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The Secretary-General Message
B'nai B'rith Reception
New York, 23 May 2011

Delivered by Mr. Vijay Nambiar, Chef de Cabinet

Ambassador Reuben,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

 It is a pleasure to greet all those taking part in B’nai B’rith International’s UN Leadership Advocacy Days.  Your commitment to tolerance and service complements our own global mission of development, human rights and peace.

You meet as the world is undergoing dramatic transformations.  Global interdependence is accelerating.  New economic powers have emerged.  New challenges have come to the fore — climate change, pandemic disease, rising prices for food and energy and questions about nuclear safety and security. 

And of course, change is sweeping the Middle East and North Africa.  The revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt represent one of the greatest opportunities to advance democracy and human rights in a generation.  Yet we all know: success cannot be assumed.  It will require the strong support of the entire international community.

Many people see similarities to the European experience of 1989.  But let us also remember the differences.  The revolutions of twenty years ago were more or less assured a happy ending -- a “return to Europe” for nations long cut off behind the Iron Curtain.  They were also largely free of bloodshed.  The possibilities today are far more open, even dangerous.  Several governments have responded to peaceful demonstrations with deadly force.

I have consistently expressed support for the legitimate aspirations of the people in North Africa and the Middle East. Their leaders should reject violence and repression, uphold the freedoms of expression and assembly, and choose the path of bold reform and inclusive dialogue.

These changes will have an effect on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I hope both sides will demonstrate a renewed determination to achieve a just and comprehensive agreement that provides for two States living side-by-side in dignity, security and peace.

In response to the violence in Libya, the international community has been united and decisive.  In Cote d’Ivoire, too, the international community stood firm in supporting the democratic will of the people in the face of defiance by a leader who was defeated in credible elections yet would not cede office.

These cases are milestones in our efforts to give practical meaning to the responsibility to protect.  Sovereignty implies responsibility.  Where States cannot or will not safeguard their people, that responsibility devolves to the international community.

The echoes are clear.  “Never again” is a call to action for our time, too -- for all people, anywhere.  We are committed to speaking out against Holocaust denial, anti-Semitism and hatred everywhere, since we know this can be one of the precursors to mass violence.

This past Friday, our Holocaust education outreach programme organized a seminar featuring Mr. Francis Deng, my special advisor on the prevention of genocide, and John Prendergast, a leading human rights activist and co-founder of “The Enough Project”, a genocide-prevention initiative. Earlier this year, the Deputy Secretary-General visited Auschwitz, and I myself visited the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. Such efforts are a fundamental part of the mission of the United Nations.

This is an era that places a premium on working in common cause for common solutions.  We do so as a matter of pragmatic burden sharing, but also because we are fated to live more of our lives in common.  That future has a way of arriving sooner than we expect, and we must do more to prepare for it.

Thank you again for your support.  Please accept my best wishes for a successful experience here at the United Nations.