In what could be a veiled criticism of the extreme rhetoric by presumptive Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has said “would-be leaders” and politicians should not divide people and racist remarks by them are “outrageous”.
“We are appalled by war crimes in Syria and elsewhere. We are outraged by racism and hatred, especially when voiced by politicians and would-be leaders. They have a duty to bring people together, not drive them apart,” Ban told the graduating class of the prestigious Columbia University in New York on Wednesday.
The UN has so far in the election cycle refrained from commenting on remarks made by US presidential candidates.
Ban’s spokesperson Stephane Dujarric has been repeatedly asked by reporters during the daily briefings for his reaction to some of the extreme rhetoric made by Trump, including plans by the business tycoon to establish a database for Muslims living in the US and barring them from entering the country.
Dujarric has emphasised that he is “not going to get dragged into the rather colourful rhetoric” seen during the election campaign in the country.
Late last year, he had said at one of the briefings that he is “going to try very hard” during the US election year “almost not to insert” the Secretary-General into the US presidential campaign.
Amid loud cheers and applause by students, faculty and parents at Columbia University commencement, Ban said that the world is living in an era of peril and challenges and despite the dangers, the students have “wondrous opportunity”.
The UN Chief said technology has connected the people and “our challenge is to be more united.”
He also made a strong call to the students to help in alleviating the problem of climate change.
“Now that you are done with finals, help us meet the climate test,” he said, adding that the world’s youth can help bring the historic Paris climate agreement “to life”.
“Don’t vote for politicians who deny the problem. Don’t buy products that aren’t sustainable and for heaven’s sake, turn off the lights,” he said.