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Humanity at ‘crossroad of destiny’, says former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon receiving RSGS awards

Former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon with his RSGS medal
Former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon with his RSGS medal

The man who served as the eighth Secretary-General of the United Nations has been presented with two prestigious awards by the Perth-based Royal Scottish Geographical Society (RSGS).

Ban Ki Moon, a South Korean politician and diplomat, has been presented with the RSGS Livingstone Medal in recognition of his positive contribution and long-standing dedication to global humanitarian issues.

Along with the Livingstone Medal, Mr Ban also received an RSGS Honorary Fellowship.

Former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon with RSGS fellowship

Dr Livingstone we presume?

The RSGS Livingstone Medal was endowed by RSGS co-founder Mrs Agnes Livingstone-Bruce in memory of her father Dr David Livingstone and was first awarded in 1901 to explorer Sir Harry H Johnston.

Since 1901 the medal has only been awarded occasionally and has generally focused on recognising those individuals who have made a significant impact on raising the profile of or directly addressing humanitarian causes around the world.

The RSGS Honorary Fellowship is also a prestigious award conferred for significant contributions to society and sustainability through the wide discipline of geography.

Mr Ban received both the medal and fellowship at his foundation headquarters in South Korea and was magnanimous in his thanks.

He says: “It is with great humility and gratitude that I receive the Livingstone Medal, an award with such a rich and distinguished history.

“As I accept this award, I want to use this moment to pay tribute to all who have succumbed to Covid-19 and to recognise all who champion climate justice and environmental action.”

Senior global roles

Mr Ban has held many senior global roles, most notably in his capacity as Secretary-General of the United Nations and in his role as an elder.

South Korean Ban Ki-moon served as the eighth Secretary-General of the United Nations from January 2007 to December 2016.

He became the first major international diplomat to throw his weight behind the Green New Deal, aimed at tackling climate change and poverty, and he is a huge advocate of the importance of education and children’s rights.

Speaking to the RSGS, he also made reference to the upcoming UN COP26 in Glasgow later this year.

He said the confluence of problems humanity has wrought upon itself and upon nature means we face a threat that knows no borders, that affects all nations and all people.

Climate change is having a profound effect in Greenland with glaciers and the Greenland ice cap retreating.

He adds: “Tackling the climate emergency needs all our leadership, all our ingenuity, all our resourcefulness.

“The 26th Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP26) in Glasgow in November will be an historic occasion.

“Even against a background of extraordinary challenges resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic, I want to recognise the opportunity we have to create a safer, fairer and healthier planet for all.

“Humanity stands at the crossroad of its destiny.  It is an opportunity we must seize.”

Team effort

He adds: “While this award has been bestowed on me personally, I want to take this opportunity to categorically say that this is not work I have done alone!

A global issue

“The fight against climate change and the vital efforts towards meeting the Sustainable Development Goals can only be achieved with all of humanity working together.

“I particularly want to highlight the contributions of children and young people.

“Climate change is a critical threat to human societies, nature and the planet.

“Without urgent global action, its impacts will be catastrophic. The climate crisis will have a particularly profound impact on coming generations.”

Importance of education

Mr Ban has championed the role of good education in solving sustainability and provided a short video for inclusion into RSGS’s new on-line Climate Solutions course for managers.

In this, he said education plays an essential role in the ever more urgent fight against climate change.

“Knowledge helps us all to understand and tackle the consequences of global warming, it encourages behaviour change, and it helps us to adapt to what is already a global emergency,” he says.

“Education creates the platform for the kind of understanding and innovation we need.

“When we consider the climate crisis it would be easy to focus on what humans have done wrong – there is no shortage of examples.

Importance of education for all ages

“But instead, I want to urge us all to reflect on what is possible when humanity is at its best!

“It is not too late for us all to work together, to change the trajectory for our planet, and to build a better future for our children and grandchildren.”

Medal heritage

The medal has an impressive heritage having been awarded to many world-leading figures from the past 120 years.

The RSGS Livingstone Medal has been awarded to many of the most famous historical figures of the last century including Neil Armstrong, Robert Falcon Scott, Ernest Shackleton and Roald Amundsen amongst many others.


More recently it was awarded to Scots Magnus MacFarlane Barrow (Mary’s Meals), Josh Littlejohn and Alice Thompson (Social Bite) and to international figures like Wangari Maathai and Mr Ban’s colleague Mary Robinson, current Chair of the Elders and former President of Ireland, for her services to climate justice and women’s rights.

Congratulations from RSGS chief

Mike Robinson, chief executive of the RSGS, added his congratulations.

He says: “Mr Ban has lived and breathed many of the critical global events that have defined the last 20 years or more – from helping address drought in Darfur, to negotiations on nuclear weapons in Iran and establishing the Millennium Development Goals to promoting climate change education and action, he has been at the heart of international diplomacy on many of the most critical issues of our lifetimes.

RSGS chief executive Mike Robinson

“He has always made great efforts to champion those less fortunate and in need, and providing support for many who don’t have a voice at the highest tables.

“His work has inspired many people and a good deal of change in many countries across the world, and his continued and inexhaustible commitment and passion for making the world a better place is a beacon of light for many.

“I am delighted he has accepted this award and to welcome him as a Fellow and medallist of the RSGS.”

Mr Robinson is a long standing climate campaigner and believes Perth can become the most sustainable small city in Europe.

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