Flew into Seoul yesterday, and helped kick off the UN Global Compact’s Korea Leaders Summit on the post-2015 agenda this morning. A slightly disrupted start to the proceedings, with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon arriving perhaps an hour late, albeit apologetically. But that meant I had to go on before him, and was then slightly cut short when he arrived.
He was surrounded by press people in the same way a pot of honey might be by bees. With a buzz that numbs the senses. As someone deep inside the UN system commented to me afterwards, the “pomp and circumstance” isn’t always helpful when trying to communicate complex challenges.
Still, a welcome reminder of why I liked Korea so much when I came here 10 years ago (today I met again Dae-Woong Lim, now with UNEP Finance Initiative and Eco&Partners, who invited me last time). And a wonderful opportunity to meet range of interesting people from Asia and further afield. I got several invitations to come back – and to go to Peru. So something must have communicated.
Also a reminder of why I admire Georg so much – not just a UN functionary, but a truly deep thinker on a broad range of relevant issues. It will be fascinating to see what he does next, after stepping down from his Global Compact leadership role in September. His successor is still being chosen. A truly tough act to follow.
Very funny to watch the Lucky Draw at the end of the event, where scraps of paper with numbers were pulled out of a glass jar. Time after time, the potential winner wasn’t in the room. At what point, I even suggested that the one woman on the stage should have a go – she did, but with the same disappointing result. But then, finally there was a result – and the 2015 Seoul Declaration was also passed with something like acclamation.
Below is an image of a sculpture (very much in the spirit of Volans and Strange Attractors) in my sitting room at the Conrad Seoul, room 1705, so a spectacular view of the Han River, but wreathed much of the time in haze. I was told that much of the pollution comes in from China, as I have also been told in Hong Kong, and in Singapore and Kuala Lumpur (but there in respect of Indonesian forest burning). And now London’s bad air is blamed on France and the rest of Europe.
Finally, on the subject of Volans (whose name I took from the Latin species name for the flying fish, Pisces volans), last night I managed to avoid meat, thanks to the UN’s corporate memory, but was served a dish which contained flying fish eggs. To eat or not to eat? I’m afraid I ate, since they were doomed anyway, but it did feel slightly like capitalism. (And interesting how many people today came up today to say that either Cannibals With Forks or The Power of Unreasonable People had helped steer them into, or guide them in, this field of ours.)