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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,
Botschafter Ischinger,
Verehrte Gäste, Distinguished guests

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 from 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.  Regretfully, there is some distance between the two.

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.  The person holding the thermometer is our friend Dr Wolfgang Ischinger who again has masterminded an important MSC.

This Conference 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 have an urgent 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. 

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.

Over the years, the United Nations, Governments and the people of the world have 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 in life have a Plan B – but we simply have no Planet B.

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

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.  And, of course, our two Awardees today.
I believe the important agreements on the Sustainable Development Goals in September and on climate change  in Paris underline our mutual dependence.  They could be said to be our global “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 former Prime Minister and 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.

Coming back to the focus of tonight’s award, let me     re-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 opening – not the end – of the negotiations.  By that, they set the tone and mobilised political will early on.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let me also pay tribute to our 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 is a person who does not take no for an answer – with a smile.

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

Ladies and Gentlemen,

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 of the conference banged 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.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

In closing, let me suggest that the achievements of our honorees are evidence of what can be done by creative and innovative diplomacy.  As we look out in the world today, 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 and Europe, or how to effectively and humanely tackle the refugee crisis around the world.

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

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

Thank you.