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Statement by Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information, Shashi Tharoor

Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear Friends,

            I’m Shashi Tharoor, Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information of the United Nations, and after that moving start to our day, it is my privilege to welcome you all to the second annual international observance of Holocaust Remembrance Day.

            We will begin today’s ceremony with a one-minute moment of silence in honour of the victims of the Holocaust.  May I request you to rise.

[minute of silence]

            Thank you.

Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

            Please allow me to offer a special welcome to the teachers and students in our audience; to the members of the disabled community, and of the Roma and Sinti communities; and to the hundreds of Holocaust survivors, many of whom have travelled great distances to join us this morning.

            A little over a year ago, on 1 November 2005, in this very hall, representatives from all over the world gathered to establish an international day -- 27 January – on which people of every country and culture and creed would pause and think about the victims of the Holocaust.  

            Adopting resolutions that enshrine global consensus on important issues are what the UN General Assembly does.  However no-one present on that day saw this particular resolution as business as usual.

            Rather, they understood that resolution 60/7 was something special.  It marked the recognition, by people from all over the world – from the allied and axis States that had fought in the Second World War, but also from States that were not participants – indeed from States that did not even exist in 1945 – that the deaths of millions of innocent Jews, of Roma and Sinti, of persons with disabilities, of homosexuals, and of those from many other minority groups – are a stain on our collective humanity.

            And it marked an acknowledgement that unless we learn from the darkest days of our recent past, we risk an equally dark and dangerous future.

            This resolution was enormously significant, as was the very powerful and very moving commemoration of the day itself that followed in January.

            And on Friday of last week, the significance of this newfound understanding was again affirmed when the governments of the world, acting again in the General Assembly, adopted – with not a single negative vote -- a resolution that condemns “without any reservations” the denial of the holocaust.

            Building a global consensus on anything is not easy.  But harder still is maintaining that consensus.  This second resolution sets in stone the now-universal commitment to a world where horrors are confronted and overcome, not avoided or ignored.  It says that we are all convinced that fostering racism, bigotry and intolerance is unacceptable, and that it is the responsibility of people everywhere to confront these evils wherever they find them.

            There are two purposes to this annual observance.  Of course, we meet to mourn that part of our human family that is missing – to remember the individuals and tell each other their stories.  But we also meet to unearth the lessons we can draw from their lives and their fates.  

            And first among those lessons is that, just as human beings have an almost infinite power to destroy, they also possess an enormous capacity to learn, to grow and to create.  

            The theme of our Holocaust programme is “Remembrance and Beyond.”  Beyond, because the best memorial for the victims of the Holocaust would be a world where the dignity and rights of every single person are protected – in word and in deed.

            And the way we will achieve this is through education.  Education, understanding and respect can erode the brittle walls of intolerance and hatred, like water erodes stone.  

            This process of education, just like the duty to remember, is a collective responsibility.  As Elie Wiesel, Holocaust survivor and UN Messenger of Peace, put it “an annihilation that only man can create, only man can prevent.”

            As you are, I am sure aware, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is in Africa and therefore unable to be with us here this morning, but he recorded this message for us last week prior to leaving New York.

{VIDEO MESSAGE}

Our first speaker for today is the custodian of this august hall in which we meet – the President of the 61st General Assembly,
Her Excellency Sheikha Haya Rashed Al Khalifa.  Madam President ....

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