leaders we need — and I applaud all these world leaders for their commitment, their passion, and the hard work they put in to create a better world.  

GC: Why did you express interest in helping judge this year's Prize for World Leader, and what qualities do you think are important in a leader?

BKM: The Global Citizen Prize for World Leader celebrates politicians, activists, change-makers, who implement policy changes that improve the lives of those suffering the effects of poverty, human rights violations, the pandemic, and much more. 

The world needs inclusive thought leadership that engages all groups of people in global conversations; leaders who have a multilateral mindset, and skills for conflict resolution, negotiation, and cooperation. 

To address the issues of our world today; we need leaders who are Global Citizens. I believe in the importance of peace, human development, coexistence, and environmental protection — and in the leaders who adhere to these principles. 

That’s why I’m proud to help showcase such Global Citizens. 

GC: What has your experience as a leader yourself taught you about how leaders can tackle a global pandemic like COVID-19?

BKM: During my 10 years serving as Secretary-General of the UN, I was always guided by four principles: setting priorities, never giving up, focusing on the people, and standing up for those who are left behind. 

Now, still guided by these principles, I continue my leadership duties by advocating the mindset of global citizenship and the importance of international cooperation and multilateralism. 

To tackle the apparently insurmountable challenges that COVID-19 poses to our communities, I truly believe that leaders must expand international partnerships and cooperation, and implement supportive policies that reach every single person on the planet.

GC: What will it take to put the world back on track on the path to end extreme poverty?

BKM: The COVID-19 pandemic has bluntly exposed existing structural inequalities, which has led to relentless social and economic struggles on a global scale. However, we must not forget that while millions of people are affected by and suffering from it, poverty, terrorism, discrimination, and climate change remain a threat to humankind — especially to the most vulnerable. 

World leaders, at every level and in every institution, must step up and strategize to rebuild our world into a more sustainable, safer, and better one than the one before. We already have collaborative blueprints that show us how to attain the future we want: the 2030 Agenda and the Paris Climate Agreement. 

We must, as Global Citizens, recommit to them and reach the level of humanity and the planet we want. Let’s work together to make this world better.


Join Global Citizen in December 2020 to celebrate the leaders among us who have stepped up against a backdrop of unprecedented global challenges to take action for the world we want — a world that is fair, just, and equal.

The broadcast and digitally streamed award ceremony will also feature inspirational stories of human strength and unforgettable performances that will bring together artists, activists, and global leaders to remind each of us that, together, we will come out of this year stronger. Find out more about the Global Citizen Prize here

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