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United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Statements

Deputy Secretary-General: Statements

Munich, 13 February 2016 - Deputy Secretary-General's remarks at the Munich Security Conference dinner to present the 2016 Ewald-Von-Kleist Award to H.E. Laurent Fabius and Christiana Figueres

Ministerpräsident Seehofer,
Laurent Fabius, ancien Premier Ministre et Ministre des Affaires étrangères, President de la COP,
Botschafter Ischinger,
Distinguished guests, verehrte Gäste,

I thank you for inviting me to speak this evening in this magnificent historical setting. 

It is a privilege to be in this prominent and qualified company of Leaders in the public and private sectors.   The Munich Security Conference (MSC) is a unique institution and venue for in-depth and insightful reflections on the state of the world.  For many of us, it provides a once-in-a-year opportunity to stand back and reflect on the world as it is – and, also, on the world as it should be. 

Like a medical doctor, the MSC provides both diagnoses and prescriptions.  We may not always agree, neither on the diagnosis, nor on the cure.  But the MSC is undoubtedly a pretty accurate thermometer, taking the temperature on crisis spots and seeing the directions of global trends.    
This Conference also represents a new type of diplomacy – where we talk not only to professionals in our own field but across different sectors and disciplines.  This is vital.  In these troubled and turbulent times we are in urgent, in some cases even desperate, need to mobilise all actors, all resources and all good forces for positive change.

At the same time, we must, in today’s world, make more use of and develop the art and power of diplomacy.  After many years of work in the field of humanitarian action and conflict resolution, I still find Chapter VI – pacific settlement of disputes – to be the most under-used, and potentially most important, chapter of the UN Charter.

Recent events have shown what can be done when we work together to find negotiated solutions.  The P5+1 agreement with Iran is one such example of patient and skillful diplomacy. 

Some of the security challenges we face today are, by their nature, short-term and acute.  

Others are longer term, but no less pressing.

This is the case with the existential threat of climate change – the field of extraordinary personal and professional accomplishment of our two Awardees tonight, Laurent Fabius and Christiana Figueres.

Over the years, the United Nations, Governments and the people of the world have growingly come to recognize climate change as a deadly peril to our ecosystems and, by that, to our security and, indeed, our survival.  We may in many cases have a Plan B but we simply have no Planet B.

As the Earth continues to warm, we face growing food and water insecurity, economic stress, and ever greater refugee and migration flows, as people flee floods, droughts and rising sea levels.

The Paris Accord last December was a triumph for multilateralism, for sustainable development and for the security and well-being of generations to come.

For the first time in history, every country in the world pledged to curb greenhouse gas emissions and to strengthen resilience to climate-related strains and pressures.

Many have contributed to this agreement. From a powerful grass roots movement, symbolized by 400,000 people demonstrating in New York in September 2014, to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who worked from his first days in office to raise awareness and commitments to fight climate change. 

On April 22 he will host a great number of government representatives coming to New York to sign the Paris agreement.


Ladies and Gentlemen,

We should all agree that the agreement on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in September in New York and the climate change agreement in Paris are great strides forward for multilateral diplomacy and cross-border cooperation.  Together, they could form the basis for a Universal Declaration of Interdependence!

It is therefore entirely fitting that this year’s Ewald-von-Kleist-Award recognizes outstanding achievements in the critical field of sustainability. 

Tonight we honour the former Minister of Foreign Affairs of France, Laurent Fabius, and the Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, Christiana Figueres.   We honour them for their tireless work and for their astonishing skills in making possible the historic Paris Agreement on Climate Change.


I am honoured to count both of them as friends and to have worked with them closely over the years. 

Laurent Fabius, as you all know, has had an extraordinary career.  He is the youngest ever Prime Minister of the Fifth Republic and has held ministerial positions in four different governments.  He is one of the world’s most skilled, most erudite and most sophisticated diplomats. 

Laurent Fabius played a key role in achieving the P5+1 agreement which has brought about a new chapter to non-proliferation and to the relationship with Iran.  

He has also been at the sometimes dangerous forefront of efforts to resolve the Israel-Palestine dispute.  He has invested significant diplomatic capital to move this slow process forward, realizing the risks of inaction.

Most recently, Laurent Fabius has been involved in the pursuit of ending the nightmare in Syria by championing talks, as well as reduction of violence and humanitarian relief to suffering men, women and children in besieged and isolated areas of the country.

Coming back to the focus of tonight’s award, let me affirm that Laurent Fabius’ diplomatic talents and unfailing commitment as President of COP were instrumental in sealing the agreement in Paris.

Reaching consensus and balancing the interests of 196 Parties was a daunting task.   But France delivered, very much thanks to Laurent Fabius’ exceptional diplomatic skills and experienced statesmanship. 

He worked closely with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to engage world leaders.  It was a master stroke by them to bring the leaders to the beginning of the negotiations, in order to set the tone and mobilise political will early on.

Let me also pay tribute to the second awardee, Christiana Figueres, who regrettably cannot be here with us tonight due to an earlier commitment.  She has asked me to convey to you her deep regrets as well as her warm greetings and thanks.

Christiana has had an illustrious career, as Director of the Centre for Sustainable Development and as Climate Change negotiator since 1995.  Her creative skill and boundless drive have made her one of the most effective advocates in fighting climate change.

Her many talents, her irresistible style and enthusiasm kept everybody on their toes leading up to the agreement in Paris.

Christiana invested considerable renewable energy throughout the process, even when things got tough – and there were many such moments.  She always showed courage and conviction, such as when she went to the coal industry and exhorted them to “keep the coal in the ground”.

The preparation and running of COP21 in Paris was more complex than any COP before.  It was always reassuring to know that Christiana was at the helm, never wavering in her determination to finish the job.

So, while many played a part in achieving agreement in Paris, it was our two Award winners tonight who, primarily, made the Paris accord possible.   I never forget the moment when Laurent Fabius at the end was banging the gavel declaring “L’accord de Paris est accepté”, and the participants rose in a standing ovation as millions and millions watched all over the world.

The achievements of our honorees are evidence of what can be done by creative and innovative multilateral diplomacy.  As we look to the future, it is painfully clear that we will continue to need these skills, perhaps more than ever. 

Let us think of the intractable and horrific conflict in Syria, the persistent tensions in the wider Middle East, or how to effectively and humanely tackle the refugee crisis in Europe and the world.

Only global solutions can fully address these complex challenges.  And global solutions are only possible through an effective multilateral system, and through a United Nations underpinned by Member States and individuals committed to international cooperation and dialogue.  Many of you are in this room tonight.

This year, and onwards, we must continue our work towards peace, development, a sustainable future and a life of dignity for all.

As we do so, we should all take as example and as an inspiration the convictions, competence and courage of our honorees tonight. 

So tonight, let us celebrate our two Ewald-von-Kleist-Award winners – Minister Laurent Fabius and Madam Christiana Figueres.  Let us pay them our tribute and offer them our warmest congratulations.

Thank you.

Statements on 13 February 2016