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Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Off-the-Cuff

Secretary-General's toast at Lunch for Heads of Delegations attending the General Debate session of the General Assembly

New York, 24 September 2013

I would like to express my great appreciation to President Barak Obama and the people of the United States for their generous support as host country – and to all New Yorkers for their extraordinary patience this week with the traffic, many caused by all of your visits.

I would like to ask for your special understanding for all the inconveniences which you are experiencing while you have to speak in the General Assembly Hall, because the regular General Assembly Hall is now closed.  But I can assure you that when you come next year, we will have a beautifully, elegantly renovated General Assembly Hall ready for next year’s General Assembly.  This is just one year inconvenience - I hope you understand.

Every year, New Yorkers are tested with street closings, cumbersome commutes and gridlock.

But I think our obligation as leaders is to make sure gridlock on the roads is not matched with gridlock in our halls. 

We are here to work together to advance the human condition and fulfil the promise of the United Nations Charter.

I take your presence as a vote of confidence in the United Nations.

I take heart for another reason, too.

Look around.  This is one of the most extraordinary meals anytime of the year … anywhere in the world.  You cannot have all these Heads of State and Government in one place anywhere [else] in the world.

Leaders from all the world’s nations are sitting together around a common table. 

There is nothing quite like this.

In that simple act, there is hope.  Hope for all the people around the world.

Our meetings will not resolve all our problems.  But we are talking.  And we know that is the beginning – that is the foundation of lasting solutions. 

Collectively you represent billions of people – their needs, hopes and dreams.

As we discuss together the challenges we face, we must also stand together against violence, and for mutual respect.

That is a key element of the future we want, the world we are trying to build through the Millennium Development Goals and the post-2015 agenda with sustainable development at its core.

We want not just economic growth, but an increase in tolerance and understanding.  We want not just new physical infrastructure, but new bridges across the divides of ethnicity, nation and faith.

We are in this together.  We are here together to uphold our responsibilities to people and the planet, to history and the future.

In that spirit, I propose a toast: to dialogue, and to history, to the United Nations, and to prosperity of each and every country you represent.

Thank you very much.  Cheers!