Clinton calls on leaders to build on global opportunities

Former US president says the example of Northern Ireland admired across the world

Former US president Bill Clinton delivering the inaugural William J. Clinton Leadership Lecture at Queen’s University Belfast this evening.  Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Former US president Bill Clinton delivering the inaugural William J. Clinton Leadership Lecture at Queen’s University Belfast this evening. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Wed, Mar 5, 2014, 20:52

Bill Clinton has called for academics, politicians and business leaders to build on the opportunities afforded by “an interdependent world”.

He also challenged them to work together to counter the negative effects of a globalisation.

He also emphasised that combined action was needed to offset the effects of climate change which, he warned could have devastating results.

The former US president was delivering the inaugural William J Clinton Leadership Lecture at Queen’s University Belfast tonight.

Mr Clinton holds an honorary law degree from Queen’s which he last visited in 2001.

Senator George Mitchell, who chaired the talks leading to the conclusion of the Belfast Agreement in 1998, was subsequently appointed chancellor of the university.

Welcoming the president, the university’s incoming Vice-Chancellor, Prof Patrick Johnston who took up office on Monday, said he was proud Mr Clinton “has given his name to our Leadership Institute and we are delighted that he has joined us in person to set the seal on that partnership”.

Mr Clinton said the example of Northern Ireland was admired across the world.

“Post conflict societies can make real social and economic progress,” he said. “I like the idea of this institute to try to train business leaders in the modern world and understand the geopolitical context in which they operate.”

He expanded on the themes outlined at his earlier address in Derry. Arriving from a meeting with Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness at Stormont, Mr Clinton said: “I’ve met the First Minister and Deputy First Minister and we spoke of the unfinished business of the peace process.”

But he added: “Outside Northern Ireland nobody knows there is unfinished business.”

Citing a range of conflicts from Myanmar (Burma), to the Middle East and the Basque region, he said Northern Ireland was admired.

The Basque paramilitary group ETA had recently decided to disarm, claiming it was “putting its weapons beyond use” – the phrase used by groups in Northern Ireland.

Turning to the future he urged academics, business leaders, public representatives and non-governmental organisations to build on the opportunities afforded by global interdependence.

“This interdependence is both good and bad. You cannot build borders which are more like nets than walls – you cannot accept the good and decide to reject the bad.”

Climate change was perhaps the greatest example of global interdependence and he stressed the need for a concerted response.

He further warned the world had to co-operate to negate the threats posed by the changing nature of borders.

“What do you want the world to be like in 10 years? Make a world with creative networks of co-operation,” he said “with shared responsibility and shared community as in Northern Ireland.”

He said people had to change from a view that for each winner there had to be a loser. Denigrating the idea in business that there had to be a zero-sum game, Mr Clinton said people had to realise they could not prosper and improve unless everyone did.

Turning to Ukraine he said it was vital that the situation there was not seen as a zero-sum game. He said Russian leaders should not think that a Ukraine with closer links to Europe must mean it would have a worse relationship with Moscow. They should think in terms of Ukraine as a bridge rather than to be won or lost.