Full speech: 'Me too must become we too' - Jacinda Ardern calls for gender equality, kindness at UN

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was applauded after telling the UN’s General Assembly that "Me Too must become we too" on the issue of equality.

Ms Ardern implored the world’s leaders to show kindness and recommit to gender equality in an address that began in Te Reo Māori.

She said the ability to look beyond themselves was a great starting point to combat not only isolationism, protectionism, and racism, but also in the face of the threat that is climate change.

The Prime Minister made regular references to a collective global approach throughout the address across a broad range of issues, including equality.

Ms Ardern said “many gains have been made, each worthy of celebration”, including the recent 125th anniversary of New Zealand becoming the first nation to give women the vote.

“As a girl I never ever grew up believing that my gender would stand in the way of me achieving whatever I wanted to in life, I am, after all, not the first, but the third female Prime Minister of New Zealand,” she told the UN General Assembly.

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“It seems surprising that in this modern age we have to recommit ourselves to gender equality, but we do and I for one will never celebrate the gains we have made for women domestically, while internationally other women and girls experience a lack of the most basic of opportunity and dignity.”

“Me Too must become We Too.”

Ms Ardern was unequivocal on climate change, saying she had seen and heard the “grinding reality” that the issue was for the South Pacific at the recent Pacific Islands Forum.

“It was at this meeting, on the small island nation of Nauru, that climate change was declared the single biggest threat to the security of the Pacific. Please, just think about this for a moment.”

“Of all of the challenges we debate and discuss, rising sea levels present the single biggest threat to our region.”

She described “any undermining of climate related targets and agreements” as “catastrophic”.

Ms Ardern said New Zealand was determined to play its part but as a producer of less than 0.2 per cent of global emissions, we were reliant on the global community.

“Not since the inception of the United Nations has there been a greater example of the importance of collective action and multilateralism, than climate change. It should be a rallying cry to all of us and yet there is a hesitance we can ill afford.”

Addressing the increasingly isolationist policies of several western governments, the Prime Minister admitted the international institutions had not been perfect.

“It would be both unfair and naive to argue that retreating to our own borders and interests has meant turning our backs on a perfect system… but they can be fixed,” she said.

She warned that forgetting the lessons of history and the reasons for the UN’s establishment would see humanity repeat the mistakes of the past.

“The UN Charter recalls that the Organisation was formed to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which through two World Wars had brought untold sorrow to humanity,” she said.

“If we forget this history and the principles which drove the creation of the UN we will be doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past.

“In an increasingly uncertain world it is more important than ever that we remember the core values on which the UN was built.

“That all people are equal, that everyone is entitled to have their dignity and human rights respected, that we must strive to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom and we must consistently hold ourselves to account on each.”