‘It is about your future’

Ban Ki-moon, former United Nations secretary-general, has been awarded an honorary RUG doctorate for his work for sustainability.
By Thereza Langeler / Photo’s by Corné Sparidaens / Translation by Sarah van Steenderen

The world isn’t doing so great. This fact has been undeniable since the publication of the United Nations’ Climate Report last week. Either we take drastic measures as soon as possible, it says, or global warming will continue until our planet is uninhabitable.

‘It’s crystal clear what our decision should be’, says former VN secretary-general Ban Ki-Moon. ‘We have to take the path towards climate resistance.’ On Wednesday morning, rector magnificus Elmer Sterken handed Ban his doctoratis honoris causa: an honorary doctorate from the RUG.

Sustainable agenda

Universities can award honorary doctorates to people who have made extraordinary contributions to science without actually holding a position in a scientific field. In the past, the RUG has awarded honorary doctorates to writer Kader Abdolah, bishop Desmond Tutu, and queen Wilhelmina.

Ban has been given the doctorate for ‘his unwavering commitment to sustainability’, Sterken told the audience that consisted of professors, students, and other interested parties at the Martini church. Under his leadership, the UN established the sustainable global development goals in 2015. He is also one of the leaders of the Global Commission on Adaptation, which is tasked with making the world less vulnerable to climate change.

‘Challenge your leaders’

Together with Rotterdam, Groningen serves as the headquarters for the Global Adaptation Center. Ban will open the Groningen branch at the Energy Academy at Zernike campus on Wednesday afternoon. But before he does that, he has a few words to say. Not necessarily to the dressed-up professors in front of him, or the mayor or the Royal Commissioner on the front row, but rather to the students in the back of the church.

‘We are the last generation that can stop climate change. So I have a homework assignment for you: be global citizens. Be ready to extend a helping hand to people who need your assistance. Challenge your leaders and your professors. Tell them you want to be at the negotiating table, because it is about your future. I am your ally.’

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