20 July 2012
Secretary-General
SG/SM/14422

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

Addressing Slovenian Parliament, Secretary-General Hails Country as ‘Crucially


Important’ in Region Where Goal Must Be to Clear Away Last Remnants of War

 


Following is the text of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s address to the Parliament of Slovenia, today, 20 July, in Ljubljana.


Thank you very much for this high honour.  It is a special privilege to address the representatives of the people of Slovenia.  I have a deep connection and attachment to this country.  My service as Korea's Ambassador in the 1990s to Slovenia came with an added bonus in my diplomatic life.  I visited many times your beautiful and great country.  And I returned again as Foreign Minister and Secretary-General of the United Nations.  This is my second time as Secretary-General.


I am here today on the start of a larger mission to all parts of the former Yugoslavia.  It is the first such visit by a Secretary-General of the United Nations and it begins with you in Slovenia.  My trip is focused on the future — on the remarkable transformation and dynamism that you have helped shape over the last twenty years.


The reason I keep coming back is simple:  Čutim Slovenijo!  The last time I was here, in 2008, I toured the beautiful Tromostovje— the three bridges that cross the Ljubljanica River.  As you know, they connect the historical, medieval part of the capital with its new, modern counterpart.


Today I would like to discuss three more bridges for Slovenia:  the first: the bridge from your Yugoslav past to your European future; second, the bridge connecting your neighbours in this region to their European aspirations; and third, the bridge linking Slovenia and the United Nations in our global mission for peace, security, development and human rights.  I am convinced that these new "triple bridges" will be as monumental, lasting and impressive as the Tromostovje.


Slovenia's history reaches back to ancient times.  I have a beautiful reminder of this at our Headquarters in New York.  We are proud to display a gift from Slovenia — a replica of the Situla from Vače that dates back to the sixth century.


There is much more to Slovenia's past than its experience in recent decades.  But that experience has made an indelible mark on this region.  From the start, Slovenia had a different geopolitical situation than the other republics of the former Yugoslavia.   Slovenia was fortunate to be largely spared the most brutal experiences of war.


At the same time, it had a responsibility to help others who were affected.  Slovenia took up that challenge, and is still rising to it today.  As a country of fewer than 2 million people, you hosted hundreds of thousands of refugees.  Slovenia sent its troops and equipment to multilateral operations like SFOR (Stabilization Force) in Bosnia and Herzegovina.  And today, Slovenian soldiers serve with KFOR (Kosovo Force) in Kosovo.


After the war ended, the region was still polluted by deadly mines.  I have worked on disarmament my entire career, and I have always detested the pernicious nature of mines that continue to kill and injure even after parties make peace.  Slovenia started the International Trust Fund to address this problem.  Working with the United Nations, the Fund ultimately cleared 115 million square kilometres of affected territory.  I am very grateful for this. But more important, the men, women and children of this vast area can now till the land, raise new crops and play in fields without fear.  Clearing the last remnants of war is essential to lasting stability.


There are other "mines" that could explode with pressure.  We have to de-activate underlying tensions and distrust through dialogue and reconciliation.  I am grateful to Slovenia for promoting these goals in this region by serving as a host to all peoples.  You understand that ridding the region of the last remnants of war is essential to lasting stability.  So, too, is ever greater integration with Europe.


I thank you for lending your expertise to the countries of the region that seek to join the European Union.  Slovenia's deep engagement with the United Nations is proof of your conviction.  Slovenian peacekeepers have deployed far beyond this region.  I am grateful for their service and contribution in the Middle East, including under very difficult and dangerous conditions with our mission in Syria now.


In terms of multilateral assistance, Slovenia provides important development and humanitarian aid through the United Nations.  The Trust Fund for demining that Slovenia originally set up to help this region is now clearing deadly weapons from Afghanistan, the Caucasus and beyond.  And as an active participant in the Alliance of Civilizations, Slovenia is also helping to promote understanding so that underlying tensions can be defused before they pose a threat.


Slovenia is providing more than resources and personnel; your leadership is even more valuable.  I personally worked very closely with President [Danilo] Türk starting in 2001 when I was in the Office of the President of the General Assembly of the United Nations and he was Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs.


Slovenia has served with distinction on the United Nations Security Council and the United Nations Human Rights Council.  You are also an example in the crucial area of the advancement of women.  I am pleased to address this Parliament at a time when it has the most women present in its history, with one female for every two male Slovenian MPs.


Keep investing in women and girls.  Focus on areas that bring real results, such as girls’ education, reproductive health and rights, women’s access to justice and economic security.


I welcome your effort to improve the situation of the Roma people.  Here in Slovenia and throughout my visit, I will encourage all countries to do more to root out persistent discrimination and provide the Roma people with the basic rights to education, housing, health, and employment that they deserve.


Finally, I want to commend your visionary leadership in the area of sustainable development.  As a country that is home to so many lush forests, you understand the importance of protecting our planet for the future.


I also appreciate Slovenia's actions to teach children the value of the United Nations.  I was honoured to write an introduction to the first manual for primary schools on the work of the United Nations.  I know you will continue to encourage all your young people to be global citizens.


In 1991, when Slovenia gained independence, your theme was inspiring:  Dare to Dream.  Today, I would extend that to suggest that Slovenia should dare to dream for our world.  This small but crucially important country has a long and proud history of looking outward.  I was reminded of this during my tour of the old town in 2008 when I admired the statue of the poet France Prešeren, who penned your national anthem.  It is more than a tribute to Slovenia, it is a ringing call for global citizenship:  A world where "no war, no strife shall hold its sway", a world where all people live free as neighbours.


Based on this spirit, I am confident that Slovenia is a natural partner of the United Nations, and that our ties will grow stronger and stronger in the future.


Skupaj smo močnejši.  Bonito partnerji še naprej.  (Together we are stronger.  Here is to our partnership in the future.)


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