Honouring victims of World War II, Ban reaffirms UN's founding goals to ensure peace and dignity for all

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (right) and General Assembly President Sam Kutesa plant a tree to remember the countless victims who lost their lives in the Second World War. UN Photo/Mark Garten

5 May 2015 – Seventy years ago, in 1945, from the ashes of one of humanity's darkest moments, the United Nations was founded to lead the world “out of horror and into peace,” declared Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today at a tree planting and ceremony to remember the countless victims who lost their lives in the Second World War.

“The soil at that time ran deep with blood – the blood of the brave soldiers of many nations who died fighting fascism, and of the millions of victims of the Holocaust,” the UN chief said.

“Tens of millions of civilians died without knowing why they had to die,” Mr. Ban added.

When the United Nations was established in 1945, it was born out of troubled ground and yet in its 70 year history, its guiding principles “took root and grew,” driven by human rights, the burden-sharing of collective security, and a common belief in human development.

“There is much distance still to travel until the seeds sown seven decades ago blossom into lives of dignity and peace for all,” Mr. Ban said at the planting of the 'Tree of Peace and Unity' at UN Headquarters in New York.

Joined by the President of the UN General Assembly, Sam Kutesa, delegates and staff, the UN chief remembered all those who died and sacrificed in pursuing the mission set out in the UN Charter.

There have been many setbacks along the path, Mr. Ban said, pointing out that today's landscape is “scarred by conflict and turmoil” and calling on the global community to rededicate itself to the founding aims and ideals of the United Nations.

Echoing that sentiment, Mr. Kutesa reiterated that the UN was founded to prevent catastrophes from happening ever again.

“Seventy years after the conference was convened in San Francisco to draft the United Nations Charter to 'save succeeding generations from the scourge of war' – we gather here to reinforce the Organization's commitment to noble objective and ideals,” he said.

He said that the particular tree planted today, the weeping cherry, is a “symbol of mourning for the fallen.” It will remain a symbol of peace and unity at UN Headquarters to remind generations to come that as in the case of the tree, peace too requires careful and steadfast nourishment.

Following that ceremony, delegates convened in the General Assembly hall for the special solemn ceremony to remember the millions who lost their lives.

Once again, delivering remarks, Assembly President Kutesa urged that the international community “must never forget” its responsibility to stand up to tyrants, despots and all those that attempt to suppress the enduring nature of the human spirit.

The Second World War with all its untold misery and suffering, was also a time when the world witnessed extraordinary bravery, the General Assembly President said, remembering the “collective, heroic” efforts of men and women. It was their courage that claimed victory over tyranny and evil.

“Today, we stand in solidarity under the guiding principles upon which this Organization was founded; including non-aggression, the peaceful settlement of disputes, and the need to protect human rights,” Mr. Kutesa said.

“Today, we remember and honour those who lost their lives in the brutal scourge of the Second World War and pay tribute to those whose memory we must never forget,” he said.


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