23 July 2012
Secretary-General
SG/SM/14423

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

In 20 Years of UN Membership Croatia Has Taken ‘Remarkable Journey, Travelling Arc

 

from Turmoil of Conflict to Peacekeeper, Peacebuilder, Says Secretary-General

 


Following are the remarks of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at an event hosted by the Academy for Political Development in Zagreb, 20 July:


Dober dan.


Thank you, President Brnčić, for your introduction.


It is wonderful to meet with you all.


I have always wanted to visit Croatia.  I have heard so much about your beautiful coastline.


Preparing for my trip, I have been learning more and more about your country.  As I read your history over the centuries, a very familiar name kept coming up — Ban.


Ban was, of course, the title given to leaders here for many hundreds of years. 


There was Ban Ivan, Ban Nikola — but no Ban Ki-moon!  I guess it is just as well I am Secretary-General Ban, and not Ban Ban.


If you will allow, I have one greeting in Croatian:


Čestitam vam na dvadeset godina u UN.   [I congratulate you on Croatia’s 20 years in the UN.]


Happy twentieth anniversary as a member of the United Nations.


This has been a remarkable journey.


Croatians fought hard to realize their dream of independence.


When the country joined the United Nations, it hosted five different United Nations peacekeeping operations.  Conflict engulfed so much of the country.


Today, Croatia sends its troops out into the world.


Twenty years ago, hundreds of thousands of Croats depended on outside assistance.  Today, Croatia donates its resources to others in need.


Two decades ago, Croatia was in turmoil.  Today, Croatia helps countries and people manage the transition to democracy.


I thank Croatia for its international engagement.  Your work for the region and the world has made Croatia stronger.


Since many of you are relatively young, I want to encourage you to pursue Croatia’s path — by being proud Croats who are also global citizens.  You are part of the largest generation of young people in history — and you can make history through your decisions and actions.


I understand that many people in Croatia did not start out with strong faith in the United Nations.  But Croatia’s deepening engagement over the years is powerful testimony to the country’s belief in multilateralism and the value of the United Nations.


Our experience with UNTAES (United Nations Transitional Administration for Eastern Slavonia, Baranja and Western Sirmium) helped to show Croatia and the world the positive side of peacekeeping.  From 1996 to 1998, the United Nations Transitional Authority peacefully reintegrated Eastern Slavonia, Baranja and Western Sirmium into Croatia.


United Nations agencies were proud to support the massive Government reconstruction effort and the return of thousands of displaced people to their homes.  Enormous progress has been made since UNTAES was involved in that process — and the effort continues.


President Josipović and the Croatian Government share our view that UNTAES was a great success.


Croatia has since brought its experience of peacekeeping operations and post-conflict recovery to the Security Council, serving as a member from 2008 to 2009.


Today, it is sharing its experiences as a member of the United Nations Peacebuilding Commission.


In addition to ideas and resources, Croatia is providing what we call “boots on the ground.”  Your United Nations blue helmets proudly serve in some of the toughest peacekeeping operations in the world.


Croatian troops, police and experts are deployed in nine of our missions, from Cyprus to Timor-Leste, from Western Sahara to Haiti, from Lebanon to Liberia.


On human rights, Croatia is also playing its part.


You all know one of my most important aides, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Ivan Šimonović.  Before he took this job, he served as President of the United Nations Economic and Social Council and as Ambassador to the United Nations.  He was also your Minister of Justice.  Mr. Šimonović has been a long and strong advocate for our goals.


In between Government assignments, Mr. Šimonović revived the United Nations Association in Croatia.  He has provided me with sound advice on many difficult issues that we face in the human rights arena.


President Josipović has also joined a Network of Men Leaders I set up to end violence against women.  I am very grateful that the President has launched his own network of Croatian men leaders to tackle this problem.


Women’s equality and women’s empowerment are essential for progress everywhere.


Women and young people drove the calls for democracy that swept the Middle East and North Africa.


Some say that youth are the leaders of the future.  I prefer to say:  youth are the leaders of the present.


The Internet can be a great tool for democracy … for organizing and for demanding progress.


Everyone with a camera and a connection to the web can be a human rights monitor.  Everyone can hold their leaders to account.  Everyone can insist on justice.


Today I would like all of you to think about how much more you can do for the United Nations and the world.


I see three areas where you can make a major contribution:


First, supporting countries in transition.


Second, standing up for human rights.


And third, advancing sustainable development.


The past eighteen months have been remarkable.  We have seen elections in countries that were locked under dictatorships.  The recent elections in Libya were a great step forward.


At the same time, we are grappling with deeply disturbing developments.  I am gravely concerned about the situation in Syria.  The failure by the Security Council to act as one yesterday was deeply disappointing.  At this critical moment, we cannot abandon our collective responsibility to enable a peaceful, democratic, Syrian-led transition that meets the legitimate aspirations of the country’s people.


Other regions are also in turmoil.  Across the Sahel we see the fighting in Mali, the destruction of monuments in historic Timbuktu, and the rise of terrorism.


United Nations missions in Sudan are trying to maintain a balance between war and peace.


Afghanistan is at a critical point where it must transition to a sovereign, functioning country.


Myanmar has embarked on a path of reform, democratization, and fuller participatory democracy.


There is a growing global movement for democracy.  Croatia’s experiences can serve the world.  And by contributing its experience internationally, this country will become stronger in its own right.


New nations in this region have all traversed an arc of history from the darkest chapters to an era of democracy, integration with Europe, reconciliation and finding your way to a prosperous, interconnected and tolerant future.


In addition to promoting stability and protecting human rights, Croatia can contribute to sustainable development, the defining issue of our era.  Some may argue that jobs and economic growth are more important.  This misses the point that investing in sustainable development will generate better jobs, cleaner growth and a greener future.


Croatia has already achieved success in energy efficiency. This country has enormous potential to develop its renewable resources.


Croatia is rich in natural beauty and cultural traditions that can be preserved for the world to see.


I look forward to discussing all of these issues in a personal conversation during our questions and answers.


The doors of the United Nations are open to you.


After I leave the region, I will travel to London for the Olympics.


I understand that the Croatian Handball Team — the Cowboys — has a good chance at a medal.


I cannot tell you which country I will be rooting for because that would be undiplomatic.


But I think I can be forgiven for confessing that I admire Croatia’s great basketball stars.


Maybe some of you are too young to remember the legendary Chicago Bulls of the 1990s.  They won six championships in eight years.  They had many outstanding players, including Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen.  In 1993, they got a new champion:  Toni Kukoč, from Croatia.


You may know Toni Kukoč for his three-point shots, but I appreciate his work with the United Nations.  He is one of many Croatians who have used their achievements to advance our work.  He even participated in a “Basketball without Borders” programme for teens from the Balkans sponsored by the United Nations Drug Control Programme.


We need everyone to address the many problems in our world, from hatred and intolerance to poverty and hunger, from disease and discrimination to environmental degradation and war.


If you love basketball or football, if you study diplomacy or philosophy, if you are just on Twitter or Facebook, you can raise your voice.  You can make a difference.  You can be a global citizen for a better world.


Puno hvala!  [Thank you.]


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For information media • not an official record