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The U Thant Distinguished Lecture Series is a forum through which eminent thinkers and world leaders speak on the role of the United Nations in addressing the challenges facing the world’s peoples and nations in the twenty-first century. The lecture series is co-organized by the United Nations University and the Science Council of Japan.

The UNU has a tradition of inviting world leaders and renowned individuals to Tokyo to explore the role of the United Nations in a rapidly changing world. The U Thant Distinguished Lecture Series builds upon this tradition by providing an opportunity for Nobel laureates and heads of state, current and former, to share their insights and experiences with scholars, policy makers, business leaders and the general public.

Seventeenth Lecture • 7 September 2010

Rafael Correa

Rafael Correa Delgado
President of Ecuador

The Challenges of Ecuador and the Latin American Region in the Twenty-First Century

Programme Details

10:40–10:45 Welcoming Statement

Konrad Osterwalder, Rector, United Nations University (UNU)

10:45–11:15 Keynote Presentation

Rafael Correa Delgado, President of Ecuador
“The Challenges of Ecuador and the Latin American Region in the Twenty-First Century”

11:15–11:30 Question-and-Answer Session

President Correa’s presentation will address critical issues facing the Latin American region from environmental, financial and socio-political perspectives.

Latin American countries have undergone changes in their political systems, and Ecuador is no exception. Meanwhile, the financial crisis affecting the world and Latin American economies highlights the need for restructuring within the finance sector.

Yet amidst these formidable challenges, there are clear signs of progress with implications for effecting positive change within the region. The innovative Yasuni–Ishpingo Tambococha Tiputuni (Yasuni ITT) initiative, which seeks to preserve the biologically diverse Yasuní National Park (named a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 1989), is an example of an instrument that opens new paths of cooperation for developing countries.

UNU Webcast (English, Español, 日本語)

Media release

Sixteenth Lecture • 2 February, 2010

Felipe Calderón

Felipe Calderón Hinojosa
President of Mexico

Preserving Our Common Heritage: Promoting a Fair Agreement on Climate Change

Programme Details

10:15–10:20 Welcoming Statement

Kazuhiko Takeuchi, Vice-Rector, United Nations University (UNU) and Director, UNU Institute for Sustainability and Peace (UNU-ISP)

10:20–10:50 Keynote Presentation

Felipe Calderón Hinojosa, President of Mexico
“Preserving Our Common Heritage: Promoting a Fair Agreement on Climate Change”

10:50–11:15 Commentary

Moderator: Hironori Hamanaka, Chair of the Board of Directors, IGES

Commentators: Yoichi Funabashi, Editor-in-Chief, Asahi Shimbun and Kazuhiko Takeuchi.

Mexican president Felipe Calderón delivered the 16th U Thant Distinguished Lecture to a standing-room-only audience at UNU on 2nd February 2010 on the subject of a fair agreement on climate change.

Mr. Calderón emphasized the need to rebuild confidence and trust following the disappointing COP 15 climate summit in Copenhagen last December. Mexico will host the next major climate summit — COP 16 — in Cancún in November and December this year.

He said that developed countries have the responsibility to act on climate change, but that developing nations are now responsible for more than half of the total greenhouse gas emissions. “Emission reduction efforts by advanced economies are not enough,” he said, “We need everyone’s participation.”

While noting the difficulty of a complete consensus, Mr. Calderón added that “the principle of consensus doesn’t mean in any way the capability of veto coming from three or four parties.”

Mr. Calderón spoke of mitigation and adaptation initiatives in Mexico, notably those that sought to link climate change and poverty reduction: those who struggle to feed themselves and their families have little incentive to act against the more abstract threat of climate change, even though the longer-term consequences to them may be dire. “We have to change the existing economic order,” he said, and spoke of the need to solve the “intertemporal problem” of bringing the long-term benefits of investment in new technologies and energies to people today in the form of jobs and improved livelihoods.

Following his speech, Mr. Calderón was joined on stage by Yoichi Funabashi, editor-in-chief of the Asahi Shimbun and Kazuhiko Takeuchi, UNU vice-rector, for a discussion moderated by Hironori Hamanaka, chair of the Board of Directors of the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies.

Text of President Calderón’s speech is available in Spanish and Japanese. UNU’s webcast is available in Spanish, Japanese and English.

La preservación de nuestro patrimonio común: En busca de un acuerdo justo para combatir el cambio climático


UNU Webcast (English, Español, 日本語)

Media release


El Presidente Calderón en la conferencia sobre cambio climático COP-16 (

UNU & climate change

Fifteenth Lecture • 8 July, 2008


Abdoulaye Wade
President of the Republic of Senegal

Climate Change and African Initiatives

President Wade spoke on climate change and Africa, and specifically on how African-led initiatives, such as la Grande Muraille Verte (the Great Green Wall) can contribute to combating desertification.

Abdoulaye Wade

Video interview with Abdoulaye Wade

After delivering the lecture, President Wade granted an interview to UNU in which he expanded upon some of the themes of the lecture.

(Visit the UNU channel for more videos.)

Projects that foster the greening of the continent have, of necessity, a regional dimension, and in his recent speeches President Wade has highlighted the importance of the sharing of experiences, of collaborative effort, and of innovation to the success of these initiatives. His presentation looked at how such activity contributes to the fostering of new technologies and partnerships in the field of land and resource management.

Prior to delivering the U Thant Distinguished Lecture, President Wade participated in the 2008 G8 Summit in Hokkaido where he was invited by the Japanese government, together with representatives of six other African countries and the African Union, to discuss with the G8 leaders issues concerning African development, including climate change.


Media Release

Fourteenth Lecture • 26 May, 2008


Martti Ahtisaari
Former President of the Republic of Finland

Negotiating Peace in Africa, Asia and Europe

Former President of Finland Martti Ahtisaari has made numerous vital contributions to international peace and security, from facilitating the peace process between the Government of Indonesia and the Free Aceh Movement to his recent role as UN Special Envoy for the Kosovo Status Process.

He has successfully brought together opposing parties in conflicts around the globe, facilitating dialogue and setting the scene for agreement to emerge. In this way, his efforts have allowed seemingly intractable conflicts to end in political, negotiated settlements.

This lecture on “Negotiating Peace in Africa, Asia and Europe” demonstrates the former President’s range of experience, highlighting our shared responsibility to help and protect our fellow human beings. Indeed, we all have a responsibility to prevent conflict, but when this fails we must equally do all we can to achieve peaceful resolutions.


Media Release

Thirteenth Lecture • 25 August, 2006


Mohammad Khatami
Former President of Iran

Dialogue Among Civilizations:
A Necessity for Living in Peace and Non-Violence, Bridging the Development Gap among Nations, and Building a Global Citizenship

Jointly organized by UNU Centre, UNU-IAS and the Science Council of Japan (SCJ).

Full text of lecture (English)

سخنراني (Persian)

Webcast (Audio only)

Some press reactions to 13th U Thant Lecture:


Twelfth Lecture • 26 May, 2006


Dato’ Seri Abdullah bin Haji Ahmad Badawi
Prime Minister of Malaysia

Islam Hadhari or Civilizational Islam: Promoting Good Governance Within Societies and Goodwill Between Peoples and Cultures Internationally

Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi shares experiences and insights from Malaysia’s national development experiences, which have stressed technological and economic competitiveness, moderation, tolerance, and good governance.

Media Release (PDF)


Malaysian Prime Minister to Discuss Islamic Approach to Peace and Prosperity (UNU-IAS)

Prime Minister of Malaysia

Eleventh Lecture • 9 November, 2005


Robert B. Laughlin
Nobel Laureate (1998, Physics)

The Emergent Age

The lecture illustrates a revolutionary theory of the universe — emergence — which emphasizes the macroscopic view of studying a whole organism rather its than parts. This new way of thinking has profound implications for the future of science.

Media Release (Word)


Award-winning physicist to deliver 11th U Thant Lecture (UNU-IAS)

Robert B. Laughlin (

Tenth Lecture • 14 October, 2005


Anand Panyarachun
Former Prime Minister of Thailand

Mr. Panyarachun is Chairman of the UN High-Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change.

The Role of the United Nations Secretary-General: The Past as Prelude to the Future

“When we talk about UN reform, we normally talk about the Security Council, perhaps the General Assembly or ECOSOC, sometimes forgetting that the Secretariat itself is a Principal Organ of the UN, and perhaps the one which has developed, changed, adapted and grown the most since the founding of the UN just over sixty years ago.”

Media Release (Word)


Speech (Word)

Ninth Lecture • 22 November, 2004


Shirin Ebadi
Nobel Laureate (2003, Peace)

Women in Nation Building

Ms. Ebadi was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003 “for her efforts for democracy and human rights focusing especially on the struggle for the rights of women and children”. As a lawyer, judge, lecturer, writer and activist, she has spoken out clearly for basic human rights, and proclaimed that no society deserves to be labelled “civilized” unless it respects the rights of women and children. She has consistently supported non-violence, favouring enlightenment and dialogue as the best path to changing attitudes and resolving conflict.

Media Release

Webcast (EN & JP)

Shrin Ebadi (

Eighth Lecture • 22 October, 2004


Tarja Halonen
11th President of Finland, Co-Chair Commissioner of the World Commission on the Social Dimension of Globalization

Towards a Fair Globalization; A Finnish Perspective

“In the Millennium Declaration we challenge ourselves to ensure that globalization becomes a positive force for all the world’s people. Globalization offers great opportunities, but at present its benefits are very unevenly shared and its costs are unevenly distributed. Far too few are benefiting from globalization and far too many are suffering or are totally excluded from globalization.”

Media Release

Webcast (EN & JP)

Halonen’s speech (PDF)

President of the Republic of Finland

Seventh Lecture • 17 October, 2003


Peter Doherty
Nobel Laureate (1996, Medicine)

Dr. Doherty is Laureate Professor at the University of Melbourne and Chairman of the Department of Immunology at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee.

Science, Society and the Challenge of the Future

Dr. Doherty was jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1996 for research that revolutionized the field of immunology by explaining how the immune system recognizes virus-infected cells. This discovery showed how white blood cells must recognize both the virus and certain self-molecules in order to kill the virus-infected cells.

Media Release

Webcast (EN & JP)

Peter C. Doherty (

Sixth Lecture • 5 September, 2003


Jimmy Carter
39th President of the United States and Nobel Laureate (2002, Peace)

Agriculture, Development and Human Rights in the Future of Africa

Unfortunately, in addressing African needs there is little cooperation among major donors, including the World Bank, IMF, the United States, Japan and other nations, and private organizations like The Carter Center and the Nippon Foundation. This cacophony of voices exacerbates the problems of eager African leaders, which they have now expressed through new partnerships for African development (NEPAD). Globalization has been a one-way street, bringing few benefits to Africa, and there is little evidence of real concern in rich nations for the plight of the poor.”

Media Release

Webcast (EN & JP)

Mr. Carter’s Speech (

Jimmy Carter (

The Carter Center

Fifth Lecture • 15 April, 2003


Ahmed H. Zewail
Nobel Laureate (1999, Chemistry)

The Future of Our World

Professor Zewail’s 1999 Nobel Prize was awarded for groundbreaking work in the development of the new field of femtoscience, making it possible to observe the movement of individual atoms in a femtosecond (a millionth of a billionth of a second). Such a development - which literally changed our view of matter - holds great promise in the areas of high technology and life sciences.

Media Release

Webcast (EN & JP)

Ahmed Z. Zewail (

Nobel Prize in Chemistry Winner Gives U Thant Lecture (UNU-IAS)

Fourth Lecture • 1 October, 2002


Norman E. Borlaug
Nobel Laureate (1970, Peace)

Agriculture, Development and Human Rights in the Future of Africa

“Had the world’s food supply been distributed evenly, it would have provided an adequate diet in 2000 (2,350 calories, principally from grain) for 7.2 billion people—about one billion more than the actual population. However, had people in Third World countries attempted to obtain 70 percent of their calories from animal and fish products—as in the industrialized countries—only about half of the current world population could be fed.”

Media Release

Nobel laureate speaks on agriculture and peace (UNU-IAS)

Norman E. Borlaug (

Third Lecture • 21 May, 2002


William J. Clinton
42nd President of the United States of America


The Honorable William J. Clinton was President of the United States from 1993 to 2001, and Governor of the State of Arkansas from 1979 to 1981 and from 1983 to 1992. During his leadership, the nation experienced unparalleled economic growth. His administration was also known for its attempts at creating a more equitable social system. On the international front, he strove to make the United States a force for peace in the world and helped to make humanitarian interventions part of the post-cold war international political landscape. President Clinton is an independent, original thinker and a respected political leader. He is particularly known for his current efforts to play an active and constructive role in crises locations around the world.

Media Release

Webcast (EN & JP)

Photo Gallery

Clinton Foundation

Second Lecture • 2 October, 2001


Thabo Mbeki
President of the Republic of South Africa

The New African Initiative

“Perhaps a starting point for the appreciation of the challenges that gave rise to the need, firstly, to articulate the vision of the African Renaissance and subsequently the enunciation and elaboration of this vision in the form of the African Union and the New African Initiative, is for all of us to begin to grapple with the question: what exactly is this Africa!”

Media Release


Mr. Mbeki’s speech

First Lecture • 7 June, 2001


Mahathir Bin Mohamad
Prime Minister of Malaysia

Globalization, Global Community and the United Nations

“All that happened in Malaysia, in Southeast Asia and in East Asia were due to the operations of the free market. Yes, we will admit that the Governments of these countries were not the best Governments in the world. There was corruption, there was cronyism, was poor transparency. All these needed to be corrected. But must whole countries and economies be totally destroyed in order to carry out the corrections? Is there no other way, more humane way? Cannot we take up a little bit more time, preserving the economy as much as possible while we make the necessary corrections?”

Media Release


First U Thant Lecture (UNU-IAS)

Dr. Mahathir’s speech


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