In March 2021, we were delighted to present our prestigious Livingstone Medal to His Excellency Ban Ki-moon, in recognition of his positive contribution and long-standing dedication to global humanitarian issues on a wide number of fronts.

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

Mr Ban, on receiving the Medal at his Foundation headquarters in South Korea, was magnanimous in his thanks. "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."

Mr Ban has held many senior global roles, most notably in his capacity as the eighth Secretary-General of the United Nations (January 2007 to December 2016), and in his role as an Elder. 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.

He made reference to the upcoming UN COP26 in Glasgow later this year. "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. 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.

"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! 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. Children and young people are right to be gravely concerned. Children in vulnerable countries already face disproportionate risks and challenging adaptations to climate-induced changes."

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

Mr Ban has lived and breathed many of the critical global events that have defined the past 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. He has always made great efforts to champion those less fortunate and in need, 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 an Honorary Fellow and Medallist of the RSGS.