12 September 2011

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Secretary-General, in Tribute to President of Fifty-fifth General Assembly,


Hails Fallen Finnish Statesman’s ‘Great Leadership’


Following is UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s tribute to Harri Holkeri, President of the fifty-fifth session of the General Assembly, in New York, today, 12 September:

Let me briefly add a word about President Harri Holkeri, who passed away last month.

Mr. President of the General Assembly has just eloquently explained his achievements as President of the fifty-fifth session of the General Assembly.

As Secretary-General, I and many of the United Nations staff also will recall his efforts here in the Assembly, and as a Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Kosovo.

I had a particular, special relationship, having worked with President Harri Holkeri because I was working as Chef de Cabinet to the President of the fifty-sixth session of the General Assembly, when the Korean then-Foreign Minister was serving as President of that session.  We had a very smooth transition from President Holkeri.

At the moment when the terrorist attacks on 11 September happened, he had just left his Presidency and Korea was about to take over the Presidency of the fifty-sixth session of the General Assembly.  There was unfortunately some vacuum of leadership because the new President was not elected yet.  Mr. Holkeri and the President-to-be, the Korean then-Foreign Minister, and myself and then-Secretary-General Kofi Annan got together and discussed how we can aid and protect the United Nations at that time against potential terrorist attacks.  It was a moment of crisis.

At that time, President Holkeri showed great leadership as outgoing President of the General Assembly.  He guided us, together with Kofi Annan, when the Korean Presidency was about to take over.  I still remember his great vision, and great commitment, to fight against terrorism.  He was one of the key persons who really worked to strengthen the role of the Presidency of the General Assembly, and I really owe a great deal to him as the President of the General Assembly.

The demise of Mr. Holkeri is a great loss to us.  He was a great statesman in his home country of Finland.  He will be a great loss, not only to the United Nations, but also to the people of Finland.  I would like to take this opportunity to express my deepest personal and official condolences to his family, the people of Finland and to all of us.  I wish him to rest in peace and eternity.  I am sure that we will be guided by his spirit, even though he will not be here with us.

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For information media • not an official record