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Priceless Lessons by Maxim Behar: A Story with Former UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon

Priceless Lessons by Maxim Behar: A Story with Former UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon

Maxim Behar shares his exciting meeting with former UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in his author series "Priceless Lessons" for BGLOBAL magazine.

Ban Ki-moon, who did not stop arranging puzzles for peace
The Korean diplomat, who served two terms as UN Secretary General, will be remembered for his "passion" for preaching peace, something increasingly strange and difficult in recent times

- Well, how will you do business if there is a war, if people do not understand each other...

Ban Ki-moon looks me straight in the eye, but doesn't scold me, instead he puts on a wide smile as he speaks these words. On the one hand, he has the iconic eastern expression of universal respect for everyone he talks to, but on the other hand, he seems to be a cosmopolitan class act.

Our meeting is in a small reception room at the UN headquarters in New York and probably strictly from curiosity to see what the first member of the Global Compact in Bulgaria looks like, Ban Ki-moon has agreed to meet and talk.

Global Compact is actually an initiative of his predecessor Kofi Annan, but when in 2000 the initiative appeared in Bulgaria without a drop of hesitation, I signed the application for accession on behalf of M3 Communications Group, Inc.

The Swiss lawyer, sent to explain the initiative to a small and rather obscure for the world then Bulgaria, was in the "seventh heaven" of happiness that he found a company that understands what it is all about, and quite enthusiastically. The idea of the Treaty is to unite politicians and businesses, to work together for a better, more transparent, and ethical world, a place where both sides have equal roles and responsibilities. The idea is simple and at the same time exceptional, because prior that, we all relied on people at the top of the political spectrum, meanwhile the business sector made money, goods and services, while also paying salaries.

- I know what is up with you businesspeople now. Why bother with global warming, the environment and peace talks when you have no influence over politicians. But I want to tell you, you have me.

And you in a small Bulgaria, or even the smallest businessman in the smallest country is important because they can set a precedent, an example that spreads.

Of course, I understand this person, with his very slow and calm tone, which can spark interest and capture the attention of even the most disinterested. Not to mention that throughout our whole meeting, he knew he was knocking on an open door.

For years I dreamed that business in Bulgaria would really feel its responsibility, especially against the background of weaker and unprepared politicians. And in fact, the Standard for Business Ethics in Bulgaria, which I wrote shortly before I realized that there is a Global Compact, by some strange and easily explained coincidence, reiterated its ten main points - the fight against corruption, rights for employees and their education, care for the environment...

- But you understood me well, without peace this cannot happen, and everything will lose its meaning…

I return to his words, and right now, at the beginning of this turbulent year 2022, I understand their meaning more and more.

A few years later, I was expecting Ban Ki-moon in front of the Sheraton Hotel in Sofia, and when the shiny car stopped in the parking lot and he got out of the back seat, a huge smile lit up his face with the words: "Here is the first Bulgarian I know to believe in the power of business!"

I looked at him with infinite respect and said, "But only if there is peace, because otherwise everything else loses meaning."

Years later, we are aware that peacekeeping has proved to be a complex puzzle that many UN Secretary-Generals have handled quite well. Indeed, it was very painful when, at the very beginning of the Russian attack on Ukraine, Ban Ki-moon's successor, the Portuguese Anthony Guterres, said: "The UN’s core mission, set up immediately after World War II, is to prevent warfare. The mission, at this moment, has proven to be unaccomplished..."

We must remember this, even when we do things that war would make meaningless. Ban Ki-moon does it to this day, at his World Peace Center, wherever, whenever, and whomever he talks to.

Photo: Maxim Behar with Ban Ki-moon, New York, 2010