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Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon


Secretary-General's remarks to General Assembly Commemoration of the 100th Anniversary of the Outbreak of the First World War

New York, 8 July 2014

I thank the Permanent Missions of France and Germany for working together to organize this commemoration.

I would also like to express my deep appreciation to the many Member States serving as co-hosts, and to tonight’s musicians and other participants.

The battlefields of the First World War represent a roll-call of carnage etched into our collective memory.

The Somme and Verdun. 

Gallipoli and Ypres. 

Even a century later, the very names evoke the pain and futility of what happened there.

We still recoil at the use of chemical weapons – and at the mechanized warfare that took killing to awful new heights.

Today we remember the millions who were killed or wounded in one of the deadliest conflicts in human history.

We mourn the youth cut down in their prime as they fought trench warfare in the vilest conditions imaginable.

The soldiers sent off to battle in summer were meant to be “home by Christmas”.  Instead, the misery went on for years.

The First World War was described at the time as the war to end all wars.  It did nothing of the sort.

But global revulsion at the bloodshed did mark the beginning of new efforts to better manage the world’s rivalries and affairs.

The League of Nations rose from the ashes. Tragically, it could not prevent the other epic global conflict of the 20th century, the Second World War.

With the birth of the United Nations in 1945, a direct historical line was established between those fateful shots in Sarajevo and our enduring global organization.

As our Charter’s preamble proclaims, the scourge of war has brought untold sorrow to humankind not once in our lifetime, but twice.

Today we continue our efforts to help people realize the universal aspiration for peace, development and human rights.

That work demands tremendous patience and political will, as successful peacemaking has proved.

But it also faces immense challenges, as we see with today’s horrific violence on many fronts.  Too many continue to fuel conflict, almost heedless of the human consequences.  Too many continue to embrace the military option, despite the lessons of history. 

Our shared commitment is to keep pushing to silence the guns and to beat swords into ploughshares.

Beyond tonight’s observance, next year marks the 70th anniversary of the founding of the United Nations.

Let us use that occasion to reflect on our path – our gains and setbacks – and rededicate ourselves to the work of following a century of slaughter with an epoch of peace.

Thank you

Statements on 8 July 2014