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Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon


Secretary-General's remarks at the inauguration of Human Rights and Alliance of Civilizations Room at Palais des Nations

Geneva, Switzerland, 18 November 2008

Let me pay tribute to Your Majesties King Juan Carlos and Queen Sophia of Spain for this generous gift to the United Nations. This is yet another demonstration of Spain's enduring commitment to the values and the mission of the United Nations.

Let me also thank Prime Minister Zapatero, Foreign Minister Moratinos and the Spanish Government. The close interest you took in the project was instrumental to its success.

I am grateful to the ONUART Foundation and all its patrons and partners for their contributions. ONUART is a valuable example of a public-private partnership. Engaging the private sector is crucial to the success of the United Nations.

To the artist, Miquel Barceló, thank you for putting your unique talents to work in service of the world. The artwork you have created for this room is absolutely innovative and radiant. I have no doubt that people will come to see it whether they have business here or not.

I also thank the President of the Swiss Confederation for being present, and for Switzerland's firm support for the United Nations in Geneva and across the world. I know you are as thrilled as we are by this new addition to the Palais de Nations, which is an exceptional landmark not only for Geneva, but for the entire international community.

It is very appropriate that this chamber has been named the Human Rights and Alliance of Civilizations Room.

Human rights are a fundamental part of the work of the United Nations and of the Organization's very identity. Respect for human rights is the indispensable foundation for lasting peace and sustainable development. I am pleased to be inaugurating this room on the eve of the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights. The anniversary is an opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to the principles of the Declaration and to redouble our efforts to make them a reality for all.

The Alliance of Civilizations, for its part, is a very important and practical initiative that is linked intrinsically to human rights, and which has already succeeded in overcoming barriers of distrust. We see, almost on a daily basis, the polarizing impact of prejudice and suspicion among the peoples of the world. Spain and Turkey have played a dynamic role as convenors of the Alliance. I thank Prime Minister Erdoðan of Turkey for his presence today, and for Turkey's continued strong commitment and leadership of the initiative. And I commend the Group of Friends of the Alliance, many of whom are represented today, for their role in advancing dialogue, mutual respect and the other objectives of the initiative.

I very much look forward to the discussions and decision-making that will take place in this room. The design itself might be thought of as a metaphor for our work. The colours look different depending on where you are seated. That reminds me of the old saying about politics, “where you stand depends on where you sit”.

The correlation to multilateralism is clear. Countries and people have different perspectives on the challenges we face. As they discuss these matters, they can come to appreciate the different dimensions of a problem. And just as we might need to spend some time in this room, and look at the design from different angles in order to see it completely, so must we have a full range of views if we are to properly address global challenges.

And indeed, multilateral solutions are more necessary than ever. From the financial crisis to climate change and the Millennium Development Goals, the time has come to take multilateralism to a new, stronger and more inclusive level.

At the G-20 meeting this past Saturday, I stressed the need for global solidarity. The next month offers two important tests. At the Financing for Development conference in Doha later this month, we have a chance to rejuvenate the global partnership for development. And in December, climate change negotiators meeting in Poland have a chance to take crucial steps towards an agreement on this existential threat.

Like those rooms where leaders gather, this room will be a forum in which all countries, large and small, developed and developing, can air their grievances, highlight their aspirations, and hopefully, in the end, find consensus.

I understand that the construction of this magnificent dome involved techniques that were never used before, and that materials were used in new combinations. We can see the results. They are stunning.

In that spirit, let us bring the same sense of innovation to the work that will now take place here. Let us not settle for the status quo, but instead be visionary, creative and bold.

This Human Rights and Alliance of Civilizations Room is a wonderful addition to the United Nations that will capture the imagination of all who will work here. I again thank everyone involved in bringing it into being.