Ban Ki-moon
Ban Ki-moon
Larry Levanti

The U.N. secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, kicked off the Woodrow Wilson School’s annual colloquium on global challenges April 17, describing a “toxic mix” of problems confronting the world and warning: “Absent decisive action at this time, I’m afraid that we face a real prospect of our existing system unraveling.”

Speaking to a full house at McCarter Theatre, the former Korean foreign minister gave a sobering assessment of world affairs and called for a “new multilateralism” to address problems including climate change, poverty, disease, extremism, and arms proliferation. “The time has passed for incremental adjustment,” Ban said. “We need a new vision ... that   recognizes the interconnected nature of such global challenges.”

More than 180 WWS graduate alumni and guests returned for the two-day colloquium, which also attracted many students and local residents. Tadataka Yamada, president of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s Global Health Program, discussed efforts to spur development of vaccines to prevent diseases that continue to be widespread in the developing world — efforts in which pharmaceutical companies have little incentive to invest. Google Inc. CEO Eric Schmidt ’76 told alumni about the future of information technology and ways in which it could transform daily life in seemingly remote corners of the world. Other talks focused on economics, climate change, migration, and security.  

In his address, Ban argued that the United Nations must be strengthened with more resources from members of the Security Council. At the same time, he said, world leaders should give more voice to developing countries and resist protectionist policies.